Solstice, the moment when we begin our path back to longer days, thanks to the orbit of our earth, is a time humans have celebrated since the dawn of time.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

This year’s solstice was Dec. 21. While the most famous festivals belong to the ancient Romans, Persians, Scandinavians and Celts, there is evidence of solstice celebrations dating back 10,000 years to Neolithic communities.

Which makes sense. Who better to observe, track and create rituals to mark natural rhythms and timelines than those whose very survival depends upon it?

Ancient and primal while also straight-up science-based, the solstice connects us to the ancestors that gazed up at the stars and relied upon the light, while demonstrating the unwavering laws of physics as we track orbital pathways.

It makes me deliriously happy to note that this solstice season, on the 24th to be exact, we will witness the launch of a new satellite, designed to give us a glimpse of the origins of the universe. How cool is that?

I realize that the concept of seeing into the past is a bit trippy, but in reality, that is all we ever do. Our eyes require light to perceive an image. Light travels at a set speed. A fast speed, but still, a speed. Therefore, anything we see we are actually “seeing” in the past. The object itself has actually moved forward in time since the moment we observe it. So, when I am having dinner with my family, I am actually observing all of them in the past. The thing is, the measure of time is usually so small it isn’t really observable. We experience it as instantaneous, even though it is not.

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However, expand that over the vast reaches of space and it adds up. The stars we are gazing at when we look up at night? We are not seeing them in the here and now; we are seeing them as they were when the light from them began the journey to our eyes. So that star you make a wish on might not even exist anymore. It just looks like it does.

That is where the magic of the James Webb Space Telescope comes in.

This amazingly powerful telescope is set to travel great reaches and use some fairly amazing technology. If the launch goes as planned and the telescope deploys as intended, then it will be able to send us images of the oldest stars, the stars that first popped into existence after the big bang, because it will be looking at really old light.

The idea of being able to glimpse the infancy of our universe is just staggering, isn’t it? I confess, I can’t fully take it all in, but I am so excited to watch this research unfold.

Amidst all the tech talk about how the telescope will work and what scientists hope to glean came a reminder from one NASA scientist that the stars they are seeking will be identifiable by the elemental nature of their makeup and the reality that their building blocks are the same as ours.

Yes, as noted by both scientists and the rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, we are stardust. All of us. Regardless of whatever ideas divide us, at the most basic, we are all the same stuff. And soon, if all goes well, we will be granted a glimpse our collective beginnings.

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