I’m feeling pretty small right now. Insignificant, in fact, and wonderfully so.
I just spent twenty minutes reading about the new image just released by NASA from the Hubble Space Telescope, dubbed the XDF or eXtra Deep Field. Hubble spent around 500 hours staring at this tiny sliver of the sky in order to produce this image. In it there are something like 5,500 galaxies. GALAXIES–not stars. The oldest of which is about 13.2 billion years old, just 500 million years younger than the Universe itself.
Think for a moment about the sheer scale we’re talking about here. These 5,500 galaxies are all visible within a tiny sliver of sky, thinner than the thickness of a dime held at arms length. How many dimes would it take to stretch from East to West? How many more to fill the space between North and South? Even that is only half the sky.
Psalm 8:4 came to mind as I stared–mouth gaping: ”What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:4, NLT). If the author of this Psalm could pen this question from looking up at the night sky’s mere thousands of stars three millennia years ago, how much more urgent is the question on days like today when Hubble reminds us anew of how small we really are.
One sentence in particular in NASA’s description of this image caught my attention: “[the] red galaxies are the remnants of dramatic collisions between galaxies and are in their declining years.”
Even galaxies grow old and die. For all the limitless enormity of the Universe itself, death comes to even the most grandiose of things.
Yet again the psalmist’s words are wonderfully fitting: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Fitting, yes, but I can’t help but wonder if silence wouldn’t be a better response to such mystery.
(This blog was originally posted on MikeYankoski’s website. You can find it at www.MikeYankoski.com)