Friday, 17 June 2011

macro to micro

The Orion Nebula, taken by Hubble, NASA/ESA
Whether gazing millions of light-years into deep space, or staring at a plant just a few inches away, you can only be struck by the beauty of form as it flows around and fills space.
Thistle at my feet
An alluring aspect of space-gazing is the language. The words are more than utilitarian descriptors. They rely as much on references to classical cultures as they do on technical classifications. I've marvelled at Hubble's 'top twenty' photographs and their captions, extracting some of the phrases used and re-ordered them into a kind of poem. It is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd lyrics.

Hubble has peered into the Sagittarius Star Cloud
Majesti appears as a whirlpool
Young stars reside in the curving spiral arms,
the formation of supermassive black holes.

'The Mice': a pair of galaxies
engaged in a celestial dance of cat and mouse.
A dense swarm of stars, patches of dust,
and a bright star cluster near the nucleus of the galaxy.

Saturn's four moons pass across its face.
The white icy moons Enceladus and Dione,
the large orange moon Titan, and icy Mimas.
Enceladus and Dione are preceded by their own shadows.

A Seyfert 2 – a galaxy
probably powered by a black hole at its core.
The thick ring around the yellow core
is an area of active starbirth.

In the Orion Nebula,
more than 3,000 stars reside
in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape
- plateaux, mountains, and valleys.

A picture-book of star formation,
from the massive, young stars shaping the nebula
to the pillars of dense gas
that may be the homes of budding stars

A Sun-like star is ending its life,
casting off its outer layers of gas,
forming a cocoon around its remaining core.
A white dwarf is in the centre.

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