Into The Great Wide Open*

Have you ever peered into a cloudless night sky and not been amazed?

We are a part of something impossible to comprehend.

The Earth is 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way. That’s an enormous distance! The Voyager-1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, travels at 11 miles/sec. It took thirty-five years for it to exit our solar system. If Voyager-1 was headed to the center of the Milky Way, it would take another 450 million years to get there!

That’s just the beginning! 

The Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light-years across. It would take over 1.7 billion years for Voyager-1 to traverse that distance. 

Here’s the really crazy thing! Scientists estimate there are over two trillion galaxies  in the universe, suggesting there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on earth! 

That’s impossible to envision!

A few years back, Discovery Magazine attempted to put our “cosmic neighborhood” in perspective. I saved the article:

If our solar system were the size of a grapefruit:

-The nearest star would be ½ mile away

-The Milky Way would span 12,000 miles

If the Milky Way were the size of a grapefruit:

-The nearest galaxy would be ten feet away

-The furthest known galaxy would be twelve miles away

Seriously, start from the beginning and read through this again!

As I ponder the immensity of the universe, two things jump out at me.

First, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we haven’t run into any “aliens” yet. I have never run into anyone from Uzbekistan, which is far closer than the nearest earth-like planet!

Second, it’s inconceivable to me that we are alone in the universe. Many of those trillions of stars have planets that orbit within the “habitable” zone. The belief that we are alone requires more hubris than I can muster.

We view the advanced knowledge of our modern era with pride. Yet, looking back over prior centuries, we find their understanding of natural phenomenon grossly incomplete if not flat-out wrong. There’s no reason to believe future civilizations won’t view our knowledge similarly.  

My grandfather could never have conceived that his grandson would reach into his pocket, pull out a thin rectangle, and launch a video chat with a friend in China! 

What inconceivable action will be commonplace for our grandchildren and their grandchildren’s grandchildren? 

The intelligence that likely exists in the universe is unfathomable!

We are a part of something that transcends comprehension. As such, it’s safe to conclude that life is not about us. 

We are about life!


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*The title of a studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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