Updated: Aug 23, 2022
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun. The first wave of full-color scientific images has been released. Call up “James Webb Telescope Images” on your mobile. You will see spectral landscapes of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars; massive cavities with “peaks” 7 light-years high; distant galaxies and star clusters that have never been seen; galaxies shown as existing 13.1 billion years ago. Images reveal the previously invisible areas of star birth and the evolution of galaxies. The Webb Telescope mission, now planned for the next 20 years, will change the way we understand the cosmos.
To paraphrase a quote from one NASA scientist, “We don’t know what we don’t know yet.” The gorgeous images speak of the lifting of a veil and a new understanding of an ancient truth: “The heavens declare the Glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day pours forth the story; night after night whispers the knowledge. . .. (Ps 19).” What we will learn will dawn slowly and only begin to hint at the majesty of God’s design. Indeed, we don’t know what we don’t know yet.
"The Webb Telescope mission, now planned for the next 20 years, will change the way we understand the cosmos."
As vast and timeless is creation, and endless its spectral landscapes, how do we see ourselves in its midst? When I first beheld the Webb Telescope revelations, I once again felt my own insignificance. Who am I Lord, that you should have taken such care to bring me into existence amidst such wonders?
Is there something hidden within us being awakened, urged to grow, beckoned forward? My earliest cognitive memory was at age 5, lying in soft grass on a warm Montana night, gazing up at the stars. Whatever was on my mind went away. I saw only the stars, so close, twinkling and speaking to me. I realized how small I was, and in that I suddenly experienced an indescribable consolation. I knew I was small, and that was good. For I fit into an amazing design, encompassed in a state of grace.
"When I first beheld the Webb Telescope revelations, I once again felt my own insignificance."
As we pause to reflect on the glory of God, we are opened to the depths within. We begin to see previously invisible areas, slowly being revealed: how truly wonderfully we are made, the complexity, sensitivity, and depths of our inner beauty. “When I see your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon, and stars that you set in place—what is man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. . .. (Ps 8).”
We always err on the side of making God too small, sizing Him to fit our various scopes. To realize how small we are, in the face of His awesome creation, is the beginning of the most amazing revelation. We are created in the image and likeness of our creator, for a purpose far beyond ourselves, with a meaning yet unfolding: an adventure of love and an eternity of joy. For this we were born: to be fully alive, to serve each other as brothers and sisters on the journey, and to know the joy God has as He looks upon and walks with us through the magnificence He has bestowed. Our challenge is to keep our eyes open wide enough to wonder!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo
Webb Telescope images from Nasa
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