A Spotty Sun, The Eye of Sauron and the Helix Nebula – 3 Eyes in Space
On the 29th June, Lord of the Rings fans celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Fellowship of the Ring, the first book of the epic trilogy covering fantasy lands, Orc battles and Mount Doom.
Although the battle for Middle Earth has been won, it seems Sauron has moved from the depths of Mordor to our very own galaxy; in 2011, scientists discovered a supermassive black hole that looks uncannily like the Eye of Sauron.
So in the spirit of Sauron’s eye and all things space-related, we’ve compiled other anomalies that suggest that space oddity may not be as odd as we think…
Whilst Frodo and Gandalf have rescued the shire from the eye of Sauron, it seems he has moved into space, and turned his watchful eye onto earth.
Using several different telescopes to stitch together data, scientists have discovered a black hole 43 million light-years from Earth in the heart of a spiral galaxy. The powerful X-rays and the hydrogen atoms generated by the stars have created a red and blue halo, which looks exactly like the eye of Sauron.
The supermassive black hole isn’t all bad though – it’s close proximity to earth provides scientists with a rare opportunity to study the relationship between a super-massive black hole and the surrounding gas of its host galaxy.
The Helix Nebula
The Helix Nebula, along with having a cool name, contains a fine web of filaments embedded in the red and blue gas ring, and the pattern is said to closely resemble the complex and intricate textures within the human iris.
The Helix Nebula is just one of thousands of nebulas, which are stars the size of the sun that have run out of hydrogen and helium fuel in their cores, and are slowly dying. Eventually, they puff out their outer gaseous layers into glowing shells around them, giving the dying star its multitude of colours.
Until then, the Helix Nebula is 650 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius, (in earth terms that is roughly 2x 1013 kilometres wide).
This dying star is particularly relevant to us, as it provides an example of the future of our very own sun, which is expected to turn into a nebula in about 5 billion years.
Sunspots are a temporary phenomena on the sun, which appear as dark spots embedded in the luminous surface of the sun. A closeup of a sunspot taken from the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Big Bear Solar Observatory depicts a large dark spot, with a texture similar to the complex patterns of a human iris.
In comparison, these sunspots are galvanized by intense magnetic activity, which releases masses of energy, igniting solar flares and big storms and creating this dark visual wonder.
From an acne-ridden sun to the Eye of Sauron, it seems that the galaxy is full of weird and wonderful things that resemble human eyes. Who knows – if there are eyes in space, maybe there is life?