Science Writing

Why I Look Up

There are many reasons.

The first that comes to mind, and I’ll say now that this isn’t in any particular order, is that the sky at night is pretty. Not simply pretty, it is beautiful, awesome, incredible. Whatever superlative you want to throw at it, the night sky will suit it.

Whole novels, millions of words, have been written about the wonder that is the night sky. It’s beauty and mystery has captivated humanity ever since we evolved to ask the question, ‘why?’

The skies were the home of God, of heaven. The shimmering white dots that populated the dark expanse were beacons of hope for millions of humans. We stared up, believing fully that we would one day join the gods in their palaces in the sky.

Of course, some of this mythology has been stripped away by time and the pursuit of knowledge. The sky isn’t gods looking down on us or the blinking lights of some celestial city.

They are balls of fiery gas, held together by the balance of immense pressures that we as humans can’t truly imagine.

The scale of the universe is vast beyond comprehension. It is awe inspiring and that brings me to another reason why I look up.

It makes me feel small.

On the surface I can see why this might be perceived as a strange tick in the pro column but I believe it is important. Feeling small, feeling awe, helps ground me. It helps me realise what is important and what is not.

Because really, in the end, nothing will matter.

It’s not only that Earth will one day be destroyed by the Sun or even that humans will probably wipe ourselves out. Or the fact that in far less time than that I will be forgotten in any great detail.

It’s the fact that one day, many billions of years from now, the universe will end. Everything.

It will all cease.

It might start back up again but for every living creature anywhere in the universe, it will end. There will be nothing and nothingness and no one there to observe it.

And isn’t that a comforting thought?

When I look up I like to think that. I like to know that one day nothing that ever happened anywhere in the universe will matter. One day entropy will win out and the universe will (probably) enter a state of perfect stillness.

No motion.

And without motion there is no time, no energy, no life.

Nothing.

That might seem depressing on the face of it but sit with it, and think about it, I think you’ll find it comforting as well.

But let’s not end it on that.

The mystery is my reason for looking up. We will never know everything. To be frank, we will never know a fraction of everything there is to do with the universe that surrounds us.

But with a boundless potential for mystery comes a limitless amount of oppotunities.

To learn, to grow, to advance as a civilisation.

There is so much we don’t know and that is exciting.

The universe will end one day, humanity will disappear, but until then we will keep looking up, keep searching for answers, keep striving to reach beyond the day to day drudgery that can sometimes feel like all there is.

I look up because it gives me hope.

Hope that we will one day reach out and be apart of the stars, and not only it’s observers.

Hope that in humanities endless quest for answers, we may one day find them up there, in the stars shining down on us.

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