The mathematics told him that the star
was beyond the Milky Way, whole galaxies
beyond ours, but a young girl tending sheep
long before him looked into the night sky
and knew there was something unseen beyond.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Young Shepherdess Standing (1887)
Astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way in 1924. Before he made his discovery, everyone thought that our Milky Way galaxy was the only galaxy in the universe, and that there wasn’t much outside it besides the Magellanic Clouds, which were thought to be clouds of gas or dust. We know now that the Magellanic Clouds are really dwarf galaxies. He renamed the Andromeda Nebula the “Andromeda galaxy,” and he went on to discover 23 more separate galaxies. Within a few years of Hubble’s discovery, most astronomers came to agree that our galaxy is just one of millions.
An astronomer floating off the Florida Keys
sees a dark heaven illuminated by skyrockets
that seem to be falling upon him.
Launched from Leo that November 12, 1799,
extinguished by the greater fire of daybreak.
The first recorded observance of a meteor shower in North America was by Andrew Ellicott Douglass . He was an American astronomer who was on a ship off the Florida Keys in 1799. He described the Leonids meteor shower, which occurs every November. The shower gets its name from the fact that it seems to originate in the constellation Leo, and it’s the result of debris from a comet known as Tempel-Tuttle. When the comet’s orbit takes it back to that part of the solar system — roughly every 33 years — the Leonids are especially spectacular.
The Milky Way and the major and minor Magellanic Clouds as seen by NASA‘s SOFIA in the southern sky from New Zealand.
Known to ancient navigators of the seas
as markers in their endless night sky,
looking like starry clouds, distant heavenly mountains,
named by one on Magellan’s Earthly circumnavigation –
two galaxies circling our own for eternity.
Kepler’s 1604 naked eyes saw the birth
of a star, actually that supernova was
the star’s death. With no telescope invented,
he watched the spiral galaxy’s Milky center
explode into night, 20,000 light years away.
This is the remnant of Kepler’s supernova, the famous explosion that was discovered by Johannes Kepler in 1604. The red, green and blue colors show low, intermediate and high energy X-rays observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the star field is from the Digitized Sky Survey. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/multimedia/kepler2013.html
The stars over the ocean tonight unite
in clusters – patterns that I cannot discern:
darkness above, waves with points of foam,
Pisces swimming the celestial equator , drifting Aquarius,
a dipper set with seven bright stars.