Christmas Day began quietly for us. The skies were clear and cold, so we hoped to observe in the evening. After enjoying a wonderful day of fellowship and rest, we set up to observe the heavens in a way that has only been possible for the last 20 years in the backyard of an every-day person in the United States.
We had never seen the Horsehead Nebula during our observing together, although we had heard about it for years. We wanted to see it along with a nearby object called the Flame Nebula. The Horsehead is actually one part of a larger object that is full of reddish nebulosity and is located near Alnitak, the bottom star of Orion’s Belt (three stars that make a line in the center of the constellation of Orion). A person cannot see the nebulosity very well or the Horsehead shape without a good-sized scope. Color cannot be seen without astro-photography or, in our case, an astro-video camera. The small feature got its name because the penetrating area of black looks like a horse’s head (hence, its name). It is really a foreground stellar cloud that is blocking the reflection nebulosity. The sketch is Linda’s expanded drawing and view of it that she saw during the observing session.
The drawing at the right is Linda’s impression of the stellar area that includes the Horsehead and Flame. The Flame Nebula is in the lower left; the star named Alnitak is very close to it. The image is up/down reversed due to the optics and the settings on the astro-video camera, but you can still see the color and the features. While she and I sketched, we broadcast the view on Night Skies Network so some of our friends could see the object as well.
What are we really looking at? Where did it come from? Why is it there? These are real questions when someone looks at the heavens. Sometimes folks get lost in the process of observing and do not stand back and consider the amazing things they are seeing from their protected earthbound platform. The origin of the heavens that an observer believes can make quite a difference. We take a biblical view: the heavens did not create themselves. The biblical view is clear: God created the heavens. He ensured the report of that creation period (6 days) was recorded and passed through generations so we can read it. That worldview is not popular these days, and often outright rejected. Science, they say, proves the story a myth and that “evidence” shows how it happened billions of years ago. Does it?
Who was there? Who took the measurements? Who observed what happened. So immediately, one realizes that the myth of a self-generating universe, which is taught as fact, already has an issue. It doesn’t pass the test of measurable evidence or experimentation/observation that is the core of the scientific method in observable science. As a result, the most popular stories of the origin of the heavens are conjecture and hyper-extrapolation. The “science” of origins is not nearly so definite as many suppose. On the other hand, there is a Person who observed what happened. He even created the space and elements that were involved. Because of His level of power, it did not take Him long to do the creating. Then He communicated the record of it in Genesis 1. If you visit creation.com or Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research, you will find plenty of scientists believe God’s record of origins. It does not work against observable science. Rather, it impassions believing scientists to discover all the more.
Moving forward to the evening of Christmas Day 2013, here Linda and I were enjoying a bit of His handiwork. The Orion Constellation is mentioned in the scriptures, but it is not enough to read about it, however. Why not go look at it? Then with 8 inch telescope and some extra equipment, we looked at a part of it to catch the Flame and Horsehead. What a privilege! More pointedly speaking, how great is our God!
Now we are in the first days of 2014 as we post this story. My goodness, what would have it been like to be beside God at His first act of creation of the universe as this mighty constellation was carefully placed along with the myriad of stars and objects. All of that comes down to five words in Genesis 1:16 as the record shows, “He also made the stars.” This is our first post for 2014. It is fitting to give Him the credit due His name.
My observing sketch is below. The Horsehead is the small feature in the upper right. The Flame is obvious in the lower left.
1. The equipment used: 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with a wide field optic (named “Hyperstar”) and a connected astro-video camera. The telescope mount was an iQ45.
2. The observing technique and method: composite video image sent live to monitors in our living room (about 100 feet from the outside telescope location. Linda sketched in pastels, except the expanded view of the Horsehead was done in oil pastels. I painted with oil paints. The observing period, during which we broadcast on Night Skies Network and talked to other observers, was about 2 hours.