It’s the first Friday of May 2020 and you know what that means: Happy International Space Day!
The launch of the first mission to take human beings to another world.
I have mentioned on more than one occasion—so many more times—that I love space. The first thing I remember ever wanting to be was an astronaut. (Of course, then I saw the Challenger disaster and that put a damper on that dream.) I am always excited to learn about astrophysics and space exploration: the things we learn about our celestial surroundings teach us about our planet’s past and our species’ potential futures. Birth, death, explosions, entropy, and the universe’s, often violent, pursuit of homeostasis after events set in motion billions and billions of years ago—it’s fascinating.
That part about “if we don’t destroy ourselves,” though; if we’re going to venture further out into space, we’ve got to start taking better care of our species and the planet—and its flora and fauna—that supports us.
The observance of International Space Day this year is especially cool because it falls only days after the thirtieth anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope! I remember watching news reports and being so excited when Discovery launched on the mission to deploy Hubble. Over the course of the last thirty years, Hubble has enriched our knowledge of our solar system, our galaxy, and our universe: it’s given us more detailed looks at planets in our solar system, detected supermassive black holes, and allowed us to learn so much more about the birth and death of stars.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 and the measures necessary to slow the spread of the pandemic, most—if not all—of the Hubble anniversary events have been postponed or canceled. So, to celebrate International Space Day and the Hubble thirtieth anniversary, I want to share with you some of my most favorite images from Hubble Space Telescope.
Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant, ©2015, STScI and NASA
Light Echo V838 Monocerotis, ©2004, STScI and NASA
Herbig-Haro Jet HH24, “Lightsaber,” ©2015, STScI and NASA
Deep Field, ©2014, STScI and NASA
Honestly, this photo makes me want to weep: it’s so beautiful and so humbling.
Lagoon Nebula, ©2018, STScI and NASA
In the Tarantula Nebula, 30 Doradus is a stellar nursery where millions of massive and excitable stars are born.
30 Doradus – Tarantuala Nebula, ©2012, STScI and NASA
I love the fact that you can see the effect of the force the larger galaxy exerts on the smaller—it’s like watching the skirt of a dancer flare as they are spun about by their partner.
Interacting Spiral Galaxies NGC 2207 and IC 2163, ©2004, STScI and NASA
And there are so many more where those came from at the Hubble site and at the Hubble 30th Anniversary page! Or you can hop over to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s and NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day sites to find even more awe-inspiring images of the cosmos. Might I suggest listening to a space-themed playlist while browsing NASA’s photographs? I may or may not have created a playlist for just such an occasion (I did. I definitely did).
So, rather than staring at our computer screens, searching longingly for an end to social distancing and self-quarantine, I invite you to stare at your computer screens and gaze lovingly and longingly and curiously at some of the wonders discovered in our neck of the universe. And I invite you to take a look at the stars tonight and every night—well, every night you can: I mean, we’re going to have some weather where I’m located tonight, so no stargazing for me. In any case, take your social distancing outside, under a clear night sky, and learn about our celestial neighborhood and our place in it. If you’re just starting out and/or you don’t have a telescope, bust out an app on your phone (I like StarWalk) or visit StellariumWEB to help you pinpoint and investigate visible stars and planets. Oh, and mark your calendar for May 16th, when the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter are going to align just right to make a smiley face in the sky! Goodness knows, we could all use a little more of the cosmos smiling upon us right now.
Happy International Space Day everyone! And, as you observe the day, please also observe safety measures: wash your hands. Stay as safe and healthy as possible friends!