At the very moment that humans discovered the scale of the universe and found that their most unconstrained fancies were in fact dwarfed by the true dimensions of even the Milky Way Galaxy, they took steps that ensured that their descendants would be unable to see the stars at all. For a million years humans had grown up with a personal daily knowledge of the vault of heaven. In the last few thousand years they began building and emigrating to the cities. In the last few decades, a major fraction of the human population has abandoned a rustic way of life. As technology developed and the cities were polluted, the nights became starless. New generations grew to maturity wholly ignorant of the sky that had transfixed their ancestors and that had stimulated the modern age of science and technology. Without even noticing, just as astronomy entered a golden age most people cut themselves off from the sky, a cosmic isolationism that ended only with the dawn of space exploration.
The reappearance of the crescent moon after the new moon; the return of the Sun after a total eclipse, the rising of the Sun in the morning after its troublesome absence at night were noted by people around the world; these phenomena spoke to our ancestors of the possibility of surviving death. Up there in the skies was also a metaphor of immortality.
There's no obvious reason to assume that the very same rare properties that allow for our existence would also provide the best overall setting to make discoveries about the world around us. We don't think this is merely coincidental. It cries out for another explanation, an explanation that... points to purpose and intelligent design in the cosmos.
The near side of a galaxy is tens of thousands of light-years closer to us than the far side; thus we see the front as it was tens of thousands of years before the back. But typical events in galactic dynamics occupy tens of millions of years, so the error in thinking of an image of a galaxy as frozen in one moment of time is small.
The others would then fall silent and she would continue about doped gallium arsenide detectors, or the ethanol content of the galactic cloud W-3. The quantity of 200-proof alcohol in this single interstellar cloud was more than enough to maintain the present population of the Earth, if every adult were a dedicated alcoholic, for the age of the solar system. The tamada had appreciated the remark.
Implicitly or explicitly, the rhythms of our lives, the movement from season to season, the patterns of the winds, and the pulse of the tides all depend on the apparent motions of the sun and moon and stars. Yet most modern urban dwellers are only dimly aware of the night sky ? the stars and their myriad forms. They are only slightly more aware of the phases of the moon or the motions of the sun. Even those who take the daily horoscope seriously generally have a very poor notion of its connection with astronomical phenomena.