APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

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APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by APOD Robot » Sat Dec 24, 2016 7:53 am

Image Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree

Explanation: Clouds of glowing hydrogen gas fill this colorful skyscape in the faint but fanciful constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. A star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264, the complex jumble of cosmic gas and dust is about 2,700 light-years distant and mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark interstellar dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae. The tall, telescopic mosaic image stands up about 3/4 degree or nearly 1.5 full moons, covering 40 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264. Its cast of cosmic characters includes the the Fox Fur Nebula, whose dusty, convoluted pelt lies just left of center, bright variable star S Monocerotis immersed in the blue-tinted haze right of the Fox Fur, and the Cone Nebula pointing down from the top of the frame. Of course, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. The triangular tree shape traced by the stars has its apex at the Cone Nebula. The tree's broader base is centered near S Monocerotis.

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heehaw

Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by heehaw » Sat Dec 24, 2016 11:10 am

This vast three-dimensional Christmas-tree of a Universe .... and if we humans were not here to appreciate it, it would all be going totally to waste. And the conduit to us humans receiving this Christmas gift is ... Astronomy Picture of the Day!
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by rstevenson » Sat Dec 24, 2016 11:57 am

heehaw wrote:This vast three-dimensional Christmas-tree of a Universe .... and if we humans were not here to appreciate it, it would all be going totally to waste. ...
Maybe we're the waste product.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by Iksarfighter » Sat Dec 24, 2016 7:15 pm

The clickable image result has'nt the same orientation than the first one.
Scuse my English.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by MarkBour » Sat Dec 24, 2016 7:22 pm

rstevenson wrote:
heehaw wrote:This vast three-dimensional Christmas-tree of a Universe .... and if we humans were not here to appreciate it, it would all be going totally to waste. ...
Maybe we're the waste product.
Rob
Heehaw, I'm more inclined along the line of thought rstevenson is suggesting, rather than with you today.

Because we're human, we tend to think that what we do is a big deal. And mind you, it is what we do, it is what we are about, and I'm not about to change it -- I embrace it.

But really, as best I can understand the process, when we say we "appreciate" something, we are saying that for one flicker of an instant in a tiny, tiny, brain, we had a few thoughts that represented the experience of the light, some pattern-recognition, which mostly means we match them up with some other memories and concepts, and we then had a few neuronal firings indicating a sense of wholeness of the concept of the image, and timed with a feeling of happy contentedness, that we had managed to assemble a few of these parts. Maybe we even remember a few numeric and quantitative concepts, and even an equation or two that might be matching an aspect of this.

We then act like this is a grand thing, intellect appreciating the Universe. The most outlandish glorification of this process I ever read was "We are a way for the Universe to comprehend itself." Yet it does not seem to me like this needs to matter very much to the Universe. Out there I suppose there are bright suns that grew up and burned brilliantly for 10 billion years, and perhaps no creature ever looked upon their light. If one creature did, and saw it, and enjoyed the warmth of its glow, and was even thankful for it, but then died 10 years later, taking all of its memory of the event to the grave, first to rot and decay, and then to completely vaporize. I do suppose the creature added something nice to the whole, and I'll grant that it is a particularly nice addition. (If I am allowed to define "nice".) But I think it is really biased to think that it was the greatest part of it.

I hope that jars your thinking about it a bit. But I'd also be delighted if you disagreed and posted a rebuttal or other response.
Mark Goldfain

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by neufer » Sat Dec 24, 2016 7:37 pm

.
  • Monica: Okay, now, look at me. Ready?
    • Cirrus, Socrates, Particle, Decibel, Hurricane,
      Dolphin, Tulip, Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree.
Art Neuendorffer

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by geckzilla » Sat Dec 24, 2016 9:37 pm

MarkBour wrote:We then act like this is a grand thing, intellect appreciating the Universe. The most outlandish glorification of this process I ever read was "We are a way for the Universe to comprehend itself." [...]

I hope that jars your thinking about it a bit. But I'd also be delighted if you disagreed and posted a rebuttal or other response.
By your own reasoning the Universe really doesn't care, I'm afraid. Funny that you expect a rebuttal.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by Guest » Sun Dec 25, 2016 2:37 am

geckzilla wrote:
MarkBour wrote:We then act like this is a grand thing, intellect appreciating the Universe. The most outlandish glorification of this process I ever read was "We are a way for the Universe to comprehend itself." [...]

I hope that jars your thinking about it a bit. But I'd also be delighted if you disagreed and posted a rebuttal or other response.
By your own reasoning the Universe really doesn't care, I'm afraid. Funny that you expect a rebuttal.
Assuming that terrestrial beings are the only observers. Close or far, I don't we are alone.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by Ann » Sun Dec 25, 2016 5:00 pm

Mark Bour, I love your post, and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

No, the universe didn't come into existence just so that it could bring forth us. No, we humans are not "the meaning of the universe". Yes, our lives are terribly brief. Yes, there may well be large numbers of intelligent species elsewhere in the universe. And so what? The universe doesn't have a "purpose", if you ask me. Yes, our lives are incredibly brief, but in the long run even the universe itself will probably be gone, or else it will have "stopped". So what if we only live for a couple of decades? Is a mayfly "useless", because it only lives for a day? Not if you ask me, it isn't. You may argue that neither the dragonfly nor us humans have a purpose. I'll grant you that, but so what? For all we know the universe may have created the most complex biosphere anywhere so far here on Earth. If that is true, isn't that something? And even if the universe is teeming with life, the life forms of the Earth are certainly unique to the universe. Isn't that something? I most certainly think it is.

Many years ago I saw La Cage aux Folles here in Malmö, and since then I've loved the song, The Best of Times is Now. You may disagree with certain ideas and underlying themes of this song, but when it comes to humanity's place in the universe, the best of times is certainly now.
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by geckzilla » Sun Dec 25, 2016 5:21 pm

Purpose is an idea created by humans. The Universe is made of all sorts of energy patterns and humans are one of those patterns. If one believes in will, then one can also conclude that our will represents the will of the Universe itself. There are all sorts of philosophical paths to take on this matter, and there's not really any right or wrong answer. I'm one of those people who views itself as a tiny piece of the Universe thinking about itself. Every thought and every feeling is just a chemical and/or electrical signal taking place between many trillions of molecules. It's a convenient illusion that it's anything more than that.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by Ann » Mon Dec 26, 2016 2:56 am

geckzilla wrote:Purpose is an idea created by humans.
I agree.
The Universe is made of all sorts of energy patterns and humans are one of those patterns.
I agree.
If one believes in will, then one can also conclude that our will represents the will of the Universe itself. There are all sorts of philosophical paths to take on this matter, and there's not really any right or wrong answer.
I don't follow you there. It seems impossible to me that the Universe would have a will.
I'm one of those people who views itself as a tiny piece of the Universe thinking about itself. Every thought and every feeling is just a chemical and/or electrical signal taking place between many trillions of molecules.
I agree. But I think that the chemical and/or electrical signal taking place between many trillions of molecules in (higher) life forms on the Earth are more interesting, and probably more complex, than any chemical and/or electrical signal taking place between many trillions of molecules in any life forms that might exist on Mars. But at any rate, the Earth has an enormous biomass, and Mars certainly doesn't.
It's a convenient illusion that it's anything more than that.
I think it is possible to be in awe of the uniqueness of the Earth and its biosphere without resorting to any illusions.

Ann

P.S. By the way, this APOD is a nice picture! :D
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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by geckzilla » Mon Dec 26, 2016 6:02 am

Ann wrote:I don't follow you there. It seems impossible to me that the Universe would have a will.
Then I would argue you aren't really making the connection between living beings as being part of the Universe itself. And I have to reiterate here that the definition of "will" is murky.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by Ann » Mon Dec 26, 2016 6:37 am

geckzilla wrote:
Ann wrote:I don't follow you there. It seems impossible to me that the Universe would have a will.
Then I would argue you aren't really making the connection between living beings as being part of the Universe itself. And I have to reiterate here that the definition of "will" is murky.
It's because I don't think that we humans "are" the universe. We are certainly a (tiny, tiny, tiny) part of the universe.

Is Mars the universe? Is Saturn the universe? Is Proxima Centauri b the universe? For that matter, is a particularly large sunspot the Sun? Are the Galapagos Islands the Earth? For that matter, is the "tiny planet" Earth that is popular with many astrophotographers really the Earth?

I don't think that the part equals the whole. The part is a part of the whole. So it is with humanity and the Earth, we are a (tiny, tiny) part of the universe.

But I do think we are a rather splendid part of the universe, in our own tiny, tiny, fleeting, fleeting way. At least if am allowed to say so myself, as a tiny, tiny part of humanity.

If a lot more people than just myself didn't think that humans are quite interesting, would so many of us be so hung up on finding life elsewhere in the universe? Wouldn't it be good enough to admire rings, polar caps, auroras, cliffs, craters, comets, ice floes and other non-living interesting stuff on other planets and in other solar systems?

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by geckzilla » Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:09 am

I did say "part of" did I not? I never meant to imply that this tiny little part is here to change the entire Universe. I think I'm done with this covnersation, though. We're garbage. I get it.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by starsurfer » Mon Dec 26, 2016 3:28 pm

geckzilla wrote:I did say "part of" did I not? I never meant to imply that this tiny little part is here to change the entire Universe. I think I'm done with this covnersation, though. We're garbage. I get it.
I've always thought you're a wonderful person! :D

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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Dec 26, 2016 3:35 pm

starsurfer wrote:
geckzilla wrote:I did say "part of" did I not? I never meant to imply that this tiny little part is here to change the entire Universe. I think I'm done with this covnersation, though. We're garbage. I get it.
I've always thought you're a wonderful person! :D
One man's trash is another man's treasure?
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Re: APOD: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree (2016 Dec 24)

Post by MarkBour » Tue Dec 27, 2016 12:52 am

With apologies for somewhat trampling on heehaw's statement (I believe it has some merit, and I'm sorry I was such a killjoy), and with thankfulness that geck did not just delete my post that leads to a definite particular digression, I appreciate the follow-ups I read here. Thanks, Ann and geck, for your comments ... good food for thought.

I think one version of this that is probably interesting to us all, is how we approach the exploration of space. I believe humanity will, without question, remain largely focused on the search for ET. We all know how utterly astounding that discovery would be, even if "only microbes". But one thing that APOD is teaching me daily is the limitless wealth of other things that are fabulous in their own right, quite apart from life. If we go sifting through the methane lakes of Titan, the subterranean ocean on Europa, or the incredible structures on and around Saturn, with no other interest than finding life, we would miss so much. If the only extrasolar research we can fund is the search for other habitable planets, we will again, miss so much. And when we go visit these places, and observe these things, I do want to try to appreciate them. But I don't conclude that they were put there for us. It is possible, but I currently don't hold that view.

On the other hand, I don't think the coldly scientific view that we should look but never touch them is going to hold out. Until we do encounter ET, the Universe is our playground. And someone may choose to go to Mars and colonize it. I don't go so far as to argue against that, as long as we take quite a bit of care and look very hard for any life before we go thoroughly contaminating it. What little I've learned of the discussions and considerations that have gone into mission planning in this regard has led me to a good deal of respect for those involved in the various space agencies.
Mark Goldfain