My family recently visited Lowell Observatory where we were able to see the actual telescope that took tons of pictures of the cosmos and basically discovered Pluto. My children were excited to see the telescope (and they were also indignant that Pluto is no longer considered a planet, having been relegated to “dwarf planet” status a few years back). We caught Pluto fever, though, as all of the observatory workers spoke with great excitement over the upcoming first-ever Pluto fly-by—the culmination of a nine year space flight by New Horizons. And now that New Horizons “beeped” that it survived its mission, more data on Pluto than we could ever have fathomed is being sent via a network of satellites through the solar system back to Planet Earth. Wow.
As scientists learn more about the farthest known planet in the Solar System and explore the elements in the Kuiper Belt, we increase our understanding of the great beyond and continue to wonder how it all came to be. As a Christian, I admit I believe that God created it all, but yet I know that things must have happened in the moments of creation. Were there big bangs or careful crafting by a divine hand, like a sculptor fashioning a magnum opus? When God spoke, did molecules and atoms jump about or did He actually move them somehow? It’s incredible to think how it all began to spin and circle and form rings and move in the vast beyond.
Pondering Pluto and the ends of the solar system makes me remember the finite nature of our understanding and knowledge. We like to think we know all things, but perhaps we’ve barely scraped the surface of comprehending the universe into which we were born. Galileo discovered Jupiter had four moons and helped shatter humanity’s illusion that everything revolved around the earth. “This just in! We are not the center of the universe!” (But exploration continued nevertheless.) Now, according to NASA, Jupiter is believed to have 50 known moons with 17 more temporary moons waiting for official status once we confirm their orbits. A new expedition to Jupiter launched in 2011. Who knows what else we will discover?
Looking into the sky full of stars atop a mountain, looking at planets and viewing solar flares on the sun through telescopes…it made me feel tiny and yet it also made me feel like I was part of something important. It’s like God was smiling down on my wonder and awe. (There is, after all, a heart-shaped light space on Pluto, like a happy wink from God, maybe.) He knows already the chemical make-up of each celestial orb and the age of each star and the number of moons rotating around each planet. Psalm 147:4-5 states, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” While He is so great and mighty, He also knows how many hairs are on my head and the detailed make up of my own DNA strand. He’s allowed me to be part of humanity, a body fashioned and formed in His image and suitable (by His great grace) to house His Holy Spirit.
I get so excited when I learn something new, but it’s also humbling. I think God loves that. He loves letting us learn a little more about Him and His creation and then sits back and waits for us to digest it, and then He lets us see something else new and we get to be in awe again. The telescope that took pictures of the sky and showed us Planet X (now known as Pluto) has been outpaced by a spacecraft that flew into the sky in 2006 and just now fulfilled its destiny, sending back detailed high-definition images of what was formerly known as a pixelated blob.
One day, Christ will return and we will see and know all things in the new heaven and the new earth with perfect, unveiled eyes and unhindered understanding. As the astronomers sat on the edge of their seats eagerly awaiting the first beautiful pictures of Pluto sent from the edge of our universe, I sit with great anticipation the day I will see the face of my Savior, awaiting the day I will know Him even as He already knows me.
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” I Corinthians 13:12 NLT