A None-So-Small Slice of Humility for Humanity

Posted: July 23, 2010 in Cosmology

Lately I have found myself angry and unsettled almost every evening and I spend most nights sleepless reading the news reports from one bias to another attempting to gather the whole picture. I am finding myself ill and unable to figure out why until last night; I reached a boiling point. I went surfing the internet doing my best to avoid thinking about dirty politics and dirty planets when I stumbled across another of these pictures.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field

What you are looking at this time, although this small image does nothing to show its grandeur and I recommend finding a larger one if you have a second, is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field or HUDF. It is called the single most important and greatest image that humankind has ever looked upon, ever. The image required 400 Hubble orbits around the Earth taken over 11.3 days between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.

This photo is of 78 billion light years about the width of looking through a straw at the darkest little spot in the night sky and represents the furthest that we have looked into our universe. The dots and smudges that you see are not stars but actually entire galaxies with millions if not billions of stars apiece. This number is what exists in the space of a pencil eraser just as far as we can look out and it would take hundreds of thousands more to fill the entire sky that wraps around us.

Think of that amount. One could feasibly consider the number of pencils it would take, the number of galaxies for each pencil width, and the number of stars at each galaxy. That unimaginable number is now right before your eyes. The Universe is … big…  Truly there could be no question somewhere on one of the smudges made up of billions of pinpoints of light surrounded by trillions of planets there is someone looking back wondering. This is truly an unsurpassed achievement and a testament of our ability to simply witness this universe.

At the same time as this picture was taken California elected the Governator, the Cubs lost the World Series, and Saddam Hussein was captured by Coalition forces. For many, these three events were the most important things to occur and their entire lives were tipped upside down by them. However, were they really as important as the reporters of them made us believe?

In this relatively unremarkable galaxy on an outer rim sits a small star and on that star’s third planet exists a civilization which thinks of itself as the most important occurrence in all of these tens of thousands of millions of stars.

These delusions of grandeur are brought to our thoughts by news media, religious groups, and various other special interests who are paid to instill in us the idea that our lives are based upon what happens in the polling booth, or on the sports field, or in a hole in the dirt or indeed in the earth. They convince us over and over that our lives will change dramatically for better or worse based upon the box you mark. They instill in us that the pressure to decide correctly is more important than any other. Well… is it?

If your like me and you find yourself becoming bogged down by all this rhetoric just think to yourself about how little it all matters to the blips of light in this picture.  Close your eyes. Hold this image in your mind and consider its significance. Meditate for a moment and breathe deeply in and out . . . in and out . . . in and out.

Now look around you, this is it. This might very well be all that we get. Let’s make our only home,  amidst this lonely and silent sea of cosmic smudges billions of years and miles apart, outlast our longest passage upon it.   Perhaps that hole in the earth thing can be acknowledged as a truly bad idea, when you consider that we are shooting holes into the only thing we can ride on. Let’s not spring any more leaks shall we.  It’s a long swim.

  1. Cari says:

    Love it. Love it. Love it.

  2. Cari says:

    If only everyone were able to look outside of their small worlds mainly consisting of themselves and their perceptions of what is really important….

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