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Starts With A Bang

The Astro Alphabet

Every letter holds a special story for those who marvel at the Universe.

“When I was having that alphabet soup, I never thought that it would pay off.” –Vanna White

Ever want an A-to-Z illustrated alphabet of some of the astronomical wonders of the Universe? Turns out that — unless you’re willing to write your own via Galaxy Zoo — there really isn’t a good way to get one.

So I thought it would be delightful to make a 26-letter journey through the Universe, in rhyming couplets, for everyone!

Image credit: Flickr user Image Editor / 11304375@N07.

A is for Aurora, the Earth’s polar lights,
as the Sun’s hot electrons help color our nights.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

B is for Black Hole, a star’s collapsed heart,
if you cross its horizon, you’ll never depart.

Image credit: Comet West, retrieved from Cathy at

C is for Comet, with tails, ice, and dust,
a trip near the Sun makes skywatching a must!

Image credit: ©2014 DEUS consortium, via

D is for Dark Matter, the great cosmic glue
that holds clusters together, but not me and you!

Image credit: Miloslav Druckmuller (Brno U. of Tech.), Peter Aniol, and Vojtech Rusin.

E is for Eclipse, where the Moon, Earth and Sun
cast light-blocking shadows that can’t be outrun.

Image credit: Flickr user Image Editor / 11304375@N07.

F is for Fusion, that powers the stars,
as nuclei join, their released light is ours!

Image credit: Dean Rowe of

G is for Galaxies, in groups and alone,
house billions of planets with lifeforms unknown.

Image credit: NASA / Space Shuttle, from the 1997 servicing mission.

H is for Hubble, for whom Earth’s no place;
a telescope like this belongs up in space.

Image credit: Robert Gendler of

I is for Ions, making nebulae glow;
as they find electrons, we capture the show.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; Submillimeter: MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; Optical: ESO/WFI.

J is for Jets, from a galaxy’s core,
if you feed them right, they’ll be active once more!

Image credit: retrieved from Angelcraft Universes, via

K is for Kepler, whose great laws of motion
keep planets on course in the great cosmic ocean.

L is for Libration, which makes our Moon rock,
it’s a trick of the orbit; it’s tidally locked!

Image credit: Fred Bruenjes of Moonglow Observatory; 253 meteors from the 2007 Perseids.

M is for Meteors, which come in a shower,
if skies are just right, you’ll see hundreds an hour!

Image credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

N is for Nebula, what forms when stars die,
this recycled fuel makes cosmic apple pie.

Image credit: Axel Mellinger.

O is for Opaque, why the Milky Way’s dark,
these cosmic dust lanes make starlight appear stark!

Image credit: Optical: NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al. X-Ray: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al.

P is for Pulsar, a spinning neutron star,
as the orbits tick by, we know just when we are.

Image credit: ESA, NASA, K. Sharon (Tel Aviv University) and E. Ofek (Caltech).

Q is for Quasar, a great radio source,
accelerating matter with little remorse.

Image credit: NASA / Cassini / the CICLOPS team.

R is for Rings, all gas giants possess them,
even one found in another sun’s system!

Image credit: ESA / Hubble & NASA.

S is for Spacetime, which curves due to matter,
this Universe-fabric can bend but won’t shatter!

Image credit: Fine Art America / Gary Hincks, via

T is for Tides, caused by gravity’s tune,
our oceans bulge out from the Sun and the Moon.

Image credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team.

U is the Universe, our goal’s understanding,
with billions of galaxies, as spacetime’s expanding!

Image credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo of Deep Sky Colors;

V is for Virgo, our nearest great cluster,
with thousands of galaxies, it’s a gut-buster!

Image credit: N.A.Sharp, NOAO/NSO/Kitt Peak FTS/AURA/NSF, via

W is for Wavelength, the energies of light,
that tell us what atoms are in stars just from sight!

Image credit: ESO, APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO), A. Weiss et al., NASA Spitzer Science Center.

X is for X-rays, high-energy light,
where bursts of new stars show an ionized might.

Image credit: Huffington Post, via

Y is the Year, where we orbit our Sun,
each planet’s is different; the Earth’s is just one.

Image credit: The Milky Way through a Fisheye Lens, from Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Z is for Zenith, so gaze up at the sky!
The Universe is here; let’s learn what, how and why.

Thanks for sharing this unique run through the alphabet with me. If you enjoyed it, leave a comment at the Starts With A Bang forum on Scienceblogs!

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