Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars through Poetry

As Others See Us

Artist's concept of the Milky Way Galaxy

Credit: R. Hurt (SSC), JPL-Caltech, NASA

If you were fortunate enough to live
on a planet circling a sun-like star
in the Large Magellanic Cloud –

which is actually a small galaxy
only 180,000 light years distant
from our own galaxy – then

according to astronomers, when
you looked out, “the Milky Way
would be a spectacular sight.”

Our own galaxy would span
thirty-six degrees of the night sky,
or the width of seventy full moons.

It would have an apparent magnitude
of minus 2.0, making it brighter than
any star visible in our own skies.

It would be viewed at an angle
but in full, and entirely free from
interference by interstellar dust.

Brilliant and clear, dominating
the heavens entirely, it would be
a vast spiral of unmoved light.

And the question now would be –
having witnessed this presence
throughout your life, from infancy

to old age, what would you think
each time you looked up and saw it?
What would you say about it to others?

Would it enter into your thoughts,
your dreams? How would you behave,
with this vision always before you?

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Jared Carter fifth collection of poems, A Dance in the Street, is forthcoming from Wind Publications in Kentucky. He blogs at www.the-growler.com.