Friday, September 07, 2007

Space and time

You can imagine my excitement when yesterday's NASA image of the day was called Time Tunnel. I thought it might look like this...

... but they were actually trying to look back in time, to a quasar 12.7 billion light years away.

Anyhoo, the whole stars-and-time thing made me dig out a Louis MacNeice poem called Star-gazer:

Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding noughts in vain.

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