“In a world with no meaningless details, it’s nice to have a friend by your side.” Crazy, by Widespread Panic
Galaxies Upon Galaxies
The Hubble Telescope is the way we Earthlings get face time with the Universe. That face time is precious, though, and is allocated carefully and with much deliberation, I’m sure. Back in 1995, some astronomers convinced those in charge of allocating the Hubble’s time that the telescope should be pointed at a tiny, blank bit of sky, specifically “about the width of dime, viewed from 75 feet away,” in an attempt to look back to the earliest days of the known Universe.
Go outside and see how many stars you can see. Have you ever been on a mountaintop at night, or in a remote region of the American West? I looked up at the sky from the dark edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon once upon a time and saw thousands upon thousands of stars. Rotating around the Earth, the Hubble sees those same thousands and million more, all thousands of times brighter. Up there, using the Hubble’s eye, a blank bit of sky is very difficult to find. Yet somebody thought a tiny blank spot was worth looking at, just to see what was there. Maybe we could even see back to the beginning of the Universe, this astronomer must have thought.
The Hubble looked at this “Deep Field” for 10 consecutive days and found roughly 1,500 galaxies, just by looking at a blank spot of sky about the size of dime, viewed from 75 feet away.
Siri tells me the Universe is 14 billion years old. Hubblesite tells me some of the galaxies shown in this deep field universe are 13 billion years old. Keep in mind, the light captured in these images is up to 13 billion light years away, meaning we are looking up to 13 billion years into the past in this image.
Siri also tells me there are about 170 billion galaxies in our Universe.
Amidst a dazzling sky full of points of light, the people in charge of the Hubble’s time said “let’s look at the dark spaces, ” and they found immense wonder there. The noise and light of life wash over me every day, but sometimes I am struck by a small part of the info stream, and if I am alert and active, I stop the playback there and take a closer look, and I find truth and wonder. This truth sometimes comes in the form of a Facebook post, or a news article, or a casual observation I made while passing through my day. Sometimes this revelation comes from stumbling across an amazing story like the Hubble’s Deep Field exploration.
I want to share some of these observations, these moments of wonder and revelation and insight found amidst the constant input, with the rest of the world. I will aim to do so in as few words as possible, and on a fairly regular basis.
I will be successful if my writing moves a few people along the way.
“Do what you’re going to do, and say what you’re going to say. Start today. Yeah, start today.” Window Paine, Smashing Pumpkins