I looked out the window at the black clouds ahead of us. I opened the back window and smelled the rain. You could smell the rain in the desert even before a drop fell. I closed my eyes. I held my hand out and felt the first drop. It was like a kiss. The sky was kissing me. It was a nice thought. It was something Dante would have thought. I felt another drop and then another. A kiss. A kiss. And then another kiss.
Revelations help us accept the things we need the most, expose the secrets we so desperately try to hide and illuminate the dangers all around us. But more than anything, revelations are windows into our true selves… of the good and the evil and those wavering somewhere in between. But they have the ultimate power to destroy all that we cherish most.
She looked out the window; in her eyes was the light that you see only in children arriving at a new place, or in young people still open to new influences, still curious about the world because they have not yet been scarred by life.
―Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence
When you look through a window you gasp at the beautiful tree in the backyard or the magical sunrise coming over the horizon. No one looks at a window and is taken away by the complexity of the transparency of millions of atoms joined together to form.. a crystal clear yet structural opening to the exterior. The same (it) is with life, if you spend your whole life being a medium to enable others, then you will be nothing but a sheet of glass, overused, underappreciated, and fragile to opportunity.
You become a house where the wind blows straight through, because no one bothers the crack in the window or lock on the door, and you’re the house where people come and go as they please, because you’re simply too unimpressed to care. You let people in who you really shouldn’t let in, and you let them walk around for a while, use your bed and use your books, and await the day when they simply get bored and leave. You’re still not bothered, though you knew they shouldn’t have been let in in the first place, but still you just sit there, apathetic like a beggar in the desert.
On April 24, 1990, the Discovery Shuttle mission STS-31 launched the Hubble Space Telescope into a low orbit around the Earth, the result of decades of planning, research, funding and construction. It was not the first telescope in space, but, twenty-five years later, it remains among the most advanced and most versatile. Its position grants it the ability to observe infrared and ultraviolet light, both of which are filtered out by Earth’s protective atmosphere, and it does not have to contend with atmospheric turbulence, the force that makes the stars appear to twinkle.
The early days of the Hubble began with disappointment and embarrassment. The first images received were not of the expected quality. A fault in the main mirror, which had not been ground correctly, created blurring. NASA, already under the gun for spending money on “Buck Rogers stuff” was a public laughing stock. The fault was fixed three years later by installing corrective lenses. The result has been pure magic. Please click on the attribution links for a wealth of information on each image.
Westerlund 2, a star cluster in the Milky Way, inside the stellar nursery Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the Carina constellation.
The Pillars of Creation, interstellar dust in the Eagle Nebula within the Serpens Constellation, 7,000 light years from Earth. The large formations are called elephant’s trunks. New stars form here, even as radiation and solar winds erode the dust clouds. New data from the Spitzer Telescope suggests that these pillars may have already been destroyed by a supernova a few thousand years ago. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team
For the past twenty-two years, images of a quality previously unimaginable have been taken of distant nebulae, planets and galaxies, looking far into space and time. Some of these cosmic features are billions of light years away. By the time the light from the stars reaches the Hubble, they may no longer be shining. Astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble was one of the first to espouse the the idea that the universe is expanding. His namesake has proven him correct.
Tarantula Nebula, 170,000 light years from Earth and part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy disrupted by multiple encounters with our Milky Way. Credit: ESA/NASA, ESO and Danny LaCrue
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, full of thousands of galaxies. This is the deepest visible light image available, looking back billions of light years. . “The image required 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around Earth. The total amount of exposure time was 11.3 days, taken between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.” –ESA/Hubble Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team
Arp 273, two interacting galaxies in the constellation of Andromeda, about 300 million light years from Earth. The smaller one is actively forming new stars and is thought to have passed through the larger, reshaping it into a form that resembles a stemmed rose. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The high resolution images taken by the Hubble feature little to no background light, and are some of the most detailed images from outer space. This well placed telescope has been able to turn its gaze to many places and produce pictures of heavenly bodies far too dim and distant to be observed from ground based telescopes. What it hasn’t been as successful with is taking shots of planets, which are much smaller and rely on stars for luminescence. Such work is more suited to smaller, portable devices that can get the correct angle and light on the subject. As I write this, the New Horizons Spacecraft, on its journey to Pluto, is beginning to transmit “better than Hubble” enhanced images of the dwarf planet. You can read more about that here. Jupiter, which is more than twice as massive as all of the planets in our solar system combined, has proved the easiest and most impressive planet to photograph from the large telescope.
The Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced by astronauts, specifically astronauts traveling in Space Shuttles. The final servicing mission occurred in 2009, and the subsequent retirement of the Shuttles means that there is no vehicle capable of performing service to the large telescope, nor is there any means to bring it back to Earth when it fails. This beautiful window to the stars is closing. It is anticipated that the Hubble may remain in operation through 2020. If allowed to take its natural course, the Hubble is predicted to fall from orbit and re-enter the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2040.
Hubble has shown us the distant past, but will not be a part of the near future. It will be succeeded by the James Webb Telescope, slated for launch in 2018.
The images the Hubble has collected have changed and reshaped our knowledge and perception of outer space, revealing both order and chaos. They have enlarged our sense of wonder, simultaneously giving us pride in human achievement and humility in our extreme provinciality and insignificance.
In the Butterfly Nebula, 20,000 degree (Celsius) gas shoots into space at more than 950,000 km/h. This nebula surrounds a red giant near the constellation Scorpius, about 3,800 light years away. Credit:NASA, ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
The Antennae Galaxies in the constellation Corvus are two galaxies in collision. Formerly arranged into spiral galaxies, stars have been flung out into space. The nuclei of the galaxies will one day collide, resulting in one large elliptical galaxy. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Binary star system Eta Carinae lies within the Homunculus Nebula, inside the Carina Nebula and Constellation, about 7,500 light years away from Earth. This shows a false supernova which stopped short of killing the star. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA