Summer Color in the South

How Grand is Your God?

Our stellar neighborhood begs to be discovered, but its color could not be seen very well until the last century. One can look at the stars and see stars that appear yellow or red or orange; the moon appears full of whites and greys; occasional comets or meteors show a little color to the naked eye. As equipment improved, the magnificent colors of objects could be seen better. Now the average person anywhere on earth can see pictures in books or on the web that show some of the results of the last few decades of technical advancement. The real change that affects people, however, is when they see it for themselves in their backyard. But with discovery comes responsibility: to whom do we give credit for the beauty that has been discovered and now can be seen by an average citizen? Part of the wonder of God’s created heavens is simple: it begs the question of origins. For those people not familiar with the breadth and depth of scriptures on the subject, it is a simple answer: God displays the heavens in a grand manner to show his glory, power, and attention to complexity and detail in the universe.

One object that can be in the southern skies for most latitudes from late July through September is a fitting example of a deep sky object with beauty. The sketch was developed using a backyard telescope that was fitted with an astro-video camera, which enables the colors to be seen. In the northern lattitudes, it will be 10-40 degrees above the southern horizon in early evening. In southern latitudes it will be much higher. We have shown it to many audiences and do not grow tired of seeing it again.

 

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Linda and I enjoyed an evening together just recently when we took the opportunity to observe the details of the Swan Nebula (M17) again. Using nearly the same equipment that we used in August 2008, we “poked’ around the object’s features to see the color transitions and shapes along with the star field. It object gets its name because it appears to be a swan in the water. The head would be the area of color just above the arrow and “W”; the body of the ‘swan’ is the long angle of color from the upper right to the lower left; the breast is the upper right colored area. Whether you see a swan or not is less important than simply appreciating the Author of it all. The sketch only captures a fraction of the details, which can be seen on the web by doing a search on the object’s name or M17.

Consider the grand eloquence of God to create a stellar cloud. If you were in it, you could not see it, because it’s density is so thin. But remember that he set the heavens in place after the earth was created. They were made to show his handiwork from our vantage point. This particular object is noteworthy since most people can see it with relatively modest equipment. In a binoculars, which we also used during the evening, the “neighborhood” is full of objects and lies near the Milky Way’s central region. Even the prophets would have appreciated the region because of its milky appearance and beautiful star field.

God addresses Job (in an Old Testament book by the same name) with a question about his ability to bring the constellations into view at the proper time (in the proper season). The question is so simple but contains a wealth of information about God’s precision: the proper axis or earth’s rotation relative to the sun; the position of the earth within our own galaxy; the features of our atmosphere; and the list could go on and on. In short, the months in which the constellation Sagittarius is high provide some exquisite glimpses of key objects. The Swan Nebula is one of them.

The credit is due to our God.

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