In the fall of 1993 I entered into my first year of college. I took an astronomy class that first semester and found myself greatly intrigued by the topics we discussed and studied. Over the course of that first year I found myself becoming more interested in astronomy. Later, at the start of 1994, I received my first refractor telescope as a gift. I also purchased my first reflector telescope during that subsequent summer. After that time, I would spend many nights out under the stars, and astronomy would compete with the various other interests I had at that time.
One year I attempted what is called the “Messier Marathon”. The French astronomer Charles Messier catalogued and numbered 110 nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters. These are now known as the “Messier objects”. During certain times of the year, one can stay up the entire evening and view all 110 objects through a telescope. I didn’t make it through the entire night, but it was a fun experience. I plan on doing again sometime.
In the early 2000’s I sold the reflector telescope. I found that it was difficult to transport and handle, and I became reluctant to get it out. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to get back into the hobby. I also thought it would be something the family would enjoy. I purchased a reflector telescope that comes apart in pieces and is much more manageable then my previous telescope. I have enjoyed looking at objects under the night sky with it; Some of you have looked through it at various church events. I also enjoy taking long exposure photographs with another setup I have (I have included pictures I have taken of various objects with my telescope as part of this article).
In the summer of 2017 I went to my first ‘star party’. People bring their telescopes, camping gear, and stay up all night looking through theirs and other people’s scopes as well as taking photos. There were two 30-inch telescopes at that particular star party and it was marvelous to look through them!
I find that many people are amazed when they look through a telescope for the first time at the rings of Saturn, the great red spot and horizontal bands of Jupiter with its moons, the craters on our moon, or a large star cluster or galaxy. I find that others are less interested, and the objects seen through a modest size telescope aren’t that impressive to them. That’s OK; We all find wonder in different things. To me, it’s always been the things in the night sky, even though many of these objects look like no more than dim fuzzy white objects through the telescope I own.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, astronomy is “the study of objects and matter outside the earth’s atmosphere and of their physical and chemical properties.” Astronomy should not be confused with pagan astrology: (Astrology is the wicked practice of determining human affairs based on the stars, planets, and celestial events according to their positions and various other aspects of their behavior).
Some other definitions according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition are as follows:
Solar System – “the sun together with the group of celestial bodies that are held by its attraction and revolve around it”
Milky Way Galaxy – “the galaxy of which the sun and the solar system are a part and which contains the myriads of stars that create the light of the Milky Way”
Universe – “the entire celestial cosmos” (This includes our galaxy plus all others).
People see God in different ways. The evidence of His existence is made clear through His creation. The hymn “How Great Thou Art” speaks of this:
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Romans 1:20 – “20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
Alma 16:54-55 – “54 The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion; 55 Yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form, doth witness that there is a Supreme Creator: and yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses?”
Hebrews 11:3 – “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
The night sky is a great and it conveys to me how powerful and great our God is. The universe is vast and it’s beyond our comprehension.
The book of Genesis explains that the earth was created first, followed by other celestial objects that we view in our night sky:
Genesis 1:14-19 – “14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
The fact that the Lord placed the sun in the sky after the earth was created does not conflict with the fact that the earth also revolves around the sun. Because the Lord placed the sun in the sky after the earth was created does not mean that there must be an earth-centered solar system or universe. Placing the sun in the firmament is equivalent to creating the sun and placing the earth in rotation around the sun. To someone watching creation from the earth’s point of view, the sun would appear to be placed in the sky. Note also that the earth’s tilt with relation to the sun was put in place at that same time since Genesis 1:14 mentions “seasons”.
Scripture tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ was the creator of these things and did these things under the direction of the Father:
Hebrews 1:1-3 – “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
Colossians 1:12-17 – “12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
Psalm 33:6 – “6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”
Jeremiah 32:17 – “17 Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee”
The power that our Lord has emphasizes His majesty and might as well as my weakness and insignificance. How these things can be created from nothing is something I do not understand.
Scripture sheds light on the nature of our world and the universe. From ancient days, scripture revealed that the earth was round and suspended in space:
Isaiah 40:22 – “22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:”
Job 26:7 – “7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.”
We also know that our God created a star to guide those to Jesus Christ in the town of Bethlehem. A new star is also mentioned in the Book of Matthew,
Matthew 2:1-10 – “1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
Helaman 5:58-59 – “58 Therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born. 59 And behold there shall be a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.”
3 Nephi 1:24 – “And it came to pass also, that a new star did appear, according to the word.”
Some use science to try and explain the star that appeared at Bethlehem. I believe that this was a miraculous supernatural event and not something that can necessarily be explained through natural science such as a comet, planetary conjunction, or supernova (exploding star).
Our Lord even has power to change the behavior of celestial bodies even after their creation. According to the Bible, the position of the shadow of the sun was modified by 10 degrees during the time of Hezekiah:
2 Kings 20:8-11 – “8 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? 9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? 10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. 11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.”
Even before this, the Lord made the sun and moon stand still for a day:
Joshua 10:12-13 – “12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.”
The Lord is able to modify the rotation of the earth with supernatural means if desired. The Book of Mormon states:
Helaman 4:61-62 – “61 Yea, and if he saith unto the earth, Move, it is moved; yea, if he say unto the earth, Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours, it is done: 62 And thus according to his word, the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still: yea, and behold, this is so; for sure it is the earth that moveth, and not the sun.”
The Lord also created the universe with variety, just as there is diversity among people:
1 Corinthians 15:40-41 – “40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
In addition, scripture tells us that every single star in the sky was named by God:
Psalm 147:4 – “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”
Scripture also tells us that God purposely created the constellations and star formations that we see in the heavens:
Job 9:2-9 – “2 I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? 3 If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. 4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? 5 Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. 6 Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. 7 Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. 8 Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. 9 Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.”
Job 38:31-33 – “31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? 32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?”
Note that the “Mazzaroth” has been interpreted to be associated with the zodiac constellations. The sun passes through this circle and the associated constellations over the course of one year. Arcturus is a star. Orion is a constellation and the Pleiades a small group of stars.
Some believe that the zodiac constellations actually reveal the gospel story, and that their meaning has been corrupted into pagan representations over time. A few of the various interpretations of the zodiac constellations are as follows:
Virgo – The Incarnate Son
Libra – The Redeemer
Scorpio – The Sufferer
Sagittarius – The Conqueror
Capricornus – The Sacrifice
Aquarius – The Living Water
Pisces – The Liberator
Aries – The Crowned Lamb
Taurus – The Judge
Gemini – The King
Cancer – The Protector
Leo – The Victor
Virgo the Virgin – Virgin Mary
Libra the Scales – Sin must be paid for
Scorpius the Scorpion – Sin brings death
Sagittarius the Archer – Demonism
Capricorn the Goat-Fish – Earth corruption
Aquarius the Water Pourer – Living water or Noah’s flood
Pisces the Fish – God’s remnant
Aries the Ram – Sacrifice
Taurus the Bull – Resurrection
Gemini the Twins – Christ’s dual nature
Cancer the Crab – Gathering of redeemed
Leo the Lion – The King
I’m not sure about these interpretations, but it’s interesting to consider. I would not be surprised if these constellations are indeed representations of concepts related to God or His plan of salvation. It is also interesting that there are 12 constellations in the zodiac. We know that 12 is a significant number in scripture.
Even though the things in the heavens are beautiful, we are to not worship the things of creation. There are warnings in scripture about worshipping creation rather than the Creator. I often look in awe at photos people have taken of various objects in the night sky. One evening as I did so God noted something to me with this phrase: “Even the stars praise His name.”
Psalm 148:1-5 – “1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. 2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. 3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. 4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.”
God is of much more significance than His creation…God even uses the objects in the sky for signs:
Matthew 24:29-30 – “29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Luke 21:25-27 – “25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
Isaiah 13:10 – “10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”
We are told that present day earth and present day heaven will be replaced in the future, as even these things are temporary:
Revelation 21:1 – “1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
One day perhaps we’ll be able to travel throughout the heavens after the end of the millennium. I don’t know. What I do know is that the Lord has blessed us with His amazing creation. Even more so, the Lord has blessed us with His gospel plan, and we are able to participate within it. We owe everything to the Lord, and that we can personally know the great Creator is an amazing thing. I hope that you give our Lord the glory that is due whenever you look up at the night sky in the future.