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The Familiar Universe

I was watching  Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life a few months ago when, during a segment about the Universe, the spectacular image of a nebula appeared on the screen.

The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) Photo: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), and T.A. Rector (NRAO)

Something in the image struck me as very familiar, and not because I knew about the nebula.  Something in the arrangement of colors. It was as I’ve seen something like this in real life. And then I remembered.

Grand Prismatic Spring,Yellowstone National Park

The Grand Prismatic Spring is the world’s third largest hot spring and I had the pleasure of seeing it with my own eyes in 2008. I did not have the opportunity to see it from above but even from the ground it looks impressive. Here is a photo I took:

The the red, yellow and green hues on the sides are created by pigmented single-celled organisms living in the hot water. And even though you can’t find the green hue in the Helix Nebula picture, you do find it in another similar nebula.

The Ring Nebula (M57) Photo: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

This type of nebula is called planetary nebula , because these objects looked like planets when first discovered.

Funny thing is that while I was thinking about how the Helix Nebula looks a lot like the Grand Prismatic Spring, Malick throws in an actual image of the spring just a few minutes later (when the life on earth appears).

I see what you did the Terrence Malick. You obviously stole the idea from my mind and put it on the screen


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