Next time you’re out on a clear, moonless night, look up. In the darkest skies of wilderness areas across North America, Yale University astronomers estimate you might be able to see up to 4,548 stars with the naked eye.
Is that all? When presented with the glittering night sky it seems like so many more. It’s almost easier to imagine all hundred billion of the stars in our galaxy are there for us to behold.
It takes a vivid imagination (and some mind-bending math) to visualize what’s really out there: an estimated hundred billion galaxies in the universe, each with a hundred billion stars and most of those with planetary systems of their own. We’re spinning on a infinitesimally tiny (comparatively, anyways) blue and green orb in the Orion arm of the Milky Way, in the Virgo cluster, on the outskirts of the Laniakea super cluster, somewhere in the agoraphobia- inducing known Universe.
Stargazing is one of my favorite wilderness activities. Give me a clear night sky and a flat rock and I’m a happy camper. When asked by TIME magazine what the most astounding fact about the universe was, astrophysicist-turned-pop-culture icon Neil deGrasse Tyson said: “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
Imagine that. It’s the philosophical stuff contemplative dawn patrols by J-stroke are made of.
There are 65 recognized dark sky preserves around the world, protected areas where the night sky is purposely kept free of...