A Heavenly Helix

By Harley White posted yesterday


Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Heavenly Helix

In Greek a helix means twisted or curved,
a spiraling shape of utmost purport
midst nature’s creations of every sort
from outer space to what science observed
for patterns of DNA molecules
essential for all the known forms of life,
of which our sublunary world is rife,
with helices found in coiling duals.
By contrast the nebula Helix huge,
termed NGC Seven Two Nine Three, too,
is causing a cosmic hullabaloo
as dying star sheds strands in dust deluge.
The varied wavelengths detected combine
in picture info from Chandra, X-ray;
with optical, Hubble; GALEX survey
for ultraviolet; then to entwine
some infrared data from Spitzer’s scope.
While each by itself the nebula shows
the mix subtle differences bestows
with portrait that opens up sight myope
to clearer reaches of sweeping immense
beyond the supernal firmament’s dome,
as darkness displaces the dimming gloam
to see with vision extending our sense.
A contest determined the Spitzer’s name
which honored with eponym mountaineer,
astronomer, physicist, whose career
gave rise to the notion of what became
the outer space telescopes he conceived
among Lyman Spitzer’s enterprises
of research in sidereal guises
plus plasma, distinct as substance, believed
to be matter’s fourth state, the most, it’s said,
abundant compared to all other forms
in universe’s stelliferous swarms,
thus astral-linked midst infinity’s spread.
‘The vastness of heavens,’ Feynman declared,
‘imagination stretches,’ to rephrase
his words, ‘on carousel stuck, our small gaze
can catch one-million-year-old light ensnared.’
Among planetary types various
this nebula closest to Earth they say
is six hundred fifty light-years away
within constellation Aquarius.
Accordingly pictured repeatedly,
iconic as astronomic image,
it dramatizes a stellar scrimmage
transforming its elements heatedly—
a gorgeous celestial display laid bare
that might resemble the look of our Sun
long after its welcoming days are done,
with humans’ experiment wear and tear
in erstwhile abeyance, to reemerge
perchance enhanced into entities sage
somewhere on a stage in a future age
beyond Homo sapiens’ reckless splurge.
Our tale might end where the next would begin
with caveat learned of losing last laugh
from Mankind’s inglorious epitaph:
Here lies the species that did itself in.
~ Harley White
* * * * * * * * *
Some sources of inspiration were the following…
 “The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination — stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern — of which I am a part... What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined!”
~ Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
Image and info ~ Helix Nebula - Unraveling at the Seams…
Explanation ~ This awe-inspiring image of the Helix Nebula is about 4 light years across and it combines different wavelengths of light detected by NASA observatories: Chandra (X-ray), Hubble (optical), Spitzer (infrared), and GALEX (ultraviolet). In death, the star’s dusty outer layers are unraveling into space, glowing from the intense ultraviolet radiation being pumped out by the hot stellar core. This object, called the Helix nebula, lies 650 light-years away, in the constellation of Aquarius. Also known by the catalog number NGC 7293, it is a typical example of a class of objects called planetary nebulae. Discovered in the 18th century, these cosmic works of art were erroneously named for their resemblance to gas-giant planets.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech