NASA's SOFIA telescope and the FORCAST instrument captured this color-composite image of the planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9 (M2-9) showing a dying sun-like star.

A star in the sky. How many words and tears,
What promises, what wishes made upon it,
How many heart-cries! For what endless years!
What dashings-off of verse and rhyme and sonnet!

Yet to the clear mind, too, it signs from heaven:
The Magi followed it with reverence;
So did the navigators…Einstein, even,
Could not without some fixed stars make sense.

Ah, to select a theme that once for all
Would captivate all men without exception –
Saint, atheist, hero, coward, freeman, thrall –
And then to realize one’s high conception
On the night’s canvas with a dot, just one.

What artist would not own himself outdone?

Nikolai Morshen (1917-2001)
The Bitter Air of Exile: Russian Writers in the West, 1922-1972


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