The Beauty of the Cosmos This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 24, 2011
A young man, not yet a high school graduate, lies in a canoe floating on a still lake deep in the North American woods. An almost imperceptible breeze flutters just above the water's surface, its chilling tendrils faintly brushing over the contented teen. It's just past midnight, and the cabins lining the shore show no signs of life. This, coupled with the only nearby town being a small community, means that light pollution is negligible. Without that nuisance, the heavens are fully revealed in all their glory.

He lies, overwhelmed. The earth drops away and his breath is taken from him by the splendor of the night sky. He observes a glowing band of light, a highway of billions of stars known by the ancients as Via Lactea – the Milky Way. The galaxy above him spans the entire night sky, horizon to horizon, illuminating the otherwise dark, pitiless vacuum of space not 200 miles above his head. He knows it's massive, 100,000 light-years across and another 1,000 thick, the distances almost inconceivable.

But he knows there is more. He lets his imagination pierce the confines of the visible, and his mind perceives the Milky Way as just one galaxy of 30 in the Local Group, and even further as a member of the Virgo Supercluster, an immense collection of galaxies over 110 million light-years across. His mind staggers as he realizes this supercluster is but one of millions in the known universe.

His mind's eye now abandons its useless forms of measurement; the distances he perceives now are of such dizzying scales that they render his puny world inconsequential by comparison. He imagines the distant quasars and pulsars, gamma ray bursts and red-shifted galaxies, toeing the edge of what the light-speed boundary allows us to see, and he is thankful.

He is thankful for the rod and cone cells covering the walls of his retina, reacting to every ray of light and firing a pulse down the optical nerves to a central location in a web of neurons. He is thankful for every chemical reaction, every electron transfer through the synapses of his brain that allow him to feel the cool water into which he now dips his hand. He is thankful for the sun, the magnificent fusion bomb that powers every action and reaction on Earth's surface.

Tears brim the edges of his eyes as he reflects on the laws of the universe, the notes, melodies, and harmonies through which the cosmos plays its tune. Quarks form hadrons form atoms form molecules form objects from grains of sand to galaxies. Gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak forces, thermodynamics – all play their pivotal roles in the intergalactic opera, and he is thankful. The universe is an incredible place.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 6, 2012 at 11:51 pm
Hey, you got published! Congratulations! :) Wonderful article. I'm a bit jealous that you got to stare at the stars -- I'm too frightened of bugs to do the same. ;) Peace.
HisPurePrincess This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 24, 2011 at 10:19 am
From a writing standpoint, this is incredible!  From a Christian viewpoint - there's nothing to criticize.  And I wouldn't anyway.  I feel like both Christians and Atheists often view the beauty of the universe in the same way.  It's amazing - we just differ on where it came from, I suppose.  :)
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Incredibly written, friend. Not a cold and dark world at all!

I am so happy that you could write something explaining how you perceive the world without bashing the way that others see the world. It's really a noble and profound response that you're sounding with this article.

savetheplanet replied...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm
This is a wonderful and beautiful description of the universe!  It's nice to hear from secular eyes.
Site Feedback