Ken Tapping, August 29, 2012
For some excellent pictures to illustrate this week’s subject, see the images of galaxies Messier 33 and Messier 51 on the website of the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). These and the other images show the quality that is achievable from ground-based observatories, provided they are equipped with state-of-the-art optics and imaging. The website is http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/HawaiianStarlight/HawaiianStarlight-AIOM.html.
Our Solar System, which is comprised of the Sun, planets — including ours — and a lot of other objects, is just one microscopic mote in a great spiral galaxy we call the Milky Way, which is home for billions of stars and planets. The images we are getting with telescopes like the CFHT give us a hint of the treasure trove of cosmic jewellery we live in. Unfortunately, from our position well inside, it is very hard to get a big picture of what our galaxy is like and what is going on in it. With projects like the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey we can see a lot of what is going on in our neighbourhood, which in Star Trek is referred to as the Alpha Quadrant, and somewhat beyond, but that is more or less all we can see.