Thanks - that made my day!
The Hubble Space Telescope is back to snapping pictures of the cosmos, supplying Earth with its precious allowance of desktop wallpapers. And with upgrades and repairs performed last May, the orbiting observatory is doing science even better than before. NASA shared its jubilation today with a fresh round of images featuring …
IIRC Stephen's Quintet is five galaxies, (one, as noted in the article not really part of it), but two of them (see on the right) have "crashed into" each other. I would imagine that if one could hang around for a few million years it would be most interesting to watch all those stars shake out in some form of bizarre gravity war.
Clearly hanging around at a safe distance would be preferable.
If you're not awed by this stuff you simply don't have enough imagination to even begin to grasp the magnitude of it all.
You can get tied up in the detail of your own life, and it's always good to take a step back and view the big picture. But this big picture is so much far bigger and so much more detailed. Everything you know, and everything you are, doesn't even add it up to the tiniest of microscopic specs in comparison with what's happening out there.
Hubble is doing an excellent job of putting it all in perspective, it's just scary sometimes how insignificant it can leave you feeling.
...the Interstellar Police come knocking on Hubble's control centre's door, and arrest everybody under the pretence of the "Interplanetary Prevention of Terrorism Act". "Sorry sir, you may think you're innocently taking pictures of the cosmos, but we think you're behaving suspiciously. And besides, you may not recognise them, but you've captured a photo of my colleague and that's not just suspicious, that's a crime against humanity (and all other living sentient beings)."
Everyone does realize the original pictures are taken in black and white, color is added later and there's no assurance the color added is actually what your eye would perceive.
"Taking color pictures with the Hubble Space Telescope is much more complex than taking color pictures with a traditional camera. For one thing, Hubble doesn't use color film — in fact, it doesn't use film at all. Rather, its cameras record light from the universe with special electronic detectors. These detectors produce images of the cosmos not in color, but in shades of black and white.
Finished color images are actually combinations of two or more black-and-white exposures to which color has been added during image processing.
The colors in Hubble images, which are assigned for various reasons, aren't always what we'd see if we were able to visit the imaged objects in a spacecraft. We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object's detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye."
"It's stuff like this that convinces me just how insignificant we are - never mind the chances of like out there - how about the chances of a lack of life out there?! Wowee."
Insignificant? I respectfully disagree. Surely the significance here is that we are here to observe these things? We are the *only* observers we know of for certain (granted, its a sample of one and hardly statistical), but to cast aside the fact of our existence and ability to observe existence as 'insignificant' is to understate on a grand scale.
The universe is billions of years old; the light you are seeing is equally ancient. Time & Space are the same thing, and here we stand, in our 28000 year long 'blink of an eye'. We are able to observe, record, study and communicate our perceptions of creation.
We are no less significant, I would submit, than the stars themselves. Without our observation, surely, the wonder of the universe would diminish into insignificance, much as the tree falling in the forest ~ It has no significance that it does, or does not make a sound, if there is no one there to hear it.
Aliens ~ Because they may, or may not, be there to observe as well, and indeed we may be them.
... to quote the wise AC on the Drayson story, isn't this just an example of our "mediocre, low-grade, dull-witted, grunt academic 'research' 'work' ... of value to no-one in industry." No?
Congratulations and thanks to everyone at NASA, in the aerospace industry, in the universities, and fundamentally the US, Canadian and European taxpayers who have helped get HST back into shape. With luck those who use HST will now be able to advance their useless mediocrity for a few more years. And when spectacular results show up I'm sure press releases will be sent to El Reg.