Serpens – the serpent

September 25, 2016


tinysnake_01There is a rather unique constellation in the summer sky called Serpens, the serpent. What makes it special is that it is the only constellation that is divided into two parts. That is, the region of sky assigned to it is not contiguous. In between Serpens Caput (the head) and Serpens Cauda (the tail) is Ophiuchus (Big Snake-Fighter Guy).

Ophiuchus has grabbed a hold of the snake in the middle, a practice I highly advise against. I once grabbed a snake in the middle. I was six years old and the unappreciative little bugger whipped around and bit me on the arm. Nothing my dad tried could convince the snake to let go. Finally, the park ranger grabbed it with a pair of pliers and yanked it off. It’s been more than fifty years and I still have an obvious scar. I guess the greater point I’m trying to make here is, don’t trust park rangers.
The combination, Ophiuchus (Asclepius to the Romans) and the two halves of Serpens, represent the time when a big guy killed a snake and then figured out he could bring it back to life by smearing the body with the right combination of herbs. It was a trick that also worked on humans which made him very popular at funerals. But Jupiter (Zeuss to the Greeks) would have none of that so he tossed a lightning bolt at Ophiuchus, killing him before he could tell anyone which herbs to use. The point of this, and many of the classical myths is, don’t trust Jupiter.
m016The snake’s tail contains the Eagle Nebula (M16) which is one of the biggest tourist attraction in the whole galaxy. It was made even more famous here on earth when the Hubble Space Telescope zoomed in on the middle part and revealed “The Pillars of Creation” which is also known as “A Bunch of Gas Collapsing Under Gravity into Big Ass Globules” and very soon to be known as “A Shitload of More New Stars and Planets and Junk.”

snaketubeplayerThe gas in the Eagle Nebula has actually already produced a star or two or okay more likely about 8100. These are brand spanking new stars. Most are only a million years old, or maybe twice that at most. For lower mass stars we’re seeing baby pics here, but for the higher mass stars this very well could be their last birthday. Either way, they are all busy crunching atoms like they were a bowl full of Coco Puffs and spitting out huge amounts of light and heat into space. All that free energy is making the surrounding hydrogen get all excited, also many astronomers. When hydrogen gets all excited it glows pink, same with many astronomers.

Hoag's ObjectThe snake’s head contains Hoag’s Object which is a rare type of galaxy. They are called ring galaxies because figure it out. The middle is made of old yellow stars and the ring around them is young blue stars. The most popular theory is that a spiral galaxy was spinning so fast that the arms came off. the gas couldn’t escape so it formed the ring and then gave birth to all those young stars. Young stars come in all colors but the blue ones are hot which makes them easy to see long distances. Guess what, in space everything is long distances.

Seyfert's SextetThe snake’s head also has Seyfert’s Sextet, a galactic pile-up on a cosmic freeway. Six large galaxies are on a collision course and we are noticing right about crunch time. Reality is time-warped so we’re seeing it a couple hundred million years after the fact and it’s probably too late to call an insurance agent. When galaxies smash up like this it is unlikely that anyone gets hurt but the original shapes are beyond repair. The result will be a stellar junkyard shaped like a giant goose egg.
Carpe Noctem.

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