The color of our galaxy
January 13, 2012 10:45 AM   Subscribe

The best description I can give
Would be that if you looked at new spring snow
Which has a fine grain size
About an hour after dawn or an hour before sunset
You'd see the same spectrum of light
That an alien astronomer in another galaxy would see
Looking at the Milky Way
posted by thirteenkiller (10 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Your presentation of that quote reminds me of that scene in Contact where Jodi Foster, speeding through the universe, says, "Should have sent a poet!"
posted by resurrexit at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can tell a lot by the color of stars.
posted by jiawen at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2012

One of the fun aspects of this project was that I simply set out to find as close a match as possible to the spectrum of light from the Milky Way, and it turned out to be so poetic. I even managed to fit it into a haiku:

Look at new spring snow
See the River of Heaven
An hour after dawn.
posted by janewman at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

Wow, it's MetaFilter's own Professor Newman!

Video and slides here
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:59 AM on January 13, 2012

janewman, how nice of you to show up! I got the poetry notion from the Grist write-up; if I'd realized the original author had his own Milky Way color poem I totally would have gone with your version.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:50 PM on January 13, 2012

thirteenkiller, you'd have to have been digging pretty hard to find it - I've only seen one article with the haiku. I'm trying not to take that as a commentary on my poetic skills ...

Your post inspired me to try coming up with a limerick, too, but I've had trouble coming up with rhymes for "Pittsburgh."
posted by janewman at 6:50 PM on January 13, 2012


There once was an astronomer from Pitt
Who was searching for colors that fit.
"To see the Milky Way
Look at snow," he would say,
"When by early morn's Sun it is lit."

I don't think I'll attempt a sonnet :)
posted by janewman at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay I did it :
also some credit to Kabaddi, who suggested the birth/Earth rhyme

Milky Way

An hour after dawn the springtime snow
(Or an hour before the fall of night)
In tiny grains reflects to human sight
With bluish reddish milky light aglow.

Its mix of wavelengths from the whole rainbow,
Although humans see these both as white,
Is bluer than an incandescent light
And redder than the solar noontime glow.

Th'emission spectrum of our galaxy,
Determined by its rate of stellar birth,
Impossible for us to truly see
Due to the location of our Earth,
Is described by this snow analogy
And thus in science poetry has worth.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:07 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow! Kudos!
posted by janewman at 12:44 PM on January 14, 2012

posted by safetyfork at 7:20 PM on January 14, 2012

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