Cosmic Sightseeing 2

 

Falling Up

Whenever I get the chance, I like to sleep outside under the stars. On a clear, dark night, far away from the city…it takes me out of ordinary day-to-day life and plunks me down where I really am: clinging to a tiny rock floating around somewhere in an immense and complex Universe. It gives me perspective.

Artwork this week is provided by artist (and my mother) Barbara Dahn. I think her work is rather cosmically-inspired, don’t you?

 

Several times, though, while I’ve been looking up and pondering all the countless other stars and planets Out There, I’ve had a strange sensation of reverse-vertigo, almost as if gravity were letting go and I was floating up into the limitless black of the night sky.

It’s a weird feeling of falling up.

Drawing by Barbara Dahn

 

Falling up is an unsettling feeling…but in a good way, kind of like riding a roller coaster. I’m sure it stems from somewhere in my inner-ear—something about losing sight of the horizon. Or maybe it’s just the starry sky… a reminder of just how small I am and how big the Universe really is.

 

How far out into space can we see? 

Last week on this blog, we pondered Andromeda, the most distant thing any of us can see with our naked eyes—a mere 2.5 million light years away. But with a wide variety of different telescopes, we can look much farther, as far as 13.7 billion light years.

Drawing by Barbara Dahn

 

Looking into space is not always a visual “seeing”, especially at the greater distances. (Remember how limited the “visual” portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is?) Often, we are detecting other wavelengths that are invisible to our eyes but detectable by a variety of telescopes: infared, radio, ultraviolet, gamma rays, microwave, etc.

 

How big is the Universe?

13.7 billion light years is the farthest distance we have detected. At that point, all we detect is microwave background ‘noise’ left over from the Big Bang. We’re basically looking back to the beginning of time. But we’re not seeing all there is…the Universe is likely at least 160 billion light years in size. Or bigger.*

And as far as we can tell… it’s probably flat.**

And it may be only one of many, many, many Universes.***

Drawing by Barbara Dahn

 

I’m falling up again. How about you?

 

Drawing by Barbara Dahn

 

PS – Happy Birthday Voyager 1!

Today is Voyager’s 35th birthday.

The most-distant human-made objects, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are on their way out of the solar system. Sometime soon, they will enter interstellar space, where they will wander our galaxy, the Milky Way until one of the following happens:

a. they get picked up by some extraterrestrial life form

b. our entire galaxy gets swallowed into a black hole

c. unknown

d. other

 

For more information:

Voyager

*The size of the Universe

**The shape of the Universe

***Multiverse (more than one Universe)

To see The Powers Of Ten—a very cool 10-minute film that takes you to the edge of the Universe and back

Telescopes

 

Go ahead, make my day…leave a comment! Anything at all…ask a question, make an observation, tell me if you’ve ever fallen up, or down, or sideways…

 

10 thoughts on “Cosmic Sightseeing 2

    • That’s an interesting idea, Murr… the astrophysicists that read my blog will probably want to study it now that you’ve brought it to their attention! Maybe you’ll get some kind of cool credit, like the Murrniverse, or the Brewster Stackable Cosmos. Maybe you’ll get to be a boson! In the meantime, though, the staples might not be a bad idea….

    • Dizzying, but kind of fun, too. Stay tuned for future Cosmic Sightseeings! I may decide to explore more outer space, and maybe some inner space too!

  1. Denise……I think both of us must be “falling up” some of the time….Or at least floating around in outer space…(and I thought I was so grounded!!)
    It is fun to see our work together. Your thoughts are very inspiring.
    Barbara Dahn (aka Mom)

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