After all the talk, we finally got a peek at a black hole. It isn’t the one at the center of our solar system, Sagittarius A, it was in Messier 87 – a nearby galaxy much larger than our own Milky Way.
So, I was a little disappointed that a black hole turns out to look like a glazed red velvet cake donut. I wasn’t expecting the silhouette of Darth Vader’s helmeted head exactly, but a keyhole would have been nice.
I confess to very little interest in the anniversary of the moon landing. I didn’t get patriotic shivers down my spine in 1969, and while I think it is cool there is a moon rock in the stained glass “space window” at the National Cathedral, my only marvel is at the human beings who climb into those space vehicles and suits with a willingness to trust our rudimentary technology. Landing on the moon, or even when we make it as far as mars, amounts to stopping by Byrne Dairy in Geneva on your way to Mount Kilimanjaro. Sure, it is a beginning, but relative to what there is to explore it does not even amount to a crawl.
Much more compelling, at least to me, is Voyager 1 and 2. After thirty-five years wafting through space on a mission to explore the outer planets of our solar system, the little engines that could are thirteen and fourteen billion miles away, respectively. They left our solar system in 2012 and 2013 and now wander interstellar space, a sensory fingertip for humankind. One of them carries a golden record with human voices and animal sounds from our planet, a note in a bottle for whoever or whatever else is out there.
In case my nonchalance about the moon landing seems hard-hearted or short-sighted, allow me to offer this perspective. Voyager 1’s new mission, now that it has escaped the heliosphere bubble surrounding our solar system, is an encounter with a star we call AC+79 3888 – a mere 17.6 light years from Earth. That meeting is schedule for forty thousand years from now. No, that is not a typo: forty thousandyears from now. It seems more likely that Voyager 1 will fulfill its mission than it does human beings will still be breathing oxygen on Earth by then.
Meanwhile, my dog sits alert in the sunroom staring at squirrels outside. She is content to sit and stare motionless for long periods of time, perhaps imagining herself leaving the limits of the glass bubble enclosing us and jettisoning toward the squirrel who taunts her from the edge of the patio. Her universe does not include AC+ 3888 or Sagittarius A, but her happiness knows no bounds in the world exposed by the length of her leash.
For myself, I am content to enjoy the crisp morning light. The sky is pure blue this morning and the sun, that single star at the center our solar system, washes through the oak and Japanese maples leaving shade art on stunningly green spring grass. We may be able to walk on the moon but where else in the cosmos is there such a lush view as the one I have right here?
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