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In order to understand the universe better I’ve become a follower of e-blasts from NASA. Yes, that NASA—as in, National Aeronautics and Space Administration—the organization that launches spacecraft and discovers black holes, distant galaxies, and other bizarre phenomena through super-powered telescopes and photos taken from satellites.
Stars are forming in Henize 2-10, a dwarf starburst galaxy located about 30 million light years from Earth, I learned recently, calling into question everything I thought I knew about dwarf starburst galaxies. Which is to say, virtually nothing.
But that didn’t stop me from reading further, even though my head was filled to distraction with images of dwarfs and shooting stars being flung about the heavens.
Adding further chaos to my addled brainwaves, I learned that these stars were forming at a prodigious rate, begging the question of context. Prodigious compared to what? If these stars are 30 million light years away, then the power of the telescope that spied them is so great that I can’t even conceive of it. I would have stopped there, my mind already overwhelmed with the sheer largeness of such numbers and the sheer greatness of such distance, but for this next bit: This combination of a burst of star formation and a massive black hole is analogous to conditions in the early Universe. Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere, if not very fast.
I’ve always been fascinated with existential questions: “Why are we here, how did we get here” and the like, tending to be skeptical of both Biblical and Big Bang theories as both leave too many questions unanswered. But if this latest NASA missive is to be believed, we are closer to understanding our origins than we thought possible.
Could it be, then, that both the Bible people and the astrophysicists are right? All this biblical banter about seven days and such could be a metaphor for what actually happened: take one dwarf starburst galaxy, add a black hole, and voila! Universe! Seven days, seven million light years; it’s really all the same in the grand scheme of things.
And if that’s true, what is there left for believers and nonbelievers to argue about? If the bang was instantaneous and resulted in flying dwarfs bursting from black holes, what does it matter if one of them was the Son of God or one of Snow White’s companions? We are all cut from the same cloth—er, black hole—a bit of stardust giving us the right chemical make-up to result in life as we know it.
I’m all for a greater understanding of our origins—but rather than arguing about one belief system or another, I’m sticking with these e-blasts from NASA: the photos are beautiful, otherworldly, and quite frankly, just as ethereal as a bunch of angels floating on puffy white clouds. Dwarfs notwithstanding.
NOTE: To view related photo and read the full NASA story, click on the following link: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1848.html
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