Friday, May 08, 2015

A poem and a brief discussion about Hubble Space Telescope's 25 years

by Salman Hameed

Last month marked the launching of Hubble Space Telescope (HST). It is hard to overstate the importance of the telescope. It transformed astronomy. I was fortunate to be in graduate school when some of its most significant images were captured (for example, Eagle's nebula's Pillars of Creation, and of course the Hubble Deep Field). The new images in some sense were remaking textbooks and there were many instances of us (graduate students and faculty) just gathering together to fawn-over new Hubble releases. Here is my brief discussion about Hubble's 25 years as part of a new segment with Monte Belmonte for our fantastic radio station, The River: Mr. Universe - Hubble's 25 Years. It is impossible to pick favorite images from Hubble (there are so many great ones!), I will post three below. But before I do that, here is an excerpt from a poem by Tracy K. Smith from her collection Life on Mars that mentions Hubble Space Telescope:
When my father worked on the Hubble Telescope, he said
They operated like surgeons: scrubbed and sheathed
In papery green, the room a clean cold, a bright white.

He’d read Larry Niven at home, and drink scotch on the rocks,
His eyes exhausted and pink. These were the Reagan years,
When we lived with our finger on The Button and struggled

To view our enemies as children. My father spent whole seasons
Bowing before the oracle-eye, hungry for what it would find.
His face lit-up whenever anyone asked, and his arms would rise

As if he were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never-ending
Night of space. On the ground, we tied postcards to balloons
For peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di. Rock Hudson died.

We learned new words for things. The decade changed.

The first few pictures came back blurred, and I felt ashamed
For all the cheerful engineers, my father and his tribe. The second time,
The optics jibed. We saw to the edge of all there is—

So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.
You can read here the full poem, My God, It's Full of Stars

 And here now on to three Hubble images that I absolutely love (and also shows my bias towards galaxies):

Hubble Ultra Deep Field - capturing some of the farthest galaxies in the universe. 

Tadpole galaxy (or Arp 188) - an image of one galaxy being torn apart by the gravity of larger neighbor. You can imagine being part of a solar system in the torn stream of stars - and the breathtaking view you may have of the larger spiral galaxy. 

Sombrero galaxy (or NGC 4594) - a nearby galaxy located "only" 28 million light years away. We are seeing the galaxy edge-on. In my previous life, I looked for signs of young stars in this galaxy, but didn't find much (for example here and here).

Oh who am I kidding. I have to include at least one nebula in this post. So here is Helix Nebula:

Helix Nebula - this is a planetary nebula and our Sun's future death is most likely going to be this spectacular. Inspired by this image, you can also read my article in Express Tribune: Anticipating a Glorious Death of Our Sun

If you want more, you can see a collection of Hubble photos by New York Times. But heck - the best place is the official Hubble site. All of the images are breathtaking! Enjoy.


Blogoratti said...

Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing that!

Zain Hassan Zaidi said...

beautiful, i just love this connection between mysticism and science.

ih said...

thanks for sharing.. :)

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