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Just look up

February 25, 2007

It’s been about a year since I first spotted Saturn through my telescope. It’s true what most people say – the first time you see it, your heart skips a beat at the sight of it. It’s amazing to see this beautiful giant silently sitting there in the night sky. I spotted it again last week from my own backyard looking up into the clear skies of Canberra. Of course, it’s small and a little blurry through my somewhat low-tech Newtonian reflector, but you can still behold the majesty of it. Cassini has been getting up close and personal with Saturn since 2004. Back in 2004 when the Cassini-Huygens craft was approaching Saturn, it sent back an amazing view of it to Earth – a bunch of composite images that formed the most close-up, exquisite and detailed view of the planet we have seen thus far:

Image from here.

Saturn has been nicknamed “The Lord of the Rings” for obvious reasons. However, it is one of the many beautiful things in the night sky. Saturn is relatively easy to spot and instantly recognised. But there are so many things to take pleasure in by just tilting your head up towards the sky after sunset – you don’t even need binoculars or a telescope. On the outskirts of any major city in Australia, you can clearly see the band of the Milky Way stretching across the sky with the naked eye. Get a little further out of the city and your own eyes will pick up the wisps of hot blue stars in the cluster of Pleiades or if your eyes are even more sharp, you’ll catch a milky smudge in the belt of Orion which is of course the famous Orion Nebula.

To catch a glimpse of these stars is to catch a glimpse of the eternity of the universe and all the beautiful things in it. To lie there on your back and take the time to focus on the sky above us is to feel at one with the unbelievably amazing phenomenon that is nature. To be conscious of it all is to feel the true essence of what it means to be alive, to be in existence and to take stock of everything around you while you can.

It’s amazing looking out into the night sky, even without a telescope. It always reminds me of how small and insignificant we are – but at the same time this makes you realise how unique and beautiful we are.

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4 comments

  1. I feel like this when I look at the occean. A moving, harmonious mass. I wouldn’t even form a drop within it. Small and insignificant indeed! But I honestly cannot say that this reminds me of how unique and beautiful we are.

    What it does make me consider is how arrogant we are. What makes it okay for us to go out and change the course of the ocean? Particularly given how insignificant we are, how can it be right that we have changed all matter for our own design?

    I guess it is one of those times where I need some help finding that correlation. If you have the time, then please share it. I would rather see beauty than arrogance.

    Yours in faith…


  2. Absolutely M… To say that I am reminded of how unique and beautiful we are isn’t to say that at other times (such as when I see the ocean polluted beyond belief in my old town of Sydney) I feel despair at how ugly and destructive we can be. However, I think this is more of a product of many of us losing our way. Think about where we have evolved from – the ocean! How wonderful that, as you put it, “a moving, harmonious mass” ebbed and flowed for billions of years and slowly but surely evolved all different forms of life within it.

    Rather, when I look up, or out into the ocean or across a beautiful plain I am reminded of our potential and of the place that we occupy within this vast ocean of cosmic indifference. Look what we came from – a single cell! Look at the vast and amazing forms of energy out there in the ocean and in space and think of what we could achieve positively as a species. Do I know if we actually will? Of course not, and sometimes it looks increasingly like we are out to destroy our beautiful little insignificant planet and ourselves. But out there in the universe and out there in the ocean, the ever present ebb and flow of life is going on – and we are all part of the same universe and occupy a different time and space of it. I guess I should have phrased it better and said it reminds me of how unique and beautiful we can be.


  3. I first saw Saturn through a telescope when I was about 8. It’s an experience that I can still vividly remember, both the image itself and the way it made me feel. I was amazed that a planet so huge and so far away could just be there, floating right in front of me. Great post.


  4. A wise lady I once knew always used to say “onward and upward.”

    I’m there… :-)



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