Swim in the Lagoon

The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 29 2009 9:20 AM

Swim in the Lagoon

I have been behind in my cool-astronomy-posting, and haven't mentioned the GigaGalaxy Zoom project, an ambitious and totally awesome three-part image series by the European Southern Observatory. The first part was to create a magnificent all-sky view of the heavens; the second was a zoom in on the Milky Way showing a region choked with stars and dust.

The third is of the Lagoon Nebula, a star forming region a quadrillion miles across and 4000 light years in toward the center of the galaxy. And the image? Well, if you want the full-res version, you'd better have some room on your drive: it has 370 million pixels and will eat up a whopping 700 Mb of disk space.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


And what does it look like? Heh heh heh. Like this:


[You know the drill, click to embiggen. Do it! Now!]

Oh. Wow. And that's low-res! Here's the monster one if you want it.

The depth and detail are simply and truly jaw-dropping. You can zoom in and see young stars, massive stars, dark clouds, ribbons and sheets of gas sculpted by vast winds of subatomic particles blown off of supergiant stars.

The Lagoon was always a favorite target of mine in the summer months when the center of the Milky Way in Scorpius and Sagittarius would just clear my neighbor's trees. A nearby streetlight always made observing in that direction a pain, but even from a distance of 40 quadrillion kilometers away the nebulous glow of gas and newly-born stars still shone through. I wouldn't have been able to imagine back then that I'd be able to zoom in on the Lagoon using a 2.2 meter telescope equipped with a 67 megapixel camera!

There is science in this picture, to be sure. We can study it to look at the shape of the nebula, how it interacts with the stars and other nearby nebulae, and much more. But you know what? At this exact moment, I don't care.

Because my oh my, the Universe is a beautiful place. And sometimes, for just a little while, that's enough.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today In GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 3:01 PM Netizen Report: Hong Kong Protests Trigger Surveillance and Social Media Censorship
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.