the humbling truth became clearer. The Earth was just one of eight (or nine) planets circling a unexceptional star and the Sun was just one of 400 billion others in a unremarkable stellar system surrounded by 400 billion galaxies each flying from the other at ever increasing velocities.
Yet, despite our modern certitude, the universe, on scales both grand and small, refuses to relinquish all its secrets, leaving theories unproven and observations inexplicable. The mysteries confronting twenty first century astronomers range from the nuances of near by phenomena to cosmic riddles in the deepest reaches of time and space. The familiar neighborhood of the solar system remains a jigsaw puzzle with a number of missing pieces and there are many perplexing happenings that defy explanation among the Milky Way's star pageantry. Further out, entire galaxies and congregations of stellar systems behave in ways that conflict with accepted models describing the universe's development and a host of exotic examples, each with mind-blowing possibilities, lure astronomers, both professional and amateur, onward and ever outward in a search for truth.
Tonight, new light from the darkest recesses in deep space may reach our telescopes and cameras that unlocks nature's most privileged wonders . Astronomers may have their most perplexing questions answered, but never underestimate the power of a photograph to extend far beyond scientific curiosity. For example, during the Apollo manned moon missions, an astronaut's picture of our fragile planet above a desolate lunar landscape helped people suddenly realize the precariousness of our situation. So, when the next rays of light touch the detectors in our instruments and unravel another cosmic conundrum, they may also connect with our hearts.
What else might they also illuminate? Who knows, but they could cast everything in an entirely new light.