Back when I was a girl growing up in a steel town in Scotland, I used to hang out of my bedroom window at night searching for the stars. It wasn’t easy. The sky was usually a strange purplish-orange from the blast furnaces at the steel mill a mile or so away and it was difficult to see anything through the polluted haze. I knew they were there, though, and I hoped I’d get a better view one day.
Fast forward to many years later: I’m lying on my back in a desert in the south-western United States, stunned into silence by the clarity of the night sky, the millions of stars and the magnificent sweep of The Milky Way. Here, finally, was the view I had hoped for all those years ago. I knew I would never see one better.
I was wrong.
Fast forward another decade: I’m clicking around on my new computer – the first time I’d actually had one in my home – and I come across images taken by the Hubble telescope. I saw stars, planets, galaxies, clusters, pulsars, supernovas, nebulas and so much more. See them for yourself here. I’ve spent hours upon hours looking at these images and wallowing in the dreadful beauty of my own utter insignificance. I find it strangely relaxing.
Do I have a favorite? I do indeed. Just as I once stared into space and saw nothing, so too did the Hubble, focusing on a tiny patch of seemingly empty sky. This was the result:
The Hubble Telescope, I just discovered, celebrated its birthday on April 22. How very strange to realize, after so many years of following its work, that the Hubble and I share a birthday. Some things in the universe are just, I guess, cosmically aligned. Do you have any stargazing stories to share?