Monday, April 30, 2007


Dante Alighieri, in his imagination, was led by Beatrice to the portals of Paradise. Here, in one of Gustav Dore's illustrations of the Divine Comedy, the poet and his guide are awed by a vision of souls circling the Divine Throne.

And here, in this new composite photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope, we are given a vision of celestial realms far more astonishing than anything Dante might have imagined, a rich region of star birth and death in the Milky Way Galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Surely, we are ready to move on from the anthropomorphic deity and fluttering souls that our new understanding of the universe has shown to be baseless and inadequate. But surely, too, we can exclaim with Dante: O glorious constellation! O mighty stars/ pregnant with holy power which is the source/ of all of whatever genius may be mine. (Canto XXII l. 112)

(Click to enlarge.)