Humbled by the Heavens

Humbled by the Heavens February 7, 2019

I stood in the cold night and wondered what in the world I was doing there.

The volunteers excitedly pointed out objects in the night sky, Orion’s Belt, the Little Dipper, and Jupiter all beamed in the moonless night and the Colorado sky that stretched from horizon to horizon.

Still, it was cold and dark.

But the star watch coordinators were enthusiastic, even giddy about the sky. They spoke of the spin of the earth, the southerly shift of the canvas in winter, and the bane of city light pollution. They were knowledgeable, but to be honest, I’ve never been one for space.

I wanted to be somewhere else. We pulled our coats closer and shared body heat with strangers, thinking more about warmer venues than horsemen and lancers and ladles in the sky.

They pulled the covering off the telescope, and then everything changed. It was about four feet long with a 10-inch optical opening. Gary fiddled with the eyepiece, and finally focused in on a patch of the sky that looked relatively mild compared to the rest of the sky.

I leaned in, squinted and couldn’t believe what I saw. We looked at each other, mouths wide open in amazement.

It was  Andromeda, the nearest galaxy to our own, a mere 2.3 million light years away.  I pulled away from the telescope, wiped my eyes, and peered in again. What appeared in the naked sky as a smudge was a whole galaxy teeming with stars. So many bodies of light that they blended together. Powerful scopes sort them out one by one.

If you locate Andromeda in the night sky and hold up your thumb, it will just about blot out the galaxy. Pull your thumb away, and you see just how small of an island it occupies in the universe.

Photo by Eidy Bambang-Sunaryo on Unsplash

But astronomers are telling us there are perhaps more than 1 trillion stars in Andromeda. Our own Milky Way “only” has 200 billion. The whole of space contains as many as 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Suddenly, standing on that peak, we felt….small. And then my thoughts drift to the edge of the universe, where space ends. And then to the end of time, when there is no more tomorrow. It’s simply unfathomable.

That’s what David felt when he wrote this,

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers–the moon and the stars you set in place–what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

And yet, He cares. He knows. He loves. You. And Me.

When I focus on my problems – the slights of people, the silly distractions of a wayward world, it makes me realize that there is something bigger. Much bigger.

I am humbled by the heavens.

 

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