Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Heavenly Father

Image Credit & Copyright: Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual (Spain)
NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) often spoils with such spectacular photos of Earth's atmosphere and the many things happening there from auroras to amazing cloud formations, moon light and the dance of sun light in early mornings or evenings, rainbows and the like. The displayed images are not exactly Astronomy but they depict things up there above our heads. The outstanding images taken by dedicated photographers proclaim the glory of creation. For us believers - Jewish, Christian, and Muslim alike - these photos preach without words about the greatness of God.

According to the Gospel of Matthew Jesus taught His own to address God in prayer saying "Our Father in heaven" . (Matthew 6:9).  The version of  Lord's prayer in Luke 11:2 starts simply with "Father".  In Aramaic father is abba.

The English translation of Matthew could also be "Our Father in heavens" as the original Hebrew word in Genesis 1:1 and elsewhere is in honorary plural  שׁמים shamayim. This type of Hebrew plural is also used in the word for God, Elohim. Since the verb with this subject remains in singular it signifies one God, not many.

In the Greek text of Matthew word heaven ouranos in in plural πατερ ημων ο εν τοις ουρανοις

God's abode
The Hebrew Bible was written when humanity had geocentric world view and the creation story of Genesis continues describing a bit how the heavens are made (despite of Galileo's protest!) They are a place for Sun, Moon and stars but also a structure called firmament that separates the waters below and above. When the windows of heaven open it rains.

But if you read carefully Genesis 1 there is no sense at all where God Himself would be located. The prophets of Israel glorify the works of God in atmosphere and so does the Book of Job, thunder is truly divine and an ancient Psalm describes God's cloudy chariot.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
Psalm 104:1 -3 KJV
The ancient texts of the Bible contain many different images of God up there. Highly significant for Judaism is the prayer of King Solomon while building the Temple of God who confesses that even the heavens of heavens are not large enough to hold God of Israel.
And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods. But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him?
2 Chronicles 2:5-6 KJV

Artists' depictions of heavens above us
View of Haarlem from the northwest, with the bleaching grounds in the foreground.
Jacob van Ruisdael (1682)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Image Essential

Creation of heavens is quietly celebrated by photography of the majestic wonders in the atmosphere of Earth - not to speak of proper space images by Hubble space telescope and others! Human admiration of heavens above us is also strongly present in those amazing 17th century Dutch landscape paintings in which heaven above the land or ocean takes such a huge segment of the canvas giving a wonderful greatness to the view.

For when God created Earth as a dwelling for us humans, His beloved children, He did not just put a plain nicely blue sky over our heads during day followed by a silky dark starry night. No! He demonstrated the art and imagination of a truly creative Being by making the nearby heaven such an endless play of light, colors, mighty storms and lightning, gentle breeze, pure white snow falling ...

Oh, you need to be a poet - or an established artist or photographer - even to start to make justice what God has created in heavens.

Spiritual heavens
What about the dwelling of the God of Israel, our Heavenly Father?

The Bible gives us only hints about the true spiritual abode of our Heavenly Father. Hints that gives us enough to ponder for entire life.

Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV
He apparently refers to the words of the King of the Prophets, Isaiah
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
Isaiah 64:4 KJV
Heavens above us are amazing and views of deep space breathtaking - but apparently what is there where our Lord is sitting on the right hand of God our Father is beyond our ability to even imagine!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Serenity - Messier 109

Classic beauty of Messier 109
Photo APOD NASA Copyright Bob Franke

Another Space Theology bookmark Messier 109  

At first it just looks like yet another picture of a galaxy.  But carefully read the text and patiently contemplate the bar galaxy, the Ursa Major galaxy group: soon this high definition image by Bob Franke becomes maybe also in your eyes a classic of Astrophotography bequeathing the grandeur and serenity of the Universe.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Blue Sun

Blue light from Sun NASA APOD
Image Credit & Copyright © Alan Friedman (Averted Imagination)
Click here to see the spectacular APOD image in full size.

The image of blue Sun is highly educational example of spectral analysis which is one of the principal tools for studying stars. Photos arriving from the stars and galaxies is the hard evidence that we Earthly observes have. One of the important aspects of information star light carries to us is the chemical composition of stellar objects so crucial in our attempts to understand the making of the Universe.

In order to create the amazing Blue Sun photo Alan Friedman first took an image of the Sun through a highly accurate narrow-band filter that removed all other colors from the light except extreme violet light CaK  (393.4 nm) emitted by ionized Calcium. After taking a picture of the Sun he false color-inverted the image to get this stunning result. The captured light is hard evidence about the presence of Calcium in the atmosphere of the Sun.

For a detailed explanation of how to take CaK filtered images and the camera equipment needed see, for eaxmple, the Elizabeth Observatory of Athens project.

Understandably the filtering and spectral analysis of light from more distant suns does not give such an extravaganza of identifiable band-widths. Nevertheless, the principle is similar when dealing even the faintest galaxies with significant Red Shift.

Spectral analysis has allowed stellar astronomers to achieve amazingly detailed information of stars. For example, light from Sirius A bears evidence of the significant traces of metals on its atmosphere. The fact has been explained, or so I have at least understood the explanation, that the heavier then helium metals have been captured from the dusty remnants of Sirius B.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Galaxy Collision - another APOD Wow!

Artist view of Milky Way and Andromeda colliding in 3.75 billion years from now
Image NASA

Space Theology bookmark May 14 2013 Galaxy collision

Rarely one can see such a spectacular demonstration of the educational power of computer modeling with real life photography!

Personally I had always - wrongly - assumed that the collision of two galaxies means widespread destruction of stars and planetary systems around them.

Instead "Since galaxies are mostly empty space, no internal stars are likely to themselves collide. Rather the gravitation of each galaxy will distort or destroy the other galaxy, and the galaxies may eventually merge to form a single larger galaxy... Our own Milky Way Galaxy has absorbed several smaller galaxies during its existence and is even projected to merge with the larger neighboring Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years."