One of my favorite quotes comes from John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts in The Log from the Sea of Cortez:
"And it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable....that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things -- plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time.
"It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again."
So what a delight this morning to find an article from Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory linking new discoveries in deep space if not to tide pools, then to the deep sea. And to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The JPL released new images of an interstellar object called NGC 1514 that, it says "shows what looks like a glowing jellyfish floating at the bottom of a dark, speckled sea. In reality, this critter belongs to the cosmos -- it's a dying star surrounded by fluorescing gas and two very unusual rings."
"I am reminded of the jellyfish exhibition at the Monterey Bay Aquarium -- beautiful things floating in water, except this one is in space," said Edward (Ned) Wright, the principal investigator of the WISE mission at UCLA, and a co-author of a paper on the findings, reported in the Astronomical Journal.
(One of the co-authors is Martin Cohen of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy, located just down the road from the aquarium -- in close proximity to jellyfish.)
The WISE satellite telescope has been surveying the sky in infrared light since January 2010. The jellyfish-like rings on NGC 1514 are visible only in the infrared spectrum.
Scientists expect more serendipitous findings as its mission continues. Maybe a few more analogies to marine life on Earth? Definitely more reminders that it's advisable to "look from the tide pools to the stars and back again."
Steinbeck and Ricketts would approve.
Credit NGC 1514 photos to NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA; spotted comb jelly is copyright Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation