The Hubble Telescope, The Horsehead Nebula, and A Little Walt Whitman

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Two of my passions are poetry and science. I am especially interested in astronomy. In celebration of National Poetry Month and Hubble’s 23rd anniversary image, I’m posting an ESA/ NASA Hubblecast video of the Horsehead Nebula and a poem by the great Walt Whitman.

Hubble’s 23rd Anniversary Image


NOTE: I fixed the Youtube link.

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

A Fresh Take on the Horsehead Nebula


I’m recommending two wonderful picture books

for those of you who have children or grandchildren:

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

with words by Walt Whitman and pictures by Loren Long


Walt Whitman: Words for America,

a wonderful biography written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick


26 thoughts on “The Hubble Telescope, The Horsehead Nebula, and A Little Walt Whitman

  1. Thank you Elaine.

    I had mentioned Walt Whitman in JT’s post about Rabbi Michael Broyde who “blogged” under the handle “Rabbi Herbert Goldwasser” because Whitman used to write reviews of his won stuff under a handle, a contrived name if you will.

    I wonder if his reviews of his stuff would be as good as my reviews, or yours for that matter?

    He could make ink dance.

    He would have made pixels dance too if he had lived and worked in the pixel age wouldn’t he?

    And oh that evolution!

    Made that horse’s head.

    Probably practicing up for the Unicorn era.

    The two got together yea yea yea (or is it yeah yeah yeah?) …

  2. Elaine,
    I love the picture from the Hubble! Amazing. I will check out the childrens books for my grandsons!

  3. Elaine,

    I am going to level with you.

    Including “A Little Walt Whitman” in the text makes some of us squirmish.

    He was a big man Elaine, and size matters.

    Nick the Poo sayeth so.

    And so did Gene H in his lyrical observation up-thread.

    So, I hope you will not be mad if I post “Ode To Saint Nick” who knows we all love him:

  4. On May 17, the 2nd series of the new Star Trek movie will be playing on the Big Screens. Does Elaine have her tickets? Is she a Trekke?

  5. A few tears, but good ones. Walt Whitman was my late sister’s favorite poet. She was a high school English teacher. Thanks.

  6. Yea, that’s a great image. Happy birthday Hubble.

    If anyone is interested in a larger version and explanation of why this looks so different from other images of the Horsehead Nebula, Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) has a good run-down and hi-res pic.

  7. I have two telescopes, but never get them out anymore. Light pollution has become a major problem. Every rural home seems to have a bright yard light on a pole these days. We have a couple of six thousand foot mountains close by, but hate to drive on the steep winding roads at night. In the meantime I will enjoy pictures like these.

    Thanks for posting this Elaine.

  8. We see these images and realize how insignificant we are in this Universe. Religions talk of awe but personalize that which they worship. Awe is really about seeing that which is on a scale that humans can barely comprehend.

  9. To me a source of interest is how extremely large systems in many ways behave quite similar to smaller ones, just a matter of scale and time frames.

  10. Wonderful, Elaine. It brought back childhood memories of looking out into the vast night skies over White Sands, New Mexico.

  11. yes, but you still haven’t explained how capt. john sterling of the star patrol escaped from the horsehead nebula when the radiation worms were after him.

  12. Thou Lingering Star
    Robert Burns

    Thou lingering star, with less’ning ray,
    That lov’st to greet the early morn,
    Again thou usherast in the day
    My Mary from my soul was torn.
    O Mary, dear departed shade
    Where is thy place of blissful rest?
    See’st thou thy lover lowly laid?
    Hear’st thou the groans that rend his breast?

    That sacred hour can I forget?
    Can I forget the hallow’d grove
    Where, by the winding Ayr, we met,
    To live one day of parting love?
    Eternity cannot efface
    Those records dear of transports past,
    Thy image at our last embrace—
    Ah! little thought we ’twas our last!

    Ayr, gurgling, kiss’d his pebbled shore,
    O’erhung with wild-woods, thickening green;
    The fragrant birch and hawthorn hoar,
    Twin’d amorous round the raptur’d scene;
    The flowers sprang wanton to be prest
    The birds sang love on every spray
    Till too, too soon, the glowing west,
    Proclaim’d the speed of winged day.

    Still o’er these scenes my mem’ry wakes,
    And fondly broods with miser-care;
    Time but th’ impression stronger makes,
    As streams their channels deeper wear.
    O Mary! dear departed shade!
    Where is thy place of blissful rest?
    See’st thou thy lover lowly laid?
    Hear’st thou the groans that rend his breast?

  13. Wouldn’t it be nice if…. The government got back to NASA as the main source of space…. Rather than waging wars….

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