Memoir of Light

Next time you look at something, find the source of the light that you’re seeing. Most probably it’s not coming from the object you’re looking at. Visualize the two stories associated in everything that we see, the story of the object, and the story of the light that reaches our eye. The odds are that you never paid attention that there is a hidden memoir attached to every light we see, a history that can be much more than whatever object it represents to us.

Think of the light from the moment when it has been created. Look at a candle light, it shines through the room and when its light hits an object, let’s say a book, we see the book, because it is that light beam’s last stop before reaching our eyes, but most likely not the only stop. We “see” the book; we see, where it is and how it looks like, but what about the story behind the light itself? Where it has been made? How far and how many reflections it has traveled through before reaching our eyes? In most cases, the light we see from our surrounding is a reflection of the light that was generated somewhere else, from a light source, perhaps a candle, flashlight, lamp, or the Sun.

Now, take another look around yourself, and this time, set yourself free of the objects you see, pay attention to the history of the light you’re seeing, follow it to its origin; ride on it and visualize its journey from when it was made to all the paths it has passed before reaching to your eye.

When the light is generated in the candle’s flame, it simply shines directly around; a simple light-life! But if it was generated in a lamp, it would probably go through a couple of reflections inside the lamp fixture before it shines outside, and starts its real world journey!

Knowing that, it is captivating to think about the journey of the light coming from the Sun. The light generated inside the Sun is deep inside the Sun, trapped between all the hot gasses. It usually takes a long time for the light to escape the place it was born inside the Sun and after billions of internal reflections it finally may leave the Sun, starting its journey into the space. Consider the beams traveling in the Solar System in all directions; some encounter interplanetary dust and gasses, space rocks, asteroids, planets and some leave the Solar System entirely without meeting new friends. Now imagine from all that light a small portion hits the Earth and meets the atmosphere, where anything is possible; it might be rainy, cloudy or clear skies with high altitude winds. The light beam needs to pass through all of these successfully before reaching the Earth’s surface, where it reflects off an object and maybe hits someone’s eye.

What a journey behind every light that hits our eyes? There are many stories within a story of everything we see and sometimes the hidden stories are the most mesmerizing. Now, next time you see a tree outside, think twice, there is a tree and there may be a fascinating story behind the Light that you’re missing.

Tonight, find a telescope, take a deep breath and look through it! Follow the light into far far away …. Visualize where the light have been generated and how many years those light was waiting to reach your eyes. For those light beams, you are special; they have come a long long way to meet you.


sona_hosseiniSona Hosseini fell in love with astronomy during her elementary school trip to NASA Houston center at first grade and since then Astronomy has been a center of her personal and school activities. Sona’s family moved to Iran when she was 12 where she continued working with university professors on astronomy projects. Now she is a PhD student in the University of California Davis. For more than 3.5 years she lived on a mountain top -most the time- designing and building her own instrument attached to one of the telescopes at Lick Observatory (USA). Her instrument is designed to observe comets and extended astronomical targets at high resolution, using small aperture telescopes.

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5 thoughts on “Memoir of Light

  1. This is a very interesting idea! We are working with fifth graders in the US to get them to understand that “everything reflects light”. On a pre-assessment we gave them, they chose only “mirrors” as reflecting light when offered a list of choices of objects. A writing exercise about an object and what illuminates it would be an excellent way to wrap up our hands-on activities this month. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Reblogged this on Elizabeth Dreyer and commented:
    “Visualize where the light have been generated and how many years those light was waiting to reach your eyes. For those light beams, you are special; they have come a long long way to meet you.”

  3. I “gave” my cowboy brother HN Pegasi for his 60th birthday last year, as this star is 60 light years away. The light reaching his eyes as he looked at Pegasus, left HN Pegasi the year he was born. (More or less, I know.)
    This is a nice way to illustrate light-years, linking a star or other celestial object to the lifetime of a famous person, an era on Earth, etc.

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