Saturday, May 14, 2005

The view from Alpha Centauri

Here's an illustration I made for an early book, now out of print.


I have placed an ET at the mouth of a cave on a planet of a star in the system Alpha Centauri. Let us imagine that evolution on this Centaurian planet has brought my ET to the threshold of intelligence and wonder -- to the point, say, our human ancestors were at 100,000 years ago. Both Centaurian suns have set, the yellow sun and the orange sun. The Milky Way sweeps across the sky like a sash of feeble light. The W-shaped group of five stars known on Earth as Cassiopeia blaze at lower right. At upper left is the dazzling yellow star Earthlings call Capella. Between Cassiopeia and Capella, almost centered in the view from the mouth of the cave, is another yellow star, almost a twin of Capella. It is a star that has never been seen in the nighttime sky of Earth, just one of the hundreds of billions of stars in our spiral galaxy, floating serenely in the stream of the Milky Way. It is, of course, our Sun.

As ET contemplates the immensity of the night, perhaps it wonders if it alone endows the universe with consciousness and life.