Fig. 1 Image taken from APOD–Astronomy Picture of the Day -Accessed July 17, 2013 [URL Source: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130626.html ]
M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Image Credit & Copyright: Lorenzo Comolli
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda’s image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier’s list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 was taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how it acquired its unusual double-peaked center.
Evolution may be the limiting factor that stands before us in our journey to the next nearest habitable zone. The brightest minds of evolutionary biology note that it takes millions of years for our species to ascend to the next rung of sophistication. That, at least, seems to be the trend by which evolution has taken for humanity. As a frustrated, singular observer, I often hope for a logarithmic scale of advancement. The reason for my wishful thinking is, as our current existence dictates, the transition from the industrial age to the information age has enabled us to control the face of our own planet. Past trends indicate that we may face a hard road ahead because of our changing climate. Past civilizations have disappeared when drastic changes to their micro-climates produced prolonged drought (e.g. the Mayan civilization and the Anasazi aboriginals). However, the current state of affairs affects not just the micro-climate but all of the Earth. Intelligence and free will (?) seemingly gives us control over our own lives—but how do we respond to ourselves. Moreover, our current actions affect the climate of not just half a world away, but global circulation will bring the storms to our backyards as well. And, we (together) advance slowly as a species; almost imperceptibly we advance.
My current observation comes from trends of that our planet seems to adopt—I am unsure if my description qualifies as the Gaia hypothesis. However, it is life that has shaped the forces of nature. Perhaps we need to understand how our actions affect the climate of the world and our actions affect our neighbors 10,000 miles away. Whether by free market forces or altruism, (in my humble opinion) we may need to address imbalances in our ecological perceptions of climate change. I believe that our evolution points in that direction—a path which can also sustain a long trip from the Solar System.