Weekend Diversion: Uncovering the Forgotten Originals (and a Bonus!)

"Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all." -Abraham Lincoln

Last weekend, I presented you with two remarkable covers, one from music and one from astronomy. This week, I'm going to show you the reverse of that; going back to the forgotten originals. Many of you will remember the early 1990s, where some fantastic music performances happened on MTV's
Unplugged
, including a remarkable performance by Nirvana. They closed the show with this song,

Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night,
which is a cover of an old song by Huddie William Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly. I'm always curious about the original when I hear a good song and discover that it's a cover, and here it is!

Lead Belly - Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Well, the same thing can be said of astronomy. We're used to the spectacular pictures returned by space telescopes and ground-based ones with mirrors up to 10 meters in diameter! Take the closest large galaxy to us, Andromeda. We have some amazing high-resolution images and mosaics of this galaxy taken by many different satellites in many different wavelengths. (Click on all the images below for incredible, full-resolution versions.)

Above is a great image by award-winning astrophotographer Martin Pugh. (I like this one so much that it's my new desktop wallpaper.)

Below, here Andromeda is as imaged by the SWIFT satellite in Ultra-Violet light.

You might want to know what Hubble sees, but Hubble's field of view is too small to capture the entire enormousness of Andromeda. But here she is in the infrared, courtesy of the Spitzer space telescope.

Even an interested amateur with high-end equipment can produce a fabulous mosaic of Andromeda. Take a look at this remarkable composite from Matthew Russell.

Andromeda is so easy to get a good shot of that you don't even need to have ultra-high-end stuff to get a good glimpse of her. Hell, here's a modern shot of Andromeda as photographed by some guy in California with a small, amateur telescope.

Well, what's the original? How far back were people taking pictures of this galaxy? Remarkably, it's all the way back in the 19th Century! In 1887, Isaac Roberts took the first photograph of another galaxy -- Andromeda -- and here it is. (Click for a slightly larger version.)

As you can see, in over 120 years, nothing visible about Andromeda has changed. There's no visual evidence of rotation, parallax, or a shift in the position of any stars, giving us an idea as to its great distance from us. (Which is over 2 million light years!)

Hope you enjoyed the views of our nearest galactic neighbor, and have a great weekend!

Bonus! There are only a few television shows on today that I'm a fan of, but one of them is HBO's True Blood. Apparently, Snoop Dogg is a fan as well, and he composed a love song (complete with music video) to the show's lead character, Sookie Stackhouse. Enjoy!

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Andromeda, also known as M31, is the nearest large galaxy to us. At "only" 2 million light-years away, it gives us the best chance to study another spiral galaxy besides our own. I get particularly impressed by the high resolution images we can get, since it's so close to us. Andromeda looks like…
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I just made Andromeda my new desktop wallpaper too, thanks.

By BlindWatcher (not verified) on 18 Jul 2010 #permalink

When i read over the name Sookie, my brain registered Snookie from Jersey Shore. For a second I thought I was going to have to cancel HBO.

I've had various pictures of Andromeda as desktop backgrounds for years now. It's pretty much perfect.

As a matter of curiosity, I notice that some (including the 'original') are, shall we say, 'upside-down'. Which way is the 'right' one, seen from the northern hemisphere?

By Ketil Tveiten (not verified) on 18 Jul 2010 #permalink

"Nothing visible about Andromeda has changed"? You gotta be kidding me. It's flipped completely over, like a pancake.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 19 Jul 2010 #permalink