I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy. As a kid in Hopkinsville, Kentucky I spent countless hours lying on my back and staring into the heavens fascinated by the stars and planets and the Milky Way. My friend David Faulkner taught me to recognize Jupiter and Venus and to identify Orion’s belt and Betelgeuse. The kind of view I enjoyed 60+ years ago in Kentucky isn’t typically available today due to light pollution and there are many today who have never been able to see the night sky in all its glory. Of course they do have the benefit of the beautiful Hubble Telescope photos. They’re true works of art and I see them as a gift of our gracious Creator.
The view of the sky which was most spectacular for me when I was at sea in the navy: off the coast of Rhode Island and Nova Scotia aboard the USS The Sullivans, aboard the USS Saratoga in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the USS Lexington, and the USS Richard B Anderson in the Pacific back in the days of Vietnam. It was thrilling to go up to the ship’s bow (think Titanic minus the beautiful girl and the iceberg) during moonless nights under darken-ship conditions and look out into the vastness of space. The view was made even more spectacular as there was no obstruction all the way to the horizon — just the stars and planets — a panorama of twinkling brilliance. Since that time the closest I have come to that view is late at night on the roof of our boathouse at Lake Gaston. Simply gaaaaawjus as they say in Georgia.
I shouldn’t leave this intro to the following article without mentioning that performing celestial navigation at sea was never much of a joy for me. My navy days were prior to all the modern electronic navigation tools available today. We did have LORAN, short for Long Range Navigation, but its accuracy was in tens of miles, not the tens of feet typical for todays GPS and inertial navigation systems. No, what we used was a sextant (it had nothing to do with sex), a chronometer, a compass and straightedge, a nautical chart and a nautical almanac. Finding our position at sea consisted of using angular measurements (sights, taken with the sextant) between celestial bodies and the visible horizon. At a given time, any celestial body is located directly over one point on the Earth’s surface. The latitude and longitude of that point is known as the celestial body’s geographic position (GP), the location of which were determined from tables in the current Nautical Almanac. Taking the sightings wasn’t that difficult provided the sea was relatively calm and the sky was clear. The difficulty for me came in the numerous computations needed to fix our position and plot it on the chart. Trust me, it could make your head swim. I never really felt confident in the process.
Ok, so I got carried away a bit. So, where am I going with this? Although I took astronomy at the University of Missouri I never really understood how stars and planets came into being. To me it seemed that the matter expelled at creation, assuming a “Big Bang” sort of beginning, would simply fly apart and never get back together — much as the helium in a burst helium-filled balloon would disburse and never reassemble or a drop of dye dripped into a fishbowl full of water would disburse and never again be distinguishable as a drop of dye — no matter how long you waited. Well, the following Joshua Carroll article which appeared at: www.universetoday.com as: Stars: A Day in the Life is the best, most readable, explanation of the basics of star and planet formation I’ve ever seen. Just the right amount of technical detail without becoming mired in overly complex physics and chemistry. Joshua Carroll is a student and a three-tour combat vet. I hope you enjoy the article and are impressed as I am with the marvelous works of our Lord in creation and nature. RMF
Stars: A Day in the Life
by Joshua Carroll
There is something about them that intrigues us all. These massive spheres of gas burning intensely from the energy of fusion buried many thousands of kilometers deep within their cores. The stars have been the object of humanity’s wonderment for as far back as we have records. Many of humanity’s religions can be tied to worshiping these celestial candles. For the Egyptians, the sun was representative of the God Ra, who each day vanquished the night and brought light and warmth to the lands. For the Greeks, it was Apollo who drove his flaming chariot across the sky, illuminating the world. Even in Christianity, Jesus can be said to be representative of the sun given the striking characteristics his story holds with ancient astrological beliefs and figures. In fact, many of the ancient beliefs follow a similar path, all of which tie their origins to that of the worship of the sun and stars. Continue reading