Monday, August 20, 2012

Future Prospects

Astronomy is the one of the few sciences in which our subject is indirectly studied. We cannot deal hands-on with stars, planets, or nebulae; our only tools to explore the vast cosmos are the lenses that we look through, and thus our picture of the universe depends solely on how good our eyes are. And so astronomers are meticulously counting photons, de-convolving images, continually calibrating instruments and developing new and innovative technologies. We can’t, nor would we want to, hold a piece of a star; all we can hold are images.

However, human ambition and curiosity are not to be limited. Within the last hundred years, we have gone to the moon and Mars, sent space probes out of the Solar System, and discovered countless exoplanets. We have an intrinsic desire to see up close what we are investigating; there is currently a proposed mission (you can see for yourself if it’s believable or not...) to send people to inhabit Mars by 2023. It seems that an inevitable desire in human nature is expansion.

The exoplanetary discovery missions thus far have discovered a zoo of exoplanets. Gas giants, rocky terrestrial planets, and others line the spectrum, including ones in the nebulously defined habitable zone of their host star, in which liquid water can exist. We are learning that there are probably many pale blue dots out there, and perhaps even other life. The degree of complexity life may hold across the cosmos, we don’t know until we find it. Now comes the speculation. We stand on the precipice of more fascinating discoveries, looking ahead to the future. Will we actually visit another planet? Will we find life anywhere else in the cosmos?

It’s kind of like groping around in the dark. As every scientist young and old knows, experiments must be performed several times in order to get accurate results, but the Earth has only given us one grand experiment to work with. Our definition of life is limited by our own experiences here on our pale blue dot; we could be as wrong as Aristotle’s geocentric model of the universe. And perhaps “life” is in fact everywhere in our universe, but we are desensitized to it by our constraining definition.

The future prospects are extraordinarily exciting. But noble ideas of expansion and exploration can sometimes eclipse our present realities; sometimes we are so preoccupied looking through our lenses at the sky that we are blinded to what is here on the Earth. There is much potential here at home. While discovering other planets like ours, we still have a responsibility to care for, to “preserve and cherish” in the words of Carl Sagan, our own pale blue dot and the life that exists on it.  While the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is an excellent thing, should creating settlements on Mars be a priority when our own housekeeping may not be complete?

The coming years for exoplanetary science will give us worlds of knowledge about our universe and our place in it. The potential exists to bring people together from across the planet. Having this cosmic perspective should be incredibly humbling and eye-opening to how thankful we should be to live and think on our little speck in this dangerous universe. A cosmic perspective should be equalizing, showing us that no matter what social stratifications may exist, we all ultimately are in the same position. Though we can’t actually hold the stars and touch the galaxies, in the words of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. ... We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.” And perhaps, in our quest to understand ourselves, we will find other living beings made up of stardust, just like us.

“We are now creations of the universe standing upon a floating stone, pieces of the universe taking the first steps toward understanding itself.” - J. Swift


  1. Very cool! An easy way we can all help to promote astronomy is by visiting

  2. 3d bioprinting = Immortality = go to stars

  3. (1)...interstellar travel (to the third world)... we come in our ship from faraway...are reaching finally, that star they call Sun...our destiny that third planet is distinguished from the others aridly and barrens with its luminescent blue against the dark background of the we are under its spell...they call the Earth...we pick up its broadcastings TV...we are hearing the stories that they tell...they speak strangely but we understand... We see at its inhabitants, the human beings very similar to us, outside... We have been studying them in their lifestyles, some in developed places with high level, an others in those other places to that they call...The Third World...suffering, hunger, malnutrition, war, calamities and horror against the feeble... There´s no limit to what we feel... Are we dreaming or is it all real? it true?... We see at their leaders to they call religious...(Torquemadas who were "executioners" against the Human Beings in the Middle Age with their Inquisition on behalf of their sanguinary gods...and still have the arrogance to put their secrets and sectarian religious symbols (channel TV Discovery Max, "secret societies") in popular bank note 1 dollar, if anyone doubts who governs in the shadow the World)...well fattened in their golden palaces... while children perish converted into skeletons with some skin and eyes full of flies, in the arms of their horrified mothers who do not have even a glass of clean water to drink them... religious and political leaders who are purposely keeping the horror because WITHOUT POOR AND IGNORANT THERE IS NOT RELIGION... Have to separate between the worthy concept, strictly personal, believing in a Goddess or a God (wheat) and Humankind´s anxiety of Eternity;...from the manipulation and interested ancient Lie that is religion (darnel)... religions only are a Malign Tale for social control to serve at pontifices, monarchies and politicians...who hypocritically first created the poor..."the poor are always with us"...and after give them an alms... Only are in Earth´s "culture" religion gods, for that reason ½ century ago without go to Moon...religious have very fear from extraterrestrial...because innocent people also will know this... IT´S TRUTH THAT RELIGION IS LIE