Thursday, January 19, 2006

The centre of the universe (or galaxy, at least)


Feeling significant? Don't. Consider your place in the eternal cosmos. Consider the Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which a friend was kind enough to bring to my attention. Here's the caption for the picture pasted above:

The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of obscuring dust and gas. But in this stunning vista, the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared cameras penetrate much of the dust revealing the stars of the crowded galactic center region. A mosaic of many smaller snapshots, the detailed, false-color image shows older, cool stars in bluish hues. Reddish glowing dust clouds are associated with young, hot stars in stellar nurseries. The galactic center lies some 26,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this picture spans about 900 light-years.

As Bill Manhire put it:

I live at the edge of the universe,
like everybody else. Sometimes I think
congratulations are in order:
I look out at the stars
and my eye merely blinks a little,
my voice setles for a sigh.

But my whole pleasure is the inconspicuous:
I love the unimportant thing.
I go down to the Twilight Arcade
and watch the Martian invaders,
already appalled by our language,
pointing at what they want.

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