Thursday, September 24, 2009


Hubble color mosaic of the galactic center (Hubble-Spitzer Color Mosaic of the Galactic Center. Click on image to enlarge.)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.

I recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed the PBS Nova episode Monster of the Milky Way which asked and answered the question "Does a supermassive black hole lurk at the center of our galaxy?" Clicking on the link will take you to the program website, which is fascinating, but I further recommend watching the show itself if you can catch it. I was particularly struck by how difficult it was for physicists, who are generally accomplished at gobbledegook, to actually describe what a black hole is.

I have also been thinking about the possible parallel behind Einstein's refusal to believe in black holes because they defied his view of the universe as "just", and Copernicus's initial belief in a heliocentric solar system not because of science but because he found it aesthetically pleasing -- proofs came later, art was first.


When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass


Blue said...

I call this one, "Bunny With a Spinning Tail".

kat said...

the idea of art first proof later is interesting.

It's reminding me of my astronomer friend, who despite all of his vast knowledge about the universe, cannot let himself be sucked into atheism.

While believing that creationism is completely preposterous, he also finds the idea that there was a huge boom and after that the universe happened with nothing but chance and coincidence, also somewhat unlikely.....