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Artist's Concept of WISE J224607.57-052635.0

Artist’s Concept of WISE J224607.57-052635.0

Ferrebeekeeper has featured some mind-bogglingly strange astronomic entities before—black holes, ultra-dense stellar remnants, hyper-giant stars with a million times the mass of the sun, colliding neutron stars—but today we move up to a vastly greater order of magnitude!  Astronomers have just discovered a new class of galaxy which emits energy at unimaginable levels.  Using NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), scientists have discovered what are being tentatively called “extremely luminous infrared galaxies” (ELIRGs).

One of these galaxies (with the not-very-snappy designation “WISE J224607.57-052635.0”) is producing 10,000 times more energy than the Milky Way, despite being much smaller than our familiar home.  The newly discovered galaxy is putting out more energy than 10 trillion suns (or, more correctly, I should say it was putting out the energy of ten trillion main-sequence yellow stars). Scientists consider it the brightest known galaxy in the universe.

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WISE J224607.57-052635.0 is 12.5 billion light-years away.  Since the universe is 13.8 billion years old, what we are now seeing dates to a whole different era of galactic dynamics.  Today maybe WISE J224607.57-052635.0 is a burned-out remnant…or a perfectly respectable middle-aged galaxy like the Milky Way.  Who knows?  But twelve-and-a-half billion years ago it was releasing an inconceivable amount of energy—so much so that astronomers are having trouble adjusting their theories to it.  Perhaps some embryonic galaxies have black holes which gobble up stars at a much greater rate than initially thought or, alternately, some unknown set of circumstances has allowed the black hole (or holes?) at the center of WISE J224607.57-052635.0 to somehow surpass the theoretical threshold of black hole feeding.

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Clearly astronomers are going to be sorting out what exactly happened out there for quite a while, but in the meantime, when you look up at the night sky remember you are looking at an invisible fountain of energy ten trillion times brighter than the sun. [Ooh, I made myself dizzy]

Once when I was on a long boring car ride from Rhode Island to New York, I began playing a hypothetical thought game with my friend Mike.  I asked what sort of tree he would like to be.  My old comrade did not respond by shouting out “purpleheart” or “bubinga” like a normal person, but rather, as is his wont, he asked a series of probing questions.

“Could I move around?” he asked.

“Of course not, you’re a tree,” I replied.

“Well, would I have the intellect of a tree?”

“No, you would have a human’s intellect and senses”

“Wait, could I do anything?”

“You could wave your arms–although it might be the breeze–and of course you could slowly grow…expand your roots deeper into the mountain, that sort of thing” I sagely relied. “I suppose you would be granted extremely long life though, unless you chose to be a…”

“Fie upon that!”* he interjected angrily. “I refuse to play your stupid game.  I don’t want to be imprisoned for centuries in some sort of hell tree!”

So that was that.  I still don’t know what kind of tree my friend would be (although, now that I think about it, that scenario does seem to be fairly dire).  In hopes of enticing him to give me a better answer, here is a gallery of sentient, anthropomorphic trees I found around the internet.  The one at the top of the post is a painting titled “General Sherman” by the disconcerting contemporary artist Mark Ryden from his 2007 “Tree Show” and the first one below is “the Brain Tree” a character from an online game who dispatches players on virtual scavenger hunts.  As for the rest, I’m not sure. They were not properly attributed to the troubled individuals who designed them.  I fear you will just have to let them wash over you without knowing who made them or why. So, without further ado, here are a bunch of anthropomorphic trees:

The Brain Tree from "Neopets" (there might be a New England pun in there)

Wow, that…that got really creepy.  It’s just possible (though unlikely) that Mike was right.

(*It should be noted that I have paraphrased this long-ago conversation–partly due to the distorting effects of memory and partly because of coarse language.)

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September 2020