And In The Beginning……….

Celtic & British Isles Graphics
     In the beginning there was neither matter nor energy, neither was
there  space nor  time,  force  and  form  were not.    Yet  there  was
Something.   Poised between Spirit and Void, without form or qualities,
pure potentiality,  the  first physical  manifestation  had  existence.
Scientists call it the  Primordial Singularity, occultists call  it the
Cosmic Egg.

It changed, and the first moment of time came to be.  It
expanded, and space was born.   Not the space we know, but  one of many
dimensions, and that space was filled with the first Force.  So intense
was that Force  that space  itself altered. Dimensions  folded back  on
themselves, while others expanded mightily.  The first Form came to be.
As the infant  universe expanded it changed subtly, and as naturally as
snowflakes  forming  in  the  air,  the  first  material  manifestation
precipitated out of nothingness.  Neither matter nor
energy as we know  them, but yet both.  The Element Fire was born.  The
universe continued to expand, and the one Force became two forces, then
three  and finally four.  Matter and energy became distinguishable, and
the Element  Earth was born from  Fire.  A hundred  thousand years went
by,  and the  universe  continued  to  expand  and  cool  until,  quite
suddenly, the fire died,  space became transparent to light,  and there
were great clouds of cool gas, moving freely.
The  Element Air  was born.   The clouds  began to  draw together, then
break apart into smaller clouds, and  smaller still, until a limit  was
reached,  and   a  hundred   thousand  clouds  collapsed   inward  upon
themselves, swirling and twisting,  flattening and smoothing, rippling,
and organizing themselves.  The Element Water was born.

One cloud, like many of its siblings, took on structure like a
great pinwheel, with  spiral arms stretching out  from its center.   It
was  Galaxias, our Milky Way.   Within its  turbulent swirling, smaller
eddies formed and contracted,  tighter and tighter.   At the center  of
one a spark grew bright then another and another.  The first stars were
lighted,  and shown  in a  universe grown  dark.   Many of  them burned
prodigally for  a time and  then exploded,  hurling the ashes  of their
burning outward, ashes such as oxygen and carbon and
nitrogen; star  stuff, life stuff.  Generations  of stars came and went
over the billions of years, and  out in one of the spiral arms  a cloud
of  gas and  dust began  to collapse like  so many  others before.   It
contracted, and  a  new star  lighted,  with a  disc  of dust  and  gas
circling it.  The disc became lumpy  as grains of dust and crystals  of
ice collided  and stuck together.   The lumps touched  and merged, ever
growing in the light of  the young star.  Finally, nine  bodies circled
the new star,  which would one day be  called Sol, or simply,  the Sun.
Third out from the  sun a rare event  had happened.  Two young  planets
had collided  and merged violently,  forming a  single planet.   In the
violence of  that  collision, part  of the  surfaces of  both had  been
ripped off and hurled  out to form a ring of  molten rock which quickly
drew together  to form a giant satellite.   The Earth and  the Moon had
been born in a passionate joining.

As the young Earth cooled, great volcanos belched forth gases from
its still  hot interior.   An atmosphere  of steam  and carbon  dioxide
formed and then  clouds appeared.  The first  rains began, pouring down
on the rocks and  washing down into  the low places.   The oceans  were
born.    Water  evaporated from  the  oceans  and fell  again  as rain,
dissolving minerals from the rocks and carrying them into the sea.  The
early ocean became richer  and richer in dissolved minerals  and gases.
Lightning in the young atmosphere formed new substances
which added to the complexity of  the mix.  The dissolved substances in
the  oceans became  more and  more  complex, until  one  day a  complex
molecule attracted simpler  compounds to  itself, and  then there  were
two, then four.  Life was born.

From its simple origins, Life grew in complexity, until one day a patch
of green appeared,  drawing energy  from the Sun,  and exuding  oxygen.
Within  a short time the atmosphere changed  radically.  The sky became
blue, the air  clear and rich in oxygen.  As the Earth had shaped Life,
so  Life began  to shape  the Earth.     Delicately balancing  and ever
re-balancing between the furnace heat of her sister Venus, and  the icy
cold of her brother Mars, Gaia, the Living Earth, had come to be.

The  first animals  appeared  and swam  in  the oceans.    Then
venturesome  ones  crawled onto  the  land.   The forms  taken  by life
changed.   Fish appeared, and  dragons walked  the land.   Tiny  furred
creatures  supplanted the  great  dragons, whose  descendants now  flew
through the skies, clothed in  feathers.  By and by some  of the furred
creatures came  down from the  trees and began  to walk about  on their
hind legs, and then they started picking things up.  Soon they were
using the things  they picked up.   Then they  started talking to  each
other.  After they had been talking for a while, they started thinking.
Some of them even started  thinking about where they had come  from and
where they were  going.  And  they began to  wonder how everything  had
come to be – and why.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day – Spiral Galaxy in Collision

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 August 12

Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision I

mage Credit: Data Collection: Hubble Legacy Archive;

Processing: Danny Lee Russell

 

Explanation: This galaxy is having a bad millennium.  In fact, the past 100 million years haven’t been so good,  and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous.  Visible on the upper left, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, toward its right,  crashed into it.  The evolving wreckage, known famously as  the Antennae, is pictured above.  As gravity  restructures each galaxy, clouds of gas slam into each other,  bright blue knots of stars form, massive stars form and  explode,  and brown filaments of dust are strewn about.  Eventually the  two galaxies will converge into one larger spiral galaxy. Such collisions are not unusual, and even our own  Milky Way Galaxy has undergone several in the past and is  predicted to collide with our neighboring  Andromeda Galaxy in a few billion years. The  frames that compose this image were taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by professional astronomers to  better understand galaxy collisions. These frames — and many other deep space images from  Hubble — have since been  made public,  allowing an interested amateur to download and  process them into this visually stunning composite.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for June 15

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is  featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 June 15

M65 and M66

Image Credit & Copyright: Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)

Explanation: Nearby and bright, spiral galaxies M65 (top) and M66 stand out in this engaging cosmic snapshot. The pair are just 35 million light-years distant and around 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own spiral Milky Way. While both exhibit prominent dust lanes sweeping along their broad spiral arms, M66 in particular is a striking contrast in red and blue hues; the telltale pinkish glow of hydrogen gas in star forming regions and young blue star clusters. M65 and M66 make up two thirds of the well-known Leo Triplet of galaxies with warps and tidal tails that offer evidence of the group’s past close encounters. The larger M66 has been host to four supernovae discovered since 1973.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 14th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300
Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, ESA, NASA 

 

Explanation: Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70 million light-years away on the banks of the constellation Eridanus. This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the largest Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy’s dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. In fact, on close inspection the nucleus of this classic barred spiral itself shows a remarkable region of spiral structure about 3,000 light-years across. Unlike other spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, NGC 1300 is not presently known to have a massive central black hole.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for February 20th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 February 20
See Explanation.Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version.Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution versionavailable.

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1073
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Space Telescope 

Explanation: Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar. Prominently barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073, pictured above, was captured in spectacular detail in this recently released image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Visible are dark filamentary dust lanes, young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bright bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that likely houses a supermassive black hole. Light takes about 55 million years to reach us from NGC 1073, which spans about 80,000 light years across. NGC 1073 can be seen with a moderately-sized telescope toward the constellation of the Sea Monster (Cetus), Fortuitously, the above image not only caught the X-ray bright star system IXO 5, visible on the upper left and likely internal to the barred spiral, but three quasars far in the distance.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan. 9th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 9
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Facing NGC 6946
Composite Image Data – Subaru Telescope (NAOJ) and Robert Gendler; Processing – Robert Gendler   

 

Explanation: From our vantage point in the Milky Way Galaxy, we see NGC 6946 face-on. The big, beautiful spiral galaxy is located just 10 million light-years away, behind a veil of foreground dust and stars in the high and far-off constellation of Cepheus. From the core outward, the galaxy’s colors change from the yellowish light of old stars in the center to young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions along the loose, fragmented spiral arms. NGC 6946 is also bright in infrared light and rich in gas and dust, exhibiting a high star birth and death rate. In fact, since the early 20th century at least nine supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars, were discovered in NGC 6946. Nearly 40,000 light-years across, NGC 6946 is also known as the Fireworks Galaxy. This remarkable portrait of NGC 6946 is a composite that includes image data from the 8.2 meter Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea.