Picture this: an eye on the skies

·2 min read

Jul. 16—Astronomy has interested me since about first grade, when I opened up an encyclopedia in the library at my grade school and saw the galaxy stretched before me.

That was more than 50 years ago, and although the science of that era had a lot of things figured out by then, we certainly have learned a lot about the universe since then. That's one of the most exciting things about science: by definition, science learns more and grows more every time we use it.

We all saw the first official science images from the James Webb Space Telescope this week, and, of course, many people shared those images on social media, which tells me that scientific discovery is alive, thriving, and popular.

I hope we don't quickly forget how exciting these images are and what they represent: another giant step in the process of really understanding the nature of the universe.

I am also inclined to be amazed by the numbers: Webb's first image contains thousands of galaxies. Read that again. Not thousands of planets. Not thousands of stars. Thousands of galaxies.

Some evenings when the weather is right and I have the time, I step out onto the back deck at my home in Byng and have a seat in a lawn chair. Hawken, the Irish wolfhound, will sidle up next to me and lean into me (that's what wolfhounds do), and I'll sit back and look at the sky. Our sky is decently dark in Byng, so as my eyes adjust, dozens, then hundreds, then sometimes thousands of stars become visible. I look at them and wonder if someone like me is leaning back in his or her yard, looking up at the night sky, and finding our star.