The Glory of the Heavens

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”
—Psalm 19:1

IT WAS ANNOUNCED IN the New York Times on January 17, 2004, that “NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom.” The article said:

“Savor those cosmic postcards while you can. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration decreed an early death yesterday to one of its flagship missions and most celebrated successes, the Hubble Space Telescope.


“In a midday meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, two days after President Bush ordered NASA to redirect its resources toward human exploration of the Moon and Mars, the agency’s administrator, Sean O’Keefe, told the managers of the space telescope that there would be no more shuttle visits to maintain it.

“A visit by astronauts to install a couple of the telescope’s scientific instruments and replace the gyroscopes and batteries had been planned for next year. Without any more visits, the telescope, the crown jewel of astronomy for 10 years, will probably die in orbit sometime in 2007, depending on when its batteries or gyroscopes fail for good.

“‘It could die tomorrow, it could last to 2011,’ said Dr. Steven Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Institute on the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore. Dr. Beckwith said he and his colleagues were devastated.

“At a news conference last night, Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, the agency’s chief scientist and an astronaut who has been to the Hubble two times, called the telescope the ‘best marriage of human spaceflight and science.’

“‘It is a sad day that we have to announce this,’ Dr. Grunsfeld added.

“As the news flashed around the world by e-mail, other astronomers joined the Hubble team in their shock. Dr. David N. Spergel, an astronomer at Princeton and a member of a committee that advises NASA on space science, called it a ‘double whammy’ for astronomy. Not only was a telescope being lost, but $200 million worth of instruments that had been built to be added in the later shuttle mission will also be left on the ground, Dr. Spergel said.

“Dr. Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz who is also on the advisory committee, said, ‘I think this is a mistake,’ noting that the Hubble was still doing work at the forefront of science.

“Dr. Tod Lauer, of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, said, ‘This is a pretty nasty turn of events, coming immediately on the heels of ‘W’s’ endorsement of space exploration.’

“The demise of the Hubble will leave astronomers with no foreseeable prospect of a telescope in space operating primarily at visible wavelengths. The announcement also precludes hopes that astronomers had of using the Hubble in tandem with the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launching in 2011 and which is being designed for infrared wavelengths, to study galaxies at the far reaches of time.


“Ground-based telescopes like the 10-meterdiameter Kecks on Mauna Kea are growing more powerful, and the use of adaptive optics to tune out the blurring effects of the atmosphere lets them approach the resolution of the Hubble in limited cases. But they are blinded by the atmosphere to ultraviolet and infrared light.

“Floating above the murky atmosphere of Earth, the Hubble, launched in 1990, has had the ability to see into the depths of space and time with unprecedented clarity, glimpsing galaxies that were under construction when the universe was half its present age and helping cosmologists chart how the mysterious ‘dark energy’ has gradually taken over the expansion of the universe.

“Periodic service calls by shuttle astronauts repaired a series of early problems and have continually refurbished the telescope and kept it at the fore of cosmic research. The mission next year would have left the telescope in good shape to continue working through the end of the decade, when NASA plans to bring it down. But the service missions are expensive, more than $500 million each.”

There is no doubt that the expensive nature of each service mission is a factor in this decision, although the article did bring out the dangerous aspect of these missions. Ever since the Columbia catastrophe a year ago, there has been an awareness that the shuttle does not carry enough fuel to reach the space station in case of trouble. The article explored various ways of eliminating the hazardous aspects of the mission, but each led to much more expense. The chief scientist at NASA, Dr. Grunsfeld said, “Cost was not an issue,” but many astronomers noted that the decision came on the heels of Mr. Bush’s directive to NASA to reallocate $11 billion of its resources over the next five years for returning people to the moon. Presenting the decision as a safety related issue will make it difficult to challenge.


It was interesting to note that a week later, the New York Times reported January 24, 2004, on India’s space program. It told of 40 college engineering students visiting a satellite manufacturing plant in Bangalore. The article said,

“All expressed the same hope: to work for India’s prestigious national space program. And all dismissed a simple question: why should a country with as many poor as India spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a space program when it could use satellites from Europe or the United States?

“‘We will not depend on others,’ declared Raj Shecker, 21, an engineering student. ‘It’s just an Indian feeling.’

“Forty years after the launching of a small American-made rocket marked its humble beginnings, India’s national space program bills itself as thrifty space exploration for the common man.

“With a budget of only $450 million a year—one-thirtieth of NASA’s $15.5 billion annual budget—India has thirteen satellites in orbit, produces some of the world’s best remote imaging satellites and is planning to send a satellite to the moon by 2007 or 2008.

“But unlike space programs in other developing countries, including Brazil, low costs have not meant catastrophic launching failures. Only 6 of India’s 37 satellite launchings have failed.”

We note the question asked, Why is India spending hundreds of millions of dollars when it has so many poor people? A similar question was asked of the United States when it announced its program to explore for life on Mars. An editor of the newspaper USA Today asked, “What about life on Earth?”


Coming back to the Hubble telescope, the question that arises is why are astronomers so eager to maintain this method of exploring outer space? It is because they are eager to use every available instrument to learn about outer space. Yet the Hubble is only one of many being used to explore outer space. An article appeared in the Los Angeles Times newspaper on August 12, 2003 entitled, “A Whole Other Cosmos,” written by K. C. Cole, as front page news. It began by saying:

“There’s nothing like quietly contemplating the sky on a clear, moonless night to make us feel we can touch the cosmos in its entirety—the bright canopy of stars, the ever-shifting play of planets, the vast, cold silence of infinite space.

“How little we know.

“All this glory is but the barest glimpse of what’s actually out there. Tales of extreme violence and profound mystery stream at us from every corner of the cosmos, and yet we’re constrained to peering through the tiniest keyhole, seeing only the thin band that beams in visible light. Until very recently, even astronomers, who see nearly the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio to gamma rays, have been able to tune in to only the barest trickle from the flood of news.

“In the last few years, however, new instruments have begun painting a far more vibrant image of the universe. The celestial story now unfolding has as much in common with the picture of decades past as a Technicolor, Dolby Digital surround-sound production has with a grainy silent film.

“Consider: In the last year alone, a satellite tuned to faint microwaves still glowing from the Big Bang took a picture of the quantum mechanical quivers in the newborn universe that pulled matter into what eventually became galaxies, stars, and ultimately, us. The picture pinned down the age of the universe precisely—13.7 billion years—and confirmed its exact mix of ingredients. The same astonishing image suggested that the fires of the first stars electrified the skies 200 million years after the Big Bang—much earlier than most astronomers predicted.

“Meanwhile, X-ray telescopes have been finding black holes—objects of such concentrated energy and warped space that they trap even light—virtually everywhere they’ve looked. One satellite alone found 1,500 supersized holes feeding on surrounding gas and stars in just a small patch of sky. Other telescopes found a whole new species of midsized models previously unknown to exist.

“‘Far more black holes are lurking out there than anyone thought,’ said Sonoma State University astrophysicist Lynn Cominsky. ‘If you look at the universe in visible light, it’s pretty calm. But in X-rays and gamma rays, it’s very violent.’”


From this introduction it can be seen that the language used in this article is beyond an ordinary man’s imagination. An instrument capable of detecting microwaves released 13.7 billion years ago is beyond our comprehension. These are the sort of things with which the article deals. One usually thinks of an astronomer as a person using a telescope and light, as we know and experience it, to get clearer pictures of heavenly bodies. In this article, seven modern instruments are mentioned as being used by modern day astronomers, of which the Hubble telescope is only one. It was deployed in 1990 and uses three cameras designed for optical and infrared light.

In New Mexico there are twenty-seven radio antennas, each eighty-two feet in diameter in a Yshaped array. These detect radio waves from outer space.

A SIRTF (Space Infrared Telescope Facility) was to be launched in late August of 2003. Some infrared light reached Earth from outer space, but only in patches because of interference. Hence much is expected from SIRTF.

Twin telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii (the Keck telescopes) use optical and infrared light.

The Galex, an orbiting telescope launched in April, 2003, uses ultraviolet light to observe galaxies.

The Chandra, launched in 1999, is an orbiting Xray observatory exploring high energy objects such as collapsed stars.

The SWIFT was scheduled for launch in December 2003 to study gamma ray bursts.

Currently there are now in orbit new instruments such as the Hubble, the Chandra, the Galex, and the Swift. The article referred to these new instruments by saying:

“The adventure has barely begun. On Aug. 23, NASA is set to launch the last of its four ‘great observatories,’ (the SIRTF) grand telescopes in the sky, each tuned to a particular swath of the electromagnetic spectrum. While Hubble, Chandra, and the now defunct Compton telescopes looked at visible light, X-rays and gammarays, respectively, the new infrared telescope will allow astronomers to peer through the fog that shrouds the births of stars and planets.

“Following not far behind them are two more ‘Great Einstein’ observatories. Both involve arrays of telescopes flying in formation like well-practiced flocks of birds, in one case effectively creating an observatory millions of kilometers across.

“Almost every month, new ground-based telescopes open their eyes, and new special-purpose explorers take off for the clearer skies of space. Some, like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, are mapping much of the sky in great detail, pinning down the location of galaxies, stars and distant quasars to create a three-dimensional image of its large-scale structure. Others, like Hubble, often go deep and narrow, taking what amounts to a core sample of the universe.”


The article, which covers a full page, talks about black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and gravitational waves predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity. What is mentioned is a new kind of observatory to test Einstein’s theories. One is called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) and the other, LIGO’s successor, is called LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna). All of this is designed to learn more about outer space. Both LISA and another Einstein observatory are scheduled for launch by 2010 and 2011.

Conspicious by its absence is no mention of a great Supreme Creator being involved in all that has been observed. As scientists study the glory of the heavens, they do not say in the simple words of David, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Ps. 19:1) The glory of the heavens should declare the glory of God, who brought all of these elements into being. We do not understand the meaning of black holes or gamma ray emissions. He who created all things is mighty beyond our imagination.

The Prophet Isaiah knew this, and wrote: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?”—Isa. 40:12-14


Isaiah explains in simple language how all things we see on Earth—the oceans, the fields, the mountains, and hills—were all designed and measured by God. From where did this intelligence come? Who instructed God in doing all these things? The answer is that God is self-existing and is the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom. Then Isaiah says, “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” (vss. 15-17) Isaiah calls attention to the puny nature of man when he says ‘the nations are as a drop of a bucket’ and ‘as the small dust of the balance.’

He attacks the folly of men who make graven images to worship, and says, “Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth [is missing].”—vss. 21-26


All the stars in the heavens that we can see with the ordinary telescope move in orderly and precise procession. God has named each one. Some of the names of these have appeared in the Scriptures. When Job talked with God, he was asked many questions. Some involved the stars of heaven. Job was asked, “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens?”— Job 38:31-33, New International Version

As astronomers started to study the glory of the heavens several hundred years ago, they found the ‘laws of the heavens,’ and that all the movements of the stars were precise and dependable. Now astronomers and astrophysicists are using exotic instruments to peer beyond the known heavens and report seeing black holes, stars disappearing, black energy, dark matter, and general disorder. Is their vision being distorted? Are they seeing God’s creativity in action? Does God want them to see beyond the known heavens? The terms being used indicate ignorance on the subject. We prefer to wait upon the Lord, and to heed the words of Isaiah as he said, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isa. 40:28-31) David truly said, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’

Dawn Bible Students Association
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