It would seem to me a wondrous thing that an entity as small as humankind has the ability to attempt to comprehend the immensity of the heavens.  There are visible to the unaided eye on a clear night approximately 4 billion stars.  These are stars that can be seen from the entire planet, not from just any one place.  Assume that only 10% of these stars are "G" type stars on the main sequence.  That leaves 400 million stars that are like our sun.  Of these, take 10% and place a planet in orbit 93 million miles from the star and that leaves 40 million planets in the same orbit as Earth.  Once more plan for 10% of these planets to form a carbon, hydrogen, oxygen environment and now there are 4 million planets with the same atmosphere as the Earth.  Throw away 90% of the remaining and allow life to develop and that will make 400 thousand planets like Earth with life.  One last time take 10% of the total and evolve life as we know it.  This leaves us with 40,000 planets in our local group that are, physically, just like Earth.  Do you think we are alone?


      Before the invention of the telescope all observations of the sky were done with the naked eye.  Although the telescope has opened up a vast amount of information, there is still a quiet satisfaction in looking at the night sky.  There are some requirements to make viewing worthwhile.  A clear sky, far away from ground lights. Preferably no moon.  The best time of the year, perhaps, is in the winter months, the nights are longer and clearer because it is cold. So let's bundle up and go outside.  What can we see?  If we look to the North we can find the Big Dipper, it looks like a dipper, there are four stars that make up the bowl of the dipper and gently arching off are three more stars to make the handle.  Notice the two stars of the bowl of the dipper away from the handle.  These are "pointer" stars and if you follow a line from them past the top of the dipper you will come to another bright star, Polaris. This is the North Star.  If you continue past the North Star you will come to five stars, a little off the line, that form a kind of "W".  This is the constellation Cassiopeia.  Cassiopeia is the name of a queen in Greek mythology.  The Greeks tended to put the star forms into the shapes of animals and people and Cassiopeia is supposed to be a woman sitting on a chair.  It's simpler to look for the letter W. Find the star in the bottom left of the W.  This is not a star.  This is a cluster of millions of stars so far away that all we see is a tiny point of light with our eyes.


      Standing on a small planet that circles a mediocre star in the outer third of the galactic arm I am reminded of the line in Psalm 8, verse 3, " When I look at the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou established; what is man that thou art mindful of him....."


StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 2/23/2009 2:23:22 PM
Great insights. You are totally right in asking the last question. In the great scheme of things, I often wonder too...

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Things will be fine in 2009.
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Published Date
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