Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Life Imitating Photoshop
This looks like a badly Photoshopped picture, but it's real, and required a half an hour of Hubble telescope time to get enough light to resolve the image. It looks like a ghost of a dead galaxy. Sadly, it is not. It's the result of the death throes of a carbon star, throwing off material, and because it's orbiting another star the ejected material comes out in a spiral. Think of a rotating sprinkler head to visualize the effect.
What I like about the picture is that it looks like this, another example of life imitating bad Photoshop. But this spiral was caused by entirely different circumstances: a missile launch gone bad, spewing fuel in an exact spiral. I love the recurrence of certain basic shapes and patterns in nature. Spheres and discs, spiral arms. The golden mean. Fibonacci numbers.
Thanks to APOD for the pic.
We went to a campground with Tolstoy and the boys this weekend. We have a recent habit of arbitrarily choosing Colorado campgrounds, showing up, seeing what it's like. This time the campground was maybe 300 yards from the Interstate. You could see a McDonald's sign and three different motels from the tent. You could hear the dull throb of traffic day and night.
Still, it's hard to be unhappy while camping. We had several ponds and a rubber raft to play with. We saw an egret, a HUGE heron, several killdeer. The campground was formerly a series of gravel pits that were filled with water and turned into a wildlife refuge. Traffic noise notwithstanding, it's hard to argue with the result. And a gorgeous Saturday night sky, despite the lights: Jupiter anchoring one end, Venus and a thin crescent moon anchoring the other, and Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Sagittarius and Scorpio spread out on the canvas between them.