January 26, 2011
left: SNR 0509 as imaged by the Hubble telescope
right: Eccentric Orbit, No. 7, 2010
47.5 inches x 31.5 inches
Spinel, meteorite dusts, cinnabar, gold and carbon on paper
Yesterday morning, when I opened APOD, I encountered this composite Hubble Telescope image of SNR 0509 (image on the left). This supernova remnant is a mere 160,000 light years away in the Large Megellanic Cloud. The red rippled ring is composed of hydrogen that is being shocked into a higher state of energy by the expanding blast wave from a supernova. The calculation is that the initial explosion occurred about four centuries earlier. When light from a supernova first reaches Earth, it is often as bright as the moon or sun and then over the course of weeks it gradually fades away. A particularly fine enigma is why no one saw this initial burst of light when it passed by Earth four hundred years ago? And, if people did see it, why didn't anyone write about it? I'd say those ancient Zen praciticioners who were making circles (ensos) over and over were up to something! Perhaps we should consider them astronomical calligraphers.