fivemack (fivemack) wrote,

How little we know

Google Maps gives you really unrealistic expectations for what scrolling image viewers can offer you.

The Hubble Legacy Archive contains basically every image Hubble has taken, except those less than a year old where the investigator hasn't finished writing the paper yet. You can view them in a scrolling image viewer: here is the giant elliptical galaxy Maffei 1 in near-infra-red light (represented as orange) and sort of greenish-yellow light (represented as teal). It has a sort of nicotine-stained hue to it, and the brown wisps to the right of the core are dust in our galaxy rather than in Maffei-1.

But that image is really all there is. You can zoom in if you want, but rather than suddenly switching to an aerial view where you can zoom in further and count the cars and believe that you could tell which of the little people below is wearing the red-and-white horizontally striped shirt, the pixels just get fuzzier. Hubble is the highest-resolution telescope we have that can take pictures this wide; Keck doesn't seem to have taken any pictures of this galaxy, it's about thirty pixels across in the image from Spitzer.

It's all that is known; and it's a nicotine-stained oval blob.
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