Archive for April 13th, 2012


Looking to the Heavens

April 13, 2012

Throughout human history, looking to the heavens has always intrigued and awed us.  For much of that history, the nature of the universe we live is was unknown, much of its nature still is.  To cope, humans placed supernatural qualities upon the night sky.  Still, as we look back to our ancestors, it seems they understood they were connected to it somehow, just as we are today.  As knowledge progressed, so did our understanding of that connection.  Whether we use the sky to navigate, tell a horoscope, look for evidence of God, or study it its vastness to

First Picture from Space

understand how everything came to be, it is certainly one bad-ass place.

Just over sixty-five years ago, the first pictures from space were recorded[i].  They were taken from a German V-2 rocket captured after World War II.  (Click here to watch the newsreel clip)  Not until then, did we really know if space beyond our atmosphere looked like what we thought.  From the beginning of recorded time, to just over sixty-five years ago, we could only guess.  Since then, we have been on sort of a photographic orgy when it comes our consumption of pictures from space.

Still, it was not until the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in April of 1990 (Happy Anniversary Hubble!) that the “awe-factor” went through the roof.  Its ability to take images without the distortion caused by our atmosphere put its images in a class of their own.   They are simply stunning.  HST is in the last phase of its life-cycle.  Currently, Hubble is joined by the Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), launched in 2003 and when HST is no longer operational, SST will still be feeding our need for pictures from the farthest reaches of the universe.  My only hope

Crab Nebula

is we do not allow HST to fall to earth and burn up in the atmosphere.  It needs to be in the Air & Space Museum.

Sometimes when I look at these images, I feel really small.  At the same time, I am comforted knowing I am part of such a vast and wonderful universe.  After all, even a cell in your fingernail gets to be part of you as a whole.  Without it, you would be diminished.  Without us, the universe would be diminished too.

As it is, we get to enjoy the pictures from our orbiting telescopes, even if we do not understand just how things like a planetary nebular really form.  We guess and theorize but, just like before that picture from the V-2, we do not know.  Maybe that is the real draw; space holds the same sort of magic for us today as it did for our ancestors thousands of years ago.  While thy wondered about these dots of lights racing through the sky, we wonder at a nebula sixty-five thousand light-years away.  While we think of their astral mythology as antiquated, perhaps our descendants thousands of years from now will view E=mc2 and the Big Bang Theory the same way.

Star-Forming Region of NGC 3324

[i] Reichhardt, Tony. “” Air and Space Magazine. Smithsonian Institution, National Air & Space Museum, Nov. 2006. Web. 13 Apr. 2012.


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