HOUSTON - From my backyard in Space City I can look up and see countless stars, passing satellites and the occasional meteor. (This will be especially true pre-dawn Saturday, when the Lyrid meteor shower peaks!) Though, I can only catch a glimpse of what the Hubble Space Telescope spies each day.
I recently had a chance to scope out some of their latest images and was immediately struck by this spiral galaxy as to me it resembled a, "space hurricane". It was captured a billion light years away by the orbiting NASA telescope. This space hurricane galaxy has stars, planets, luminous plasma, dust and rocks circulating in bands toward a common center of a black hole, much like an earth-based hurricane has bands of moisture that spin toward a center of low pressure. It's the same concept of geometry, just on a super-massive scale! (By the way, the light captured to make this image -- transmitted from that galaxy -- was produced back in a time before animals roamed Earth... Keep in mind, this is one of the closer, "distant" galaxies. Can you imagine seeing light from the Hubble Telescope produced before Earth even *formed*, 4.5 billion years ago?)
This whole thing amazes me too because according to the latest science, this galaxy is just one of over two trillion in existence! Consider that our Milky Way galaxy (where Earth is located) -- is so big, it would take 10,000 years at light speed to travel from one end to the other. (10,000 light years across.) Now, imagine there are 2,000-million of these massive galaxies with countless star systems (like our own sun and planets). It's becomes a concept that's simply abstract.
We've never seen our Milky Way from the vantage point like we're observing the hurricane galaxy because it would take a million years to get far enough away from our own galaxy to see it. That said, astrophysics think our's looks quite similar to the hurricane galaxy, with symmetrical spiral bands.
Even in a Star Trek world, where you can travel at speed Warp Factor 9 (834 times the speed of light), it would take 34,293 years to make it to our nearest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, which is 2.5 million light years away. In the Star Trek: The Original Series, episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1966) they made it to Andromeda in 300 years, traveling at, "maximum warp." (Unspecified speed.) Yet, despite this vast distances we can, "see" trillions of galaxies through a telescope. That blows my mind.
Back to the patterns: An Italian mathematician from the 13th century (well before telescopes were invented) named Fibonacci, started noticing patterns in nature on Earth, with this same spiral geometry in items ranging from nautilus sea shells, to pine cones to whirlpools, and more. He applied this into a ratio which is now called the, "golden ratio." You can see it not only in the visible graphing of the decimal expression of this ratio (1.618...), but also in subjective human aesthetics of what considered beautiful, whether it's architecture or people. It also has applications in music and even the stock market. Even the spiral of our DNA shares this ratio.
That's a head-scratcher!
Time to get back to the weather.
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