Tag Archives: Milky Way

Sunday Devotional: Light of the World

jesus-christ-crucification-crossJohn 8:12

I am the light of the world,
says the Lord;
whoever follows me
will have the light of life.

Milky Way from Yellowstone Natl ParkThe Milky Way, as seen from Yellowstone National Park

Ephesians 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind
of goodness and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them,
for it is shameful even to mention things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”


Creation: The Milky Way

Mark Gee is the winner of the Earth & Space category and the overall winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013.

This is his breathtaking winning photo – of the Milky Way, taken from Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Click pic to enlarge. You must! :)

The Milky Way from New Zealand Source: The Guardian

H/t FOTM’s Joseph


Creation sings of the Living God

Milky WayThe Milky Way (click to enlarge – you simply must!)

The Evidential Power of Beauty

by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.June 25, 2013

“Beauty is the battlefield where God and Satan contend for the hearts of men.”– Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“Late have I loved thee, Beauty so old and so new; late have I loved thee. Lo, you were within, but I was outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong — I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you.” – Augustine, The Confessions

A friend once told me the story of how she first met God. She doesn’t remember her age; it must have been about 4 or 5. Her family lived in the countryside on the rim of one of our big eastern cities. And one June evening, cloudless, moonless, with just the hint of a humid breeze, her father took her out into the back yard in the dark and told her to look up at the sky. From one horizon to the other, all across the black carpet of the night, were the stars — thousands of them, tens of thousands, in clusters and rivers of light. And in the quiet, her father said, “God made the world beautiful because he loves us.”

That was more than 50 years ago. My friend grew up and learned all about entropy and supernovae and colliding galaxies and quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity. But still, when she closes her eyes, she can see that carpet of stars and hear her father’s voice. God made the world beautiful because he loves us.

Creation is more than an accident of dead matter. It’s a romance. It has purpose. It sings of the Living God. It bears his signature.

The story of my friend offers several lessons we might consider this week as summer begins and life starts to briefly slow down.

First, the most powerful kind of witness doesn’t come from a classroom or pulpit. It doesn’t need an academic degree or special techniques. Instead, it grows naturally out of the lives of ordinary people–parents and spouses and friends; people confident in the love that God bears for them and eager to share it with others; people who know the world not as a collection of confused facts but as a symphony of truth and meaning.

Second, nature is sacramental. It points to things outside itself. God speaks and creation sings in silence. We can’t hear either if we’re cocooned in a web of manufactured distraction, anxiety and noise. We can’t see the heavens if our faces are buried in technologies that turn us inward on ourselves. Yet that’s exactly what modern American life seems to promote: a restless and relentless material appetite for “more,” that gradually feeds selfishness and separates each of us from everyone else.

Third and finally, every experience of real beauty leads us closer to three key virtues: humility, because the grandeur of creation invites awe and lifts us outside ourselves; love, because the human heart was made for glory and joy, and only the Author of life can satisfy its longings; and hope, because no sadness, no despair, can ultimately survive the evidence of divine meaning that beauty provides. If the world we see taking shape around us today in the name of a false freedom often seems filled with cynicism, ugliness, little blasphemies and sadness, we need to ask why. And then we need to turn our hearts again to the God of beauty – Augustine’s “Beauty so old and so new” — who created us, who sings his longing for us in the grandeur of the world he made, and who renews our souls.

God lives in the summer rain, the stars in the night sky, the wind in the leaves of the trees. He speaks to us through a creation alive with his love. We need to be silent, and watch and listen. And then we need to join in nature’s symphony of praise.

This article was originally published at http://archphila.org

peach roses3From Eowyn’s garden – after a summer rain, 2013.


Creation: Largest structure in Universe

“Praise you the Lord:
for it is good to sing praises unto our God…
He determines the number of the stars;
he calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power:
His understanding is infinite.” -Psalm 147:1-5

Milky WayMilky Way

A light-year is a unit of length equivalent to about 6 trillion miles (or 10 trillion kilometres). As defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year.

The light-year is mostly used to measure distances to stars and other distances on a galactic scale. Note that the light-year is a measure of distance rather than, as is sometimes misunderstood, a measure of time.

Imagine the distance of 4 BILLION light years.

That’s the length of a recently-discovered largest structure in our Universe.

Large Quasar Group

Agence France-Presse reports that on Jan. 11, 2013, astronomers said they had observed the largest structure yet seen in the cosmos, a cluster of galaxies from the early Universe that spans an astonishing four billion light years.

The sprawling structure is known as a large quasar group (LQG), in which quasars — the nuclei of ancient galaxies, powered by supermassive black holes — clump together.

From Wikipedia, here’s an artist’s rendering of ULAS J1120+0641, a very distant quasar powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun.

Artist's_rendering_ULAS_J1120+0641Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The discovery in the deep Universe was made by a team led by Roger Clowes at the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire.

It would take a spaceship traveling at the speed of light four thousand million years to get from one end of the cluster to the other.

To give a sense of scale, our galaxy (the Milky Way) is separated from its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, by two and a half million light years.

Clowes said in a press statement issued by Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society (RAS): “While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire Universe. This is hugely exciting, not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the Universe.”

The paper appears in a RAS journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Creation: Phoenix galaxy

“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” -Isaiah 40:26

“Phoenix” galaxy

A newly discovered, yet unnamed star system, nicknamed Phoenix, is believed to be the largest galaxy in the Universe.

The AP reports, August 15, 2012, that astronomers spotted the galaxy, using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray telescope. They published their findings in an article in the journal Nature, coauthored by MIT’s Michael McDonald and Harvard University’s Ryan Foley:

  • The Phoenix galaxy produces 740 new stars each year, and more new stars a day than our Milky Way spawns in a year.
  • It is about 5.7 billion light years away from Earth.
  • The Phoenix galaxy is in the center of a cluster of galaxies that give off the brightest X-ray glow astronomers have ever seen.
  • One strange thing is that the galaxy, although it is quite mature at about 6 billion years old, doesn’t behave like a mature galaxy. McDonald explains that mature galaxies usually are “red and dead” because “they don’t do anything new.” But the Phoenix galaxy “seems to have come back to life for some reason,” which is why the team of 85 astronomers nicknamed it “phoenix,” after the mythological bird that rises from its ashes.

“Our” Milky Way galaxy



Creation: Colliding star clusters

Space.com, August 15, 2012:

A new photo from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows two star clusters that appear to be in the early stages of merging.

The colliding clusters are 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. They’re found in the core of a massive star-forming region called 30 Doradus, which is also known as the Tarantula Nebula.

Scientists originally thought the clump of stars was a single cluster, but the new Hubble images suggest there are two distinct groups that differ in age by about 1 million years, scientists said.

The 30 Doradus complex has been actively forming stars for about 25 million years. Researcher Elena Sabbi, of the the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., and her team began looking at the area while searching for fast-moving “runaway stars,” which have been booted from the clusters that gave birth to them. [Hubble Telescope Forsees Star Cluster Crash (Video)]

“Stars are supposed to form in clusters, but there are many young stars outside 30 Doradus that could not have formed where they are; they may have been ejected at very high velocity from 30 Doradus itself,” Sabbi said in statement.

The giant gas clouds that condense to form star clusters can fragment into smaller pieces, according to some models. Once these smaller bits begin producing stars, they might then merge to become a bigger system. Sabbi and her team think this may be happening in 30 Doradus.

While perusing the Hubble data, the team noticed something odd about the supposed single cluster at the heart of 30 Doradus. Rather than being spherical as expected, it’s elongated in places — just like merging galaxies that get stretched by each other’s gravitational pull.

There are also lots of high-speed runaway stars around 30 Doradus, researchers said. They may have been ejected after a process called core collapse, in which huge stars sink to the center of a cluster. This makes the core unstable, and the big stars begin booting each other out into space.

Further study of 30 Doradus could help scientists understand the details of cluster formation and how stars formed in the early universe, researchers said.

Monday Devotional

Starting the week right, with the Lord….

~Click pic to enlarge~

The Orion Arm of the Milky Way stretches in an immense band across the skies, giving us just the tiniest glimpse of the vastness of the Universe. The image was taken by astrophotographer Luc Perrot on the French island of Réunion, to the East of Madagascar, who waited two years to get the perfect light conditions. (H/t Daily Mail)

Psalm 9 (I-III)

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will declare all your wondrous deeds.
I will delight and rejoice in you;
I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.
For my enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.

You upheld my right and my cause,
seated on your throne, judging justly.
You rebuked the nations, you destroyed the wicked;
their name you blotted out for all time.
The enemies have been ruined forever;
you destroyed their cities;
their memory has perished.

The Lord rules forever,
has set up a throne for judgment.
It is God who governs the world with justice,
who judges the people with fairness.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who honor your name trust in you;
you never forsake those who seek you, Lord.


The Cross in the Heavens

I was on the Hubble website and came across this intriguing image:

The Hubble gallery website  calls the image “Developing Star AB Aurigae, Viewed With a Coronograph.”

Other than that title, the website provides only this additional information on the image: “Credit: C.A. Grady (National Optical Astronomy Observatories, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), B. Woodgate (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), F. Bruhweiler and A. Boggess (Catholic University of America), P. Plait and D. Lindler (ACC, Inc., Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Clampin (Space Telescope Science Institute), and NASA.”

There’s no explanation for the black cross superimposed over the image of AB Aurigae. So I went looking for more information.

A coronograph is “A telescope or an attachment for a telescope equipped with a disk that blacks out most of the sun, used to photograph the sun’s corona.”

AB Aurigae is considered to be young, estimated to be 1 to 3 million years old.

From Wikipedia:

AB Aurigae is a star in the Auriga constellation. It is better known for hosting a dust disk that may harbour a condensing planet or brown dwarf. The star could host a possible substellar companion in wide orbit.

Auriga is a constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for ‘charioteer’ and its stars form a shape that has been associated with the pointed helmet of a charioteer. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and remains among the 88 modern constellations today. Its brightest star is Capella. The Milky Way runs through the Auriga constellation.

Here’s another NASA image of AB Aurigae, from Wikipedia:

This is what an article on ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2008) says:

“Astrophysicists have a new window into the formation of planets. Ben R. Oppenheimer, Assistant Curator in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, and colleagues have imaged a structure within the disk of material coalescing from the gas and dust cloud surrounding a well-studied star, AB Aurigae. Within that structure, it appears that an object is forming, either a small body currently accreting dust or a brown dwarf (a body intermediate between stars and planets) between 5 and 37 times the mass of Jupiter.”

The ScienceDaily article also gives us more information about the coronograph used to take these images of AB Aurigae:

“Finding planets outside of our solar system is a new phenomenon. It is only in the last 15 years that nearly 300 extrasolar planets have been identified around distant stars. Most of these objects are more massive than Jupiter, orbit very close to their stars, and are identified by indirect methods such as the wobble created by the gravitational pull. None of the known exoplanets have yet been imaged or seen directly, because the light of a star overwhelms the faint glow of a nearby planet.

Oppenheimer and his colleagues circumvented this glare by attaching a coronagraph to a unique U.S. Air Force telescope on Maui, Hawaii. The telescope compensates for turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere, permitting extremely high image quality from the ground. The Lyot Project coronagraph [...] blocks light from the center of the image of a nearby star to reveal faint objects around it.”

And here’s the image of AB Aurigae (no black cross) that accompanies the article:

More from the ScienceDaily article:

“AB Aurigae is well-studied because it is young, between one and three million years old, and can therefore provide information on how stars and objects that orbit them form. One unresolved question about planet formation is how the initial thick, gas-rich debris disk evolves into a thin, dusty region with planets. The observation of stars slightly older than AB Aurigae shows that at some point the gas is removed, but no one knows how this happens. AB Aurigae could be in an intermediate stage, where the gas is being cleared out from the center, leaving mainly dust behind.”

“He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.” -Psalm 147:4


A Night Sky of Stars

“My God, it’s full of stars.”

Those were the last words spoken by astronaut Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So many of us nowadays live in urban environs where we can’t see the stars at night because of man-made lights. Below is a stunning video of the night sky over Namibia, showing the Milky Way, the planet Jupiter, and countless stars.


Imagine the night sky that the shepherds saw in Bethlehem more than two thousands years ago….

I suggest you watch the video in full-screen mode!


Lights in the World

“Shine like lights in the world
as you hold on to the word of life.”
-Philippians 2:15-16

~Click image to enlarge~

On Sept. 25, 2011, in Ifjord, Finnmark, Norway, 33-year-old amateur photographer Tommy Eliassen struck photo gold when he captured this beautiful composite image of a meteor, the Milky Way and the Northern Lights.

In an interview with Cater News, Eliassen described what happened:

“Just as the clouds started to come in over the mountains I noticed this faint aurora lining up perfectly beside the Milky Way. Normally the lights from the aurora is much, much stronger than the lights from the stars, so getting the right exposure on both is difficult. But it was ideal conditions – almost once in a lifetime.”

Eliassen used a Nikon D700 with a wide angle lens and long exposures between 25-30 seconds.