Star-struck: New images propel humans to distant worlds
January 15, 2014 12:00 AM
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It may be another century or two before humans have the technological means to slip the bonds of their solar system to travel to nearby stars. Until then, we must be content with glimpses of other worlds by using sophisticated telescopes and deep space probes.
In recent weeks, the world has been treated to an astonishing array of images that would have been inconceivable without the technological breakthroughs of the last quarter-century.
Thanks to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, humans have the best pictures yet of massive galaxy clusters formed shortly after the Big Bang. The long exposure image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744 gives a glimpse of the young galaxies and what the universe looked like 12 billion years ago.
Not to be outdone, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, captured and enhanced X-ray images of the remnants of a long-exploded star. The result is an image that some are calling “The Hand of God.” It is one of the most stunning pictures NASA has ever shared with the public. It looks like a right hand spanning millions of miles in the heart of deep space.
Earthlings will have to wait until the James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2018 to get a visual of exo-planet GJ 1214b, a so-called “super Earth” 40 light-years away. In the meantime, scientists think they already know what they’ll see when the images come back — that GJ 1214b is a perpetually cloudy world.
All this proves that humans are still at the beginning of an incredible adventure. Why should we limit our imaginations to where we can travel on this planet when there’s so much more out there beyond the stars?
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