Friday, June 21, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 101: Galactic Significance



Key Text

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you think of him? What is the son of man, that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4 (WEB)

Lesson

We live in a vast universe that makes us feel quite small. Have you ever looked up at the night sky and tried to count all the stars? It would be very hard because as you were counting the stars would move across the sky due to our planet spinning. When you look up at the night sky on an extra clear night, you can see a line of stars that is extra concentrated. This is known as the Milky Way. It is the galaxy we live in. Our own Milky Way galaxy is one quintillion km across or one followed by 18 zeros! That is equivalent to about 100,000 light years. When you look up at the river of stars in the sky that make up the Milky Way, you are looking at the center of it. Our planet is located in one of the outer arms.1

In pictures of the Milky Way our planet is too small to be seen, only the light from our sun is visible (see above). Our sun is just one of the many stars that make up the Milky Way. Scientists estimate that there are at least 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone.2 The most mind boggling part is that our galaxy is just one of millions we can see in space. Doesn’t that give you chills? A few years ago, scientists led by astronomer Bob Williams  pointed the Hubble Telescope at a dark spot in the sky. They wanted to see if it could see anything other telescopes could not. After being focused on one point for a few days, the scientists got a surprising picture. Instead of getting a black photo they got one covered in tiny points of light that at first glance might look like stars. It looked similar to a picture of any part of the night sky seen with the naked eye. As they analyzed the image, they realized those tiny points of light were actually other galaxies similar to our own Milky Way.

The implications are staggering! To get that image, the Hubble Telescope was looking at a fraction of the night sky. If you held one finger up at arms length and blocked a bit of the sky you would be blocking a bigger portion then the Hubble was looking at. In that one photo 3000 galaxies could be seen that no human had ever seen before! Each one of those galaxies holds dozens of stars like ours and perhaps hundreds of planets! Scientists everywhere were shocked by this discovery. It meant they had to increase the number of galaxies in the universe was much more than anyone thought. Indeed there are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there in the universe and many times more planets!3

Does that make you feel small? It sure makes me feel microscopic! It also makes me think about how big our God is. He created and sustains all those billions of galaxies spread out so far apart that we could barely understand the distance. Yet, he chose to send his one and only son, Jesus to this little planet to die for us. God could have started over after we sinned by creating life on another planet. He had plenty of options! But he chose the hard path of redeeming us. He did so because that is his nature. He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. He wants us to have the chance to explore all those distant galaxies. He wants you and me to remember that even though we are tiny and live on one of billions of planets, he chose to forgive our sins and save us.

Questions

Will you except Jesus’ invitation?

Do you think other beings live in any of those other galaxies?

How would it affect your faith if we discover aliens on another planet?

Why do you think God chose to save us instead of just creating a new race of beings?

Sources
1: Nola Taylor Redd, “Milky Way Galaxy: Facts About Our Galactic Home,” Space.com, (November 14, 2017), accessed June 2, 2019 from https://www.space.com/19915-milky-way-galaxy.html.
2: Elizabeth, Howell, “How Many Stars Are In The Milky Way,” Space.com, (March 30, 2018), accessed June 2, 2019 from https://www.space.com/25959-how-many-stars-are-in-the-milky-way.html.
3. Nadia Drake, “When Hubble Stared at Nothing for 100 Hours,” National Geographic online, (April 24, 2015), accessed June 2, 2019 from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2015/04/24/when-hubble-stared-at-nothing-for-100-hours/.

Written  by David F. Garner
Photo credit: Nick Risinger via www.wikimedia.org

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