Category: Xtra Astronomy Stuff

About That Star.

I have a lot of regrets as a parent. One thing I’ve never regretted though, is making the extra effort to experience things first hand rather than passively watching them on a screen as we are so trained to do today. They even want us to passively watch church on a screen! The advent of TV and internet has brought us a lot of things. But one thing it has taken away is real first-hand experience in God’s created world. Just like church on a screen is no substitute for the real thing, neither is observing the heavens that Psalm 19 describes as declaring the glory of God. Packing the kids up in the middle of the night to drive to the top of Hawaii’s highest mountain, Mauna Kea, just so we could see it cast it’s pyramid shaped shadow over the ocean as the sun rose over the Pacific– totally worth it. Driving out to the Kona airport to wait in line so the NASA folks could let us see the Venus transit of the sun through their fancy telescopes– totally worth it. Pulling everyone out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to wander sleepily out onto the golf course just to watch the ISS pass overhead– totally worth it. And yes, packing up our dinner and driving down the road to watch the last-seen-in-1226-conjunction-of-Jupiter-and-Saturn last night was also totally worth it.

Was this occurrence the reappearing of the “Christmas Star” followed by the Magi in Matthew 2 as some suggest? I don’t know. Does it’s appearing still declare a whole lot about the glory of God? Absolutely. You can’t look at the red striations of Jupiter as it’s flanked by 4 visible moons or Saturn all dressed up in her hoops through a telescope like we did and not see the glory of God. Unless you’re lying. But even without a telescope there’s still a lot to learn about His glory. Consider the following:

What looks like a tiny dot is actually 2 giant gas planets. The first and largest is Jupiter, about 318 times the size of Earth and nearly 500 million miles away from us. Saturn is another 450 million miles beyond Jupiter. Yet last night they looked like they were bumping right into each other!

And then we have that average sized star known as the Sun setting in the bottom right corner of the same picture. It’s a mere 91 million miles away from us but about 1.3 million times larger. And that’s just our little cul-de-sac in the sprawling cosmic metropolis of the Milky Way.

The distance from our sun to it’s nearest celestial neighbor, a binary star known as Alpha Centauri, is 25 trillion miles, or 4.2 light years. There are about 100-400 billion such stars in our galaxy which is 100,000 light-years across. The nearest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda Galaxy at a whopping 2.5 million light-years away. As far as astronomers can guess there are some 2 Trillion such galaxies in the known universe, which according to their calculations is expanding at about 50 miles per second.

Now let’s zoom way down into the visible matter composing a mere 5% of the universe. Most of that is empty space, too. In fact if you take one of the most common elements, the hydrogen atom, you’d find that besides the proton, neutrons, and electrons you’d have about 99.9999999999996% of practically nothing. To put the amount of space in an atom in perspective, if a hydrogen atom were the size of the earth, the proton at its center would be about 600 feet across.

So the question is: what’s stopping the whole thing from flying apart?

Answer: Jesus

I saw a manger scene recently where the baby Jesus was gripping Mary’s index finger the way we all love infants to do. Pretty profound considering He was in fact at that moment holding together every single atom that made up, not just Mary’s finger, but the rest of her as well. Truly the entire universe was in His infant grasp.

Just listen how Colossians 1:15-20 puts Christ’s incarnation and role in all of creation into a doxology,

“HE is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

May those words be in your heart and on your tongue next time you step outside and look up at the night sky or feel the grasp of a newborn babe.

Still, My Soul, Be Still

8 years ago, we were living across the ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was expecting our fifth son and was busy trying to keep our four other little boys under control in our rented third floor condo in an upscale beach front resort (Long story how we ended up in such an unlikely housing situation for a growing young family). But anyway there I was surrounded by my boys and retirees and tourists all day while Tom was off at work. Pretty much not a day went by that I didn’t find myself sitting in front of the computer with tears streaming down my face wondering how I was going to manage life with a new baby, while singing along through my sobs to a Youtube video of the Getty hymn, “Still, My Soul, Be Still.”

A month ago my oldest son arranged a version of that same hymn for my Birthday. He finally put his performance up on Youtube and it couldn’t be more timely with all the election madness we’re experiencing today. Be sure to read the lyrics as you listen. Also be sure to like and subscribe to Titus’s channel. Click here

Still, my soul be still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fires of unexpected sorrow
God, You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone
Still, my soul be still
Do not be moved
By lesser lights and fleeting shadows
Hold onto His ways
With shield of faith
Against temptation’s flaming arrows
God, You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone
Still, my soul be still
Do not forsake
The truth you learned in the beginning
Wait upon the Lord
And hope will rise
As stars appear when day is dimming
God, You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone

July Fly-by

We started the month celebrating a somber 4th of July. Why did it feel more like a funeral than Independence Day? Could it be that here in California we’re all basically under house arrest? Except for our convicted criminals. They’re being let out of jail by the thousands. Anyway, I thought Titus’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner fit the mood. Here’s the link.

Joel and Nathan got to take a road trip with their Opa up to Idaho to visit cousins. Besides an amazing show of hospitality by Tom’s middle brother and his family, Joel finally got some good catfish-ing under his now 15-year-old belt.

My IG Birthday greeting to this remarkable boy read like this:

“Happy Birthday to my fish catching, game hunting, piano playing, fly tying, snowcave sleeping, omelette flipping, anything high climbing, board shredding, highest peak in the lower 48 summiting, Gospel sharing, bike jumping, poker winning, truth loving, schoolwork dodging, gun toting, arrow sending, Bible thumping, trouble making, thrill seeking, wilderness surviving, double daring, son Joel. And that just describes the first 2 years of your teens. I can’t imagine what God has in store for you in the years to come. He obviously custom made you for adventure.”

Unfortunately, he and Titus have been unemployed since March. Tom, thankfully still has a job, but the camp being shut down for 5 months has obviously been a hardship. Keeping a houseful of 3 teenage boys, and 2 that might as well be, busy and in order with no work, no school, no camps, and limited interaction with friends has been a challenge to say the least. Mainly they’ve just been running wild in the woods all spring and summer. But honing those wilderness survival skills isn’t such a bad idea given our current political climate.

I was able to reign them in briefly to do some night-sky gazing recently. Jupiter and Saturn have been stunning this month. Our telescope was able to give us the first clear view of Saturn’s rings we’ve ever had. And of course, there was the Neowise comet. I think there might be one or two nights left to catch a glimpse of this 3-mile wide space rock orbiting our sun. You can find it right below the Big Dipper. I’m reposting some illustrations the boys did back in 2019 of the various kinds of space rocks and a poem to help you remember each kind.

“Dirty snowball out in space

with smudgy tail making chase

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Ice melts off and leaves behind

Dirt and rocks that sometimes find

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Their way through Earth’s thick atmosphere

But burn all up before getting here

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Except for sometimes they crash on through

And hopefully don’t land on you!”

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The End.

Titus wasn’t interested in our childish bit of poetic nonsense so here are some more accurate definitions from him.img_3536

Anyway, hope your July has been star-spangled and that August will still find us all fighting for the land of the free and the home of the brave.