I have been looking at the stars a lot lately, more than usual. It’s probably because where I am now gets much darker at night than the city. I know the constellations in the skies, their movements, even the planets themselves when they are visible.
But here’s my question: and also my dream.
I was on a different planet, very far away from the Earth. It wasn’t unlike Earth in any way it had trees, wind, oceans, and geographical similarities akin to our planet. All I was aware of were those things, and also the existence of an observatory. I was standing outside the building already, I walked inside, strangely it had automatic doors like a market that slid open silently as I approached.
Through the door I followed a broad hallway which was lined on both sides with framed pictures of stars or galaxies, all very tasteful and detailed. (I suppose) At the end of the hallway was a larger room, it opened outwards into the shape of a circle, perhaps 50 meters in diameter. It was an impressive construction, completely contained within a metal dome, painted white on the inside.
Through the floor rose steadily a giant telescope, it was enormous and I could see why the room and dome had been built with such scale. It continued moving upwards into its position the sound of hydraulics hissing and whispering throughout. It was a remarkable sight seeing the curling wisps of coolant clouds cascading down the body of the telescope.
The telescope itself was very clean in appearance, not much in the way of external panels or wiring. It was a very plain, long white cylinder. Practically a giant cigarette in appearance. I walked up under it where the eyepiece was. It wasn’t so much an eyepiece than a pair of goggles, which were quite comfortable to wear.
Wearing these googles I could see a menu of some kind overlaid on what I was seeing, like a heads up display. There were a few boxes that were dimmed out but one was lit in red and it read “initiate”. So I said the word and the telescope started making a whirring noise, I could see what seemed to be the cover on the top opening up. In addition the protective dome overhead also opened and gave a free look at the night sky. I was excited.
The telescope was a beautifully made piece of engineering. I was concerned that I did not see anything that I could use to change the orientation of the telescope, to move it around and change which part of the sky I was gazing at. But to my elation I realized that when I looked around, when I would look at a distant star, it would automatically realign towards it. As if the machine was tracking my eye movement. It was stupendous!
So with my eyes and a set of voice commands I could change the heading and pitch of the telescope itself, and the amount of magnification, different light filters, and the “on/off button”.
I looked around and I realized that I may have been on a different planet but I was still in the same galaxy as the Earth. I then went to look for it, naturally. I was looking and looking, trying to use some kind of landmark to look in the right direction. My eyes searched the skies and I tried using the Great Rift to get my bearings, but I didn’t make much progress. I then just said aloud “Find planet Earth” and voila, the telescope started cranking and turning. Well that was easy.
The telescope was centered now on a dim reddish point of light, I increased magnification and to my surprise I was looking at our solar system. The Sun, Sol, in the center burning brightly. And ever so slowly, hardly moving, small spheres going around it, the planets!
I looked hard to identify the third planet, the telescope shifting infinitesimally minutely with my gaze. I saw it- there it was, the Earth was passing around to the right of the Sun, it was a dark silhouette to me but soon it would go around and I could see the light side before it passed behind the Sun. Keeping my eyes trained on it I zoomed ever closer, until I could see the dark shapes of the continents shrouded in the night.
Soon though the Earth came around in its revolution and I could see it in open sunlight! I saw Africa, and Europe first. Just as I remembered them, but something was off. Unlike our times, this Africa’s northern coast was GREEN. Fertile lands not the desert sands of the Sahara. All I could think was in my disbelief that I was looking at an Earth of the ancient past… Back when the desert had not engulfed everything. Was I in the past?
It struck me like a rock- because of my distance, which had to have been considerable to make the Sun appear so red initially, I was seeing the past but it had already been played out. I was seeing the echoes of what light HAD reflected back then thousands of years ago.
If I waited and watched, could I watch human history play out where I was sitting? Although it had already happened there long ago…?