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The Final Frontier

This author is a recipient

of the Sigma Tau Delta Award

Sigma Tau Delta Awarde

Tiny, twinkling lights pepper the velvety black sky as you peer up into the vast expanses of the universe. The clouds are sparse enough tonight that you can see the several constellations you’ve been taught over the years: Cassiopeia, Orion, maybe even some of the zodiac if you’re lucky. Even the marbled colors and textures of the Milky Way Galaxy are visible, stretching its glowing tendrils across the sky like ivy creeping up the side of an old house in the countryside. A shooting star even darts across the inky, black backdrop for a few seconds before it vanishes, but not before you have the chance to make a wish. 

This celestial scene is perfectly tranquil, serene, ethereal. It emits a sense of calm that makes you want to sit beside your window and admire it all night instead of going to bed. It makes you want to lie on a blanket out in an open field and enjoy a romantic evening with the one you love.

The reality of this beautiful, final frontier is quite the opposite of the peaceful, dreamy scene we see from Earth.

Our depressingly small rock of a planet hurdles around the sun at 107,000 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, our solar system spirals through the galaxy at 200 kilometers per second. Even at this breakneck speed, it would still take our measly little grouping of eight and a half planets nearly 230 million years to get all the way across our galaxy. This massive, unimaginable space is still barely a scrap of the true magnitude of our universe, which has been calculated to be 93 billion light-years wide and expanding every second. 

The universe has been expanding and expanding since the beginning of time, and will someday collapse in on itself and every single piece of matter in it will be compressed down to a single point of infinite mass. But, this rock of a planet would be lucky to even make it that far without something else to annihilate it before the collapse of the universe.

The third planet from the sun is the perfect place for us: equidistant between death from incineration and death from hypothermia. While the conditions here are just right, all it takes is a minuscule change for everything we know and love to go up in flames.

Our sun, which is by no means immortal, will eventually become a Red Giant as it travels on its life journey. When it does, whatever pitiful remains are left of our planet at the time will instantly be destroyed in one final blow.

This would actually be a rather peaceful death for a planet because most cosmic objects aren’t lucky enough to meet their end by a star swallowing them whole. From supernovas to black holes to entire galaxies colliding, there are more than a few ways that a planet could be exploded, imploded, or torn to shreds in the blink of an eye. Our own planet and galaxy, even our species, are no exceptions. Humans in particular are far too fragile to brave the celestial plane without a bulky suit of synthetic polymers, cooling tubes, and oxygen tanks keeping us hanging on for dear life.

In space, there is no oxygen for us to breathe. However, there isn’t simply a lack of oxygen, there’s a total lack of air. There is simply nothingness to fill in the space between objects; a vacuum.

If you were to step out into this vacuum without a man-made space suit, the oxygen left in your lungs would expand until they tear apart from the inside out. Next, your bodily fluids would all start to boil. Saliva, blood, stomach acid, even your tears would boil on your very eyes. In a best-case scenario, you would lose consciousness before your inevitable death, but you would most likely experience several minutes of unbearable pain before your mangled body floated off into the vast expanse of nothing, doomed to infinite preservation in the hellscape that is space.


Evie Breitbach graduated from Anamosa High School in 2022 and now studies English and Communications at St. Ambrose University. Her previous work includes a poetry collection entitled On the Wings of Birds and a young adult novel entitled What Lies Beyond.


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