February 2022

The Space in Which We Exist teaser image
Somewhere in a box that hasn’t been unpacked yet, I have an article cut from a 2015 issue of Time  Magazine. The article itself is short and unmemorable, and I can’t recall the author or the title of the  piece. Regardless, the clipping remains a poignant part of my life, not for the writing itself, but for the  photograph that accompanied it. Stretched across two pages of Time Magazine, the image of a reddish grey ball against a dark backdrop: Pluto.

My fascination with outer space began with a small project about planets in 5th grade. What was  supposed to be a short report about a planet of my choice turned into a tome about the New Horizons  space probe and its nine-year journey to the farthest reaches of our solar system. At the time of my  report in 2009, New Horizons had just passed Saturn and was set to reach Pluto over six years later. And  for some reason, I simply couldn’t wait. I was fascinated with the mission and the photographs that  were being sent back, and I kept trying to grapple with and comprehend this sudden realization of the  sheer vastness of our solar system, our galaxy, our universe. That it would take 9 years for a probe  hurtling through space at 36,000 miles per hour to reach just edges of the solar system... it astonished  me. And so, I kept up with the New Horizons probe for years until the day the rest of the world got to  share in my amazement with the first ever close-up photographs of Pluto.

My fascination has yet to dwindle, and my intrigue takes me to new articles and books, with each piece  of information a little more relativistic than the last. I remember when I learned that everything we see  in the night sky is merely an outdated snapshot of a bygone era. We can still see the light from stars long dead while the light of newly formed stars has yet to greet us. There are epic tales waiting to be told, of stars dying in brilliant paroxysms of dust and light and energy, of new nebulae being created from the  embers of diminishing supernovas, of stars losing form in a violent spiral of dust and fire as they are  consumed by black holes... stories that have already passed but have not yet been revealed by the  heavens.

I am fascinated by planets and stars and nebulae and galaxies, by the very tapestry woven by the fabric  of spacetime itself. For example, the laws of physics as we know them cease to exist at the center of a  black hole. Time and gravity exponentially grow to infinity as the singularity is approached, making the  gravitational force so substantial that not even light can escape the event horizon. The expansion of the  universe is even more enthralling given that galaxies seem to be moving away from us faster than the  speed of light, which would be contrary to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Therefore, it has been  theorized that it is not the galaxies that are hurtling through space faster than the speed of light, but the space in which they exist that is expanding rapidly while the galaxies themselves remain relatively  stationary to that space.

In short, our universe is beyond anything we could ever comprehend, and I will forever revere the  creator who breathed it into being. For as long as I am on this earth, I will spend my evenings under the  stars waiting for the next story to be whispered by the night sky. And long after I am gone, I will never  lose my wonderment for this unbelievably awe-inspiring creation... even as I become as forgotten as  that reddish-grey planet at the edge of our solar system.

May we all find passion that transcends this life.

About the Author

image of author Abigail Graves

Abigail Graves

Originally from small beer-town Shiner, TX, Abigail is currently a master’s student in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in water resources. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M, yet chemistry is still her least favorite science. She works fulltime at an engineering consulting firm specializing in wastewater treatment plant design. She is married, has five dogs and loves anything nerdy, but will break some ankles on the basketball court if needed.

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