NASA’s recent Dart mission to deflect an asteroid’s path, serves to illustrate just how precarious Earth’s existence is. We are at the mercy of what the Universe throws at us. Our atmosphere and magnetic field serve us well in protecting us from cosmic rays, eruptions of particles and energy from the Sun, and the small meteors that continually bombard us. The presence of large planets like Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System act as protective big brothers, sweeping up any wayward asteroids that happen to pass by on the way to Earth.
Christmas can be a hectic time, office parties, catching up with friends and family, up early for Santa and and days spent visiting and being visited. It can also be a time for reflection.
With that in mind, allow me to present two pictures that give us a unique insight and pause for thought, to contemplate our place in the universe.
Scientists have made some tremendous advances in recent years. Biologists are discovering that life is not as delicate as we once thought. No matter where on Earth we look, we seem to encounter life. Hardy bacteria that can thrive in the harshest of conditions. From the extreme heat of thermal springs and deep sea hydrothermal vents to the harsh conditions found in nuclear reactors, bacteria and other microbes find a way to prosper. We have exposed bacteria to the harshness of space on the outside of the international space station, only to discover later that the bacteria hadn’t been killed off, but had survived the exposure and were able to grow again upon return to normal conditions.
48 years ago this July, Apollo 11 blasted off on it’s three day journey to the moon. On July 21st 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon. Mankind looked on in awe. It was the dawn of a new era, heralding in what was to be a fantastic voyage of discovery that started with the moon, moved to Mars and beyond and eventually further into our solar system and perhaps even journeying to neighbouring star systems.
The past week has seen my phone emit a flurry of chirps, beeps and flashing LEDs. They have been alerts from Twitter or from an Aurora Watch UK app. Most of the them have been yellow alerts with the occasional amber alert, letting me know that there is a slim possibility of seeing the aurora or Northern Lights.