“Just some galaxy.”

25 Oct


So I’m up late in the Keck-1 telescope control room listening to the observers down in Waimea (they observe remotely) talking about oxygen absorption lines of a light source somewhere ‘out there’. The instruments they use have the ability to parse light in amazing detail and the astronomers have to stay on their toes to make sure that the data they’re gathering conforms loosely to their expectations for the target they’re observing. The universe is both vast and empty and crowded at the same time. Light sources can be separated by many thousands of light years but overlap in the field of view. The two observers were trying to discern some semblance of order from chaotic emission lines of an object being imaged and amid all of their speculation and postulation I hear the following:

“What is that object?”

“Just some galaxy.”

They went on sorting out what they were looking at and whether it was the right object and I found myself chuckling (after checking to see that the Polycom video link that connects us was muted). There are one-hundred billion galaxies in the Universe and here were two humans from the planet Earth staring at one of them, puzzling over spectra from light that began its journey untold millions of years ago. The galaxy they were looking at might have as many as ten thousand stars out of a hundred billion which support intelligent life and foster countless civilizations of beings I can only begin to imagine…. 

It’s mind boggling and fantastic and I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be part of the insane and insatiable curiosity that keeps humans looking skyward and wondering. Sends chills up and down my spine.

“Just some galaxy.”

4 Responses to ““Just some galaxy.””

  1. Madison Woods October 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    This was a nice glimpse into your perspective. Loved it.

    • dmmacilroy October 26, 2011 at 12:10 am #

      Thanks, Mads,

      If I can keep just you reading I’ll die a happy man.



      P.S. I’m going to rattle Caely’s cage until she writes a hundred words. Thanks for responding to her.

  2. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields November 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    What a magnificent place to be. Like Madison, I enjoyed the glimpse into your world.

  3. dmmacilroy November 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Dear Rochelle,

    Thanks for doubling my readership!



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