Astropoetica: Mapping the Stars through Poetry

The Crab

Crab Nebula, NGC 1952

Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, JPL-Caltech, J. Hester and A. Loll (ASU), R. Gehrz (Univ. Minn.), and STScI

Scuttling across the floor of the night sky,
nebulous claws scattering stardust
to spiral within a magnetic shell
around a tiny neutron heart
pulsing so regularly
and with such speed
as to serve as a standard to those
who monitor signals from the sky,
the Crab, remnant of an exploded star
marveled at by ancient skywatchers,
cursed and catalogued as nuisance
number one by the comet-hunter Messier,
later likened to a celestial crustacean,
still makes us marvel how a beast
otherworldly as any chimera
yet mechanical as clockwork
can abide in peace with flotsam like us
newly arrived on the same star-soaked shore.

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John Blakeslee is as an astronomer at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, British Columbia. He studies galaxies and the large-scale structure of the universe using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories. He is the author of over 100 publications in professional astronomy journals. His poetry has appeared in America magazine.