Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My head is exploding.

These are galaxies, known by astronomer's as Stephan's Quintet or, much more prosaically, the Hickson Compact Group 92, proving that Hickson had nothing on Stephan, the fucker. This is among the first pictures taken by the Hubble telescope since astronauts went up there and gave it an upgrade to first class. To make your head explode, go here and hang onto your hat.

These are galaxies. Like our galaxy. If you look up in a very dark night and see that sweep of the Milky Way across the sky, that's our galaxy viewed from the outer buroughs where we live. Think Queens without the public transportation. Now imagine someone like us, at the outer edges of one of those galaxies, looking back at us from a few thousand light years away.

Is your head exploding yet?

Here's how the Times reports, in a calm and rational non-exploding manner, what we're seeing:

A clash among members of a famous galaxy quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range, from young, blue stars to aging, red stars. This photo of Stephan's Quintet, also known as Hickson Compact Group 92, was taken by the new Wide Field Camera 3. Stephan's Quintet, as the name implies, is a group of five galaxies. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer. Studies have shown that group member NGC 7320, at upper left, is actually a foreground galaxy about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group. The image, taken in visible and infrared light, showcases the camera's broad wavelength range.

Uh huh, that pretty blue galaxy is seven times closer than the others which means that this camera has an awesome depth of field.

If the Hubble telescope isn't one of the greatest things we've ever sent into space then I'll eat one of Scarlett Johansson's underthings.

Damn. Really. Just go look.


Tom said...

" . . . then I'll eat one of Scarlett Johansson's underthings."

Which of her underlings drew the short straw?

Oh. I see. Damn, you're tough.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, isn't it amazing they're only 6000 years old?" - Sarah Palin

dean said...

The existence of the Hubble is entirely irrelevant to my willingness to eat Miss Johansson's undergarments.

Depth of field increases as the incoming rays of light approach parallel, and at the distance that these things are, they are as close to parallel as exists.

In other words, they are so goddam far away that the camera considers them all to be at infinity.

Damn, but our universe is a vast and beautiful thing.

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