I love this new discovery – a dancing frog in the sky. And I love stories that remind us of how small and insignificant we are. Called Hanny’s Voorwerp, this is the first time it has been photographed. It is a gaseous blob that is giving birth to new stars.
Amazingly it was discovered by Dutch secondary teacher Hanny van Arkel in 2007 and so is named Hanny’s Voorwerp, or Hanny’s Object. She was taking part in Galaxy Zoo, an online project which gets the public involved.
Hanny’s Voorwerp is the size of the Milky Way and is 650 million light years away. Each light year is about six trillion miles.
The photograph reminds me of the Chinese fable about The Frog in the Well. It looks like a frog looking up to the moon from the bottom of a well.
Once upon a time Frog boasted to Sea Turtle that he lived in the best place of all.
‘During the day, I hop around the edge of the well,’ he said, ‘while at night I tuck myself into a tiny crevice and sleep ever so peacefully. There are always insects and worms to eat. And delicious cool water to swim around in. Mine is the greatest happiness of all. Come in and see for yourself, Turtle.’
‘Hmm,’ Sea Turtle said. He looked at the well wondering if he would fit. But he was a very polite Sea Turtle so he gave it a go. First he put one leg in, then the other but his shell became stuck halfway.
‘Your well is too small,’ he said backing out. Why don’t you come to my home in the Sea. If there is drought it never dries up or gets too full if there is a flood. And you can swim for thousands of miles without touching land. Plus there is more than enough food for everyone. The greatest happiness is to live in the Sea.’
The frog, upon hearing these words realized for the first time of his own insignificance.
The Chinese language has an idiom referring to an ignorant person as a frog in a well.
And of course all this goes to prove that fairy tales are everywhere, even in outer space.