The Great Orion NebulaI love all things astronomical, so I was glued to Stargazing Live tonight with Professor Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain. It’s the second series, and tonight was a perfect star gazing night, cold, clear and moonless. I do feel it is slightly sad that they tend to dumb-down the science, but it’s in a good cause if it entices a few youngsters into the hobby, or even enthuses them enough to want to become a professional astronomer.

After it finished, I rushed out with my own telescope, to have a look around the sky. Venus and Jupiter had already moved past my viewing window, although they were both clearly visible earlier in the evening. However, the constellation of Orion, The Hunter, was almost exactly due south, over the darkest skies out towards Brownsea Island, so I decided to focus on it and take a peek at the Great Orion Nebula.

I’ve seen it before, that little patch in the centre of Orion’s sword, but tonight was so clear, and the sky so dark, that it was wondrous to behold. The gas clouds were clearly visible, and it was easy to pick out the dozens of individual stars that merge together with the gas clouds to form the ‘smudge’ you can see with the naked eye.

It is amazing to think, that the light we see from stars, the twinkle that we so easily take for granted, left those stars hundreds, thousands, even millions of years ago. When we realise the vast expanse of our own universe and the incomprehensible numbers of other universes, it really puts our own planet and lives into true perspective. We really are just a tiny speck in the vast expanse of space, and an almost insignificant part of the whole.

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