Sunday, September 30, 2012

ultimate photograph of a memory

A photograph taken by the Hubble telescope and released to the press this week shows a small area of space in the constellation Fornax. The most amazing photograph I have ever seen!

The image is made from an exposure of over 500 hours over several years.  A shutter speed equivalent to 10 years! All the light present during that time period was recorded and a combined into a single image; a composite of more than 2,000 photographs.

What spins my mind with a crazy sense of wonder and disbelief, is that the stars seen in this picture are billions of light years away, stretching back to the time (13.2 billion years ago) when the star, now gone, first began to shine. In other words - this is a picture made today of a subject that has not existed for billions of years! We are looking back in time.  We are looking at the memory of something that was once alive.

The enormity of this accomplishment humbles my own attempts at breathing live into old photographs made of subjects no longer alive.

Even though our brain is not an indelible recording device for our lived life, we do store the past within us. This past mutates with time, and is altered and altered again by new experiences and insights. Lodged in our bodies, memories, although flawed truths, retain a bit of the original event.

I am struck by the thought; if our present body contains atoms that have been around since the beginning of time, these atoms, like the photos of the stars in the Fornax galaxy, may hold memories from an entire expanse of the universe and time.  Imagine if we could access these memories; we would either be visionaries or insane or maybe both!

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