Thursday, May 27, 2010

Look — up in the Sky!

"We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened."
~ Mark Twain

On Monday the website posted this photo of the Soul Nebula, a cluster of stars, dust and gases 6,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia. The photo was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope (known to its friends as WISE), which has been orbiting the earth surveying the sky for infrared phenomena since December 2009. If you think the Soul Nebula looks breathtaking here, click on this link for a closer view — prepare yourself for some true, jaw-dropping awe.

The Soul Nebula has a companion cluster; because astrophysicists are poetic punsters at heart, its name is the Heart Nebula. Here is a photo of the Heart and Soul Nebulae together.

Click here for the mind-boggling close-up.

But you don't have to travel light years for a dose of wonder from above; plenty is on display just above your neighborhood. For example, here in New York City, North America, Earth, we are just a few days away from the annual astro-architectural phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge," when the sun sets in perfect alignment with the East-West streets of Manhattan. This year the event will take place on May 30–31 and July 11–12.

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, coined the name Manhattanhenge in 2002, but the spectacle has been an annual occurrence since Manhattan adopted its grid-based street plan in 1811. Click here to read Tyson's brief article about this year's event on the Hayden Planetarium website.

And please take 16 seconds to watch this video of Manhattanhenge in action. (If you receive Divinipotent Daily by e-mail, please click on this link or visit Divinipotent Daily online to see the video.)

"My companion and I were alone with the stars; the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could only be seen once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will."
~ Rachel Carson

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