Date Added: Nov. 18, 2003
Amateur and professional astronomy has gotten a real boost in the last few years due to great technological advancements. Sharing amazing images of celestial bodies that no one has ever seen before is thrilling. But, as we learn from this chain letter and others like it, most lay people don't understand what goes into creating these 'pictures.'
Eye of God This is a picture taken by NASA with the Hubble telescope. They are referring to it as the "Eye of God".
The phenomenon in the amazing image above is real. The Helix Nebula is a planetary nebula about 650 light-years from Earth. It's a popular target for astronomers because, due to its relative proximity, it's easily viewed through binoculars or telescope.
However, the image above is not a true "picture" in the technical sense of the word. Rather, it is a computer-generated and enhanced mosaic of nine separate photographs taken by the Hubble telescope and combined with a wider image captured by the National Science Foundation's telescope at Kitt Peak National Optical Astronomy Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. It is a scientific representation of what the nebula might look like.
Despite its resemblance to the human eye in this 2-dimensional image, the Helix Nebula is actually a spiral cylinder more than one trillion kilometers long. Since it points directly toward Earth, it looks like a bubble (or eye) to us, rather than the tube-like structure it really is.
I'm not sure who the author of the text above is referring to in the line "They are referring to it as the 'Eye of God,'" but it's not any NASA official speaking on the record. In fact, many different astronomical bodies have been dubbed "the Eye of God" by professional and amateur astronomers alike because of their general resemblance to the human eye in 2-dimensions. Break this chain.
References: TruthOrFiction.com, HubbleSite NewsCenter, European Space Agency