When the evils of the world get me down, I take comfort in the fact that this world is not my real home. I am a Christian and I believe that my Creator, Savior and Protector has a better place for my soul to spend eternity when my time on Earth is done and spending time worshipping Him, studying His word and doing His work provides the balance I need to deal with the evil in the world.
But I don’t have to wait for death to catch a glimpse of what Heaven will be like because Science has given me tools to glimpse what an amazing Cosmos has been created for me right now and if the current world, filled with evil, looks this spectacular then I can only imagine how much better my eternal home will be.
I’m an amateur astronomer and I love to get my telescope out and practice the simple act of “looking up” – peering into the eyepiece and seeing the wonders of the night sky. From my front yard and my 10” Newtonian Reflector, I can see not only planets and their moons but star clusters in our Milky Way and other galaxies that are millions of light years away.
Time constraints with family and job along with troubling weather and growing light pollution have prevented me from having what I call “star therapy” but fortunately I have images from large telescopes that are both land based and in Earth’s orbit to provide breath taking images to fill this void.
Earlier this year I wrote about a stunning picture from the European Southern Observatory (if you’ve not seen that picture, then go check it out here) and now there is an equally remarkable photo just released from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The picture is below and you can download the high resolution image here.
“The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004.”
“Hubble pointed at a tiny patch of southern sky in repeat visits made over the past decade with a total exposure time of two million seconds. More than 2000 images of the same field were taken with Hubble’s two primary cameras: the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3, which extends Hubble’s vision into near-infrared light. These were then combined to form the XDF.”
“The Universe is 13.7 billion years old, and the XDF reveals galaxies that span back 13.2 billion years in time. Most of the galaxies in the XDF are seen when they were young, small, and growing, often violently as they collided and merged together. The early Universe was a time of dramatic birth for galaxies containing brilliant blue stars far brighter than our Sun. The light from those past events is just arriving at Earth now, and so the XDF is a time tunnel into the distant past when the Universe was just a fraction of its current age. The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the Universe’s birth in the Big Bang.”
This picture looks like the HST took in a huge portion of our night sky but the picture below shows what a tiny area was covered to obtain this beautiful image:
The HST was fixed on this tiny location in the night sky for over 23 days allowing photons that have traveled almost 13 billion light years to hit the instruments and give us this amazing picture. From a pure science standpoint, this image has thousands of galaxies at various stages of their lives – Red ones are dying and White ones are new – and NASA scientists will use this data to gain more understanding on the life cycles of galaxies.
“Looking up” at our vast and beautiful Cosmos is why I call this act “star therapy” – It is, at the same time, a very humbling and empowering experience. When you look up, you discover that Earth is only a tiny blue dot that orbits an average yellow sun that resides in the suburbs of an average galaxy in a Cosmos that contains millions of galaxies. This is the humbling aspect but we should also be very proud that we happen to live on a planet that is conducive to life and therefore we should consider ourselves extremely privileged. By even conservative counts and observations, there are very few stars in our observable corner of the galaxy that even hint at the possibility of containing planets that may harbor conditions suitable for life as we know it (a planet that orbits a star in the habitable zone and containing Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen) and that should give us great pride in the fact that we are in a VERY exclusive club!
“Star Therapy” is good for all humans and it doesn’t matter what religion you practice or even if you believe in a Creator or not. What problems are you facing right now? How powerful do our world leaders think they are? Are the Presidential elections getting you stressed out? Why do we continue to war with each other over race, religion and socioeconomic systems? With life so precious in the Cosmos, why do we continue to kill babies or abuse children? Are there any issues you are struggling with that seem insignificant when viewed on a cosmic scale?
A large portion of the world’s population will die without ever peering through the eyepiece of a telescope, let alone taking an Astronomy class school. That is unfortunate because I feel that if everyone in the world could spend some quality time in “star therapy” then most of our big problems would seem small.