A Cosmic Perspective by Stephanie Stamm

Steph_2 copy (2)A couple of months ago I finally replaced my huge boxy dinosaur of a television with a sleek Smart TV. (I’m never at the cutting edge of technology, and I’m okay with that.) Since then, I’ve been discovering the joys of Netflix—which Cindy Carroll discussed in her post here. My latest Netflix series is Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I never managed to catch the 2014 series in its normal season, so I’m excited to be able to watch it now. (If you want to sneak away and check it out for yourself, you can watch a clip here or here.)

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts the show, an update of Carl Sagan’s 1980 Cosmos series, and he takes the viewer on a journey CosmosTitlethrough time and space, from the explosion of the Big Bang—which is as far away and as far back in time as we can see—to now, from the immensity of the cosmos as a whole to the tiniest of quantum particles. I often find myself watching wide-eyed with my mouth hanging open. Not all the information is new to me. I learned some of it in high school or college science classes or read about it somewhere along the way. But much of it is new—and what isn’t is presented in such a way as to be a fascinating refresher. The images—from pictures of nebulae and galaxies and universes to microscopic creatures—are amazing. And the explanations and special effects make the concepts understandable—even if they sometimes remain incomprehensible (at least to me). I can grasp the gist, even if I can’t quite wrap my mind around the hugeness or smallness of it all.

It is a humbling and uplifting experience.

In the first episode, after giving a brief overview of the size of the observable universe, Tyson asks, “Feeling a little small?” Yep.

Milky Way

I grew up on a farm in Kentucky, where we could look up through perfect darkness into a sky full of stars, with the denser band making up the Milky Way clearly visible. In college, also in Kentucky, my astronomy class routinely met late at night or in the wee hours of the morning on the campus’s South athletic field where we could view the sky with our naked eyes or with telescopes our professor had set up for us. Sometimes friends and I would go to the athletic field just to lay back in the grass and sink into the sky.

Without the knowledge of science, the stars in the sky are awe-inspiring. With the knowledge of science, with images of Jupiter and its great red spot, the Crab Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy and our own Milky Way, with the awareness of supernovas, red giants, white dwarfs, and black holes…. Yeah, beyond awe-inspiring. I can’t grasp it all, but I’m thrilled by its incomprehensible complexity and immensity.

Crab Nebula
Andromeda Galaxy

I live in a city now—a small city, but a city nonetheless—and, while, on clear nights, I can see some stars, there’s far too much light for the star-filled skies I remember from childhood to be visible. I have to depend on vacation trips to places less light-polluted for glimpses of the Milky Way. But that view is one to which I still go when I need a change of perspective. I even wrote a scene about such an experience for one of my characters in A Gift of Shadows, which will be released later this year. That scene seems a fitting way to end this post. Enjoy!

A Gift of Shadows excerpt:

Kev’s whole body shook as he rematerialized in the mud room of the cabin. Yanking his old barn coat off the hook, he shoved his arms in the sleeves, thrust his hands into the pockets, and stepped outside. He walked a few quick laps around the cabin, letting the sound of the snow crunching under his boots and the touch of the cold, crisp air on his face calm the fear that made his heart thud in his chest and his trembling hands fist in his pockets.

When he no longer felt as if his body was going to shake apart at the seams, he stopped, took a couple of deep breaths, and dropped his head back to look up. Countless stars filled the clear night sky, tiny lights blinking in the soothing blackness. He lowered to the ground and lay back in the snow. Staring at the sky, he sank into the starry blanket and breathed in the cold. He emptied his mind, letting it go black as the night, and then he filled it with stars. Gradually, his heartbeat slowed to normal.


Photo Credits:

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” title from imdb.com

“Milky Way Night Sky Black Rock Desert Nevada” by Steve Jurvetson – Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milky_Way_Night_Sky_Black_Rock_Desert_Nevada.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Milky_Way_Night_Sky_Black_Rock_Desert_Nevada.jpg

“Jupiter by Cassini-Huygens” by NASA/JPL/University of Arizona – http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA02873. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jupiter_by_Cassini-Huygens.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Jupiter_by_Cassini-Huygens.jpg

“Crab Nebula” by NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University) – HubbleSite: gallery, release.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crab_Nebula.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Crab_Nebula.jpg

“Andromeda Galaxy (with h-alpha)” by Adam Evans – M31, the Andromeda Galaxy (now with h-alpha)Uploaded by NotFromUtrecht. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andromeda_Galaxy_(with_h-alpha).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Andromeda_Galaxy_(with_h-alpha).jpg


Connect with Stephanie Stamm:






Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings(The sequel, A Gift of Shadows, will be released late 2014.)








She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover


18 thoughts on “A Cosmic Perspective by Stephanie Stamm

  1. Beautiful, I watched cosmos for awhile, beautiful photos. When I look at such beauty and the beauty we see everyday, I say, “Truly, there is a God.” Glad you got your new TV. We did too a 70″ Smart tv for the living room. Now I want a smaller one for our bedroom and for the truck. You are slowly getting with the techy stuff. Congrats. Lol Cher’ley


  2. Stephanie,

    Loved the Sagan program but have yet to see this one. Hawking’s PBS special a few years back was also fascinating. (Even my cat Barnaby watched it, I mean really watched it)

    Like you, as a child growing up in the midwest, the night sky held a fascination for me that still exists today. Also, living in the city the light polution is a problem.

    The excerpt was fabulous, “filled it with stars”, beautiful. Doris


  3. I’ve never been interested in the stars, but my younger brother watched the Cosmos series in the 80’s and even took an astronomy class at the local college when he was in high school so maybe he’ll find this interesting. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Very well written and interesting post, Stephanie. My siblings and I used to go to a hill about a half mile behind our house and just lay there, pointing out constellations and enjoying the stars. This brings back happy memories. Love the excerpt and the way you used your knowledge to make the paragraph “pop”!


  5. Thanks, Linda! Glad to bring back happy memories–and that you enjoyed the excerpt. I wish I could just lay out in my back yard and look at the stars now, but, alas, too much light.


  6. Every time I look skyward I’m in awe of the limitless universe. And when I think of the multiverse theory, I can’t help but be impressed with our wonderful curiosity. Nothing wrong with trying to answer the “Great Questions.” Being satisfied with counting all the begets of the Old Testament and coming up with 6,000 years for the age of the Earth is so unsatisfying to me. I hope I live long enough to see the first unmanned probe powered by a more advanced propulsion system launched to a nearby star. The Voyagers have been “voyaging” for 37 years, the Pioneers even longer. Maybe an unmanned “Enterprise” can be launched sometime this century on a course that slingshots it around the sun to gain great speed, and then ion propulsion can continue to propel it toward a nearby star for many years. Hey, I can dream.


    1. That’s a great dream, Mike! The whole multiverse theory blows my mind. I’m completely intrigued by it–and want to know more. Who knows what we might learn/discover in the next years!


  7. Interesting post. I could relate as we just got home from a 6 day camping trip and sat around the campfire watching the stars come out at night, a sight we don’t see well anymore since we don’t live in the country anymore either. That astronomy class must have been interesting.


    1. Thanks, Neva. I loved my astronomy class. The professor was so cool–and we got to do lots of outdoors exploration. We weren’t stuck in a classroom or planetarium all the time. We even went camping as a class–with telescopes and all–once.


  8. I love looking up at the night sky, but, like you, can only see when on vacation away from city glow. My husband has always been fascinated with space travel and our oldest daughter wanted to be an astronaut. (Unfortunately, her motion sickness issues got in the way) We loved the original Cosmos series with Sagan. Haven’t caught the recent one.

    Great excerpt.


    1. Thanks, Kate! I didn’t actually ever see the original Sagan series, but I highly recommend the new one. Too bad about your daughter’s motion sickness–I would have had the same problem. I trust she found something else that makes her happy. 🙂


  9. Great excerpt, Stephanie. It’s a shame that city dwellers miss out on the awesomeness of seeing the night sky because of light interference. I’ve not often had the chance to experience The Milky Way etc as you’ve seen it, because even in remote parts of Scotland, on a clear night, the naked eye can only see so much. It is a humbling feeling though.


    1. Thanks, Nancy! It is humbling, isn’t it? You feel so small and so ignorant about what all is out there. And, yet, it’s amazing to be a part of this huge, incomprehensible world! I would have assumed the remote parts of Scotland would provide some great sky viewing–interesting. I have to get back there some day!


  10. Wonderful post, Stephanie! I’ve been blessed to live in rural areas where stars are quite vivid. I’ll never forget the first full harvest moon I experienced near Yellowstone National Park, witnessing the rise of that giant orb from horizon to heaven — I was awe-struck! From the mountain cabin we have now, the stars seem close enough to touch — it’s amazing and humbling as you’ve said. My husband is fascinated by space travel and cosmos and watches as much such programming as he can. Thanks for a delightful post and all the wonderful photos — and your excerpt is wonderful!! Congrats on the upcoming book!


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