Filament

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You want to know what our universe looks like from Earth. You are curious. You have not been here before. You look up. We see stars, the smear of the Milky Way. You can see further, all the way to the edges of the galaxy filaments that form the boundaries between voids. I think, were we to see such things, our minds would fall over themselves. But you do a little dance, something like a tarantella, fast and light and teasing. This is what you came to see I think. Not for you our paucity of vision, our black blanket of night, its pinpricks of light. For you – supercluster complexes and galaxy walls, expanses of light and time and dark matter we’ve only known were there for the blink of an eye. You’ve always known. It’s tempting to think you put them there but you did not. You must have your own names for them, names as lovely as ours but unpronounceable by our tongues. I reel ours off for I don’t know whose benefit. The Great Attractor. The Pisces–Cetus Supercluster Complex. The Sculptor Void. Names that fall like weights, that seem to cleave the air in two. I think as well of the Zone of Avoidance, the patch of sky obscured by the Milky Way. I know you can see all the way through it, through to the Zone and beyond, wavelengths of light both visible and invisible. I don’t know where your seeing stops. Ours stops with the dust and the stars, and what we physicists call attenuation – the gradual loss of light intensity through space. Our cities obscure our vision even more, but I took you into the desert where the air is clear. It made no difference to you. You could not see the city, like a long-sighted person who can see to the back of the shop but not the newspaper in front of their eyes. The allusion was lost on you. I am lost on you. And yet here you are, dancing on our sand, compressed to a third of your usual size by our unbefitting gravity. I want to see your universe. I want to dance on your sand.

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