Billions and Billions

The late astronomer Carl Sagan was fond of looking at the Milky Way and exploring our Galactic home from our small Earthly viewpoint. He would describe the countless stars of our Galaxy as "billions and billions" in his rich American accent, whilst his musings on our place in the cosmos and the interaction of humanity has inspired a generation of astronomers amateur and professional.

Looking at the centre of our Galaxy from Portugal last week students and staff followed his musings as we imaged many astronomical objects and gazed at the starry vault above whilst listening to the beautiful voice of Katherine Jenkins tying heaven and Earth together.

In the above image, many of the Messier objects are visible (M8, M20, M24, M18, M23, M22, M25, M17, M16 M6 & M7 to name a few) but it is the overwhelming number of stars dimly glowing against the dark backdrop of E E Barnard’s dark gaseous nebulae that fills one with awe when you consider that each dim dot is a sun like ours.

How could we possibly have thought we were the centre of everything?

written by Martin Griffiths

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