As spring has rolled in, my most recent obsession has become the Coma Berenices star cluster and it’s neighboring (from our perspective, but millions of light years apart) Virgo galaxy cluster. It is a supreme example of perspective and relativity. Galaxies seemingly strung together, tiny and clustered. However, that is how we would look next to Andromeda from one of these Virgo galaxies. Trillions and trillions of stars, planets and black holes represented by a blip no larger than a star on any of the photographs I take.
We are so small. This world is small. Our galaxy is small, from the right perspective. These galaxies appear so close to one another, yet thousands and millions of light years seperate them. Most of the light traveled over 50 million light years just to form the picture I have attached. Hell, dinosaurs had just taken their final bow at this time.
For perspective, our nearest neighboring galaxy (not counting the LMC and SMC which are satellite galaxies orbiting our own) is Andromeda, and it is 2.5 million light years away. It is heading right for us, and our galaxies will collide or react tidally and possibly become one galaxy. So, the light coming from Andromeda departed for the Milky Way before our species was on deck.
Carl Sagan said we were made so that the universe may know itself. The magnitude of what is around to observe is enough to frighten. I find it reassuring. I don’t matter near as much as I would like. Nuclear war, elections, murders, moral dilemmas.. all of these things we find Earth-shaking don’t mean a damn thing.
Our experience here is like pesos. It translates to no value once you leave it’s place of origin. I used to hate hearing that life goes on no matter what. It depressed me, to know I had little or no impact on daily comings and goings. It should have been comforting.