Look Up: How an Encounter With the Stars Showed My Kids They Are Not the Center of the Universe


Photo Credit: Gina Maier

It can be quite useful having an astrophysicist for an older brother. Although not easy to follow behind in school growing up (he was 11 when he attended his first University Astronomy course), he was an inspiration — and today makes the most fascinating Big Bang-style uncle to my 14- and 12-years -old kids. During his last visit, he generated a paradigm shift in their world — opening up the universe for them and inadvertently showing them that they are in fact, not the center of it. This knowledge left them feeling refreshingly small and insignificant. And it was a good thing.

It happened like this: We drove to the Rockies to attend a star-gazer mecca called the Jasper Dark Sky Festival and listened to Uncle Brian’s lecture, then to fellow-lecturer, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s — and later took the time to gaze up at the night sky in its unpolluted and silent glory. The next day, Uncle Brian gave an introductory astronomy chat at my kids’ school which included a two-minute, life-altering video:

Simple but dramatic, the video starts with a photo of our moon, zooms out to larger formations beginning with Earth and then to our sun — onto Giants and Supergiants — leaving Earth looking ridiculously small and out of the picture. With each zoom outward the kids erupted in ooohs and ahhhs — as they recognized, almost in a state of shock, the tiny part they play. Put simply, they witnessed their insignificance.

“Am I that small? Is there really so much more out there, beyond my life, my world?” These are liberating thoughts for kids who largely believe the world revolves around them. Particularly this tech-saturated generation, where the world they know best fits in —> Read More