Cosmic Zit

Cross posted at Say Anything: Reader blogs.

Rather than blog about the various interesting reactions to the recent news that removing thimerosal from vaccines hasn't had the expected effect on rates of autism or to the new studies that have identified different genes involved in autism I decided to browse the galleries at HubbleSite. A much more relaxing, up lifting, and perspective correcting exercise.



I call this image the Cosmic Zit. NASA calls it, Outburst from Comet Tempel 1. "In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet. The images are a reminder that Tempel 1's icy nucleus, roughly half the size of Manhattan, is dynamic and volatile."



They call this one the Cat's Eye Nebula. That's a fanciful enough description for me. "Observations suggest the star ejected its mass in a series of pulses at 1,500-year intervals. These convulsions created dust shells, each of which contain as much mass as all of the planets in our solar system combined (still only one percent of the Sun's mass). These concentric shells make a layered, onion-skin structure around the dying star."



This Red Prism In The Heavens is also known as Dying Star HD 44179, the "Red Rectangle," Sculpts Rungs of Gas and Dust. This ancient dying star has an interesting story. "The star in the center of the Red Rectangle is one that began its life as a star similar to our Sun. It is now nearing the end of its lifetime, and is in the process of ejecting its outer layers to produce the visible nebula. The shedding of the outer layers began about 14,000 years ago. In a few thousand years, the star will have become smaller and hotter, and will begin to release a flood of ultraviolet light into the surrounding nebula; at that time, gas in the nebula will begin to fluoresce, producing what astronomers call a planetary nebula."

This star stared dying 14,000 years ago. It's got several thousand years to go before it's done. I wonder what humanity was doing 14,000 years ago? What will we be doing when this star is finally done with dying?

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