Sunday, December 14, 2008

Star light, star bright..

An experience you would've had at some point in your life : Its night, late night... You're walking alone, tensed, worried about next weeks assignment, or perhaps next month's report. Having no clue on what to do, you look up at the sky. Its night, theres not much sound or light within much distance, and you look up and see something like the one on the left.

And then you just realize : Man, the Universe is much bigger than I thought. So.. why worry ?

Well, maybe not the exact one, but all of us have felt this wave of relief on looking at the sky at some point. Star-gazing.. or just sky-watching.. as Carl Sagan put it.. is a truly humbling experience. Not just fun as a hobby, to spot a Saturn here or an Orion constellation there, or to make up shapes in the stars imagining them to be something out of our imagination.

Its a very relieving one too. How many nights I have looked at that clear black expanse, peppered with infinitely many tiny pinpoints of stars, and felt.. The Universe is so daarn big man ! There are billions of galaxies out there, uncountably many worlds unexplored, forms and phenomenons yet undiscovered ! And we are just a small part of it ! So why worry about some small mistake we did yesterday.. or some deadline thats about to come tomorrow. Its just a small nothingness in the scheme of things of the universe we see out there. Why worry ?

I still recall frequent star-gazing sessions I had with a cousin. The topic would start from astronomy, go over a wide range of topics, and generally always fade into some vague topic about fate or the future or of that sort. We attach so much importance to what happens around us, worry in the smallest of things instead of delighting in them. While all I am, is a single organism among zillions, on a small pale blue dot called Earth.

Next time something insignificant seems to nag you, remember these words from a famous address by Carl Sagan, from 'The pale blue dot' that inspires this feeling. The address is in reference to the photo on the right, a pic of Earth taken by Voyager 1 from a large distance. See where we stand. Earth. A pale blue dot near the centre. (The 'pale blue dot' also carries an environmental message that I simply loved)

" Consider again that dot (Earth). That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, ... every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, .... every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. "

10 comments:

Mahesh Mahadevan said...

Some reminiscence from Calicut and Christmas 2002? Who would have thought that would become one of many Calicut trips to come :-)

The pale blue dot is a monumental image, of much value I must say. But here's a question: do you know what the red and green strips on the picture are? Hint: it's not solar wind.

Hari Vishnu said...

lol man i remember the astro olympiad nightout as clear as crystal even now.. the 8 or so of us, with a telescope, looking at jupiter saturn moon etc and naming the craters on them as if we were the first ones to spot them..

remember ashish spotting 'mars' on top of a transmission tower? lol..

btw no, i dont know what the green and red strips mean.. the ateroid belts ? or orbits of some planet ?

Balajee.R.C said...

{Sorry, had to delete to redit the link and repost}
I'm so glad that you didn't go the traditional, "I am humbled by the scale of the cosmos and from that I infer the unfathomable power of its Creator" route. As Carl Sagan, one of the most celebrated atheists of the century put it in the same address, "Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light."
And you should here the song version of Pale Blue Dot by Icekorescientist too. In fact, thats where I first heard Carl Sagan's historic message.

Hari Vishnu said...

@RCB
no comments about the atheistic part.. but yea i appreciate sagan and loved the 'pale blue dot' address..

Mahesh Mahadevan said...

The green and red strips are meteor streaks that came in the way of Voyager 1's camera when it took the monumental photograph. The word meteor wouldn't be appropriate that far from earth though, would it?

Drunken Mind.. said...

really nice post...it seems u ve taken on the stars as ur blog topicsnow..huh..

so is it dat hectic there ..??

Neethu said...

".....When I consider your heavens,the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars,which you have set in place,
4 what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,human beings that you care for them?....."

was a really nice post:)

Hari Vishnu said...

@mahesh
hmm that was a revelation.. gues i shud google more about it..

@drunken
tnx man.. hmm yea im seeing stars around my head nowadays :).. nope not really hectic n all.. just gets boring and to the head sometimes, thats all..

@neetu
tnx.. btw i think balaji wud beg to differ on that one :)..

Rituraj said...

I agree Hari, not only from the aspect of space, but also time.
All that has happened or will happen in anyone's life is so humble when compared to the Time.

Hari Vishnu said...

@rituraj
hehe awesome thought man.. yea true, even putting oneself in the large span of time that has passed and is yet to come makes one feel humbled..