Find an empty space in the sky and stare into it. Anywhere. Up there, over here, left of somewhere or right of over there, it doesn’t really matter, just pick a spot and stare, stare and stare. What you find might change the very universe. And it will almost certainly blow your mind…

In 1995 astronomers, perhaps after staring a little long at the sun, or with a few too many stars in their eyes, got the slightly left of gravitational field idea for an experiment with the Hubble Space Telescope. Let’s point the telescope at an absolutely empty patch of sky they decided, a section with less stars than the New Zealand cricket team and just about as much interest; no known galaxies, clusters, supernovas or anything else remotely capable of a spectacular explosion. Then, while perhaps listening to The Dark Side of the Moon over and over, or watching back to back screenings of Derek Jarman’s 1993 psychotropic classic Blue— 79 minutes of an unchanging plain blue screen—let’s keep it pointed there. Fall asleep, wake up, it’s still pointing at the same patch of sky. Fall asleep, wake up… the same empty blank piece of space, less than 0.005% of the night sky. Over and over for days.

Why? Because they could? The Hubble Telescope was only two years old at this point, and a bit like teenagers with newest, most powerful multi-billion dollar car in the neighbourhood, you can just imagine astronomers were chomping at the bit to put the pedal to the floor. Or in the more sedate, orderly procession of the equinoxes fashion of their profession, stare semi-excitedly at nothing for an extremely long time.

Hubble Deep Field location

For ten days the Hubble took 342 images of the blackest black, captured photographs literally one photon at a time, often not seeing anything with its sensors for minutes on end, and at the end those photos were stitched together to reveal quite significantly more than nothing.

There were only five faint known stars in this area of the sky until the unlikely idea came along to look for something in the depths of nothing, and like magically pulling a rabbit from an empty hat, or more accurately, several million rabbits, Hubble revealed quite considerably more—considerably more and then some.

Every point of light in the image the Hubble Space Telescope captured, and the image contained thousands of them, wasn’t just a new star but a new galaxy—thousands upon thousands of new galaxies discovered. Some, to use the mind-boggling arithmetic of astronomy, were just a few million light years away; some were over ten billion light years away.

Hubble Deep Field

When astronomers began picking their jaws up from the floor, parked their extremely valuable car back in the garage, they learned from this one single photograph, known now as the Hubble Deep Field, that there are one hundred billion galaxies in our Universe. At least.

To attempt to put the completely incomprehensible even further beyond perspective, each of these galaxies is comparable to the home of our own Sun, the Milky Way, a galaxy which contains nearly a trillion stars. Think about this figure for a while—one hundred billions galaxies each containing a trillion stars—and you’ll be no closer to understanding than when you started, and quite possibly in need of ten days in a very quiet room.

It’s a bit zen really, and enough to make one reach for a holy book and turn to religion—staring for a long time into emptiness and eventually finding fullness; everything found in the very lap of nothing. Maybe, in deepest, darkest empty space, we can finally hear the sound of one hand clapping.

The address
Of God’s Heart
Is Infinity’s Silence.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 11

Source: Starts with a Bang: Hell Yeah, Hubble!

miyuki-hatoyamaJapanese Prime Minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama did the impossible last week, a landslide victory won for his Democratic Party of Japan, an unprecedented reversal of election fortune over the incumbent Liberal Democratic Party, who have ruled Japan for all but 11 months since 1955.

Retired actress, author, lifestyle guru and wife of the Prime Minister, Miyuki Hatoyama, has also done the impossible, breaking through boundaries of reason and possibly sanity as well to go where no First Lady has gone before—completely out of this world.

“I have been abducted by aliens” says Japan’s first lady of involuntary space travel. But maybe not from the same planet as the rest of us.

In a book published a year ago, Very Strange Things I’ve Encountered, the interstellar Prime Minister’s wife confided that she was abducted by aliens while sleeping one night 20 years ago.

“While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus. It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green.”

Not content with watching reruns of The Last Samurai or Top Gun, the 62-year-old explorer of greener pastures also claims to have known Tom Cruise in a previous life, when she says he was also Japanese, and looks forward to sharing billing with him on a Hollywood blockbuster.

“I believe he’d get it if I said to him, ‘Long time no see’, when we meet,” she confided about the diminutive leading man in a recent interview.

An author of a book on cooking, Hatoyama recently revealed on daytime TV an unusual breakfast snack—“I also eat the sun” every morning. “Yum, yum, yum” she said as she closed her eyes and demonstrated the act of consuming tasty solar treats from the sky, adding, “I get energy from it. My husband also does this.”

Perhaps she acquired a taste for yellow main sequence stars during a nighttime fly past to Venus?

Men may be from Mars, but Prime Minister’s wives are now from Venus.

Source: The Independent