2007/03/06

The Humbling Universe

Since boyhood, I've enjoyed spending time looking at the night sky with binoculars or a small telescope. These days I don't do it so often, even though we have a lot less light polution here than I did on Maui. I still find astronomy an interesting subject and spend part of my time online visiting blogs like "Quasar9" and "A Babe in the Universe". The pictures on these blogs alone are worth a visit. I don't pretend to understand everything they post, but it's fascinating mental exercise anyway, and each of them are really nice about responding to comments.

Recently, Quasar9 had a picture of a supernova with a ring of glowing gas that looked like a string of pearls that was about one light year across. I compared it to the size of our solar system to try to get a handle on the numbers involved. If you include Pluto, our solar system is "only" about 11 light hours in diameter. Such dimensions are common in astronomy of course, but for laypeople it can be a little mind-boggling to deal with them.

Today I got an email making the rounds in my family with a link to this video from DeepAstronomy . com designed to help get a grasp of the size of our universe using pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. Enjoy.

Yes, I know the picture is too wide for the column, but I've kept it that way for picture quality.

If you are unable to stream video, check out the DeepAstronomy site linked above or the Hubble telescope website for still images: HubbleSite

8 comments:

Hill said...

I, too, am Q's fan. And you're right. The pixs will stop you in their tracks. Simply astonishing.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Makes you feel kind of insignificant, doesn't it?

So...can I have your liver?



Incidentally, that Pink Floyd number they used as BGM during the first segment (before they cut to the idiot) sounded a lot like Roy Buchanan's "Fly...Night Bird", which was used in Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" TV series.

I really liked "Cosmos". It gave me bil-lions and bil-lions of ingots of viewing pleasure. Carl Sagan is definitely missed.

Swinebread said...

Great video… Ya still can’t convince the fundies though… I’ve tried telling them this stuff and they just blow me off… I actually had one of them tell me “why do we keep going into space there’s nothing there…?” *sigh* Maybe they refuse to be insignificant, dunno. sad really.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Pandabonium, love it!
Trying to put the whole thing into context. Check out the latest hubblesite press release.
Shows the big dipper as seen with a 'backyard' telescope, then zooms into a point on the dipper ...
and expands into WOW!

Oh, and - Thanks for the mention. Q

Pandabonium said...

Hill - you're the one who made the connection to Q for me. Thanks.

Moody - I all always think "mine - all mine!" No, actually I'm excited to live in a time when we have so much access to information about it.

I'm working on preserving my liver for you. The music was good. Guess they wanted the same feel as Cosmos. That was an excellent program. Last year one of my daughters sent me the DVD set of Neil deGrasse Tyson's "ORIGINS" - sort of an updated Cosmos. Great stuff.

Swinebread - small minds, small universe. There are lots of dead ends on the path of natural selection. Too bad we have to meet some of them in person, eh?

Quarsar9 - glad you like it. thanks for your wonderful blog.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Swinebread (and Panda-B), what's really sad is that now we have congressmen in the U.S. circulating fliers promoting this fundie whack-job who not only believes that the theories of both Evolution and Relativity are "Kabbalist conspiracies" but claims there is "mountains of evidence" proving that the whole idea of of a Copernican heliocentric solar system is a "big lie" created by "Zionists". Naturally, he says NASA and all its "discoveries" are frauds created to perpetuate the conspiracy. (He also says that the fact that stars twinkle and are in different colors proves that they are really nothing more than ornaments in the crystalline dome of Heaven.)

Looking at that guy's site, one can't help but think that it just has to be a hoax...or at least a joke. It's just too ridiculous! But sadly enough a lot of people are apparently taking it very seriously...including elected officials. What does that tell the world about the state of the U.S. these days?

Praise th' Lawd, shove yer head up yer shaft, and move on ahead to th'
Dark Ages, my brothers!

Pandabonium said...

Yipes. Risible, yet scary that people with power believe it. How ironic that to spread this nonsense he uses computers, the internet, and other products of the very science he denounces. Shouldn't he be writing with a quill on papyrus?

As for congress - you know what Mark Twain had to say about them:

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Anonymous said...

Did I hear heliocentrism and BIG LIE?
http://end-times-reductionism.blogspot.com/2007/11/heliocentric-big-lie-reduced-to-minimum.html