The Helix Nebula is part of the Aquarius constellation, approximately 700 light years from Earth. It was "discovered" in 1824 by Karl Ludwig Harding (1765-1834). I use quotes around the word discovered because the Helix Nebula has existed for more than 10,000 years.
Planetary nebula are formed at the end of a star's evolution. Gases from the star in surrounding space produce the image we see here on Earth in high-powered telescopes like the Hubble. So what does the Helix Nebula look like?
An eye. A giant eye. God-like, even. And it's haunted my dreams for almost four decades.
Did you know that a recent discovery confirmed that there is a planetary system called Gliese 876 in the Aquarius constellation? Gliese 876 is actually the name of the red dwarf that sits only 15 light years from Earth. The recent discovery is that there are three planets orbiting Gliese 876.
Two of the planets appear to be more like Jupiter but one looks terrestrial...meaning, Earth-like.
Astronomers and astrophysicists have argued about the habitability of a planet orbiting a red dwarf like Gliese 876, and it looks like, even with occasional flares, it's very, very possible.
The Helix Nebula is to the southwest of the Delta Aquarii, the third brightest star in the Aquarius constellation, also thought to be a stream star member of the Ursa Major moving group--which means a set of stars with common velocities in space thought to also have common origins. Ursa Major is, of course, the Big Dipper. It's about 80 light years away from Earth.
Amazing, isn't it? Carl Jung theorized about the human collective unconscious, meaning a shared, universal store of symbols within each and every human brain. His proof included the permeation of like-signs and symbols across cultures, geographies, space, and human time. In other words, every person on the planet, from the first to the last of us, all share deeply imbedded "universal archetypes" like the swirl, used in all cultures from every age, ususally connected with life, infinity, birth, and the feminine. In 2004, Time magazine called this the "God Gene." Humans are pre-programed, so to speak, to believe in something larger than themselves evidenced by these universally-shared symbols that exist in our collective unconscious. And how does this relate to my Helix Nebula?
Well, the Helix Nebula is one of those symbols...well, not the nebula itself, but the helix formation which causes the image of the eye in space.
Shakespeare's Hamlet said to Horatio, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy...." We humans would be wise to remember the Bard's words. Humans are so Earth-centric, but when you look up at the stars, you feel it, too--the pull. It's there. And whether it was an anthopomorphized version of God or something beyond human perception that gifted us this permanent connection, every human breathing on Earth shares an undeniable common link.
Until next time, dearest readers...keep looking to the stars!