Monday, August 25, 2014


 Astronomers have for the first time caught a glimpse of the earliest stages of massive galaxy construction. The building site, dubbed “Sparky,” is a dense galactic core blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate.

The discovery was made possible through combined observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory, in which NASA plays an important role.

A fully developed elliptical galaxy is a gas-deficient gathering of ancient stars theorized to develop from the inside out, with a compact core marking its beginnings. Because the galactic core is so far away, the light of the forming galaxy that is observable from Earth was actually created 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

Although only a fraction of the size of the Milky Way, the tiny powerhouse galactic core already contains about twice as many stars as our own galaxy, all crammed into a region only 6,000 light-years across. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years across.

 And we are under the illusion that our affairs are . . . what's the phrase "earth-shaking"? That our experiences are of consequence. That somehow what we say and do matters. What truly is earth-shaking is that there is no word in any language I know to describe how tiny and insignificant we are. Nothing we can say or think can capture this immensity . . .

And yet we've discovered the science to reveal this all to us. And we keep having these questions that won't go away.
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