Friday, 14 October 2016

Beauty lies in the details

Of course, during a public star party everybody wants to see big and spectacular things such as the Moon, the planets, sizzling globular clusters or large and complex nebulae like the one in Orion. If I then show a small but fascinating planetary nebula, such as the Blue Flash, people start to become a bit bored and say: "Nice, but can't you show us something interesting"? This is of course perfectly understandable because most people who've never looked through a telescope don't really know what to look for and, more importantly, how to look. Therefore they fail to see all the tiny detail that you can see on the sketch of the Blue Flash; the lovely, frail filaments of gas which contain the spirit of a star that's just died. If I then turn my telescope to an incredibly distant galaxy such as the one here, NGC6906, they'll simply leave in disappointment and try their luck at someone else's telescope. 

But next time, don't run off so quickly. Take your time. Absorb what's in the field of view. Relax. Let it talk to you. You'd be amazed how much there actually is to see here apart from the "incredibly faint blob" which you see at first glance. First, look at this galaxy's nucleus. It isn't simply round, but has this bar-like structure running through it (click here for explanation). Then look at the spiral arms. There are at least four of them which are clearly visible, two above and two below the nucleus. They're deliciously thin and razor-sharp, don't you agree? Now I'll add some figures. This galaxy's twice as large as our Milky Way and contains 1 trillion stars. Yes!! It's travelling away from us at the incredible speed of 4.800km... per second! That's almost the distance between London and New York... in one second! And finally, it lies 214 million lightyears away from us. 

Of course, loyal readers of this blog have become used to astonishingly vast numbers so there's nothing unusual here, and this is indeed so. There's nothing out of the ordinary about this particular galaxy. Yet, it has its own personality and in spite of the almost imcomprehensible distance it does its best to show us how beautiful it actually is. Therefore, look a bit closer next time you get the chance. I'm sure that you'll be amazed!

No comments:

Post a Comment