This image was produced with a RCOS half meter telescope and a SBIG STL-11000 camera between January 24- March 2, 2006.
Exposure times: 390 minutes Luminance, 165 minutes Red, 99 minutes Green and 198 minutes Blue (All 1X1)

M-82 (NGC 3034)
The Exploding Galaxy in Ursa Major

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Tug the Stars Closer

James B. Kaler writes in the April 2006 issue of Astronomy that if the Sun were a marble then the nearest stellar neighbor, actually a three star system named Alpha Centauri, would be two marbles and a ball bearing 250 miles in the distance. That also suggests the Earth could be represented as something poised on the head of a pin- a home for molecule sized inhabitants, to keep this scale in perspective. In between these sets of objects is empty space and a distance that would take our fastest vehicles well over a hundred generations to traverse. Yet, when you stand under a clear evening sky, this and a thousand other distant suns are ironically visible- when you reach out for them, they simply twinkle between your fingers.

These ranges are not insurmountable. A journey of the mind can substitute for the physical with lassos of glass that weave ropes out of light and tug the stars closer, pull the sky nearer and move us out farther to dim corners which can precede our very own existence. An eyepiece view can accomplish this- it's a personal experience but limited to those who are night tolerant. Imagery, conversely, lets us share our sight with anyone in the comfort of their easy chair, now and in the future- ancient sunbeams to light PC monitors, starshine that, finally, can be grasped in hands.

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