We have the technology and the analysis to see further and further into space, yet the more we see, the less we understand.
In fact, the truth seems to be that, while much of our science remains constant – thanks to people like Einstein – a significant amount of what we see baffles our understanding. It is also true that some of the things scientists see and work out seem a little, well, irrelevant.
Scientists make discoveries such as the centre of our galaxy smelling of raspberries and you have to wonder ‘why’. We are not going to be in a position to go there and have a sniff anytime soon.
Some discoveries are, however, intriguing.
Recently scientists discovered the closest black hole to earth, which is fine but, again, we probably won’t get there anytime soon, at 1,000 light years from earth. But this one is visible with the naked eye – or at least the system where it lives and devours light can be seen with the naked eye – from the Southern Hemisphere.
Meanwhile the Hubble telescope has observed a star being born and a curiosity with the shadows that the light from it produces. It looks like a bat flapping its wings.
Closer to home, astronomers have worked out the exact centre of our solar system to within 100 metres. It is not, as you might expect, in the centre of the sun but just above its surface. Why? Well, because of the size, mass and gravitational pull of our friendly giant Jupiter (who protects us from most of the comets whizzing into our system). The reason they spent time find the centre of the solar system was a bi-product of their work in finding out the gravitational chaos caused by black holes.
Then again, when is a black hole not a black hole? Here scientists have identified a black ‘something’ that does not fit with their theories about the awesome attributes of black holes. It looks more like a neutron star and is way too small to be a proper black hole.
So, humans being humans – if we can’t understand it – simply find a new name for it and they file under ‘L’ for ‘later’. So, they call this thing a black neutron star. So, that’s fine.
And we tend to forget, too, that human technology is now travelling outside our solar system and, as Voyager 2 hit the edge, it was reporting that the edge is a ‘complex and ever changing place’. Which makes you wonder if we are living in an inter galactic version of the Truman Show. On the other side, the comparatively gentle environment changes as cosmic rays ramp up their assault. And the ‘heliopause’ as it is called ‘breathes’ in time with our sun’s own 11 year cycles, that, in turn, rule our own weather patterns and all that they influence.
Then, of course, there is the theory that, in space, no-one can hear you scream. The Mars Rover has been recording the sounds from Mars, mainly creaks and cracks that will tell us about the structure of the planet underneath the surface.
These stories are reported on a weekly basis. And the more we see and the more we pay scientists to look and analyse, the more, so it seems, we are baffled by the sheer complexity, size and wonder of the universe.
You don’t even need to go further into space to see amazing things. Even as close to home as the sun, looking at something over a period of time is truly astonishing.