Forget Natalie Portman the real beauty is above your heads*.

As you may remember the other night I wrote a post on the BBC Stargazing Live series. Well the series is now at an end and surprisingly this makes me very sad.

Yes there was some questionable stuff, the CME’s for example felt a bit out of place, but apart from that it was a genuinely enjoyable show. At the end of it I changed my opinion of Jonathan Ross’ role in the show and it was great to see someone get genuinely interested in what is an amazing pastime. Professor Cox who’s enthusiasm climaxed when he got to talk to the crew of the International Space Station was brilliant to see and even I grinned like an idiot watching it.

Of course there was one moment that will live on in TV blooper shows for decades, that was a quick check in with Mark Thompson who was the resident astronomer, when declaring it was too cloudy and there was nothing to see a bloody great shooting star fell behind him. Now in his defence I didn’t see it, even though I saw 2 in the show not many others saw. It was also nice to see the contribution the UK plays in space with Liz Bonnin in Hawaii checking in on the 2 British telescopes there and seeing what they are capable of. Also the inclusion of Major Timothy Peake was welcome as I hadn’t seen him on TV before. For those who aren’t aware he is the first UK National to be selected for astronaut training who wasn’t a dual citizen of the US or sponsored.

In the end I feel genuinely sad that the show has ended and it clearly has generated a lot of interest in Astronomy here in the UK which is always a cool thing, in fact online retailer Amazon has ran out of Planispheres, which would be good but they can be a bugger to use. I just use Stellarium for it.

What’s great about astronomy is the sense of Awe you get from it. To look for example at the pleiades, which for the record is my personal favourite object in the sky

The cluster contains thousands of stars, each a ball of gas some bigger than our Sun, it’s not until you think of it in those terms you realise how tiny and alone we are, like Sagan said “It has been said that Astronomy is a humbling experience” and he’s right.

For me there’s nothing better than putting on a coat and standing outside, you don’t even need a telescope, there is so much you can see with your own eyes. If you are in a dark spot that band of stars you see is an ENTIRE GALAXY Infact it’s the one you’re in, how can that not impress someone!

There is so much out there,  The nebula in Orion is beautiful and colorful, it’s a sight to behold.  Get a telescope and look at Saturn, everyone I know turns into a child when they see those perfectly formed beautiful rings, get a pair of binoculars and gaze upon Jupiter, and watch the 4 moons slowly move around her. I promise you, you won’t be dissappointed.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

* Never forget Natalie Portman


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