What you need to know:
- We tell him that our Milky Way is only one among hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe observable by our astronomers; and that the larger ones among these other galaxies each have up to one hundred trillion stars!
“You aint seen notin yet!’ Yes, that is what we can tell King David of Psalm 8 point blank, when he waxes poetic about what he sees in the night sky. And we can also confidently tell him off with, ‘You aint heard notin yet’.
Because it is a fact that, living a whole millennium BC (c. 1010 - c. 930 BC), he could not have seen deep into outer space, and, least of all, he could not have heard anything from the same outer space – which we of our contemporary times are capable of!
So, my esteemed tireless fellow explorer, let us take our next trans-chronometric trip into antiquity, this time to the City of Jerusalem in the year 960 BC, to meet with King David - for the sole purpose of giving him more astronomical facts to increase his wonderment at some of the contents of the infinite cosmos.
And there he is, in his palace garden, for leisure playing upon the harp and composing yet one more psalm for setting to music. As we come into his presence, we hear him chanting a segment of Psalm 8: ‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…’
We bow low and, with our left hands touching the ground, Nigeria’s Igbo style, we salute him with our raised right hands. We then humbly propose to him that we present to him from the 21st Century AD some special news from outer space to help enrich the contents of his compositions – and he graciously grants us permission to proceed.
First, we tell him that every time he looks at the sun, it is not where he sees it; he sees it where it was eight minutes back.
In response to his exclaimed surprise, we explain that it is because it takes a full eight minutes for light from the sun, travelling at 300,000km per second, to traverse the 150,260,000km between the sun and our earth.
Secondly, with our previous knowledge of his Psalm 104, in which he says God ‘has established the earth on its foundations, such that it can never be moved’, we explain to him that the earth is not some gigantic disc sitting on pillars; but that, instead, it is a huge round ball with triple movements: spinning on an invisible axis that runs through its centre from top to bottom, making one complete rotation every 24 hours; at the same time as it revolves around the sun every 366 days - while speeding away at 229km per second through endless space, alongside other planets and other suns within our particular galaxy, the Milky Way, of 220 billion suns/stars.
Thirdly, we tell him that our Milky Way is only one among hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe observable by our astronomers; and that the larger ones among these other galaxies each have up to one hundred trillion stars!
Fourthly, we tell him that the distances between the stars are so mind-boggling that they are best expressed in terms of light-years, a light-year being the distance that light travels in one solar year – the nearest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri, being 4.22 light-years away; while the Solar System is located 26,000 light-years from the centre of the Milky Way!
And lastly, we tell him that we are capable of detecting and enjoying music made by invisible stars in their supersonic whizzing through the measureless expanse of the part of the infinite universe which we cannot observe.
In response to all the above, King David begs us to come with us on our trans-chronometric flight back to the 21st Century AD – to collect more advanced material for his psalms. And we happily grant him his wish.
Prof Timothy Wangusa is a poet and novelist. [email protected]