As the rain spattered insistently on the skylights of our abode up here on what I like to call Weathering Heights the other night, I caught an occasional glimpse of lights on planes heading to the airport on the other side of the Hudson River.
Seeing lights twinkling between the raindrops conjured up visual effects usually reserved for “Star Trek” episodes.
What, I wondered, would it be like to be looking down on this scene from far above the rainclouds and the imagination? Where happy little bluebirds fly.
Perhaps that will be answered by whatever beings, of whatever form, wind up inhabiting the smallest known solar system — the one scientists have just told us they’ve found in its infant stage.
Observing through both space- and ground-based telescopes, they’ve located a brown dwarf star less than one hundredth the mass of our sun surrounded by what appears to be a disk of dust and gas. It’s located 500 light years from Earth, in the constellation Chamaeleon.
Kevin Luhman of Penn State University, the lead scientist, said the brown dwarf — larger than the typical planet but smaller than a star — is a failed star. In other words, it’s a ball of gas that failed to collect enough mass to start shining. But it does have enough planet-forming properties, perhaps similar to those that helped create our own solar system.
So, with such cosmic thoughts swirling in my head, I dozed off to the sound of the rain.
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