Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Age of Stars

© NASA -- Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy
I'm a bit of an astronomy/cosmology enthusiast. Due to my sieve-like memory, I will not be able to impress you with a bunch of random facts (like that our current telescopes allow us to see back to a universe that was only 380,000 years old; that the first three elements formed were hydrogen, helium and lithium (which formed 3 seconds after the big bang); that iron is poison to stars; that in 4 billion years our galaxy will collide with the Andromeda galaxy and (according to some astronomers) our arm of the Milky Way will swing right through the heart of our galaxy and we will be so close to the massive black hole in the center that if they some how find a way for us to be immortal, I will eagerly volunteer to hop into its center for the sake of science -- check out this here blog at that time for my status report). Okay, any other day, I wouldn't be able hash out a bunch of facts, but I've been juicing on astronomy hard core this week so don't mistake this incident for a commonplace occurence. I come from a family of Alzheimer brain mush... I've long-since accepted the fact that my memory isn't going to win any medals.
© NASA; ESA; Z. Levay and R. van der Marel, STScI; T. Hallas; and A. Mellinger
With that said, one of the more profound things about the universe is how many incidents had to line up (and are still lined up) in order for us to exist. Typical discourse usually revolves around the Big Bang and how life was formed on Earth, but we gloss over the fact that a planet with Earth's conditions, seems to be a rare occurence. Though we (and by we, I mean incredibly smart astronomers who figured it out without my assistance) have discovered a few potential planets that could support life in other systems, it's a small fraction of all the planets that have been counted for (out of 885 planets that have been discovered, maybe 4 or 5 meet the conditions required). But did you also know that someday the sky will fade into darkness and that no new galaxies and stars and planets will ever form again? We live in this golden age of diamond skies, of heated gas and violent explosions but the sky continues to stretch apart and one by one the stars will go out and the universe will eventually cool into a dark nothingness.
© NASA --The Rose
We live in this Age of Stars, of life, of you and me and this brief millisecond of our existence. I've so long struggled for meaning, for purpose. I wanted to leave this permanent mark upon the world, but nothing I do, nothing anyone has ever done or will do, will last. The human race will die out and with us, all traces of our existence.

So instead of worrying about an Earthen legacy, about material possessions, about hate and anger and misery -- think instead of happiness and love and those things that will give you the energy and light to exist in an inevitable darkness; to power your own star in an infinite beyond.

With love from 2013 A.D.,

P.S. Some of my favorite astronomy reads and recommendations:

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