There are many people who make a living from gazing at the stars and other heavenly bodies and can spend days on end staring through telescopes. I’m not one of them. I can appreciate the beauty of a clear night sky as much as anyone, but it’s not something I do often. First, I very seldom go out at night; second, it’s too darn cold at this time of year; third, most nights are so dull and overcast.
But on Friday night (27th January) I had ample opportunity to look up and appreciate just how much there is to see. From my vantage point in the field beside the Ballyduggan Road I could pick out the planet Jupiter, the constellations Orion, Cassiopeia and Ursa Major… the stars Betelgeuse, Rigel, Castor and Pollux… This is something I was barely able to do during my years in London, mainly because of light pollution.
There are numerous songs about looking up to the heavens, but the one that most readily comes to my mind is “The Galaxy Song” by Monty Python.
Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough,
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough,
Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour.
It’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
The sun that is the source of all our power.
Now the sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
Are moving at a million miles a day,
In the outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,
Of a galaxy we call the Milky Way.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars;
It’s a hundred thousand light-years side to side;
It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light-years thick,
But out by us it’s just three thousand light-years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light-years from Galactic Central Point,
We go ’round every two hundred million years;
And our galaxy itself is one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.
Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
In all of the directions it can whiz;
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space,
Because there’s precious little down here on Earth!