Saturday, October 01, 2005
YEAR OF THE COMETS
"If you were suddenly plucked from Earth and carried quickly into space, our planet would appear briefly as a gorgeous blue globe before being lost in a melee of stars. As you sped outward, you'd be able to see the whole of the Milky Way, a starry disk with curling arms, and then the Local Group, the clump of galaxies to which the Milky Way belongs, and then the Virgo supercluster. Stars and distant smudges of galaxies would be everywhere you looked. Passing through a nebula, you might be immersed in clouds of glowing copper gases, where tear-shaped cocoons swaddle embryos of stars. Pulled farther out, you'd see the Universe on a grander and grander scale, until the galaxies arranged themselves in trailing lines.
The stars are where God lives, I thought, on them, between them. Space is not an empty void; it's a vessel filled with dark, divine water, silky to the skin. How wonderful it would be to swim through it, darting among the stars, seeing colored gases and the explosions of supernovas.
If you think life is a circuitous journey, if you're ever tempted to place too much importance on a single day's events, try envisioning your existence on a cosmological scale.
Everywhere (Margaret Geller and James Huchra) looked they found starry bubbles, each one a lighted circle, or a partial circle, surrounding a pool of blackness. They also detected a region where untold unmbers of galaxies were gathered, lighting space in a band that stretched beyond the edges of their maps. This Great Wall, as Geller and Huchra named it, is now known to be a billion light-years long and tens of millions of light years thick.
So once again, we step back from our studies and shake our heads in disbelief. Space is not simply smeared with light, but honeycombed with it, and in places, steeped in it."
From a book I am currently reading, "Year of the Comets" by Jan Deblieu, who also wrote one called "Wind," which the Los Angeles Times called "A stunning view of the Earth."