Friday, February 02, 2007

Earth in Space

The above photo shows the McNaught Comet and the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) above the skies of New Zealand. (Hat tip: SpaceWeather.com)

Many scientists will describe Earth as an island to state the Earth is a closed system ("What happens on Earth stays on Earth" in lay man terms). This is grossly simplistic and fails to account for waves which periodically wash up on the shores of Earth. Geomagnetic energy creates the Northern and Southern Lights. Storms on the Sun can cause interference with needed communication technology. Scientists have even pointed out the relationship between the Sun and climate change. Finally, instant catastrophic events like the mass extinction which paved the way for the rise of mammals is blamed on space debris.

Yet I make an error. I have given the impression of an island named Earth amidst a sea of waves. There are billions of stars and probably millions or even billion of planets. This does not even consider other celestial bodies. So some night go outside and look at the stars. Ponder for a while how small Earth is in the universe. Then realize Earth is not in a sea of "space" but in an archipelago in the heavens. You will be able to appreciate what you see.

2 comments:

Jonathan said...

An apt metaphor, and a beautiful image. I live minutes away from Prof. Filipenko's famed Astro 10 lectures. I should drop in and pose as a student for a little mental edification on our universe.

subadei said...

What a brilliant photograph! Two of my most precious memories:

Seeing Halleys Comet at the elbow of my grandfather and father in '86.

Seeing, for the first time, the Northern lights.

For all the importance we place on mundane concerns it's an amazing experience to take in the phenomena beyond our lives and world.