Throughout the epochs of recorded history, humanity has mused over questions concerning naturalism, creation, our place within the cosmos, and most poignantly, whether we drift alone within it. From hunter-gatherer’s naked-eye observations, to Galileo’s improvements on the telescope, to the Hubble Space Telescope, probing the vast distances of the void skywards has become an inherent part of the human experience. It is through this practice that the specks of light and vast clouds of cosmic dust that have littered the sky from time immemorial have brought about a humbling sense of reflexivity shared across generations of humanity from diverse points in time and place.
As we make continual efforts to expand the limits of our understanding with NASA-driven projects like Voyager 1, the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, and Kepler among many others, we augment our knowledge of the properties of the universe and our uniqueness and exceptionality within its fabric. This appetite for understanding is not only a reflexive practice into our own development, but an ongoing pursuit for similarity and likeness elsewhere in the universe.
However, as we are reminded within Carl Sagan’s poignant reflections on the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photograph, “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” Of an estimated 100 billion galaxies, each with billions of stars, and billions of orbiting planets, we are but one small terrestrial world that through astronomical odds has developed the conditions for life. In the words of the SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter, “Perspective is a very powerful thing.” Whether we act alone in Sagan’s “vast cosmic arena,” or share the experience of life with others is unknown at this juncture. However, with your help and support, we may draw ever closer to answering the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.
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