Joseph and I went to a meeting of the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society last night. We do that every first Thursday. The planetarium room where the group meets at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (click), is full of mostly older gray-haired men (and one young man behind us with bright burgundy hair and black roots).
The theme for the evening was the LBT — the Large Binocular Telescope (click) at Mt. Graham in Arizona — the world’s largest optical telescope on a single mount — an international project involving teams from Italy, Germany and the US.
Among other things, the telescope has been used to discover new galaxies — one over 7 billion light years away from earth. 7 billion light years. 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles (40 sextillion!). That we can see that far away is astounding — what we see is even more astounding.
Most people in the room understood terms like “first light” and “adaptive optics” and understood just how small a milliarcsecond is. I was simply fascinated that we are capable of constructing such a complex and colossal structure whose express purpose is to contemplate our surroundings.
We are curious beings. We want to know.
Just outside of Fort Collins the stars appear to pepper the sky with mysteries. It is truly beautiful. Look as I might I may never fully understand infinity, or the distance represented by billions of light years. I like that some are trying. I like trying to imagine the arc from those first curious humans who named Cassiopeia and Orion to us now, polishing gargantuan mirrors to receive that ancient light from the cosmos.
The flowers in the post are called cosmos, too — from the Greek for “orderly” and “beautiful.”
Here and there, what is visible with our eyes and with the LBT is orderly and beautiful. How, then, can we create such chaos?