Warning: this blog post is just a gratuitous excuse to use some stunning photographs.
I came across some amazing extreme close-up photographs of the human eye. They are part of a collection called “Your beautiful eyes”.
The photographs are by Armenian photographer Suren Manvelyan. I urge you to visit his on-line gallery to see his other collections (“Frost”, “Water” and “Old Armenian Ladders” are particularly impressive). He is a very talented photographer.
Just for the hell of it, here are a couple more:
Then, the budding astronomer in me started thinking – these photographs reminded me of something.
I hope Suren (who has a PhD in Theoretical Physics and teaches astronomy) appreciates my attempt to crowbar astronomy into this blog post; some of his photographs reminded me of the Helix Nebula.
Unsurprisingly, the Internet meme “The Eye of God” quickly appeared to describe the Helix Nebula and images were passed in emails with this name (along with promises that miracles will happen if you forward the emails on).
And now for my impression of the Bad Astromomer – i.e. here is the sciencey bit.
The above image is an infrared image taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. And yes, it looks like a giant eye.
The Helix Nebula is a planetary nebula about 700 light years away. It is about 2.5 light years wide; i.e. it’s big: 2 × 1013 kilometres wide.
Planetary nebulae are nothing to do with planets. They were named this way because when they were discovered in the 18th century astronomers thought they looked like gas giant planets like Jupiter.
You get these objects when stars are dying. Towards the end of their lives, certain types of stars (depending on their starting mass) start shedding outer gaseous layers to produce these beautiful structures. Our own Sun will do this in a few billion years or so.
If you look carefully, or click through to Commons Wikimedia page to see a bigger image, you can see a tiny white dot in the middle of the “eye”. This is what remains of the star – it is now a type of star called a white dwarf. This star may now only be about the size of the Earth. However, it will be super-dense: 1 tonne per cm3!
And once again, just for the hell of it, here is another image of the Helix Nebula:
And that concludes my latest attempt to entertain and educate at the same time. And show you some fantastic images.Follow @kashfarooq