Caverns in light

[Images: An exploding star's "light echo," as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2002. View larger!].

"In January 2002," NASA reported half a decade ago, "a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun." This "mysterious star" produced, in the process, a "light echo" that "uncovered remarkable new features" in that star's astral architecture. "These details promise to provide astronomers with a CAT-scan-like probe of the three-dimensional structure of shells of dust surrounding an aging star."
In the above sequence of images, then, you are looking at "continuously changing cross-sections of the dust envelope" – a visual effect compared by NASA to "a spelunker taking a flash picture of the walls of an undiscovered cavern," where the "cavern" in question is an exploding sphere of light. A spectacular geology, indeed.
Imagine if the most beautiful thing in the universe only exists for a billionth of a second.
Imagine if no one sees it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last image is the Firefox icon!

May 26, 2008 9:02 AM  
Blogger Rombsy said...

"Things can certainly exist without being seen, but if they have a physical presence (i.e. as opposed to musical notes) they cannot be beautiful." Discuss.

May 26, 2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

You guys are pretending beauty has some kind of absolute existence.

I just don't think so.

I hate to be the one to attach lead to your balloon, but really, unless you're playing at being absurd, a poetic leap needs some grounding in reality to be honestly thrilling or useful.

Great pictures though. Thanks for that.

May 26, 2008 8:43 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Tim, how does this post pretend that "beauty has some kind of absolute existence"?

May 26, 2008 8:57 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Perhaps I should have written: "Imagine if the most beautiful thing you would ever see, anywhere in the universe, only exists for a billionth of a second. Imagine if you never see it."

But I didn't write that - even though that's what I meant. I think that's the source of confusion here - and I'm referring to Tim's comment, above.

I didn't mean to imply a universal absolute for beauty.

May 27, 2008 1:32 AM  
Blogger Rombsy said...

Likewise, I was arguing for a subjective definition of beauty, but from the angle that beauty is not only 'in the eye of the beholder,' but that it actually requires a beholder. Like the old 'tree falls in the forest' bit.

May 27, 2008 2:55 AM  

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