Well, to give those of us cruelly left behind by the Rapture something to do, I suggest taking a look North-East just after sunset. At this time of the year we’re treated with and excellent (and improving!) view of the constellation of Virgo who, at the moment, is the host to the Planet Saturn. The other easily visible object in Virgo, is it’s brightest star: Spica – which, when combined with Saturn mark the only two bright objects quite high in the North-Eastern Sky (lying on a horizontal line). Lower down, just above the horizon, is the brilliant, orange Arcturus.
Why bother looking at Virgo? Well Virgo is packed with galaxies, home to 11 Messier objects and contains more exoplanets than you can “shake a stick at” (i.e. 26). The three most incredible though are M104 (the ‘Sombrero Galaxy’), M87 (a gorgeous radiogalaxy) and the beautifully named “3C 273” the brightest quasar visible from Earth.
Each object worthy of an entire blog post by itself, the most visually spectacular is probably the Sombrero Galaxy, so named for obvious reasons! 3C 273 was the first quasar to be discovered, an object over 3 BILLION light years away. So what we actually observe is this quasar as it appeared 3 billion years ago, light has just taken that long to reach us. Quasars themselves are the brightest objects in the universe and are disks of matter surrounding super-massive black holes at the centres of large, ancient galaxies.
Last but not least is M87. A simply magnificent ‘radio-bright’ galaxy with a massive ‘jet’ of material shooting outwards from the black hole at its centre. Sometimes words just don’t suffice so:
“The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” – J.B.S. Haldane
If it meant missing out on discoveries like this – then I for one am glad I missed out on being Raptured.