We are the Sun’s dependents. We Terrans are in the peculiar position of being reliant on our parent star for everything—without it we don’t just die . . . we become extinct. And she’s waking up again, after a decade-long nap, to see if we are listening to Nature itself.
Yesterday the sun bombarded the Earth with a wave of charged particles, called a coronal mass ejection (CME). This CME is believed to be the beginning of a new cycle of heightened solar activity; these occur every 11 years. Incredibly, scientists predictions for the arrival of the wave were off (early) by only 13 minutes.
News reports this morning said that the solar flares were so massive that people as far south as New York were able to see spectacular aurora displays, created when charged particles from the Sun encounter Earth’s magnetic field.
As phenomenal as that kind of natural light show is it is also a sure enough sign that the universe is providing an unmistakable window for us to look through, a gargantuan magnifying glass turned the other way ’round that reminds us just how puny we are among the stars—and how little true power we possess.
Astronomers and astrophysicists have peered into a minuscule portion of the most inactive, mundane piece of galactic real estate they could imagine with Hubble (how small? Take a penny and hold it at arms length—then look at the size of Lincoln’s eye) and discovered over one thousand other galaxies of varying sizes and intensity.
Who’s to say there’s not another species out there looking back at our tiny blue marvel and wondering the same thing, perhaps as equally in awe as we are of Nature’s potency.
Newton thought the apple a grand metaphor for a far larger force at work; Galileo and Copernicus saw far greater potential in telescopes than for merely keeping an eye on the far horizon for uninvited guests. So compelling were these new frontiers of rational thought and exploration that the mighty Catholic church—as it has persisted in doing over the centuries—decided it and it alone would be the judge of what lay outside our tiny island of improbable miracles. That has always struck me as one of historiy’s most astonishing ironies—that the church would have the pathetic hubris to define the very thing which Providence put there to begin with. Quite literally “But for the grace of God go we.”
When will mankind take genuine notice of elements so powerful as to be nearly unfathomable to us? When will honest men realize that we must stand for a greater good, for one another, brother and sister, or be all too easily reduced to the cosmic dust we came from.
The Sun is whispering to us. Over the next year she will raise her voice repeatedly.