Tuesday, March 24, 2009

First star I see tonight

I've been reclined on my couch for the last 10 minutes or so, thinking about what to write about while relaxing. Mostly relaxing, I confess, as I've had very little success doing any thinking. ....Actually, to be fair to myself, I've been very good at thinking, just not about any sort of writing topic. My mind has been busy with thinking about people.

Which is why it came as a bit of a shock to suddenly focus on a star. This particular star was seen through the upper left-but-one window pane. Had I been sitting up as a normal person might, I'd have missed it entirely. Which would have been a shame, since I can't see any other stars out my windows.

And for some reason, I starting thinking about the light that took all those years to arrive at just the precise angle to head in through my window and strike me in the head. The star is bright, bright enough to be the only visible star from inside, which means that it's either very close or very large. Both of those descriptors mean it's unlikely that there's life at that end.

Instead, my brain became occupied with the course this light beam took across the light-years. Somewhere out there in the great inky black is a raging thermonuclear fireball. It took millions of years for it to assemble into a star, took years for its rays to traverse the sky. And all so I could have the opportunity to give it a passing glance out the window.

Astronomy tells us that our galaxy contains somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars like that dot outside my window. It is further estimated that there may be 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. That puts us in the neighborhood of 20 quintillion stars in the universe, give or take three or four zeros in either direction.

So. Out of all those stars (and however many trillions lie beyond our reckoning), I made eye contact with one for an instant, bridging the gap and allowing me to see across the distances into the past. A connection with an indifferent wanderer, who was old long before I was born, and who will be still be young long after I and everyone I know are no longer remembered.

Amazing.

EDIT: I looked again after finishing this entry and the star is gone. Must have been a satellite. Disregard all that other wonder and perspective.

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