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Someone sent these Hubble photographs to me recently. Contemplating them, I realized that George Bush stopped funding this project several years ago for ideological reasons. He replaced it with a program to land "real" rockets on Mars. Christian fundamentalists abhor these photos. Why? Because they call into question the naive and absurd claim, made by Biblical literalists, that the earth is merely three to five thousand years old. The photos depict living, organic, ancient mandalas formed in the vastness of infinite space. They invite the viewer into the experience of Beauty and stimulate the realization that book-based religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which describe a separate Creator/God, are, based on the ostensibly violent fruits they have produced throughout history, petty and dangerous dualistic fantasies. In beholding these photos one may be ushered into a state of inner silence without the accoutrements of "faith" or religion. They lead the mind to the shining abode of the Self.
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Hubble telescope's top ten greatest space photographs:
10. The Trifid Nebula. A 'stellar nursery', 9,000 light years from here, it is where new stars are being born.
9. The glowering eyes from 114 million light years away are the swirling cores of two merging galaxies called NGC 2207 and IC 2163 in the distant Canis Major constellation.
8. Starry Night, so named because it reminded astronomers of the Van Gogh painting. It is a halo of light around a star in the Milky Way.
7. The Perfect Storm, a small region in the Swan Nebula, 5,500 light years away, described as 'a bubbly ocean of hydrogen and small amounts of oxygen, sulphur and other elements'.
6. In sixth place is the Cone Nebula. The part pictured here is 2.5 light years in length (the equivalent of 23 million return trips to the Moon).
5. The Hourglass Nebula, 8,000 light years away, has a pinched-in-the-middle look because the winds that shape it are weaker at the centre.
4. At four is the Cat's Eye Nebul
3. In third place is Nebula NGC 2392, called Eskimo because it looks like a face surrounded by a furry hood. The hood is, in fact, a ring of comet-shaped objects flying away from a dying star. Eskimo is 5,000 light years from Earth.
2. The Ant Nebula, a
cloud of dust and gas whose technical name is Mz3, resembles
an ant when observed using ground-based telescopes.
The nebula lies within our galaxy between 3,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth.
The dimensions of the
galaxy, officially called M104, are as spectacular as its
It has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.
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