It is one of the greatest engineering marvels ever. NASA’s new James Webb Infrared Telescope could be worthy of the adjective “awesome.” It is an instrument with 18 mirrors working in concert, each adjustable to less than the thickness of a human hair. The mirrors combine to create a 21 foot. diameter mirror, covered with a layer of polished gold only 800 atoms thick. It has an orbit 930,000 miles beyond Earth. Once in position, over 600 operations had to be performed by the spacecraft in order for the telescope to become operational – which it did as planned. Decades in the making, and costing $10 billion, on July 11, 2022, NASA released the first deep-field photograph from the Webb telescope.
If you haven’t seen it yet, look online. This now-famous photo is another example of what we might label “awesome.” This photograph reveals thousands of galaxies in the image that were unknown to us a week ago. Consider the utter immensity of what we are seeing. In size, a galaxy consists of a few hundred million stars to one hundred trillion stars! In distance, our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter and the nearest galaxy to us is 2.5 million light years away. Therefore, the number of stars and the distances covered in this single photo are enormous, even difficult to fathom.
Now here’s where “awesome” really comes on strong. If you were looking at the sky, this photo covers a portion of the sky the size of a grain of sand – held at arm’s length. That means there are roughly 5,602,000,000,000,000,000,000 more spots in our sky for more new photos, just like this one, to see the entire universe if viewed from Earth. That’s amazing.
But what is truly awesome? The creation or the One who created it?
God created this vast universe. He designed it. He spoke it into existence. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1. We all just got another great lesson as to why this is the first verse in the Bible.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…? Psalm 8:3-4a
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created,
and he established them forever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away. Psalm 148:1-6
Our God is the true definition of awesome.
-John K. Gott