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December 20, 2013

Ronn Mott: Universe is hard to comprehend

TERRE HAUTE — I’m not quite sure I can comprehend what I’m about to write. Astrophysicists and cosmic scientists have recently (in about a decade) put together a map of the universe. They figure now they can do this because of telescopes that have been shot into the sky away from Earth’s air mass and subsequent pollution. In this map of the universe, every light depicted is a galaxy, and in that map there are billions and billions of galaxies. I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

They have found a way to pinpoint stars that have planets and among these billions of planets around billions of stars they estimate about 11 billion planets that, like our Earth, can sustain life. They call this a “Goldilocks” planet, not too warm, not too cold, and the possibility of sustaining water is a prominent feature. So this thing that we call the universe is so large and the distances are so far, one from the other, we may never get there to see any of these “Goldilocks” planets. But, I suppose, like the ancient mariners of old, there will be technological advances that will make the exploration of these far-off places possible.

Christopher Columbus, the pilgrims who came from England to America and the huge junks of the early Chinese Navy took months to get from where they left to where they wanted to go. And now, jet aircraft cross the Atlantic in about three hours.

Who is it that is out there? What do they look like? How have they evolved? Is their civilization older and smarter than ours? Will we ever meet them? Will we be able to learn from them and, perhaps the most important question, will we be able to survive that meeting?

So, while we go about our everyday routine of trying to succeed, stay well, grow richer and seek happiness, there is a vast universe out there that should keep many generations of Earthlings involved in exploration of it.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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