When I was a kid, I loved to stargaze.
Late at night I’d head outdoors to lay down on my back and lose myself in the canopy of the midnight blue sky. I still enjoy doing that, although it’s been a while. Over the years I’ve learned how to identify a number of the eighty-eight constellations. Of course, the naked eye can only see so much. That’s why I’m always fascinated when the Hubble telescope snaps new pictures of deep space which has a way of transporting me to worlds beyond ours.
Back in May the Hubble received an upgrade with a new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The images are super sharp and have the ability to capture images over a wider range of wavelengths. Last month, the WFC3 took several images that are simply spectacular. Take a look at the breathtaking assortment of 100,000 stars located within the congested core of what’s known as the Omega Centauri globular cluster.
As numerous as these stars are, they represent a fraction of the almost 10 million stars within the massive cluster. Between the young, blue stars, the yellow-white stars which are similar to our sun, and the aging red stars, these heavenly bodies paint the sky with a palette of color worthy of Christmas. What’s amazing to me is how clear the image is, especially when you consider that the Omega Centauri cluster is 16,000 light-years away.
Keep in mind that a light year is the distance light travels in a year—almost 6 trillion miles. That means these stars are hovering off in space some 96 quadrillion miles from Earth. Millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions . . . at some point my mind cannot comprehend the significance of these numbers.
The second image captured by the Hubble’s upgraded eye into space was taken last month. It’s a picture of Stephan’s Quintet (HCG 92)—five galaxies swirling as if dancing in the sky.
The light bluish galaxy in the upper left of the photo (NGC 7320) is closest to Earth, about 40 million light years away, while the other four (NGC 7319 top right, NGC 7318A and NGC 7318B in the middle, and NGC 7317 bottom left) are in the constellation Pegasus—located an estimated 290 million light years away!
Like I said such numbers, and the distances they represent in space, are beyond my ability to comprehend. What’s more, if you spend a few minutes looking at the equally phenomenal new images taken by the Hubble, there comes a point—at least for me—when I find myself saying with King David:
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens . . . When I consider your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?” (Ps. 8:1, 3-4).
There’s a reason why I wanted to bring all of this talk of stars and galaxies and light years to your attention. To be candid, whenever I spend time stargazing, I come away from that experience admitting my view of God is way too small.
I cannot imagine the power necessary to create just one galaxy with its millions or billions of stars, can you? How about creating and sustaining a few billion galaxies? Some have estimated that there are 100 billion observable galaxies!
Are you beginning to understand why I said my view of God is far too small? True, I believe God created the heavens and the earth. That’s something Jean and I teach our boys. But on the other hand, there are times when my circumstances dim that magnificent view of Him. Whether it’s financial pressures, a rough day at the office, or a deep conflict with a friend or family member, I may make the mistake of buying the notion that my problems are insurmountable.
As the saying goes: Big God, Small Problems . . . Small God, Big Problems.
So, how big is your God?
As you ponder the answer, this last photo was taken of the spiral galaxy NGC 4414 in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope. Indeed, King David was right, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1).
[First and second photo credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team; third photo credit: NASA Headquarters – Greatest Images of NASA (NASA-HQ-GRIN)]