“Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?”

“Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?” July 12, 2022

 

NASA Carina Webb
NASA public domain photograph, published with the following caption:
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high. The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image.

 

I find myself deeply moved and profoundly impressed by the images from the new NASA James Webb Space Telescope that are being released.  I offer three of them here, with captions from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration itself.

 

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

With its powerful, infrared vision and extremely high spatial resolution, Webb shows never-before-seen details in this galaxy group. Sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and starburst regions of fresh star birth grace the image. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster.
(NASA public domain image; caption from NASA website)

 

For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.  (Moses 1:35)

 

Two views of the same dying star
This side-by-side comparison shows observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from NASA’s Webb Telescope.

This scene was created by a white dwarf star – the remains of a star like our Sun after it shed its outer layers and stopped burning fuel though nuclear fusion. Those outer layers now form the ejected shells all along this view.
In the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) image, the white dwarf appears to the lower left of the bright, central star, partially hidden by a diffraction spike. The same star appears – but brighter, larger, and redder – in the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) image. This white dwarf star is cloaked in thick layers of dust, which make it appear larger.
The brighter star in both images hasn’t yet shed its layers. It closely orbits the dimmer white dwarf, helping to distribute what it’s ejected.
Over thousands of years and before it became a white dwarf, the star periodically ejected mass – the visible shells of material. As if on repeat, it contracted, heated up – and then, unable to push out more material, pulsated. Stellar material was sent in all directions – like a rotating sprinkler – and provided the ingredients for this asymmetrical landscape.
Today, the white dwarf is heating up the gas in the inner regions – which appear blue at left and red at right. Both stars are lighting up the outer regions, shown in orange and blue, respectively.
The images look very different because NIRCam and MIRI collect different wavelengths of light. NIRCam observes near-infrared light, which is closer to the visible wavelengths our eyes detect. MIRI goes farther into the infrared, picking up mid-infrared wavelengths. The second star more clearly appears in the MIRI image, because this instrument can see the gleaming dust around it, bringing it more clearly into view.
(Public domain image and accompanying caption from NASA)

 

Looking at these incomprehensibly grand vistas, I’m reminded for some reason of a comment from Brigham Young.  He told the Saints that, even with revelation, knowledge and understanding come slowly — and that none of the revelations that we’ve received has revealed everything about a subject:

 

I am so far from believing that any government upon this earth has constitutions and laws that are perfect, that I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness.

The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principles, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities. (Journal of Discourses, 2:314.)

 

These Webb telescope images should give us a pretty good sense of our smallness and incapacity.

 

I’m also reminded of this passage, from Doctrine and Covenants 88:42-47:

 

42 And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;

43 And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.

44 And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these are one year with God, but not with man.

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?

47 Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

 

Posted from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

 

 

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