Stepping on the scale(s)…
In their introduction to the book version of Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten, Philip and Phyllis Morrison wrote elegantly of the importance of the evolution of the tools of science to scientific progress. It’s the continuous improvement in these “instruments of vision” that pushes back the frontiers of knowledge, and allow us to know, and ultimately to understand, more and more of the universe around us.
The frontiers of this vision are at the extremes of scale– the very small and the very large. Readers have recently visited the territory of the tiny, where the Large Hadron Collider is at work finding the smallest (at least for now) of the small. Today we turn to the very large– and the very distant…
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) was the most ambitious astronomical survey ever undertaken. Over an eight-year period, an array of the world’s most sophisticated astronomical resources have been devoted to mapping and imaging the cosmos. In the first five years, Phase One,
SDSS-I imaged more than 8,000 square degrees of the sky in five bandpasses, detecting nearly 200 million celestial objects, and it measured spectra of more than 675,000 galaxies, 90,000 quasars, and 185,000 stars. These data have supported studies ranging from asteroids and nearby stars to the large scale structure of the Universe.
Phase Two is addressing “fundamental questions about the nature of the Universe, the origin of galaxies and quasars, and the formation and evolution of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way.”
While we wait for those answers (peer-reviewed journals take their time :-), we can share the wonder… an extraordinary gallery– SkyServer— is available online. Our SDSS hosts: “We would like to show you the beauty of the universe, and share with you our excitement as we build the largest map in the history of the world. ”
As we crane our necks, we might wish a stylish birthday to Edith Head, Hollywood wardrobe mistress and costume designer extraordinaire; she was born (Edith Claire Posener) on this date in 1897, in Searchlight, Nevada. Ms. Head, who was nominated for the Oscar 35 times, and won eight (more than any other woman), had this sensible advice: “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
Edith Head and Pixar’s homage: Edna Mode in The Incredibles (source)