Last weekend presented a nice opportunity: clear skies and a new moon (well, close enough). And so the telescope and I visited my boyhood back yard, well away from the city.
It may be an urban legend, but I read once where a power outage occurred in a city and many residents reported seeing UFOs and other strange sights in the sky. It turns out that they were just seeing the stars and the Milky Way. Much can be said for urban conveniences, but it’s really a shame that many never get to see the stars in their glory. In rural areas, light pollution — the combined result of security lights, all-night gas stations, etc. — is increasingly a problem. The back yard isn’t what it once was, and that is a sad thing.
In any event, as we sit in our houses reading, conversing, watching a ball game, or sleeping, the heavens silently declare God’s glory. Observing the lovely M3 last Friday, it struck me that this thing is there every day and night, waiting for all to look upon its glory. It’s a half a million stars, 34 thousand light years away from the earth. Not far away in the sky is M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. It looks like a smudgy blob in my telescope. It’s not like the pictures, but still, but there it is, countless numbers (trillions?) of stars forming a galaxy 30+ million light years from our own galaxy.
M3 and M51 are two glorious, mind-boggling profusions of splendor amid trillions in God’s great universe.