Tag: NASA

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.

Friday Factoid Week 25

Hey all you star-gazers young and old!  Did you know that April is International Astronomy Month?  To celebrate, we’re stepping away from our usual Apologia course material and participating in some great events happening all around the globe but accessible right from our laptops.  However, the best way to participate of course, is turn the computer off altogether, go out side, and look up!

First I’m going to post a few links to help get you inspired.  If you’ve never visited the Hubble Space Telescope site, do that first.  Just scrolling through their archive of images will leave you in absolute awe of what lies beyond our field of vision.  Click here to go straight to their gallery.  Here’s just a sample of a few of our favorite Hubble images.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The NASA site is like a black hole.  It will suck you right in.  Click here, but with caution 🙂

Another fun thing to do is to celebrate International Astronomy Month with the astronauts currently on board the International Space Station. You can track the space station and find out how to spot it in the sky.  We did this while living in Hawaii and it was really cool.  Click here to read the blog post.  Click here for the ISS site where you can also view their live video stream.

Next is Astronomers Without Borders.  They have links to citizen science activities and a cool art and poetry contest.  The boys have been busy this week working on entries to both contests which we will post on next Friday’s Factoid.

 

 

Friday Factoid Week 22

Neptune is the furthest planet from the sun, besides Pluto.  It takes 164 earth years for it to orbit the sun.  It is spinning the same direction as the earth except for it’s all wobbly as it goes.  It is bright blue because it is made of methane.  Neptune also has 2 rings made of dust particles.  They are 33,000 and 39,000 miles away from Neptune.  Neptune used to have a Great Dark Spot on it which was a storm as big as the whole earth but now its gone  (by Nathan, age 11).

PIA01492

Neptune has 13 known moons, the largest of these is Triton. It is the coldest object that any spacecraft has ever visited.  The average temperature on Triton is 400 degrees F below zero.  It is also moving closer and closer to Neptune every day.  These two facts make most astronomers think that Triton was not originally Neptune’s moon, but was probably pulled in by Neptune’s gravity.  Another interesting thing about Triton is that it is full of geysers, which probably spew a mixture of chemicals instead of hot water (by Joel, age 13).

PIA02215

I’m adding this link to a flashback from our Hawaiian homeschool 6 years ago.  In it, Titus (age 9 at the time) mentions that it rains diamonds on Neptune.  When I reread this I was incredulous myself, wondering if I had let some misinformation slip into the blog.  It turns out that after that particular post, more studies emerged to support this theory.  You can read about it yourself in this Washington Post article .