Thursday, November 6, 2008


Amid all the hoopla surrounding Halloween and the election, the resurrection of the Hubble telescope didn't get much play in the news. They rebooted one computer, fired up another that had been sitting unused in the cold of space for 18 years, and now it's back in business. Most of you probably saw this celebratory picture in the paper or on the web, but it's worth showing again. Because it's cool. And because the Hubble is the second most important telescope in the history of mankind (the first would be Galileo's, the one that first revealed the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, the craters of the moon, and put the final nails in the unwieldy but comforting Earth-is-the-center-of-the-universe model).

It is a picture of Arp 147, two interacting galaxies for the price of one. It looks like one galaxy blasted straight through the center of another, but I'm guessing it's a little more complicated than that. Thanks to Bad Astronomy (and Hubble!) for the picture and the explanation.

My favorite ten words in American political history are "of the people, by the people, and for the people." I'm glad they were quoted on Election Day. And it's movingly ironic that they were first spoken on a bloody Civil War battlefield, and echoed Tuesday by our first black President.

Both McCain and Obama gave excellent speeches that night.

I'll end with a (mostly) non-partisan Election Day memory. 1972, Nixon vs. McGovern, in the midst of the Vietnam War. I'm way too young to vote, but my sister has just turned 18. We're watching TV, and I'm haranguing her to get up off the couch and vote. She relents, we go to the high school, they let us both into the voting booth, laughing all the way. It's one of those old-fashioned ones, with the big metal lever you pull to close the drapes. It goes "shlunk" when you pull it. We vote for McGovern (more accurately we vote against Nixon), and choose the other candidates based on random choise and who has the funniest names. We shlunk the drapes back open, go home, watch more TV.

Nixon won, and was later impeached. The war raged on three more years.

The memory continues to last, far beyond the events of the day.


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Makes me smile just thinking about it... voting against Nixon.

*SO* glad that Hubble is up and running again; and thank goodness, because look at that shot!
Wow! Do we live in a beautiful place or what?

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

PS - Saw Jupiter paired closely with the waxing crescent moon just west of Venus the other night and hoped you'd seen it too, because you would appreciate it as much as I did.

Gordo said...

I'm a fair bit younger than you and located on the wrong side of the border, but I do remember asking my Dad if he had voted for Nixon and what Watergate was. LOL

The jupiter-moon-venus thing was gorgeous. :-)

Victoria Gothic said...

Yep, I was unable to vote this time around. Guess I'll just wait till the next one. Its really unfortunate all the problems they've been having with that telescope. Its enough to make other people reconsider attempts at launching their own and enough to make NASA think twice about pumping more money into it, but I'm glad they've decided to keep it working. While I love your pictures of deep space, I'm more of a "what doth mine eye see" kind of guy. I like to look up at the midnight sky, and see the stars, the moon, the planets. Without any aid to augment my ability to see them, it almost makes it more real; like, I can see that tree, and that house, and that car, and the moon and Mars. But yeah, that's just my two cents. And good job voting against Nixon.

Maggie said...

What an awesome voting memory. The galaxy picture ain't bad either. :)

I remember in fourth grade our teacher was asking us about the Presidential nominees and why we thought each one was the best candidate. I remember that some kids were adament but didn't seem to know why. I realize now it's because their parents were adament. I believe the candidates at that time were: Jimmy Carter as the incumbent and Ronald Reagan. What a wack landslide that was huh?

Mona Buonanotte said...

I remember my parents voting in those ka-chunk machines, so different nowadays when I do it with marker and a ballot as tall as my daughter.

Hoorah for Hubble!

Clowncar said...

Scarlett, the pas de trois between Venus, Jupiter and the waxing moon has been lovely to watch this week. The great thing about daylight savings time is that night comes early enough so that we can take the girls out to do a little stargazing. They can point out Cassiopeia now!

So who did your Dad vote for? Nixon was the last Republican president my Dad ever voted for. Or the last one he admits to....

Vic, my wife is the same way - she finds the whole of the night sky beautiful. She doesn't share that obsessive need to categorize and name. Which is a good thing.

Maggie, Carter was the first president I ever voted for. Great guy. Lousy president.

I miss the ka-chunk, Mona. They should program the touch screen to make that noise when you hit Submit. For nostalgia's sake.

Sarah Sometimes said...

in Brooklyn, New York, we still have the ka-chunk! There's something indeed very satisfying about it. I love your voting memory. I was 14 in 1972, also too young to vote, but I'm sure I was wearing a McGovern button to school.

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