Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"The Glow of Distant Worlds"

Who else but an astro-physicist? What other person could display this depth of wonder and awe? Who in the world has a richer appreciation for creation than one who spends all day every day gazing at its beauty?

I read today about a team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has for the first time measured light from two big planets in orbit around distant stars. A member of the team said, ""It's an awesome experience to realize we are seeing the glow of distant worlds. When I first saw the data, I was ecstatic."

What self-respecting scientist uses phrases like "the glow of distant worlds?" That sounds like a line from a Fanny Crosby hymn! This man of science describes a state of ecstasy and awe that is often reserved for experiences of a religious nature. Which in a way, this was.

In the last ten years, over 130 extrasolar planets have been discovered by earth-bound scientists. They generally detect them by noting a small gravitational wobble in the observed star or a brief dimming in the star's light as the planet passes in front of it. But now we are actually able to "see" the infrared light that is emitted by the planets themselves, using technology like NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Noticing more and more of the wonders of creation, being awed by the beauty of worlds beyond our own, just considering the infinite potential of the universe: these are religious experiences, whether you name them as such or not. Some may disagree, preferring to keep the "religious experiences" category limited to "Jesus experiences" or "God experiences" (or "my experiences"), and unwilling to even consider that scientific discovery can, and often does, draw us closer to the Creator.

But science and religion are not enemies, and they never have been. To separate them from one another is detrimental to both. It took science to allow humanity to gaze in ecstasy into "the glow of distant worlds."

"O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed,
then sings my soul, my saviour God, to thee, 'How great thou art! How great thou art!' "
(text: Stuart K. Hine, 1953)

Grace and Peace,
Andy B.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've always been able at times to feel and see God in nature. Now to think of "nature" as extending to other worlds. Wow! Our own experience is so limited and we need scientists to help us expand our collective experience. Thanks!