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Celestial Stonehenge

Giant GRB ring smallHungarian astronomers discovered a ring of 9 gamma ray bursts 5 billion light years in diameter.  Let’s unpack this so that you can appreciate what an item of awe this is.

A gamma ray burst (GRB) emits more energy in a few seconds than our Sun does in billions of years.

5 billion light years is a measure of distance, not time.  A light year, as you probably know, is the distance that light travels in the span of one earthly year.  And light travels, as you probably know, at the speed of 670 million miles per hour.  Multiply this times 5 billion and you get an idea of what a diameter this ring has!

Take a look at the picture – notice this celestial stonehenge – and alert poets and mystics!

Existential relevance?  Well, the question for astronomers is: “Is this a real spatial structure?” The implicit part of this question is: “Or are we connecting dots into a pattern that doesn’t exist?”  If we are, which we might be, there is a term for that: apophenia – seeing a pattern that doesn’t exist.  Apophenia – to my mind – is a quintessential human condition: as Edward De Bono once noted, mind is a cliche-making (pattern-making), cliche-reading (pattern-reading) machine.  Mind writes first and reads second.

So, does this thing exist or not?  Astronomers that discovered this pattern of data themselves are not sure.  So, the answer is we don’t know (yet): apparently, there is only 1 in 20,000 probability that this circular arrangement is by chance.  But improbability is not knowledge, you know…

So, what we have here is possibly an ultimate item of awe and possibly an unknown for the ages.  Awe and not-knowing is good for a pattern-seeking mind.  Enjoy the speculation!


Celestial Stonehenge

Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. Several of his books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the Mindfulness Project (London, UK). Somov has conducted numerous workshops on mindfulness-related topics and appeared on a number of radio programs. Somov's book website is and his practice website is

Marla Somova, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the co-author of "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011).

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APA Reference
Somov, P. (2015). Celestial Stonehenge. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 14, 2019, from


Last updated: 5 Aug 2015
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