Renewing Awe and Gratitude With a Trip to the Edge of the Universe


It’s a wonderland of receding planetary bodies and galaxy clusters that takes us to the edges of our cosmic horizon, looking from the outside in at what resembles a dense blue sphere not unlike the one we reside on. Except that this one, composed of stars, quasars and dusty nebula, goes billions upon billions of years back in time. Surrounding it is blackness, because it is beyond what we are capable of knowing, at least through traditional science.

Using the Himalayas in Tibet—arguably the top of the world—as a jumping-off point, this video takes the viewer on a virtual tour of the known universe. As we pull back and back and back, through the farthest reaches of space, even our massive galaxy becomes a pinprick of dust. The sun as compared to other stars is revealed as being about average, and our massive Milky Way is no more impressive than its neighbors—of which there are thousands.

But there’s more. The video unapologetically brings home the realization of our fragility and insignificance against the velvet black backdrop of infinite space.

Meticulously mapped by astronomers at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium's Digital Universe project, the imaginary space flight shows how much, well, space there is in space. In fact most of what’s out there is nothing. Vast emptiness separates our seemingly solid and indestructible planet from the sun, the other planets, the next group of stars—and yet when we reach the edges of what is not only known but also even remotely conceived, it looks like a solid sphere.

Then we return to our little blue marble, full of new appreciation, awe and gratitude.