The title of this thread is a tribute to the late great Arthur C. Clarke, one of the most brilliant and visionary sci-fi writers in history.
During the tail end of the enforced load-shedding last night, I outside to get a better view of the heavens above us. I had been out to get a few things at the shop and instead of relighting the candles I decided to utilize the time with my head turned skywards. The sheer brilliance and clarity of our galactic host are astounding when all is dark around. I used to admire the stars above the Drakensberg mountains during our camping and hiking trips there. In the clean cold air there is nothing to hinder full appreciation of the starry host.
We have free viewing of ancient history at the ends of a telescope, or even with the naked eye. In our Milky Way we can see about 4000 years into the past, when light left the furthest stars in our home galaxy. Just a little further, we will see stars and galaxies from which the light we see today is from the earliest time of recorded human history.
If we are able to pinpoint the Andromeda galaxy, we are looking 2.5 million years into the past: long before our species came into the picture.
Still further out it will be possible to observe galaxies which we can see as they existed during the lengthy reign of the great lizards.
With the most advanced telescopes we may be lucky enough to see 4.3 to 4.5 billion years into the past, when our Earth was very young and us humans, had it been possible to teleport there, would have been unable to survive for longer than a few seconds!
EGS-zs8-1 is a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away. So if we would be lucky enough to observe what only a privileged few can see of this furthest galaxy yet discovered, we would be looking back to practically the dawn of the Cosmos itself. Thus many of the stars forming that galaxy have most likely burned themselves out by now and so EGS=zs8-1 would no longer appear the same if we could see it as it is today.
The larger a star is, the quicker its fuel will run out. A star the size of our Sun will last around 10 million years. Our very own Sol has around 5 billion years to go, so could be described as approaching middle age.
How small and insignificant all our problems of our Pale Blue Dot seem when we contemplate the depths of time and space. We are truly an infinitesimal grain of sand upon the shores of all the world’s beaches. Our dear Milky Way is but one spinning wheel off to one side of the “centre” of the Cosmos.
When the lights return, and life returns to “normal”, the stars lose their sparkling intensity and the prosaic things we keep busy with resume.
To keep things in perspective we should definitely take some time now and again to “check out” the distant twinkling objects in the night skies! How brief all our struggles seem compared to the constant birth and death of stars and the appearance of supernovae.