Thursday, July 02, 2009

Herschel rocks!

The new Herschel telescope is starting to produce some images for us geeks to drool over, this little holiday snap is the Whirlpool galaxy a mere 35 million light years away, that's a 2 with 14 zeros after it miles away i.e. further than the post office! The red areas of the image are where new stars are being born and like our own sun each with the potential to have planets around them that may contain the prerequisite molecular building blocks for life.

The other astounding fact about this picture is that when the light and IR radiation that interacted with Herschel's sensors was first formed, humans didn't exist yet on planet earth, it has taken that long to get here (35 million years in fact!) so we are looking back in time as well as over an unimaginable distance. Of course this is just one of billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars each with possible exo-planets revolving around them.

Feeling insignificant yet?

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