For as long as mankind has been around, we’ve been gazing up at the heavens both in awe and in wonder of what could be out there in the vastness, far from our reach. The night sky fuels this curiosity even more, as it unveils to us all the celestial bodies that the daytime keeps hidden. Apart from astronomers, photographers like Zac Henderson continue looking up to observe, document, and explore our place in the universe. In fact, for his stellar set of landscape snaps, the Boulder, Colorado photographer and videographer was inspired by one of the ideas of the late astronomer, cosmologist, and science communicator Carl Sagan.
Zac has been on our radar lately for his interesting space-inspired views and the musings that come with them, as we’ve previously seen in his Saturn V and Dark Matter series. This time, he specifically drew inspiration from the cosmic perspective, a term and concept coined by Sagan in his book, Cosmos. “Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” He drove this point home even more by describing Earth — so far, the only place in the endless vastness of the universe that we can call home — as a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
From this came Zac’s own realizations that until recently, our view of the cosmos has always involved looking up, with the Earth as our reference point. His photos, like many Milky Way photos so meticulously taken since the dawn of photography itself, indeed represent that outward gaze. What we see against the beauty of all the celestial bodies is a reminder that our place in the universe as possibly the sole home to life is both profound and terrifying.
“A cosmic perspective, as coined by the late Carl Sagan, from that of our larger home structure, the Milky Way, adds resolution to our view of the universe. In this perspective, we come to understand the universe differently, to accept its larger entities as more obviously significant in the grand scheme of space and time. In this way the Universe becomes smaller, more attainable, and our shared place in it more naturally acceptable and understandable.”
The otherworldly quality of Zac’s landscapes and Milky Way photos also somewhat remind us of the reason why mankind, especially the astronomers and cosmologists, keep looking up: the quest to find worlds that are both alien and familiar at once, and one that we may, in the distant future, call our next home.