21 August 2007

picture this

Anthony Doerr in the current issue of Orion magazine calls the Hubble Ultra Deep Field the "most incredible photograph ever taken." He may not be exaggerating! Actually, I was introduced to the photo via the comic strip "Opus."

Astronomers aimed the Hubble telescope at an incredibly tiny speck of the night sky. During 400 orbits of the earth, over the course of several months, they took a photograph with a million-second long exposure. They said it would be like looking through an eight-foot soda straw. The whole sky is 12.7 million times larger than the area covered in the Ultra Deep Field.

This grain-of-sand sized patch of sky isn't big, but it's "ultra deep" after about 11 days of exposure. Within it are thousands upon thousands of galaxies, billions of stars, possibly trillions of planets. And being many billions of light-years away, we see them as they were in an incredibly distant past.

Doerr says, "The night sky is the coolest Advent calendar imaginable: it is composed of an infinite number of doors. Open one and find ten thousand galaxies hiding behind it, streaming away at hundreds of miles per second. Open another, and another. You gaze up into history; you stare into the limits of your own understanding. The past flies toward you at the speed of light. Why are you here? Why are the stars there? Is it even remotely possible that our one, tiny, eggshell world is the only one encrusted with life?"

Such immensity makes me dizzy when I try to envision it. Well, forget it--I can't even come close to picturing it. He adds, "The Hubble Ultra Deep Field image should be in every classroom in the world. It should be on the president’s desk. It should probably be in every church, too." That might not be a bad idea. Our God is much too small. Our God is so puny. Our tiny minds contain an idol.

It isn't the one "who fills all in all."

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