three things tagged “astronomy”

On Drawing Logical Conclusions

I can’t see a thing on the surface of Venus. Why not? Because it’s covered with a dense layer of clouds. Well, what are clouds made of? Water, of course. Therefore, Venus must have an awful lot of water on it. Therefore, the surface must be wet. Well, if the surface is wet, it’s probably a swamp. If there’s a swamp, there’s ferns. If there’s ferns, maybe there’s even dinosaurs.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

It was only in 1922 that:

[…] fantasies of a wet, swampy Venus started to fade. Astronomers analyzing the visible light reflected from the planet’s atmosphere found no signs of the wavelengths which would have been given off by oxygen or water. Venus, they proposed, may instead be barren and dusty, a desert-like place.

The Venutian Dinosaur Fallacy, BigThink

which, as that article notes, still did not prevent us from imagining a Wet-Ass Venus well into the 1950s. Here are some pictures of its surface.

Hubble Ultra-Deep Field

One of my favorite things in the world.

Located southwest of Orion in the southern-hemisphere constellation Fornax, the rectangular image is 2.4 arcminutes to an edge, or 3.4 arcminutes diagonally. This is approximately one tenth of the angular diameter of a full moon viewed from Earth (which is less than 34 arcminutes), smaller than 1 sq. mm piece of paper held at 1 meter away, and equal to roughly one twenty-six-millionth of the total area of the sky. The image is oriented so that the upper left corner points toward north (−46.4°) on the celestial sphere.

Wikipedia (emphasis mine)

Here’s all that in video form

The best screensaver in the world using red-shift data

And a very high-resolution image (> 60MB). Wallpapers are available.

Our shit is so, so, so tiny.

There are over 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Simply saying that number doesn’t really mean much to us because it doesn’t provide any context. Our brains have no way to accurately put that in any meaningful perspective. When we look at this image, however, and think about the context of how it was made and really understand what it means, we instantly gain the perspective and cannot help, but be forever changed by it.

We pointed the most powerful telescope ever built by human beings at absolutely nothing for no other reason than because we were curious, and discovered that we occupy a very tiny place in the heavens.

Deep Astronomy

Not so sure about “instantly” gaining perspective but the rest about wonder and curiosity and our insignificant place the heavens still stand.