The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, June 23, 2016 0 comments

by Steve Risner

The universe is absolutely marvelous! I know I started last week’s blog post in a similar way, but come on! It’s totally awesome! Look at the stars on the next clear night with as little ambient light as you can. You can see all sorts of fantastic stuff that glorifies God and shows His creativity and His power. There are galaxies you can see. There are nebulae (huge fields of gas). You can see planets and huge colorful stars. You can often view a variety of planets depending on the time of night and time of year. During the summer, you can look up and see what looks like a dense cloud of stars stretching in a line across the sky. You are actually looking towards the center of the Milky Way galaxy! That’s right! The center of our galaxy is right there to be viewed. You’re looking at millions of stars all clumped together in this cloud. We’re in an outer arm of the Milky Way, so we can peer into the center of this gigantic group of stars—it’s about 100,000 light years across!

Sure, there are some galaxies we believe are over 1 million light years across, but who cares! Those distances, all of them, are totally unknowable to our little human brains. And the Milky Way is one of millions or more likely billions of galaxies each full of billions of stars.

Galaxies take a variety of shapes. Ours, the Milky Way, is a spiral galaxy and is likely the shape most people would think of when they think of a galaxy. There are lots of galaxy shapes, but many do take the spiral shape. There are also elliptical, lenticular, and irregular (which is one way to say all the other shapes they take) galaxies. As noted in last week’s blog post, there’s even a rectangular galaxy. Spiral galaxies are just that—they look like a spiral. Elliptical galaxies are more like a glob of stars with a lot more 3D shape than spirals (which are generally flat on edge). Elliptical galaxies look more like a mass of stars without a real defined shape other than sort of an oval. Lenticular galaxies are flat like spiral galaxies but don’t really have arms. Then there are irregular galaxies that look like anything else.

Each of these galaxies is filled with stars. Our sun is a star. They call it a small star, but it’s over a million times the size of the earth, so it’s fairly large from our perspective. There are stars roughly 30 times the diameter of our sun which is equal to about 27,000 times the volume. This star also burns so hot and massively that every 5 seconds it puts out the energy the sun will emit for a year. This star, R136a1, is the most massive star known, but is far from the largest. Confused? Mass is how much stuff is there while volume is the actual size in space it takes up. It’s like the difference between a balloon and a ball of lead that’s the same size. Their masses (on earth we could call it their weight) are very different even though they’re the same size. Another star, UY Scuti, is estimated to be 5 billion times the volume of our sun! It’s 1700 times the diameter of our sun. If UY Scuti was our sun, its outer edge would be beyond Jupiter! However, the brightest star in the sky (being almost twice the brightness of the second brightest star) is Sirius. Sirius is actually 2 stars and is relatively close to us at about 8-9 light years. Sirius is often mistaken for an airplane it flashes so beautifully in the night sky. As bright as it is, it’s not as bright as a few planets we get to see regularly. Venus, our neighbor a little closer to the sun than us, is the brightest “star” in the sky. However, you also will only see it for short periods because of its position relative to us. Jupiter is generally the second brightest “star,” and with a pair of binoculars you can easily make out its 4 largest moons—called the Galilean moons, as they are named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto. It’s truly amazing.

There are other really great things to see in the night sky this summer. You can see a slew of planets: Mercury and Venus can be seen in the early morning, although Venus may be a bit tougher to see in the summer. At night, you can see Saturn, Mars, Uranus, and Jupiter. Do some searching on the internet to find out what planets are visible in your area and when. There will also be meteor showers this summer to catch! I love them. The Delta Aquarid shower will be in mid-summer. You can also spot the International Space Station (ISS). On occasion, you’ll be able to see it with CYGNUS as well (that’s the US cargo ship that takes supplies to the ISS). You can go to and see when either will be visible from your location. It’s pretty cool.

As I ended last week’s blog post, I will end today’s. The purpose of creation is to glorify God. The universe—the stars, planets and our moon—are also given to us to keep track of time. This is according to Genesis 1:14. But the primary purpose of all of creation is to praise the Creator and to point man to Him. These awesome sights we can see in the sky shout praise to the Master and Creator of all there is. From stars that are 100 million miles in diameter to super clusters of galaxies to beautifully colored gas clouds that stretch for light years to comets and meteor showers—it’s all for God’s glory. He puts on a great spectacle, doesn’t He? Man thinks he’s something because he can generate a nuclear bomb or some such thing. Every second the sun puts out the same energy that roughly 2 billion of the largest atomic bombs ever detonated could put out. The forces we find in nature humble man on a regular basis. Praise the God that conceived nature in His mind! I highly recommend watching these two videos: Indescribable and How Great is Our God. They will totally wreck you… they did me. They’re a little lengthy, but so worth your time.

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