16 December 2009


Perhaps it was due to Isaac Asimov.  His famous short story "Nightfall" spoke of a world situated within a cluster of stars.  Only once every two thousand years did the planet experience a true night, when darkness fell and the full splendor of the heavens became visible.  This unfamiliar view so traumatizes everyone, that chaos ensues and civilization collapses.

Upon reading that tale as a child, I was captivated by the idea of living within a star cluster.  No wonder I use, in the banner of this blog, the stunning image of NGC 3603, one of the most massive star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy.  Located 20,000 light-years away, in the Carina spiral arm, it's a veritable jewel box of hot, blue-white stars.  Our sun, by comparison, is a relative hermit out here in the galactic suburbs.

NGC 3603 is one of my favorite Hubble Telescope pictures, but it now has some competition.  This past fall Hubble's Wide Field Camera imaged a new star cluster bursting into life within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite of the Milky Way.  Only a few million years old (mere days compared to the Earth's age), the sapphire-like stars―several over 100 times more massive than our Sun―are now blowing off their dusty cocoon and brilliantly shining. 

Happy Winter Solstice!


  1. hi,

    Christmas is coming and I will read your Einstein book.

    Other books: Hilton Ratcliff: Virtue of Heresy, Janna Levin


    love, marcel

  2. Hi Marcia,

    I've been following your career since way back when in Norfolk, VA. I love the manner in which you convey the physics of our universe which conveys such awe and joy. Your reference to Asimov's short story brings me to the conclusion that we are those occupants within the star cluster. Indeed we can now see the awesomeness of this universe via Hubble, Spitzer and the great eyes on the ground but we are still shaded from the true extent of the physics and science behind it all. Either by design or ignorance we wallow in a paradigm that withholds the wonder we will one day be privy to. Once rediscovered or uncovered all that perplexes us today will be like distant memories of a past unreal..
    I believe that you'll be among those remembered for divulging the aspects of truth that science has to give. Please keep writing...

  3. Our sun and especially our planet eath is the Nazareth of the Milky Way. We are situated in the slums of the Milky Way. As Nathanael asked: can there come anything good out of Nazareth?

    So the celestials ask the same: can there come anything good out of the Milky Way? Especially out of that little star, the sun.


    love marcel (just finsihed your book)

  4. Dear Marcel,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. I like the spin you put on our isolation. It's rather good we ended up in the slums: no massive stars nearby to blow up and obliterate us with intense radiation!

    Holiday Cheers,