April 19, 2009

A Baby's First Light

Kepler's First LightI remember that summer night when I held my new-born son as I stepped outside for a walk. Eon was crying because he could barely see. Until the light from a lamp-post caught his gaze, and he became silent. He then fixed his eyes upon it as if feeding upon the light, groping to get a bearing of what that strange light is, his mind racing to absorb all the information of what's happening, where he is, and perhaps even what he is.
Humanity is a baby. The emergence of man's consciousness is just a fraction of a second old from Earth's history if it were scaled down to 24 hours.
And now we have just seen the First Light from Kepler as we grope to know our place in the Cosmos. Is there a planet similar to Earth somewhere? Are we alone?
Kepler is our baby. Like a new-born, it has just opened it's eyes to absorb the first bits of information to help to answer many of our questions.
I saw the pictures, Kepler's First Light. They are awe-inspiring. Yet somehow I wanted to see with my own eyes.
I woke up at 5am to gaze at the constellation Cygnus and Lyra at the same patch of sky that Kepler stares at. I kept my 15x50 binocular steady for a few seconds and slowly, they all started to show and awe: Like innumerable grains of sand behind the brighter points of light, thousands of distant faint stars can be discerned. This patch of sky is truly one of the most star-studded among the night sky.
Are there exoplanets similar to Earth orbiting any of them? What does it mean for me? For Humanity?
Like a baby, I grope in the dark and vast expanse of the cosmos: Who am I?
Asking questions takes time, and time has caught up on me. The sun is coming and I'm tired of all the asking for now. The answers can wait as I go back to bed and sleep like a baby.