My husband and I are just back from a most wonderful week in Noway. We went to ski and the skiing was wonderful, but the highlight of the week was an night-time excursion to see the stars. Armed with binoculars and with our guide, Tim (an enthusiastic Englishman with a passion for photography and astronomy), we gazed in silent awe at Orion, said hello to Cassiopeia, and waved at our neighbours in the Andromeda Galaxy.
Tim told us how he used to work in Spain before settling in Norway and we reflected sadly that the freedom to travel and work across Europe is under threat. We talked about how, in so many parts of the world, it’s rare to be able to stand and look up at the stars and see them in such resplendent detail, and, inevitably, Carl Sagan’s words from “Pale Blue Dot” came to mind:
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 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. 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.
The news has not been good this week. I wish we could all look up at the stars and remember how small and how precious our world is.
And, if you ever find yourself in Trysil, look up Tim and go star-hunting.