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Recent Podcast
Tour of NGC 2207
Tour of NGC 2207
When galaxies get together, there is also the chance of a spectacular light show. (2014-12-16)


Heaven and Earth

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Narrator (April Hobart, CXC) There are patterns of beauty across our Earth and throughout the Universe. We've compared X-ray images taken of objects in space with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory with aerial photographs taken from a helicopter by the artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand. These images may raise questions like: What is science? What is art? How do the two overlap and differ?

For example, here we see a flock of flamingos on the salty water of Lake Nakuru in Kenya. Compare this to the hot gas seen in the collision of two galaxy clusters, one of the most energetic events since the Big Bang.

Next, we look at pine, spruce, and cherry trees found in the forest near the St. Lawrence River in Canada. It has remarkable similarities to this image, which shows the glowing debris of an exploded star that contains large amounts of oxygen, as well as neon, silicon, and other elements.

What about the sands of the Namib Desert that formed 100 million years ago in Africa? How does this match up to a cloud being torn apart by a shock wave that was generated when a massive star collapsed?

And there are others …

Flock of Scarlet Ibis Birds/Star Formation Region of The Rosette Nebula

The Tree of Life in Africa/Perseus Galaxy Cluster

The Great Barrier Reef/Cassiopeia A Supernova Remnant

These pairings are, of course, just a sample of the untold number of comparisons that can be made. Look around you. Do you see other connections that might bridge the gap between two very different disciplines?

We hope that you will investigate and enjoy these images. While you are doing this, perhaps you will think about the role that perspective and context play in how we interpret everything we see. Whether we find these images of beauty in space or here on Earth, there is certainly no end to exploring the wonders of nature.