Empyreal Medusa

Aug 28
by Harley White

HarleyWhiteEmpyrealMedusa 800

Medusa Nebula, serpentine haired,
has never appeared more stunning,
not the mortal terror Perseus dared
to behead through fearless cunning.

Indeed it’s the death of a star we see
fifteen hundred light-years away
depicted in dying multi-hued spree
of layers ejected astray.

Those gorgeously colored filament strands
the constellation possesses
in the Gemini twins’ heavenly hands
resemble sinuous tresses.

The ‘snakes’ are gas glowing in crescent shape
representing Medusa’s locks,
which extend beyond the chromatic scape
to frame her coiffure’s ‘dreadful’ shocks.

Hydrogen shows red, the oxygen green,
as stellar mass is ejected,
the latter of doubly ionized sheen,
so astronomers detected.

By Abell in nineteen fifty-five found,
it bears his own title besides
of Abell twenty-one, though more renowned
with label the fable provides.

Medusa’s actual derivation
protectress or guardian meant,
yet this monster might seem a damnation
rather than creature heaven-sent.

A Gorgon, she in mythology Greek
was one of three sisters, well-known
for a gaze so potent that just a peek
could turn the beholder to stone.

The version by Ovid was licentious
in Roman tale of later date,
which in modern times became contentious
since she suffered an unfair fate

because of the goddess Athena’s ire
at what was not Medusa’s fault
although punished with consequences dire
for Neptune’s sexual assault—

Poseidon being the god’s Grecian name
whose lust within the temple prime
of Athena caused that goddess to blame
the very victim of his crime,

(‘twas Minerva’s shrine in Ovid’s account).
But while some myths may be passé,
they’re still an important cultural fount
that last in legends to this day.

It is evidenced by Medusa’s tag
for nebula planetary,
itself a misnomer for which time lag
quite lengthy proved necessary

to better observe what Herschel had spied
who thought they looked like giants gas,
albeit planets in no way are tied
with how such clouds have come to pass. 

In approximately five billion years
the Sun will a nebula make.
Might space-gazers marvel in far-off spheres
at the wondrous form it will take?

Stars can be beauteous when they expire.
The light on which our Earth depends
will swell to enormous red giant’s fire
then shrink to white dwarf, as it ends

with a splendid kaleidoscopic splurge
as mass expulsion reaches peak
till from radiant lantern will emerge
the Sun’s own nebula unique,

predominantly blue-green it’s believed
that may dazzle different eyes
or via whatever senses perceived
its novel sidereal guise,

evocative of Medusa perhaps
when through all its fuel it burns,
for ultimately our Sol will collapse;
thus a cycle’s existence turns.

This would be our Sun’s final bow on stage
with humankind’s long past demise,
as the cosmos vast writes another page,
wherein new creations arise…

~ Harley White 

* * * * * * * * *

Some sources of poetic inspiration were the following…

Image and info ~ ESO’s VLT Sees Beautiful Medusa Nebula…

Close-up pan video showing the Medusa Nebula…

Medusa in mythology on Wikipedia…

Image and info ~ ESO’s Very Large Telescope images the Medusa Nebula…

Image explanation ~ ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has captured the most detailed image ever taken of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274). As the star at the heart of this nebula made its final transition into retirement, it shed its outer layers into space, forming this colorful cloud. The image foreshadows the final fate of the Sun, which will eventually also become an object of this kind. 

Image credit: ESO.


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