Yesterday, at a news conference featuring several scientists from various parts of the world, NASA announced a discovery around a red dwarf star some 39 light-years away. The star, dubbed Trappist-1, features seven newly discovered exo-planets, all of which are close in size to the Earth. It was an amazing discovery, and the men and women on the stage comfortably, confidently, and enthusiastically shared their new findings with not just their fellow researchers, but with the world. The event was live-streamed and anyone with access could watch. It is an amazing time we live in and what was once only speculation is now a cornerstone of research, funding, and careers. All of us advance when such discoveries are made, if only to appreciate the greater good around us.

Dan Rather, at his Facebook page, noted that “in a world of echoing anxiety and a rise of small-mindedness, we lose the awe that can inspire us to act with greatness. We are in the process of being diminished, and we must resolve to not let those forces crush us.

Thankfully at times like this, we have the world of science. There is Incredible news of a new solar system discovered . Seven planets orbiting around another star that may be similar to our own beloved Earth. Astounding.”

Mr. Rather went on to recall a poem by Robert Frost. The poem is called “Choose Something Like A Star.” It is about scientific endeavor and perhaps, in a sense, the demand by Nature that we understand the world, or worlds, around us. But to me really the poem touches an idea suggested by Carl Sagan that we, humanity, exist as a way for the Universe to understand itself.

I’ve included the poem below. I think it is fitting after this recent, great discovery.  Worlds without end.

“Choose Something Like a Star”

by Robert Frost (1943)

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud—
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, ‘I burn.’
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

“Choose Something Like a Star” by Robert Frost, from Collected Poems, Prose & Plays. © The Library of America, 1995.

Note: The image featured here was from the recent article in Nature. The image shows a size comparison of Trappist-1’s newly discovered companions with the Earth as reference.

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