Below is one of the most beautiful and famous images in astronomy. It was taken by the Hubble Telescope. It depicts the region called Messier 16 in the contellation Serpens, one spiral arm over from us in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s an open, luminous cluster of hot young stars. Those huge spires of interstellar gas and dust are sometimes called the Pillars of Creation; new stars are still being formed in this area, the most active birthplace of stars that we know. It is 144 light years in diameter and 7,000 light years away. That means this image began moving in our direction a thousand years before the beginning of recorded human history.
Bearing all that in mind, if you would, please click the picture below to open the full-sized, full-color image in a new window. Stare at it a couple minutes and then come back. I’ll wait here.
There. Did you do it? Seriously? Okay. Now answer the following question. Thinking about that picture made me feel:
A) Small. Insignificant. One average animal among trillions on one average planet revolving around an average star in a cosmic backwater on the edge of our galaxy. There are maybe a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, maybe several hundred billion galaxies in the universe. You’d have to be mad to think there’s anything special about us. A little (okay a lot) of humility is in order here.
B) Huge. Electric. Being a part of something so unknowably vast and beautiful is innervating. Exhilarating. I’m blown away. Filled to the teeth with joy and wonder. I feel elevated, awed, enlarged. Just…damn!
If you answered A), you are a lefty. If you answered B), you are a righty.
Whichever way you answered, you think anyone who answered the other way is sad, delusional and a bit dangerous.
Am I right?