When probing around the beauty Alnitak, one of the glimmering stars of Orion’s belt, a medium-sized telescope will run into a soft area of nebulosity with a some hint of shape and structure. When a little integration of those precious photons occurs over 14 seconds, the video of the scene explodes in the shape of a huge flame in space. The flame is interspersed with dark lanes that look like smoke interspersed with flame. The color even varies from the base to the flame’s end as the the light reflected from Alnitak makes the base region brighter. I attempted to capture these details during my live observing period. The horizontal line near the bottom right is a diffraction spike caused by the telescope optics, but also tells you the nearby position of Alnitak.
The object is simply beautiful. So it is more than fitting to apply the scripture from Revelation that reaffirms scriptures from Genesis and many other books, where God is acclaimed for His worthiness of all glory and honor and power for “by your will they were created and have their being.” The heavens are full of these kinds of objects. Each, in its own way, shows some aspect of God’s glory and power. They are present to point us to Him.
The objects are also observable because they force other decisions, where a person can knowingly refuse any authorship or creativity to God. Instead, these beautiful works can be relegated to chance occurrences over eons. With the myriad of details now available on thousands of objects in the midst of incredible distances of created near-empty space, the abundance of data–most of which has not been analyzed due to the amount of information involved–underlines the decision before each person: it’s God’s doing or it’s nothing but chance over time. The amount of information makes a non-decision look like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
So in this coming year (2012), my wish is for everyone to enjoy observing the heavens. Whether its the concious and deliberate observation of a sunset with your eyes or a high magnification telescope view of a deep sky object, please take the time to see something. Linger on it. Grab a sketch pad and record what you see. Put the time and date and equipment on your sheet. Date it, sign it, and keep it as a record of a few minutes of life that you took to watch the wonders of the heavens. If you are a parent or teacher, teach young people to do the same thing. And, if you are like me, give thanks to God for the opportunity. With this closing, here is the one hour sketch of the Flame Nebula near the end of Christmas day 2011: