Jupiter appears first in the eastern night sky. It’s so clear, strong, and bright one has time to imagine seeing all those moons and the huge red storm moving across its gaseous surface before anything else appears. Then, slowly, the brighter stars come out. It’s as though Jupiter is the oboe sounding notes and the others are orchestral instruments starting to tune up.
The brighter starts help you spot the emerging eastern constellations: Cassiopeia, Perseus, Pisces. The notes become chords. There is order in the universe. The night becomes a Strauss waltz. Check to the north for Ursa Minor. She’s right in place, guiding you to the north star. As the last light from the sun fades you can even see Pegasus and Capricorn in the west.
But now the night is aflame with stars. There are far too many to count. The majestic Milky Way stretches across the sky. Our waltz has become a Handel oratorio.
The Milky Way, our galaxy, is relatively close. Most of the visible stars are much farther away. Many have died thousands of years before the first humans walked, and their light reaching us now. There are just too many to contemplate. Our bombastic Handle becomes chaotic Rachmaninov. Then, as it does each night, the universe defies any order we might try to impose on it.
The giant Jupiter was not tuning up an orchestra. Jupiter means nothing to the rest of the cosmos. Earth means even less. I, of course, mean less than Earth. I, however, am not some huge ancient gas giant, visible collection of stars, nebula, or black hole. I’m a Human Being, dammit. I am the most wonderful thing in the known universe. Think I’ll just sit back and enjoy this Pink Floyd light show.