Star wars in Dubai

Gas should be seen and not heard says Will Milner

The Knowledge

About nine billion years ago and two and a half million light years away something amazing happened.

It started, as these things often do, when one atom bumped into another. There is nothing particularly strange about that. The same thing happens octillions of times a second around our universe.

But on this occasion, to cut a breathtakingly beautiful and cosmically complicated story short, the atoms didn’t merely dust themselves down and get on with things. Instead they formed a star. Amazing isn’t it?

What is more impressive still is that without using telescopes or satellite-beamed high resolution photography you can see that very star with your own eyes – unless, of course, you are reading this in Dubai, in which case you probably won’t see very much at all.

Of course, the night sky is still dark. But light pollution in any city stops the night being pitch black. That is why you can’t see many stars when you look up from your rooftop deck chair.

To witness the wonders of the universe from Dubai you have to head out of the city and into the darkness. Or so my wife tells me. She is the one who really loves stars, she is the one with a passion for all things astronomical and she is the one who has booked us on a night safari and stargazing trip into the Dubai desert.

I, to put it simply, am the one who is a bit more down to earth. My wife sees a gas cloud millions of miles away and finds it beautiful. All I can envisage is me being stuck in a Jeep with strangers and the thought of it makes me swoon.

‘How romantic,’ she says. ‘Doesn’t the incomprehensible vastness of space make you realise our worldly worries are fleeting and insignificant?’ she ponders.

‘What if somebody on the trip breaks wind in the car and we have to spend the next four hours with them pretending it didn’t happen?’ I wonder. I just can’t help it.

I know there is a chance I could see shooting stars and experience total silence in the delightful desert dunes. But the chances are much higher that I could be sitting next to an adult Justin Bieber fan, a vegan, somebody who sniffs a lot or somebody with any one of at least a thousand characteristics that would surely spoil my evening.

It is because I have become obsessed with the small things in life that I want to change. It is not the atoms that should interest me; it is the stars.

But I still want to explore the limits of my imagination without worrying about gassy fellow tourists – is that too much to ask?

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