Hubble, Pluto, and reasons to believe

“You have covered the heavens with your majesty…. When I observe the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place, what is man that You remember him…? Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth!” (Psalm 8)

After the New Horizons spacecraft did a fly-by in the area of Pluto traveling at a comfortable 30,800 mph, I jotted down a few thoughts, which follow.

The rocketship sent back snapshots for our enjoyment.

Pluto is handsome and a little small for his age, but still quite the character.  He’s definitely someone we wanted to know.

Pluto, we are told, is two-thirds the size of our moon.  Its gravity is about 7 percent of ours.  Its polar caps are made up of methane ice and nitrogen ice.  A year on Pluto–one orbit around the sun–equals 248 of our years.  (On Pluto, I would be not quite one-third of a year old!)  Each day there–the time needed to rotate once on its axis–is the equivalent of 6.4 of our days.  But that’s nothing….

On Pluto, the average temperature is a MINUS 365 degrees. Lordy!

Completely fascinating.  I sat there watching the televised news conferences and a one-hour history of New Horizons in awe and wonder.  I do love this.

You younger folks might be interested in knowing that I also sat up late one night in the 1960s and watched as the first up-close photos of our moon were beamed to earth.  The spacecraft, I seem to recall, crashed into the surface of the moon while sending pictures nonstop.  We were as awed by this as though we had discovered an oak tree on Mars.  How far we have come since those early space probes.

I wish Paul Harvey were alive, just to hear his commentary on the Pluto flyby.  At some point, perhaps in the 1970s when we were first beginning to see Mars and Venus up close, Mr. Harvey made a statement that sums it up for me:  “Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that Earth is still the gem of the universe.”


Think of all the other planets in our solar system, Pluto included or not.  They are gaseous or solid rock, frigid or torrid, barren, acidic, nightmarish.

Then there is Earth.

The planet Earth, third one out from the sun.

With the ideal location. The perfect orbit.  The perfect rotation.  The perfect tilt on its axis. The perfect atmosphere.  The perfect temperature range. The perfect distance from the sun. The perfect core (hot). The perfect mineral makeup.  And the perfect one-thousand other things which I know nothing of.

Precision made.  Designer made.

In a program on the Hubble telescope, a scientist spoke of the giant lens they manufactured for this engineering wonder.  The surface of the lens had to be so smooth–he cited the numbers–if the earth were that smooth, he said, it would be a ball so perfect that the highest mountain would be only four inches tall.

When scientists first assembled the Hubble, their bosses informed them money was not available to test it out. They would have to send it up untested.  They did, and discovered a flaw.  Critics of the space program had a field day.  “Hubble Trouble,” they jeered.

Another space shuttle was required to go up with astronauts trained in how to repair the Hubble and replace the defective parts.  Then it worked perfectly.  Since then, they have continued to update the telescope, with new and increasingly more advanced technology.

The Hubble has sent our eyeballs a zillion miles into outer space.  The photos are as mind-boggling as anything you or I will ever see.  And the critics? Oh, they’re hiding under someone’s bed somewhere.  Or more likely, denying that they were ever skeptical.

What a universe!  It gives a new understanding of the term “world without end.”  Apparently, this universe just goes on and on and on.  (Which makes sense. Because, after all, if it stopped, what then?)

The Hubble people at one point turned their lens onto an “empty” part of the sky, and left it there several days.  That tiny vacant space turned out to contain a massive number of galaxies, each boasting billions of stars.

The mind reels.  The heart soars.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high; I am unable to reach it (Psalm 139:6).

A little research on the subject turns up so many other facets of Earth’s uniqueness.  These involve subjects like plate tectonics, the magnetic field, having one huge moon and not more than one, the unusual orbit of our planet (stable, eccentric, etc), the thin atmosphere, gravity, the radiation shield, and so forth.

I am so out of my element here. But I’m doing the same thing the Psalmist did, just standing back in awe and wonder and worship.

Now, imagine one more thing with me….

Say you’re on a distant planet in some far-off galaxy. You have searched the heavens, looking for anything and everything.  You have found planets made up of rock and acid and gas and poison water and deadly clouds.  Each is different, each one is fascinating, and each one is deadly to life as you know it.

And then one day you train your telescope on the third rock from our sun.  And there it is.

This “rock” is green and blue and white.  It is alive.

Your eyes light up.  Your jaw drops. Your heart pauses.  Your adrenalin races.  You are unable to get a word out.

You have seen nothing like this planet.

Zoom in closer on Earth and notice its uniqueness.

Earth has Yellowstone and Yosemite, the Rockies and the Alps, the sugary beaches at Destin and the cypress swamps of Louisiana.  Earth has Carlsbad Caverns, New Hampshire in October, and our Alabama farm.

Earth has the Sahara, the Amazon, and the South Pacific. Hawaii, Aruba, and my back yard.

Earth has Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Norman Rockwell, and my grandchildren.

Earth is Eden.  A genuine paradise.

There is nothing like it in all the universe.  No wonder it gets special mention in Holy Writ: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

So what?  I’m smiling. So—Everything!

1) Believing in Heaven should be no stretch for anyone who has seen earth.

2) Heaven is going to have to be something special if it intends to exceed Earth.

3) If God can make this Earth, Heaven should be a cinch.

4) If you can believe in Earth, Heaven should be no problem for you.

5) We must take Heaven by faith, but Earth is “crammed with the glory of God,” and that should banish our fears and ease our doubts.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God…” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Oh yes. Praise Him forever!

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.  His lovingkindness is everlasting.  He alone does great wonders.  His lovingkindness is everlasting.  He made the heavens skillfully.  His lovingkindness is everlasting… (Psalm 136:3-5)

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