[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.
6 thoughts on “Caverns in light”
The last image is the Firefox icon!
“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.
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.
Tim, how does this post pretend that “beauty has some kind of absolute existence”?
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.
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.