I don’t profess to be an expert in astronomy. Indeed, last night was my first serious attempt at stargazing – or should I say planet gazing. My curiosity was piqued by the roll call of experts plonked on to TV sofas of every shape, size and colour – you see, the planets are aligned in such a way that five are visible all at once. And so, with my iPad at the ready, I ventured into that void I call my backyard and cast my gaze to the heavens to see what the fuss was about. And there they were: Jupiter and Venus side by side; Mars glimmering red, even to the naked eye. Unfortunately, I struck out with Mercury and Uranus, their trajectories taking them too close to the setting sun for a novice to pinpoint. Still, three out of five ain’t bad.
To see other planets through a pair of binoculars was a strangely satisfying experience. And it got me thinking. We humans are not quite as important as we like to believe. Beyond the outer limits of our atmosphere, we barely register on a universal scale. Yes, we’ve made it to the moon (presuming you don’t buy into the conspiracy theories), and sent probes into deep space – which is probably not all that deep when you think about it – but what do we truly know about the cosmos?