On a clear night, approximately 3,000 stars are visible with the naked eye, all of which are in our own galaxy. It is estimated that there are at least 100 billion individual galaxies in the Universe of which many contain hundreds of billions of stars. Each star, like our sun, is capable of having numerous planets rotating around it. Our galaxy, known as the Milky Way, is a cosmic ocean of 200 billion stars.
Astronomers are overwhelmed with the size of the Universe and the distances involved, so they have developed a special unit of measurement called the “light year” which enables them to begin to estimate distances in space. Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. At this speed, a trip to the moon would take only 1.3 seconds, and to reach the sun would take only 8 minutes. To reach the nearest star outside our solar system would take 4 years. A “light year” is the distance light travels in one year, which is 6 trillion miles.
Between September 24, 2003, and January 16, 2004, scientists picked a point in space and stared at it for a total of 11 days with the Hubble Telescope, which is in orbit 300 miles above the Earth. The region they picked to observe was a small patch of sky, one-tenth the diameter of the full moon, located in the constellation Fornax. This region was chosen because it had a low density of bright stars in the near-field. What they found and photographed is the farthest men have ever seen into the Universe, approximately 47 billion light years, and is said to be the single most important image ever taken by humanity. Using two types of cameras, they generated a composite image from 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around the Earth. This photo, known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, recorded 10,000 galaxies in a field of view which is smaller than the area blocked by a grain of sand held at arm’s length. This “deep core” sample of the Universe shows galaxies of various ages, shapes, and colors. Among the classic spiral and elliptical shaped galaxies are a number of odd shaped ones, including some that look like toothpicks and some that look like links on a bracelet. A few appear to be interacting.
“God calls men to look upon the heavens. See Him in the wonders of the starry heavens. [Isaiah 40:26 quoted.] We are not merely to gaze upon the heavens; we are to consider the works of God. He would have us study the works of infinity, and from this study, learn to love and reverence and obey Him. The heavens and the earth with their treasures are to teach the lessons of God’s love, care, and power. . . . The heavenly bodies are worthy of contemplation. God has made them for the benefit of man, and as we study His works, angels of God will be by our side to enlighten our minds, and guard them from satanic deception.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1145. “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” Psalm 8:3, 4.
David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.