Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A Nursery for the Stars

"Everywhere We Look, There's Galaxies Everywhere"

As we view the daily news of the small mindedness and bad behavior of humans on Earth, we are made aware this month of the true vastness of the universe, at a scale larger than ever seen before:

“The universe's splendor and breadth are on display like never before, thanks to a new batch of images that NASA released from the James Webb Space Telescope on Tuesday. The images from the new telescope are ‘really gorgeous,’ said NASA's Jane Rigby, the operations project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. ‘That's something that has been true for every image we've gotten with Webb,’ she added. ‘We can't take blank sky [images]. Everywhere we look, there's galaxies everywhere.’. . .
One of the most eye-popping images released on Tuesday depicts what looks to be cosmic cliffs, valleys and mountains — albeit with mountains that stretch to seven light-years in height.” (www.npr.org/2022/07/11 webb-telescope-pictures-nasa.)
This all reminds me of the talk I was asked to give at NASA Ames some years ago.
(10) West’s lecture was part of a Director's Colloquium for scientists and staff of NASA Ames Research Center (at Moffett Field in California’s Silicon Valley). Standing room only, at sides and back of large lecture theater, at this large organization with many, many visually-oriented scientists, technologists, mathematicians and engineers. West’s talk and visit also included an associated visitor tour.
West and his wife were shown massive wind tunnels and many scientific exhibits -- including new raw data on a large wall full of flat screen TVs indicating possible planets orbiting hundreds of stars fresh from the Kepler satellite.
When one of the West party asked whether there might be life on other planets, they were treated to wave after wave of stars and planets washing across on the large wall made up of many TV screens -- so, hundreds and many thousands of possibilities (and these were only the planets that happened to be “in front” of the star at the time of observation).
Now when I consider the Kepler data shown to us at NASA Ames -- in combination with the very new Webb pictures -- with so many, many stars and galaxies with such enormous periods of time -- it suddenly seemed so clear to me: The question is not whether there is life on other planets -- but how many times has life started and endured -- only to be suddenly halted by an exploding nearby star -- with nothing left, at best, but a few weak radio and light signals to show that they had ever been there. --- TGW -- July 19, 2022