The Sombrero Galaxy - 28 million light years from Earth - was recently voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The dimensions of the galaxy, officially called M104, are as spectacular as its appearance. It has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.
Several weeks ago, my friend Martha sent me a batch of mind-dazzling images taken by the Hubble telescope. I rediscovered them today and forwarded this one to Penelope and Pam. Penelope was a wee bit bashful when I asked her if I could post her response here, but she found words where I had none...
"I was going to suggest we wear our sombreros to work today but ... 800 BILLION suns!!! Who on earth are WE? What tiny scraps of knowledge we possess and what might be waiting to blow our minds if we opened them — creak, creak . . .?
I'm never sure how to respond to images such as these - they're both out of this world and every part of it. It's like peering into the DNA of the universe. What do we do when we're offered a glimpse like this? What does it stir in us? It takes me back to childhood when I'd spend night after night lying on my back in the dark pondering the deep and infinite sky. I had no words for my thoughts and feelings then and I have none now. Is such beauty overwhelming, terrifying or comforting? I'm not sure. Perhaps it a bit of each and more. All I know is that I tend to lose my voice in the face of such spectacles, not least at the reminder that phenomena such as the Sombrero Galaxy really are out there - the scale and mystery of it all.
(PS. Is it just me or is something weird going on with Blogger? The formatting bar metamorphosed into something sleeker and sexier during the night and I for one am having difficulty finding my way around this fancy new model. Heavens, just how fast do we have to run to keep up with all this super-duper high-tech stuff!)