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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Galaxies without end

Galaxies without end
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right has been significantly reduced but also significantly sharpened to post here. It was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a recent survey of “jellyfish” galaxies, galaxies located in galaxy clusters where there is a large concentration of galaxies whose combined gravity and intergalactic environment acts to pull material or “tendrils” out from the galaxy.

Rather than crop the image to focus on that single large central jellyfish galaxy, I have instead sharpened the much-reduced full photo to bring out clearly the number of surrounding galaxies. There is only one Milky Way star in this picture, the object with the four diffraction spikes in the lower-right. Every other dot is a galaxy, many of which can be seen to be very strangely shaped in the original full resolution image. In fact, I strongly recommend you click on the picture to explore that original image, just to see the variety of galaxy shapes.

The point of this picture today however is not to illustrate the wide variety of galaxies that can exist, but to underline the vast and largely incomprehensible scale of the universe. The large galaxy is thought to be 650 million light years away, which means it took light traveling at 186,000 miles per second that many years to get here. The surrounding galaxies are also all tens to hundreds of millions of light years from each other. Yet, their combined gravity, almost infinitesimal in strength, is enough to warp the shape of each.

We understand these numbers and facts intellectually, but do we understand them in reality? I think it is difficult, even if you work hard to come up with a scaled comparison. For example, it took nine years for the New Horizons spacecraft to get from Earth to Pluto, a distance of about 4.5 light hours. And New Horizons was the fastest traveling probe ever launched, moving at 36,400 miles per hour when it left Earth. Yet, this distance is nothing compared to the distance between these galaxies.

The vastness of existence really is beyond our comprehension. That we try to comprehend it speaks well of the human desire to achieve the impossible.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Lee S

    To our host, and the fellow readers here, we may disagree on many issues, but bloody hell! When faced with the shear magnitude of our universe… Well, I for one feel humbled to my knees… We are but ants in a forest bigger than we can ever comprehend!!

  • Jeff

    So much matter in even more space. The scale is, for our experience-limited minds, essentially infinite. But what impact does such a reality have on our thoughts or behaviors?

  • Andi

    “Yet, this distance is nothing compared to the distance between these galaxies.”

    Heck, it’s even nothing compared with the distance to Proxima Centauri!

  • wayne

    Professor Raymond Flood
    “Cantor’s Infinities ”

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