M16, The Eagle Nebula

Summary for the story/sketch:

The night skies and many of its objects are a reminder of the beauty of the Lord. He is the creator of beautiful stellar clouds that remind us of Him.

The Facts

There are beautiful deep sky objects to study in the summer time from the Northern Hemisphere when the galactic center of our own galaxy is highest in the sky. Many objects in this area can be seen with binoculars but using a telescope with an astro-video camera permits me to see more detail and color. On a clear dry summer night in August 2007 we chose to observe Messier 16, which is also called the Eagle Nebula. Since we used a 12.5 inch Dobsonian telescope and the specialized video camera has a short focal length, I could only see the core region of the nebula, but the area’s features and color are strikingly beautiful. The object’s detail was relayed from the camera to a high resolution monitor that we studied for an hour to develop the sketch.

The Lesson

The sketch was done over a year ago but I still remember the first hour of the August 12 morning. It was clear, cool and still, which is a perfect time to observe. I was not prepared for the intense colors, black shadows of the stellar clouds in the core of the object, and the bright cluster of stars on the west side of the core. The view was breathtaking.

Last night (March 31, 2009) I remembered the scene and the observing period. It came to mind as I was reading Psalm 27, which also contains a scripture song that I learned long ago. One of the verses of the Psalm and song contain this phrase: “to behold the beauty of the Lord.” Indeed many parts of the Psalm speak of David’s heart cry to be in God’s presence, to see His beauty, and to be kept by God. In the Gospels, the crowds commented on the works of Jesus Christ by explaining that he had done all things well (Mark 7:37). Whether we read incidents in the scriptures like these or have an encounter with God ourselves, it is common to be struck by His presence. His authority, peace, and beauty are attributes that are frequently mentioned. The sky objects like the Eagle Nebula remind me of His beauty because he created the object’s incredible array of colors, shapes, and star patterns. The night sky is an ever present reminder that He is who He says He is: our God, who is altogether perfect and beautiful.


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