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What Am I Actually Looking At?

Oh! There's the big dipper! Oh, that's Betelgeuse, right? Left shoulder of Orion, right?? Come visit me with my telescope at home or, better yet (better tech), at Adler, and you'll get a view of OTHER GALAXIES and nebulas and more... But when we look up and see these things, what are we actually seeing!?





Because our dumb brains are programmed to believe that what we see is THERE and NOW, It's easy to forget that, when dealing with huge distances, in short... it's not. If we're just looking at random stars in the sky, we're looking at light from a huge range in time. Huge. That star right next to that other one is actually 600 light years further away. The fact that the photons from these stars travel so far and so long only to meet our eyes right at the moment we look up is nothing short of... miraculous? breathtaking? On a good night, we can see the Andromeda galaxy with our naked eye. It's over 2.5 Million light years away. Andromeda's light we see, is how the galaxy looked when, here on Earth, various species of primates were competing and convoluding and eventually branching into early species of what would become human. But we can just look up and see that time now. That galaxy is not where you see it "now." It's not even close! Nothing you see, when you look at space, is. So what? It's all relative right?


Yes, Einstein tells us that nothing moves through space faster than the speed of light. So it doesn't really matter right? Maybe. But here's the thing... I gotta know. I want a concurrent image of how the universe looks at a given point in time.


And the only thing I can think of (as of yet) is that we... or at least I, have been thinking about it all wrong. I've always thought about the universe in terms of a sphere. An even outline where things are where they are and trajectories are linear. Now, I'm beginning to look at the universe in a much more swirly whirly way.





It's common now, in astrophysics, to view distant objects via a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. This is when something very massive can actually skew the light of objects "behind" it and, in some cases, can magnify it. Much like how images can be distorted as you take a sip of your vino and take a peek through your curved wine glass. It's actually how we've been able to view the most distant stars in the universe to date.





So, in keeping with our general theme, it raises some curious questions! When we look up, what are we ACTUALLY looking at!?? Let me know!!


Swirly whirly :)


Keep your many neurons curious,


Davey


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