NASA's James Webb Space Telescope reveals humans are a small part of a big story

·3 min read

NASA's super-duper James Webb Space Telescope, which is sending us spectacular images from deep space, is proof that when we aren't squabbling, we humans are capable of doing some pretty wonderous things.

The images of galaxies living and dying outstrip anything ever produced in Hollywood.

The first photos have been mind-blowing and remind us once again that there is nothing haphazard or serendipitous about the universe.

We have only seen the beginning of images which will make the unparalleled genius of Michelangelo look like preschooler refrigerator art.

In America, we sometimes diminish our greatest moments by infighting or politicizing them, but we need to chest-thump on this one.

Open windows

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There probably aren't enough superlatives for what we're about to see. The telescope, the largest one ever constructed, has opened windows to the universe to sights that the human eye could never have seen, nor the mind could have ever imagined.

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The few photos we have seen so far also seem to suggest we may not be the only dogs on the block. They're showing us untold thousands of galaxies, each one making it more and more difficult to believe that we're the only intelligent beings in existence.

If that's true, we shouldn't be at all surprised were they to be more advanced than us — we're still relying on fossil fuels and transporting electricity through poles and wires, after all. Besides, they might not even want contact, especially if they're able to tune into Facebook and reality TV.

Based on the way we treat movie aliens, no one should be shocked if whoever else is out there takes a hard pass.

Though we certainly have evolved as a species, from worshipping the sun, to persecuting Galileo, to building telescopes which allow us to peer into the fathomless depths of a thousand universes, I still wouldn't be all that eager to do lunch with us.

Star stuff

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The jaw-dropping telescope images are not only a treat for the eyes, but also a feast for the soul. That the universe appears endless, and we are finite, what's being relayed ought to make us feel a little more humble and vulnerable.

King Solomon once asked the question "What is your life, but a vapor?" In other words, we are a microscopic jot in a long story; a singular narrative being written by an unseen hand.

Our life expectancy is longer than ever, but even if a person lives to be 100, a century is less than a blink in a solar system where the age of some galaxies can hardly be measured.

The photos also should help us gain some perspective, reminding us that some of the things we think are so monumental really don't amount to, as Humphrey Bogart once said, "A hill of beans."

The late astronomer Carl Sagan famously pointed out that:

"The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff."

He also noted how unique we are:

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another."

May we strive to treat each other as such.

Here's hoping that whatever we may encounter by way of the James Webb Space Telescope helps us to remember that it's all connected; that when we gaze up at the stars, we're really looking at ourselves.

Because we, too, are "star stuff," that makes us mortal — and miraculous.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Webb Telescope proves humans are a small part of a big story