And, somehow, we have dogs

And, somehow, we have dogs

Hello, friends!

Have you seen the images from the Webb Space Telescope?

I’ve been following along on astronomy Twitter (who knew that was a thing!?!), first, as the initial set of images were released, and now through the discussion about what’s been discovered.

In case you’re not as nerdy interested as I am and haven’t yet seen these, NASA has made them free for sharing, so here are a couple of my faves:

Carina NGC 3324 (NIRCam Image)
Description / Alt-Text
The image is divided horizontally by an undulating line between a cloudscape forming a nebula along the
bottom portion and a comparatively clear upper portion. Speckled across both portions is a starfield,
showing innumerable stars of many sizes. The smallest of these are small, distant, and faint points of
light. The largest of these appear larger, closer, brighter, and more fully resolved with 8-point diffraction
spikes. The upper portion of the image is blueish, and has wispy translucent cloud-like streaks rising
from the nebula below. The orangish cloudy formation in the bottom half varies in density and ranges
from translucent to opaque. The stars vary in color, the majority of which, have a blue or orange hue.
The cloud-like structure of the nebula contains ridges, peaks, and valleys – an appearance very similar to
a mountain range. Three long diffraction spikes from the top right edge of the image suggest the
presence of a large star just out of view.

That is REAL. An actual photo of actual space. I repeat: it’s REAL. It’s not a Trapper Keeper cover or screensaver. It’s a photo. Read all about it here.

And then there’s this one, which is almost too pretty to truly grasp. If you visit the Webb Space Telescope page, there’s a version of this that you can zoom in and around here.

Southern Ring Nebula (NIRCam Image)
Description / Alt-Text
Colorful image of near-infrared light from a glowing cloud with a distorted ring-like shape, illuminated
from within by a bright central star. The Southern Ring Nebula is a large, semi-transparent oval that is
slightly angled from top left to bottom right. A bright white star appears at the center of this image. A
large transparent teal oval surrounds the central star. Several red shells surround the teal oval,
extending almost to the edges of the image. The shells become a deeper red with distance from the
center. The bright central star has eight diffraction spikes. Behind the gaseous teal layers are deeper
orange layers that are arranged like threads in a complex weaving. The red layers, which are wavy
overall, look like they have very thin straight lines piercing through them, which are holes where light
from a central star is traveling. The background of the image is black and speckled with tiny bright stars
and distant galaxies.

If you have time, or if you can make the time, I highly recommend heading over to the first images gallery and checking out some of the other discoveries. It’s nothing short of miraculous.

I’ve learned so much through the discussions on Twitter, though the lasting impression for me isn’t about gravitational lensing or black holes or stars being born–all that IS fascinating, of course–but what’s really sticking with me is the prevailing sentiment echoed over and over again on social media:

Doesn’t this make you feel so insignificant?

I feel so small.

We’re not even a drop in the universe’s bucket.

Little do people realise we are nothing to compared to what else is out there…. We are a tiny speck of sand.

Makes one realize just how insignificant we are in the scope of things.

I copied and pasted those from social media posts. And, sure, these images put the scale of our own lives into perspective, but I’m honestly amazed that those are the prevailing sentiments.

My reactions were totally different and relate to the common bond that brings all of us here to this space, so I wanted to share my two big takeaways.

First, holy freaking crap. YOU are a cosmic miracle. You, me, all of us. Looking at those images, the billions of years represented by those pixels, and we are HERE. We are here, alive, hanging out on one tiny planet in one endless, beautiful galaxy.

You’re a once-in-billions-of-light-years event.

Not small, not insignificant. HUGE. Seriously, what are the chances we humans would be here at all in the scope of what we’re seeing, and yet here we are.

And, somehow, so are dogs.

That’s the second thing.

How lucky that in all those billions of stars and billions of light years and billions of galaxies and planets and nebulas (nebulae?) and black holes… We get the dogs.

Have you been reading about these images or following the telescope’s progress? What are YOUR takeaways seeing and learning about how old, vast, and beautiful the universe really is? And WE, of all times and places and species, get the dogs?

P.S. I’ll be back with more posts, an actual email newsletter, and Instagram updates soon. I’ve been focused on finishing my manuscript. It’s now complete and out with a beta reader before I start pitching it to agents–woohoo! That means more time to be back here, so I’ll see you in your inbox soon!

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