Friday, 11 December 2009

Magnificent Creations

Hey there kiddoes!

Anyone knows what this image is?

It was taken with a light microscope and magnified twenty times. Indeed it is something very, very tiny. I was surprised that something so microscopic could be so colourful. Long ago, when I was looking at cells through the lab microscope at school, I often didn't know what to focus on because there'd be dust particles and liquid droplets that looked liked what I was supposed to see and draw in the lab book. And they had no colour whatsoever.  I only managed to get through the practical biology exam because we had to dissect something relatively big - a hamster! If it had been a cockroach, I would have fainted immediately.

Anyway that image won top honours in the Nikon Small World Photomicrography competition this year. It actually is:
a magnificent depiction of the essence of floral life, a gorgeous photograph of a thale cress anther (the male sex organ of a small flowering plant)
taken by plant biologist Dr. Heiti Paves of the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia.

Here is where an anther is located on a flower.

The anther is the part of the flower that holds the pollen which is essential for plant reproduction.

 You might like to go here to play a little quiz to match a small image to it's description. They are all very colourful too.

How about this one then?

Would you have guessed that it too is something very tiny, laid out on a dirty school lab slide laden with dust particles and liquid droplets?

No I suppose not. You all are far too clever.

Well that image was voted the best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. Actually, it is a composite image created by NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. It is the Sombrero Galaxy.

What is a Galaxy? (hint: it is NOT an American soccer club)

The simple answer is that a galaxy is a collection of stars held together by their mutual galaxy. In other words, all the stars in a galaxy are kept together by the gravity of all the other stars (as well as the invisible, mysterious dark matter). 

We know the Milky Way pretty well, so let's consider it as a good example of a galaxy. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. It has a bright central core with a high density of stars, and then a flattened disk surrounding it – like a spinning record. Two spiral arms start just outside the core, and then spiral outward like a pinwheel to the outer edges of the galaxy. The Milky Way measures about 100,000 light-years across, and is thought to contain 200-400 billion stars. 

Read more here

Some points about the Sombrero from Wikimedia Commons:

Messier 104 is commonly known as the Sombrero galaxy because in visible light, it resembles the broad-brimmed Mexican hat. However, in Spitzer's striking infrared view, the galaxy looks more like a "bull's eye."

Spitzer's full view shows the disk is warped, which is often the result of a gravitational encounter with another galaxy, and clumpy areas spotted in the far edges of the ring indicate young star-forming regions.

The Sombrero galaxy is located some 28 million light-years away. Viewed from Earth, it is just six degrees south of its equatorial plane. Spitzer detected infrared emission not only from the ring, but from the center of the galaxy too, where there is a huge black hole, believed to be a billion times more massive than our Sun.

 The Spitzer picture is composed of four images taken at 3.6 (blue), 4.5 (green), 5.8 (orange), and 8.0 (red) microns. The contribution from starlight (measured at 3.6 microns) has been subtracted from the 5.8 and 8-micron images to enhance the visibility of the dust features.


All Praise to The Creator, The One who brings everything from non-existence to existence



Capt's Longhouse said...


,,,just bloody amazing that you went searching on pics. taken by Hubble !. Its those pics that i wanted to send across but failed !

,,,in fact what you printed is the Sombrero Galaxy - 28 million light years from Earth - was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The dimensions of the galaxy, officially called M104, are as spectacular as its appearance It has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.
,,,yaa pls check it out for correctness again !.hahaha.
,,,Geeeez, if only you can see the rest...then God must be out there somewhere indeed !. No question about it.

Tok Uban.

Zendra said...

Capt, Thanks for the additional info - I only cut-n-paste the minimal for you guys to research further lah hahaha.

Here's the link to some of the best Hubble images

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Silly me, first glance I thot that was a semuasudahtua, oops spermatozoa & the female reproductive organs :).

Thanks for the refresher lesson, I remember dissection frogs & mice but never hamster, I think it's guinea pigs u meant or are they the same? Aiyah too long ago oreadi!

U know what Zen, u actually make a very good teacher (or r u one b4 u retired)...hehehe bodik sikit jadi teacher's pet :)

Tommy Avatar

Zendra said...

Tommy, did you know that the Milky Way isn't white, and anything so colourful can't be what is coloured milky.... (you know what I mean)

But orang2 tua with youthful imaginations still make good students (bodek sikit boleh dapat hadiah pada Hari Guru HAHAHA)

Ya lorr maybe white mice were what we liberally chloroformed and dissected to watch their hearts still pumping... and trace the alimentary canals ;)

Haha big boss pun bukan, teacher pun bukan. Keep guessing, sport.

Anonymous said...

28 million light-years away? Very, very hard to fathom... MasyaAllah!

Zendra said...

Ladymarko, wouldn't that mean that the formation that Hubble saw took place 28 million years ago? Because it took that mega number of years for the light to arrive here on earth.

From Surah Al-Rahman
055.033 O ye assembly of Jinns and men! If it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, pass ye! not without authority shall ye be able to pass!

055.034 Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Sobering isn't it?

Capt's Longhouse said...

What is a light-year and how is it used?
A light-year is a unit of distance. It is the distance that light can travel in one year. Light moves at a velocity of about 300,000 kilometers (km) each second. So in one year, it can travel about 10 trillion km. More p recisely, one light-year is equal to 9,500,000,000,000 kilometers.

Why would you want such a big unit of distance? Well, on Earth, a kilometer may be just fine. It is a few hundred kilometers from New York City to Washington, DC; it is a few thousand kilometers from California to Maine. In the universe, the kilometer is just too small to be useful. For example, the distance to the next nearest big galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, is 21 quintillion km. That's 21,000,000,000,000,000,000 km. This is a number so large that it becomes hard to write and hard to interpret. So astronomers use other units of distance.

In our solar system, we tend to describe distances in terms of the Astronomical Unit (AU). The AU is defined as the average distance between the Earth and the Sun. It is approximately 150 million km (93 million miles). Mercury can be said to be about 1/3 of an AU from the Sun and Pluto averages about 40 AU from the Sun. The AU, however, is not big enough of a unit when we start talking about distances to objects outside our solar system.

For distances to other parts of the Milky Way Galaxy (or even further), astronomers use units of the light-year or the parsec . The light-year we have already defined. The parsec is equal to 3.3 light-years. Using the light-year, we can say that :

The Crab supernova remnant is about 4,000 light-years away.

The Milky Way Galaxy is about 150,000 light-years across.

The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.3 million light-years away

The Fleece Master said...

Cool info Zendra. When I was in school, I was so into astronomy. My free period in school I occupied in the library, lying down on the floor between the book shelves reading astronomy books. It's really open our eyes, how small we are in this world. smaller than the micro unicell in the pacific ocean.

Cheers from Philly the brotherly love city

Zendra said...

Put another way,

In 1 year light goes 9.5 trillion km

To reach Andromeda, light has to travel for 2.3 million years?

Equivalent to 2.3 x (10^6) x 9.5 x (10^12) = 21.85 x (10^18) km

Yup thats about 21 quintillion km!

Wonder whether the star-ship Enterprise will go that far (Star Trek hehe, is supposed to take place in the 2200's)

But if I have a nice luminous aura that can hang around for years after I'm gone, wouldn't that be nice .... or scary? HAHAHAHA

Zendra said...

Yo Fleece Master sir,

Wow you were into astronomy at school? Bet you married a twinkling little star hehe.

I can't even name the planets let alone their positions relative to earth! All I knew when at school were the astrological signs of those who were important to me.

But it's all so wondrous that what Hubble sees is from many-many millions years ago, even before, according to scientists, earth came into existence.

Yeah we are just but an iota in the whole scheme of things.

mantan said...

Arrived for the first time.
Beautiful blog!

Capt's Longhouse said...


,,,Andromeda Galaxy is 2.3 million light-years away-lah hehehe, cos Light moves at a velocity of about 300,000 kilometers (km) each second.!!.
,,,close but failed ....hahaha !! you missed her by just .2 million light-years away as such humanity will no long exists !! if you were our Lady Capt. bye bye human !!! hehehe.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Zendra, wow! Fantastic, for a moment I thought it was a jelly fish from the depths of the ocean.
It is a beautiful pic, gosh magnified thousands of times.

I love looking at a microscope and when working time here at an opportunity to look a a very powerful microscope.....and having nothing better to do, I put a dollar bill under the scope and looked.

Zendra, I almost threw the money away! Now I know, money is one of the dirtiest things we have in our pocket!
Holy Smoke! It was like an Indiana Jones movie see those snakes. To see those whatever creepy crawlies on my money or money....I can tell you, I wash my hands apart from returning home from anywhere, but anytime I touch money.

And again, one of the dirtiest things we hold everyday is? Our car's steering wheel. Saw a documentary here one day, again, almost threw it away. And I am the only driver too, ha ha...ada Loch Ness monsters, Big Foot, Orang Minyak, you name it, ha ha.
Have a nice weekend, Lee.

ps, there was another documentary of a dewdrop on a leaf, and using special microscopes whatever, we saw things smaller than ordinary scopes can see.
The scope penetrated deeper and deeper....and Zendra, there is no end, every small thing has another small thing inside....I guess thru eternity.

Zendra said...

Salam mantan cikgu,

Glad i passed HM's spot-check of my class.

Thank you :)

Zendra said...

Adoii Capt, Capt

2.3 million light years = 21 quintillion KILOMETRES lah.

Check your 2nd paragraph, and I quote
"For example, the distance to the next nearest big galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, is 21 quintillion km. That's 21,000,000,000,000,000,000 km. i.e 21x10(to the power of 18)

I was just doing the conversions and they checked out OK.

But I wonder if Andromeda is still there NOW. To get there to a state as per what Hubble sees, I'll have to travel back through time, don't you reckon Capt?

Oh never mind, that's just my logic hahaha

Zendra said...

Dear Lee, that explains it! The slides at school must have been absolutely filthy because everytime I changed the focus of the simple school microscope, some other particles came into view. That put me off studying micro-biology..... HAHAHAHA just talking big!

Hehe I guess money-laundering wouldn't make dollar bills any cleaner, would it? Whatever, I still love the smell of money though ;)

Wow, as endless as the universe seems to be, so too is a little dew-drop. And we're talking about entities in our own dimension. What about those of the other dimension that you had encountered as per your latest blog-entry? I'm glad in a way that my mind has limits, no need to think about everything.

Wish I could watch that dew-drop documentary though.

Keep warm now Lee.

Saya... said...

Astronomy..i was teacher's pet in uni for that course..hehe..tapi semua sudah lupaaaaa...dah nyanyuk lah..seem like 100 million light years ago :P

Saya... said...

ooo..sunday nite ni jgn lupa tgk Geminids meteor shower!

Saya... said...

2009 Meteor Showers and Viewing Tips

The next meteor shower is the Geminids on December 13-14. The thin crescent Moon rises not long before sunrise, so it won't dim the Geminids' luster.
Name Date of Peak Moon Phase
Quadrantids January 3, morning First quarter
Lyrids night of April 21/22 near new Moon
Eta Aquarids May 5 Sets around 4 a.m.
Perseids August 12, morning/evening Rises around midnight
Orionids October 21, morning Near new Moon
Leonids night of November 17/18, morning New Moon
Geminids night of December 13/14 Near new Moon

NOTES These are approximate times for the Lower 48 states; actual shower times can vary. Bright moonlight makes it difficult to see all but the brightest meteors.

What are meteor showers?

An increase in the number of meteors at a particular time of year is called a meteor shower.

Comets shed the debris that becomes most meteor showers. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Depending on where Earth and the stream meet, meteors appear to fall from a particular place in the sky, maybe within the neighborhood of a constellation.

Meteor showers are named by the constellation from which meteors appear to fall, a spot in the sky astronomers call the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is located in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.

What are shooting stars?

"Shooting stars" and "falling stars" are both names that people have used for many hundreds of years to describe meteors -- intense streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids crashing and burning high in Earth's upper atmosphere. Traveling at thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite in searing friction of the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.

When a meteor appears, it seems to "shoot" quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star. If you're lucky enough to spot a meteorite (a meteor that makes it all the way to the ground), and see where it hits, it's easy to think you just saw a star "fall."

How can I best view a meteor shower?

If you live near a brightly lit city, drive away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate.

For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to "rain" into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.

After you've escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites.

Once you have settled at your observing spot, lay back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.

How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors?

If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have "dark adapted," and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors.

What should I pack for meteor watching?

Treat meteor watching like you would the 4th of July fireworks. Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.

Capt's Longhouse said...


,,,you were lucky cos. I was the teacher's pest in school !! hahaha. I was always reading more than I should and questioning them or rather challenging them on subject issues which they have no answers !!. just love to ask all kinds of probing, creative and idea-sparkling questions and funny imaginations which perhaps pissed off the teachers-lah. So much so, i have had to educate meself by my ownself. hahaha.

,,,now you can guess why i rather be by myself. hehehe !!. by the way, i see shooting stars almost every night here at kapas and that is why my wishes will always come true yaa ??.

Zendra said...

Saya, impossible to watch the shower here in the Klang Valley and the environs I think. Jom gi Kapas!

mantan said...

Wow, magnificent and gorgeous!

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Professor Zen, so clever must be a rocket scientist lah…hehehe. I can only count up to 21, unlike u & Capt. Psst, u guys r the shining stars that completes the constellation of my existence….muahaha..teacher's pet material :)

Across the Universe


Anonymous said...


can see lah..kuar sket dari housing area..zen your place definitely leh nampak...try tonite


you everyone's pet faithful puppy everyone wants to pet...hehehe


Zendra said...

Salam kembali mantan, indeed so but I don't think those adjectives are meant for me hehe

But thanks anyway :)

Zendra said...

Awww Tommy how sweet, but I thought Capt and I are really meteor showers raining embers down on you hahahah

Zendra said...

Saya, malam ni kol berapa?