In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing - not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.
Each baby, then, is a unique collision - a cocktail, a remix - of all that has come before: made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.
When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes - we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.
using nothing more than newton’s laws of gravitation, we astronomers can confidently predict that several billion years from now our home galaxy, the milky way, will merge with our neighbouring galaxy, andromeda. because the distances between the stars are so great compared to their sizes, few if any stars in either galaxy will actually collide.
any life on the worlds of that far off future should be safe, but they will be treated to an amazing billion-year-long lightshow.
a dance of a half a trillion stars, to music first heard on one little world, by a man who had but one true friend.
…and that picture is not it.
Actually, this is an image of Barnard 68, a dark interstellar cloud made up of dust and molecular gas, absorbing light.
The void this text is referring to is the Eridanus Supervoid, distant and apparently empty (though there are alternative explanations). The only way it’s been detected is by an apparent cold spot in the cosmic microwave background radiation.
That vaguely pointy looking shape is a vast expanse of space, half a billion light years across which, seemingly, contains absolutely nothing. This isn’t empty the way space around us is empty – the interstellar space in our galaxy is full of gas, dust, ions, plasma… all sorts of things (including clouds like Barnard 68 up there). This? This is a void. A big, inexplicable, vacuous expanse which should not be there.
It’s like a hole in the Universe.