“The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.”
The spectacle of the night sky has always inspired awe in everyone who sees it, and for those who believe in the creator God, it says something about God’s power, imagination and beauty. If you haven’t seen it in all its spendour recently, it is worth driving out to a dark place on a clear night just to spend some time taking it in and reflecting on the glory of the one who made it.
In the last four hundred years, beginning with Galileo, the technology of the telescope has been used to see what is there in ever greater detail, as instruments become larger and more powerful. This culminated in the Hubble Space Telescope, whose stunning images we have all seen. I use one of them, the “Deep Sky” image, as my computer desktop image. It is a picture of hundreds of galaxies in a tiny area of the sky, about the size of a pinhead held at arm’s length.
But now the Hubble has been surpassed in capacity, as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) becomes an active imaging tool of the universe this year. Its first five images were released on July 12 and received immediate and universal praise and wonderment from both the scientific community and the general public. If, by some chance, you have not seen them yet, I encourage you to seek them out on the Internet where they are easy to find.
All along the way of this scientific path of discovery, new things have been seen which challenge the previously accepted ideas of how the universe is structured and has developed since its beginning. The champions of the existing ideas often found it difficult to take on board the new observations, and this continues to the present day. It was only about one hundred years ago that there was a debate over whether the Milky Way galaxy was itself the whole of the universe, and now it is known that there are in fact billions of galaxies, each as varied and dynamic as our own. In the few months since the JWST has started its ten-year observation program, it has already found wondrous things which both confirm and expand our understanding and, in some cases, confound what had been accepted.
The more we see and find out, the more grounds for awe there is. God has not by any means revealed to us all there is to know about what is out there. How just a few basic particles combine in myriads of ways to form stars, planets, quasars, black holes, and many other things, some of which we barely have names for. Yet all of it came into being at God’s command. And all of it proclaims the greatness of God. And for all we learn scientifically about it, its magnificence and meaning can even be seen by a child