For those of you who happened to see the article titled Hubble’s Greatest Hits, by Timothy Ferris, in the April, 2015 National Geographic some of what follows will be redundant. If you did you also saw the images included. If you didn’t you owe it to yourself to seek them out. (ngm.com/more) Zoltan Levay, imaging team leader at the Space Telescope Science Institute has worked with the Hubble’s images since 1993. He provided his ten all-time favorite images for the article.
First of all I can’t imagine how anyone could choose only ten of what must be the most gorgeous and mind boggling collection of images that exists anywhere. And secondly, I find myself completely overwhelmed by the immense distances that they represent. This is time travel! And I admit to wondering if I’m slow on the uptake, or if I just haven’t been paying attention, but we’re talking 300 million light-years away in one particular image. (One light-year equals nearly 6 trillion miles).
I’m certain that my father, who passed away in the early ‘80’s, would never have believed it possible, and he had the opportunity to observe a heck of a lot of innovation in his 83 years. He saw the first automobiles, the washing machine and later the dish washer, the discovery of penicillin and the release of a vaccine for polio, the first commercially available television and the color version which allowed us to follow the Vietnam War in gruesome detail everyday from across the world. And of course he followed the space race and watched the flight of Apollo 11. But this would have been unimaginable.
Did you know that when the Hubble was launched in 1990 aboard the space shuttle Discovery, it faltered? The light-gathering mirror, which was eight feet in diameter, the smoothest large object ever made, had been figured wrong. Being relegated to the cargo bay of the space shuttle, despite the astronomers wishes for bigger and higher, turned out to be the Hubble’s salvation. Had it been launched out of the reach of Discovery it might have become a “billion-dollar blunder”. Instead, in a series of compromises, it was constructed in such a way that components could be replaced or repaired. According to Ferris, it took five shuttle service missions to transform the Hubble into the productive scientific machine it is now.
So, what is my point? That we as a whole and I as an individual are/am a mere blip in time, but rather than causing me to feel that my life is immaterial, this knowledge stirs sensations of connectedness to eons of conscious awareness; that humanity has the potential to create unimaginable innovation; that events are frequently serendipitous and synchronistic, and we all have the choice to follow or not; that following is what leads to unimaginable innovation.
We never know what’s coming next. We’re not supposed to know. We can allow not knowing to cause us anxiety. Or we can trust in eons of conscious awareness to lead us through the darkness.
I’d love to hear from you.