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Look up

"Always desire to learn something useful." -Sophocles

What do we miss when we don’t look up?

They are always there, waiting for you to look up and appreciate their beauty. They are constant, they may seem to be changing positions as our planet rotates, but stars are always there. We may often forget about them, ignore them, but once we remember to look up, they will still be there.

There are people who enjoy an evening beneath the stars, by setting up a picnic and having a couple of sandwiches while listening to music. Stargazing can also be about lying in the sand and looking up while enjoying the comforting sound of the beach, but enjoying the beauty of the stars and the night sky is not just limited to stargazing. For some people, gazing at the skies and feeling their connection with the cosmos is an ineffable circumstance that not all people are blessed to experience.

However, most people forget about the stars. Who cares? They’re just tiny specks of white dots in the night sky. What benefit will I get if I look up? How can you even identify stars when they all look the same? These could be the reasons why some people do not appreciate the beauty of stars, not knowing that they actually miss many things from ignoring the shiny dot-filled heavens.

We are all under the same sky, looking at the same set of stars. No matter where you are, no matter what time it is, you will still look up to the same set of stars. Due to our planet’s rotation, these stars may appear to change positions. To further discuss, the set of stars you may see in summer will be gradually replaced by another set of stars in winter, but they will come back in the next summer, and that’s how it will possibly be for generations to come. Just remember, no matter how far you think you have traveled, you will still be under the same sky. It’s a small world, after all.

We are nothing compared to stars. When we were younger, we may have thought that stars are just these tiny twinkling objects in the night sky but when we grow up, we realize that they are a lot more than we thought. If we talk about sizes, we’re going to need a huge imagination to perceive the abundance of objects in the universe. The earth is nothing compared to the size of our sun, and we as human beings are nothing compared even to the Earth’s smallest continent. However, our sun is just a speck within the Milky Way Galaxy, and our galaxy is not even one of the biggest among supposedly at least 100 million galaxies. We are truly just a speck within a speck of dust in the universe.

Stars are used for navigation. Wayfinding, an ancient Polynesian practice of navigating through the ocean using celestial objects, is introduced in the 2016 Disney film Moana. If you can use the position of the stars as maps, if you can identify the North Star, if you know where the stars rise and set, then navigation will be a lot easier for you. It is said that ancient Polynesians used this technique to colonize a huge part of the Pacific Ocean, but let’s leave that to history. It is said that looking at the stars means looking back in time. The moon is not fit to use as an example to explain this circumstance because it is not far from earth so let’s go further. If we look at Jupiter through a telescope, we can see its details and its biggest moons. However, at that exact moment we are looking at Jupiter from where we stand, we are actually seeing how it was around 35 to 55 minutes ago because that is the time light takes to travel from Jupiter to our planet. And that’s just Jupiter. How about the stars that are not even close to our solar system? You may be looking at a star and not know that you’re actually seeing how it was from a hundred years ago! Isn’t that cool?

Stargazing may not be one of those fun things you look forward to if you live in the city. However, driving away from the city every once in a while to enjoy the beauty of the night sky will always be worth it, provided that there are no clouds to hinder your experience.

There may be one answer as to why some people tend to be interested about the stars; our body contains elements such as carbon and iron released by a previous generation of stars because of fusion. We can enjoy the stars however we want to, either by staring at them and enjoying how beautiful they look from our perspective or by technically understanding how they work. Whatever way, we should be able to feel the connection we have with the stars for we partly came from them. As Carl Sagan said, “We are made of star stuff”.

The next time we go out at night and realize that the sky is clear, we should be happy for we are blessed to be able to value the beauty of God’s creation at that exact moment. The next time we go out at night and realize that the sky is clear, let’s take time to admire its beauty. Let’s take time to think that at that very moment, we are time travelers and we are blessed to have stars in our sky. Just imagine, what will the night sky look like if there were no stars? Wouldn’t that be boring?

 

Coleen Santos is a journalism student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Aside from being a journalist, she also wants to pursue a career in astronomy.

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