Galaxies, galaxies everywhere - as far as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope can see. This view of thousands of galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. part of what is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies - the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals - thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old. In vibrant contrast to the rich harvest of classic spiral and elliptical galaxies, there is a zoo of oddball galaxies littering the field. Some look like toothpicks; others like links on a bracelet. A few appear to be interacting. These oddball galaxies chronicle a period when the universe was younger and more chaotic. Order and structure were just beginning to emerge. The Ultra Deep Field observations, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, represent a narrow, deep view of the cosmos. In ground-based photographs, the patch of sky in which the galaxies reside (just one-tenth the diameter of the full Moon) is largely empty. Located in the constellation Fornax, the region is so empty that only a handful of stars within the Milky Way galaxy can be seen in the image. The image required 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around Earth. The total amount of exposure time was 11.3 days, taken between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.
(NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team)
The Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden
of His creation,
and if we could let go of our own obsession
with what we think is the meaning of it all,
we might be able to hear His call
and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.
For the world and time are the dance of the Lord
The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast.
The more we persist in misunderstanding
the phenomena of life,
the more we analyze them out into strange finalities
and complex purposes of our own,
the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity
But it does not matter much,
because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things,
or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.
Indeed we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us,
for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.
Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves
cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in
the general dance.
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, pp. 296-297