As far back as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by the universe we live in. I can’t really even explain why, it just grabs my imagination and blows my mind to shreds. You remember in elementary school when we’d study things for a week? Egyptian week, fractions week (pass please!), adverbs week, and yadda on and so forth? The solar system week was always my favorite. I remember in the 4th grade my teacher said we would not be studying about the solar system that year, because we already knew about it. My little geeky 9-year-old heart was shattered! I was really really disappointed. In college, though, I took two Astronomy classes. Take that Mrs. 4th grade teacher!
Lately (much to my husband’s annoyance because I won’t shut up about it) I have been watching The History Channel’s The Universe, and The Discovery Channel’s How the Universe Works – Yes… I am a ginormous nerd. But these shows just have so much crazy and wonderful information in them, that you would never think about. You know, important things, like “Sex in Space”. Ok, maybe I giggled like a 12-year-old for a minute when I saw that there was an episode devoted solely to sex in space, but honestly, turns out that is a really important thing to study. If we ever have any hopes of braving the vast yonder that is our solar system, we have to figure out a way to procreate out there. And as of right now, we cannot. Turns out that life as we know it (I mean humans and other animals) need gravity to develop properly in the womb.
But other than our being able to colonize space, the whole idea of the universe is mind-boggling to me. Just thinking about it makes me feel so small. Our tiny little brains are such a joke to the universe. The silly wars, prejudices, protests, murders, etc. that happen on our extremely small area of the universe just seem so trivial when you step back and think about it all. I mean, where did it come from? My tiny human mind cannot grasp the idea of never-ending, always expanding, always present space. I feel like I can almost grasp it, but there’s just something there in my mind blocking it.
Not to mention all the different things that happen in space! Its amazing! Pulsars, quasars, super-massive black holes, stars, planets, galaxies…I mean in our solar system alone our planets (and moons!) are all so different. The moons of Jupiter are almost more interesting than Jupiter itself – they were made over from Jupiter’s formation and they are all so different. How does that happen!? It’s even possible that under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa that there are liquid oceans that harbor aquatic life!
I don’t know, I just can’t stop thinking about the universe and all the amazing and wonderful and large mind-blowing things that it provides. They say that we are literally made up of the matter left over from the sun’s formation. I suppose we don’t really think of it in this way but we truly do owe our existence to the universe.
At any rate, there was one truly amazing image that I have fallen completely in love with from one of these shows (I think the Discovery one, but I can’t remember). It is of Saturn taken from the Cassini spacecraft. This is such an amazing and beautiful image. Here, Saturn is eclipsing the Sun from Cassini’s view, which you can see poking out the bottom left of Saturn. You might have to blow the image up to see this, but there is what looks like a star just outside the top left of Saturn’s rings, in between the really bright and prominent rings and the faint rings. That is actually not a star… it is Earth! This image is just incredible.
Also, scientist have put together a model of what they think the universe looks like. It’s pretty hard for us to actually get a good look at our universe since we are kinda smack dab in it (heck we can’t really take a picture of the Milky Way galaxy either). But thanks to computers we can now look at models of what the universe looks like – and it is AMAZING. Galaxies form together in clusters, sort of like galaxy neighborhoods, and these clusters form together to make what looks like a web.
I can’t even begin to describe the way watching these images make me feel. Tiny, small, insignificant – those are words that come to mind. Another thing that I keep thinking about is how our knowledge keeps expanding and growing. First we learned of things in our own neck of the woods like our sun and solar system, then we discovered we were in the Milky Way galaxy, then we began learning of other galaxies, and so on, we keep learning more and more….what if our Universe is just some small and insignificant part of something much larger? It’s almost too much to be thinking of.
…Especially at 6 in the morning…