Looking at the sky- a peek into the past

“Look, up at the sky. There is a light, a beauty up there, that no shadow can touch.”

- J.R.R Tolkien

When we look up at the sky, we peer thousands of years back into space, into the past.

In the world of rush and pace, we all often crave for a pause. A way to let the comfort stay for long, for bad times to pass by fast and for hope to sustain. Maybe that’s why we have been much obsessed with the idea of time machines. Be it in our sci-fi movies or our imaginations, the prospect of traveling through time has always sounded so appealing. Yet even with the development of new technologies, we haven’t been able to attain that. But what if I tell you there’s a chance for us to peek into the past? Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?

When we go outside and look up at the sky, it appears everlasting. The stars shining in the night sky seem eternal to us. But all these assumptions, speculations that we hold are tinted by the color of our human limitations. And while the stars do have a more extended period of life, they too, like us, are mortal.

The concepts of space and time are intertwined. Stars and worlds, like us humans, are born, live, and ultimately succumb to the unknown. Our lives are measured in mere decades, while the stars live on for millions of years. In front of these shining bodies in the sky, our lifetimes are transient, ephemeral, a tiny flash indeed, and yet these skies provide us with beautiful ways to observe the beauty it has gained over its long lifetime. It provides us with a sense of oneness, wonderment, and awe. And just like that, in our present moment, bounded by time and deadlines, when we look up, we peer thousands of years back into space, into the past.

How is it so?

Light, as we know, is the fastest thing in the universe with speed equal to 3x10⁸ in the vacuum of space. Yet it has its limits. For longer distances, light often takes much time to travel, and the stars and planets surrounding our Earth are great distances apart. That’s where the use of the term light-years comes in. Unlike how it sounds, it is not a measure of time but of distance. It is the amount of time light can travel in one year.

When we look up at the sky, we don’t see it as it is, but as it was. It takes more than eight minutes for the light of the sun to reach us, hours for planets and years for the much distant stars. One of the brightest stars in the sky, Sirius, lies 8.6 light-years away from Earth. That means when we see Sirius in the night sky, we see it as it was 8.6 years ago.

The Andromeda galaxy is one of our nearest galaxies, which can be seen with an unaided eye in the night sky during the months of fall and winter. But what’s more interesting about it, is that it is located 2.5 million light-years away that means its light has been traveling for over 2.5 million light-years to reach us now.

That’s why telescopes are considered as our own personal time machines — as the more distant objects we see, the more into the past we gaze.

Did you know we all have our own birth stars? No, it is not something related to astrology but to astronomy. Let’s find out our birth star. Search for the list of the brightest stars in the sky we can see and their distances from us in light-years. Now, see which number is the closest to your age. Locate that star in your night sky. That is your birth star, for you can see it, more or less, as it was at the time of your birth. That means, the light from that star started at the time when you were born and reached you today. More or less, we all have our birth stars.

Ponder upon that for a moment…

The light of the stars reaching out to our eyes tonight might have started their interstellar voyage long ago, maybe when Vincent Van Gogh was painting “The Starry Night,” maybe from when Albert Einstein was working on his theory of relativity. We can’t point our heads towards the sky, gazing at the stars without looking back into time.

And just like that, without much trying, without any such efforts, we see years into the past.

Just remember that while staring at the sky today, how far into the past you are actually looking. The light from these shining bodies has traveled a long time, literally even millions of years for some, just to reach our eyes tonight, so embrace the beauty and wisdom of ages they hold as you explore the night sky.

When the skies seem dark and gloomy

When the liveliness of day seems far away

Just remember it might take a little time

But the light you aspire is already on its way

https://theautumnpen.wordpress.com/ And sometimes, against all odds, against all logic, we still hope.