A Trillion Kilometers

On a clear evening in the suburbs, a typical night sky will have several hundred stars visible to the naked eye. The photons from these distant stellar entities have travelled trillions of kilometres, sometimes bouncing off planets or asteroids, before making their way here. The nearest star system is Proxima Centauri at 4.3 light years. The most distant that we can hope to observe without help is V762 Cas, which sits about 16,300 light years from us. Orion is about 1,350 light years away and Polaris, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere, is 323 light years distant.

Starry Sky

The light from Polaris that we see today left its star while Europeans travelled to the Americas in wind-powered, wooden ships. The light from Orion left its star before the legend of King Arthur — as we know it — was born. The light we see from V762 Cas has been in flight since before we had written language or a basic understanding of math.

These are the sorts of things that I've found myself thinking lately while looking up at the night sky when out with Nozomi. The vastness of space is beyond comprehension but not an insurmountable problem. Humanity has risen to a number of challenges that seemed impossible until somebody did it. Exploring the cosmos, seeing these distant stars up close, is something that we will most certainly enjoy at some point in the future. Unfortunately it will be long after my time has passed.

Fortunately there is plenty of sky to enjoy from the ground.