Opinion James Webb Space Telescope images ranked by how good they look to eat

At right, the planetary nebula cataloged as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. At left, a slice of Spanish chorizo.
At right, the planetary nebula cataloged as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. At left, a slice of Spanish chorizo. (Washington Post illustration; photos by NASA ESA CSA and STScI HANDOUT/E and iStock)
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One of those things that they always say about space is that you ought to send a poet there. But instead they are always sending expensive pieces of equipment and scientists and astronauts and people who say things like, “Super! Really enjoyed it!” when asked how it was to go to the moon.

Well, I am not a poet but I am an English major who has not had lunch yet. So I thought I would do my part to make the case for poets by ranking the James Webb Space Telescope pictures in order of how good they looked to eat. By the time I am done, you bet that you will wish you had sent me instead of that costly and elaborate equipment!

1

Stephan’s Quintet

This looks delicious! It looks like those fancy poached eggs you get in a restaurant where the egg gets to drift around in simmering water first and take on a shape of its own, not the eggs you poach at home in little UFO-shaped cylinders. This looks like something you would have to know that you were ordering at the very beginning of the meal so that the chef could make it specially in advance. Whoever made these looks like she knows what she is doing and knew just when to take them out of the oven so they would not collapse. And I am glad you get five because I think just one would not be enough. I would love to eat this!

Sergio Peçanha: Stop for a minute. These space images are worth your time.

2

Southern Ring Nebula

I would definitely eat this, although I would eat the one on the right for sure and the one on the left only if I had not seen the one on the right. If you told me that they were two pictures of the same thing, I would say, “Oh, the one on the left has clearly gone bad. I have seen a version of this phenomenon happen to bread that I leave in the fridge too long.” My dad would say to just cut off the part that looks weird and eat the rest, but just to be safe I think I would toss the whole thing. The one on the right looks delicious, like some sort of fancy cured meat or thinly sliced radish, or a movie theater candy that was supposed to look like a fancy cured meat or thinly sliced radish. I would definitely drink a Gatorade in either of these flavors, and both of them would be raspberry.

The Post's View: NASA’s new images represent humanity — and government — at its best

3

WASP-96b

No, I don’t think I would like to eat this (the chart, not the people — but also not the people). Much of this is because it is called WASP, and I do not want to eat anything called WASP. At best, it would be crunchy; at worst, it would be alive. But also the presentation is just not there! It is not a cool picture but rather a chart of wavelengths of light telling me about the atmosphere composition of this planet. I am very excited about these readings, but I don’t feel like they were shown off to their best advantage by being juxtaposed with the gorgeous photos of stars being born. This is like showing up to prom with a verbal description of an outfit rather than an outfit. It’s very Magritte.

David Von Drehle: The years and billions spent on the James Webb telescope? Worth it.

4

Carina Nebula

Hmm, I am not sure about eating this. On the one hand, it looks savory, and I love savory eats! That rich brown color would go great in a stew or a steak pie! On the other hand, though, the texture. The texture looks, not to put too fine a point on it, very dusty. That’s not a characteristic I like in food! When I look at this, my first thought (after about 90 minutes of thoughts that are awe and wonder about the cosmos and our place in it) is: This looks like mushroom powder. Or the gravy you get in a packet. It might be okay to dip a chip in, but I am not raring to get at it, exactly. I think I would have a little of it if the person I was with said it was good, but if it were just an hors d’oeuvre being thrust at me, I might demur.

5

SMACS 0723

Even though the name SMACS sounds like a popular kids’ snack from the 1990s that later turned out to derive its neon hue from being full of lethal chemicals, it does not fool me. This in no way looks good to eat. This looks like something that would be very difficult to send by mail, and if you opened up the envelope the wrong way, you would say “Darn” as it got all over everything. This looks like a dress your aunt would wear to Christmas Eve dinner. I guess these might be good to sprinkle on something? Maybe you could get a little canister of it to use for decorating holiday cookies. But this is less than bite-sized, and certainly not a dish of its own. Also, elements of it are apparently distorted, so I cannot be sure that this is how it would actually look if I ordered it. I have been burned before, Arby’s! Some of these look kind of wormy, actually. I am not sure I would like to taste this at all, the more I look at it.

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But I am certainly enjoying looking at it.

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