July 2nd Place Ever Expanding Cosmos

Ever Expanding Cosmos

 

It has taken a life journey for me to realise how big things are and how small we 

actually are. We are so small that, at times, we don’t realise it. What we see around us in 

our own immediate environment looks big enough. What concerns us in our daily lives 

also seems large and important. But out there, above our heads, beyond the clouds and 

sky, in the blackness, is something else. Something extraordinary that makes us all so 

small and so ordinary.

   As a kid, the most familiar surrounds were my toys, rooms in the house, the backyard, 

local streets, sweet shops, school, the park and cinemas. Trips to the city centre made 

me aware of distance and bigger things like banks, railway stations and large 

department stores. Then came frequent trips to the seaside and views of the endless sea.  

At primary school we had a large map on the wall of the British Isles. How big and 

imposing it looked to us youngsters as we looked up at it. Obviously the centre of the 

universe was the United Kingdom, with London at its golden centre. When I was about 

seven someone gave me a stamp album. This broadened my view of what was out there. 

The album had stamps in it from such then-named countries as Basutoland, 

Bechuanaland, Nyasaland, Zanzibar and British Honduras and other places. The names 

evoked mystery and adventure. 

   As I got older a larger map appeared on a different classroom wall. This one showed 

‘The World,’ with the previously imposing United Kingdom reduced to a pink smudge 

on the top centre. Amazingly, to my young eyes, there were countries bigger than my 

own such as Canada, Brazil, Australia, India, China and something huge called the 

USSR. Then along came satellites and with it pictures of ‘The World’ hanging in 

blackness. ‘The World’ began to appear prominently in daily life, such as turning 

dramatically before the TV news bulletins or in sci-fi films. It looked big, powerful, 

regal and imposing. Before we could blink man was stepping out on the moon and 

spawning more information about ‘our universe.’ It was then that I realised that there 

were other worlds out there. Massive gas planets like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and 

Neptune all dwarfing ‘The World,’ in fact making ‘The World’ look like a puny spec. 

Amazingly, our world was only a small rock planet, three planets away from the sun. 

All this was sobering. How small could we possibly get?

   Inspired, I started looking into this space stuff. I then realised that our star, the sun, 

was just one of billions of suns in our galaxy which we call the Milky Way. Discovering 

where we stood in the Milky Way was also sobering. We are not even the centre of this 

enormous galaxy. We, the universe, are tucked away inauspiciously somewhere in the 

south-east corner of this giant, mysterious mass of blackness. Apparently, we are just 

one of 200 to 400 million other universes that make up the Milky Way. But that is not 

all. The nearest star to our sun is Alpha Centauri, a mere 4.3 light years away (a light 

year being the distance that light can travel in a year: 5.9 million, million miles). And, 

the nearest galaxy to our Milky Way is the Andromeda Galaxy, which is home to 

another one billion stars, with another nearby galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, 

harbouring a further thirty to forty more billion stars. The Milky Way, with these two 

other giant galaxies, combined with some thirty smaller galaxies, is called the Local 

Group Galaxies. Beyond which are more and more galaxies marshalling whatever 

number of stars and planets you could care to invent. The words mind-boggling do not 

do justice to what is out there. 

   It is amazing how it all works, how it came into existence and how small we as human 

beings are in the grand scheme of things, if there is a scheme at all. No human as yet has 

travelled to another planet in our own tiny solar system, let alone to another universe or 

galaxy. Which only emphasises how small and possibly unique we are in this strangest 

of planets in this smallest of universes, tucked away in the corner of a galaxy that itself 

is but a spec in the wide expanse of the ever expanding cosmos.  

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