Astronaut Sunita Williams wonders if there is something else out there

Desperately hanging onto a piece of malfunctioning equipment on the International Space Station (ISS), United States astronaut Sunita Williams got a view of the Northern Lights — not from the ground like most people but from nearly 400 km above the earth’s surface. Being in space can change your perspective, she believes, and recalls that moment as one that made her wonder if there was “something else out there”.

Pondering the metaphysical

Speaking to journalists, Ms. Williams recounted some of her experiences in space that made her ponder the metaphysical. Asked asked if in the course of her adventures in space she had ever felt the presence of the divine, Ms. Williams, who holds the record for the longest cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut, she said.

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow! There is a lot of energy in this universe.’ We know [of the] Northern Lights. We know that it probably come from solar activity as it interacts with the earth’s magnetism. But all that energy…It suddenly dawned on me that we are pretty little in this universe,” she said.

In another instance, Ms. Williams recalled “watching stars in 3D” while gazing out of the space station, trying to identify constellations — “which is very hard to do in space because there are so many stars that appear crystal clear”.

A crew member pointed out a portion of the night sky which appeared to be completely black that appeared to be extending indefinitely.

“I don’t know if it was a black hole. I don’t know what really caused that. But it was a little bit strange to see something all suddenly in the sky that was totally black. So it made me wonder… There is probably something out there that is bigger than what we know about,” Ms. Williams said at an interactive session with school children organised in the city.