The Infinite Universe of Divine Proportions

The brightly glowing plumes seen in this image are reminiscent of an underwater scene, with turquoise-tinted currents and nebulous strands reaching out into the surroundings. However, this is no ocean. This image actually shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small nearby galaxy that orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, and appears as a blurred blob in our skies. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has peeked many times into this galaxy, releasing stunning images of the whirling clouds of gas and sparkling stars (opo9944a, heic1301, potw1408a). This image shows part of the Tarantula Nebula's outskirts. This famously beautiful nebula, located within the LMC, is a frequent target for Hubble (heic1206, heic1402).  In most images of the LMC the colour is completely different to that seen here. This is because, in this new image, a different set of filters was used. The customary R filter, which selects the red light, was replaced by a filter letting through the near-infrared light. In traditional images, the hydrogen gas appears pink because it shines most brightly in the red. Here however, other less prominent emission lines dominate in the blue and green filters. This data is part of the Archival Pure Parallel Project (APPP), a project that gathered together and processed over 1000 images taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, obtained in parallel with other Hubble instruments. Much of the data in the project could be used to study a wide range of astronomical topics, including gravitational lensing and cosmic shear, exploring distant star-forming galaxies, supplementing observations in other wavelength ranges with optical data, and examining star populations from stellar heavyweights all the way down to solar-mass stars. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Josh Barrington.
Just like artists of the 20th century who studied mathematical patterns in the natural world, astronomers and physicists have recently been debating how fast the cosmos is expanding, and geometry has come into the picture. (Image: ESA / Hubble, NASA, Josh Barrington)

Just like artists of the 20th century who studied mathematical patterns in the natural world, astronomers and physicists have recently been debating how fast the cosmos is expanding, and geometry has come into the picture.

When Albert Einstein was solving problems about cosmology and applied his new ideas of general relativity to the larger universe in 1917, he surprisingly predicted that the universe had to be in dynamic motion.

Fast forward 80 years to 1997 — Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt and his team were questioning cosmic expansion and the three possible geometric patterns for the cosmos: a finite universe that was a closed sphere, a stable universe that was flat, or an infinite universe that was an open concave.

When Albert Einstein was led to solving for cosmology and applied his new ideas of general relativity to the larger universe in 1917, it surprisingly predicted that the universe had to be in dynamic motion.(Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

When Albert Einstein was solving about cosmology and applied his new ideas of general relativity to the larger universe in 1917, he surprisingly predicted that the universe had to be in dynamic motion. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

In 1998, they unveiled their “crazy result” that cosmologists still find unnerving today. Their diagram that plotted distance to a redshift of supernovae predicted the total sum of universal mass to be negative — meaning the universe is constantly expanding away from us at an accelerated rate (with the exception of the Milky Way) — revealing a hyperbolic geometry-curvature that opens outwards into infinity.

The golden ratio (Phi) used by many Renaissance artists also continues on seemingly into infinity (it is an irrational number 1.61803…) and recurs everywhere in nature — so much so, that it has been called the magical structure of the universe.

Leonardo Da Vinci called it the “divine proportion” and used it extensively in his works, such as The Last Supper, to achieve balance and beauty; the ratio was believed to be most pleasing to the eye.

Leonardo Da Vinci called it the “divine proportion” and used it extensively in his works such as The Last Supper to achieve balance and beauty; the ratio was believed to be most pleasing to the eye. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Leonardo Da Vinci called it the ‘divine proportion’ and used it extensively in his works, such as ‘The Last Supper,’ to achieve balance and beauty; the ratio was believed to be most pleasing to the eye. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

From Phi, you can produce “golden rectangles” that can then be nested together infinitely to form the logarithmic spiral and its ubiquity is astonishing — you can find the spiral in nature from microscopic unicellular organisms to enormous spiral galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars.

Many Renaissance artists believed that divine inspiration could open up infinite possibilities. They began by observing the natural universe around them — it can be a humbling and enlightening experience.

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our weekly email

Elon Musk and Jack Ma: AI and the Future of Humanity
Climate Change: Youth of the World Getting Behind Greta Thunberg