By Andrew Lam, Dec 24, 2012 10:34 AM
This Christmas season that bright distinctive star that once led the three wise men to Bethlehem takes on an extra meaning. Some astronomers have over the years speculated that the star might have very well been a comet, as comets can be extremely bright and visible for months in the night sky, moving against a background of stars. But none until now thought that it could also be the source of life itself -a cosmic pollen carrying possible genetic and organic materials; the primordial soup.
Latest scientific discoveries in astronomy suggest conditions for life is rife everywhere. The more science discover, the deeper the mystery of the universe,
Consider: A few years ago NASA’s press release on the comet dust brought back to Earth by the space probe Stardust: °These chunks of ice and dust wandering our solar system appear to be filled with organic molecules that are the building blocks of life.”
The finding surprised scientists because many predicted that the space probe would find mostly ice. Instead, the finding could lend support for the belief that comets could have “seeded” life on our planet as well as others.
Such a statement would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago. Traditionally humans have an egocentric tendency to explain our place in the universe.
But as astonishing discoveries are being made, that sense of self- importance had given way to a more humble assessment of our place in the cosmos.
Everywhere we look, peering as far as we can into our universe, we find tantalizing evidence that supports conditions for life. From evidence of water once flowed on Mars to ice on the moon or a giant ocean found on Titan, Saturn's moon.
Add to these findings the continual discoveries of exoplanets- those that orbit stars - a total of 854 such planets as of 2012, some in "habitable" zones where conditions are ripe for life.
In a sense, Science chips away at our ancient myths only to reveal even greater mysteries. The more science reveals, the more mysterious the revelation. Science, in other word, is at its best when it evokes, like art, the experience of wonder and awe.
War and strife seem endless on our little blue planet, but up above the heavens is sublime. We look at the Christmas star might very well be a comet whose dust might be full of the stuff that creates life. This gives new meanings to a very old story, and it leaves some of us who gaze upward breathless.
New America Media editor, Andrew Lam is the author of “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora” (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a Pen American “Beyond the Margins” award and where the above essay is excerpted, and “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” His next book, “Birds of Paradise Lost” is due out in 2013. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.