The Pale Graphite Dot

I’ve just put a dot to the left of Jupiter.

It took a few moments thorough my eyepiece to judge how far to the left.

Then I put a small dot on the page of my notebook and moved on.

A tiny piece of graphite pushed into the grain of the paper.

It looks so innocuous, so insignificant, so tiny.

Jupiter and the dot to the left.

That dot of graphite, repeated dozens of times in my notes, may possibly be one of the most important places in our solar system.  It represents a body slightly smaller than our moon and a body in many respects similar in make up; mainly silicate with an iron core.  But there the twining committee stops, for while our lunar companion is scared and pot-marked with the long history of the solar system, this mere dot on the page is covered with a glistening, young surface, barely damaged by comet and asteroid.  It’s called Europa.

Europa - Voyager. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL

This afterthought in my observations of Jupiter is covered with ice.

Ice that moves.

Ice that may hide a sea.

Ice that may teem with life.

In the stroke of a pencil nib I have described another world, an environment, a habitat, perhaps a complex web of life and death; full of the struggles for survival and evolution so familiar on our own world.  Perhaps there is nothing more complex than bacteria.  But then have you seen how complex a bacterium is?  It’s an enigma, far from the Sun’s warmth, but flexed and heated due to the tidal pressures exerted by its massive parent planet.  Here is a world that in so many ways should not be, but then whenever we have looked more closely at the sky it has always surprised us.

So I’m looking through my telescope at a point of reflected light that could change our place in the universe, that could bring down long held theories and beliefs and open a new chapter in science and history.  Perhaps, even go as far to make us question who we are and where we came from.

And I have recorded it in a fleeting second by the tiniest mark of a pencil, in a cold back garden in London.

(Apologies to Dr Sagan)

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About astronomersden

Daddy, Hubby, Teacher and when ever I get the chance Astronomer.
This entry was posted in Astronomy, Europa, Extraterrestrial life, Jupiter, Life, Moon, Pencil and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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