Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seven Planets and Something Lost

Seven Planets and Something Lost

What could be a more lovely  discovery than the existence of seven planets about a star previously unknown to us? Particularly when three of the seven might harbor water and be in some way habitable?

Of all the theories surrounding the Exoplanets, the one which caught my imagination the most was that, because these rocky, earth-like planets are so close to one another in their orbit about their star, if you were to stand on one planet, your neighboring planets would appear as discs, rather than points of light, in the sky, and you might be able to see their geographical features, just as we can stand on the earth and see the geographical features of our moon.

It is also thought that the planets are in a state of something like perpetual twilight, due to the dimness of their star and the nature and proximity of their orbits.

Three of them fall within the habitable zone, which means that they could harbor water, perhaps have atmospheres something like ours, and perhaps even be able to support some form of life, perhaps plants of some kind.

Life or no life, water or no water, the Trappist-1 planets are, nevertheless, to quote Mr. Spock, fascinating.

An artist's conception of what one of the exoplanets, Trappist 1f, might look like. For more scientific information about the Trappist-1 solar system, please follow this link to NASA's official page.https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-telescope-reveals-largest-batch-of-earth-size-habitable-zone-planets-around

Rarely do I mention anything topical on this site, and yet, when the telescope TRAPPIST discovered the existence of seven exoplanets, I discovered that there was something missing, not from the planets, but from society. When the TRAPPIST found something, I found that we had lost something.

Even in the terrifying Cold War era, even through the confused and sometimes violent 60s and 70s, the Trappist-1 Exoplanets would have been the talk of the week, of the month, perhaps of the year, not merely of the day, as though, with everything else, they are here one day and gone the next, with only political agendas to hold our attentions for more than 24 hours.

Wonder. We have lost our sense of wonder. We have lost not only our sense of wonder, but even our curiosity, our desire to learn, to try to understand. A few people have asked once again if their might be intelligent beings somewhere else after all. Perhaps, in our era of group-think and agenda, we should be asking whether we are intelligent beings ourselves.

Just as we can no longer appreciate a painting, be it Western or Oriental, or listen to music, be it written by Felix Mendelssohn or Fanny Mendelssohn, or read a poem, or a novel, nor even watch a movie without judging its value only by whether or not we can force our own modern, narrow ideologies upon it, just as we have lost the ability to appreciate men and women as persons rather than political objects, so too we have lost the ability to marvel at nature, whether it be the first crocuses of spring at our feet in our own gardens, or the new-found planets forty light-years away.

Let me remind you of the words of the poet Joseph von Eichendorff,


Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen,
Die da träumen fort und fort,
Und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
Triffst du nur das Zauberwort.

~Joseph von Eichendorff

We live in a world marred by evil, but also a world in which goodness exists. Let us be persons enough to perceive what is good.

for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins