Friday, 25 September 2015
I am often told that stargazing is a fanciful hobby, a distraction from real life, happening now on Earth.
As I try to enthuse about the current progress being made by NASA and ESA, and any other space agency pushing our frontiers of knowledge at great expense, I'm often peer pressured back to the notion that what's going on "out there", in space, hasn't a great deal of relevance to my day to day life.
I suppose, if you have your "head down" and you're fighting your way through the technical jungles of modern life, trying to keep the bills paid, the children clothed and fed, your career afloat, then the contents of outer space have very little to do with your worldly struggle.
However, for a brief moment, if we can stop plodding through our Earthly rut and look up and take in what's beyond our shell-like atmosphere, we can see what's out there!
With the increased speed of information dissemination these days, we can take in the most current imagery from the front lines of our scientific efforts to glimpse what's out there.
These images ARE important to us, not only because they hold a wealth of scientific data to be mined for truths about the Universe, but also because they put our place in the Universe in context. A context of reality. One which allows us to turn the focus back on ourselves. Our place. Our presence here. And what we are doing to it.
To see the desolate planets in our solar system, the barren wastelands and toxic plains, the swirling gases and icy fissures, is to appreciate what has blossomed here on Earth. Compare and contrast. How unique is it that life was able to struggle its way through the dust and mud and come to fruition via evolution, so that it can peer upon these planetary images captured by scientific endeavour, and contextualise itself!
Detailed images of Pluto, are beautiful and awe inspiring in their own right, but for me, it's the context and perspective shift it bestows on us, that really makes taking in an hourly comet chaser snap, or a daily planet satellite exploration, or a weekly galaxy shot seen through the eye of Hubble, a worthy enlightening pursuit amidst our trek through our short but precious lives.