See “Wonders of the Universe” at CSN Planetarium

Took the kids to see this recently and it was excellent.  You’re basically seeing a mini-IMAX production for a fraction of the cost (digital projectors have replaced the glorified film strips we had as kids), and while the quality of the film’s narration is scattered (the How the Universe Works series is much better written), the visuals are perfect.  It’s amazing to sit back and glide into the edges of a galaxy, and see the colorful dust of space wash over and around you.

I learned stuff, too: there are small pockets of stars floating around out there that aren’t in any galaxy at all.  Have there been any sci-fi stories about these lonely areas of space?

The sound quality was surprisingly lower than the visual display, but still, this is a great show.

The CSN Planetarium is a decent place with comfortable seats, friendly staff, and a regional sky orientation in each show.  Plus, you can go use their huge telescopes at the end of the night, even if you don’t pay to see a show!

Super Black Holes Hold Galaxies Together

Wednesday’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” from NASA:

M106-HST-Sgendler900

From an article linked under that picture:

Like discovering a neighborhood house assumed to be vacant is actually inhabited, over the past decade researchers realized that most galaxies have at least one black hole in residence in their central regions. But these black holes aren’t the stellar variety with three to ten times the mass of our Sun. Their size swamps the imagination- they have millions, sometimes billions, of solar masses. Even our home galaxy, the Milky Way, has a four million solar mass black hole located at its center, about 27,000 light years from Earth. Galactically speaking, that places it in our own backyard! Well, there goes the neighborhood! 

I love these recent discoveries that turn our knowledge of the universe on its head!

Telescopes Are Time Machines

I love thinking about how space is really a huge window into the ancient past.  We think we see all this great stuff out there, but everything we see is as old and outdated as the time it took the light from those things to reach Earth.

If something is 200 million light years away, we can’t see it; we can only see it the way it was 200 million years ago.

If the sun exploded, I don’t think we’d know about it for eight minutes.  Could the effect of broken gravity travel faster than light?  I doubt it.  And inertia would carry us along for a brief bit, right?

That would make a great science fiction story: a future where we have faster than light communication and travel, and we get word of the sun’s destruction from some satellite near Mercury, giving humanity a few minutes to evacuate the planet.

Here’s another: a future where we can zip across the cosmos–maybe through wormholes–and then look back at Earth and, thus, back into our own history.  In the year 3000, ships could fly out instantaneously to, say, about two thousand light years away, and watch the Crusades through super powerful telescopes.

Historical research sure would get easier.

The Purpose of Astronomy In the Book of Abraham

This post is not meant to explain the many astronomical references in the Book of Abraham.  I’m not a scientist; I’m an English teacher.  My interest is in analyzing why those astronomical references are there: what function do they serve?  After studying them, I find that they consistently testify of the doctrines of Christ.

The Pearl of Great Price itself is a fascinating text, and ironic.  By far the smallest of the standard works, this tiny anthology is not a series of testimonies, a record of covenants, or a detailed collection of exegesis and exhortations, like most other scriptural works are.  No, The Pearl of Great Price is far too ambitious for that.  Just about the only thing it does is reveal the most important saving truths of eternity, connecting us directly to the Lord. 

Consider that the Bible Dictionary identifies seven major dispensations throughout world history: those begun by Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith.  Now glance through The Pearl of Great Price and notice whose records it amplifies: in order–Moses, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith.  

Consider that in the Doctrines of the Gospel manual for church classes, the Pearl of Great Price, which comprises less than 2½% of the standard works (61 out of 2475 pages), represents about 10% of the scriptures cited in the index (nearly a whole page out of nine and a half printed pages), an impressively disproportionate total.  If The Pearl of Great Price were a basketball player, it’d be one foot tall and five times better than Michael Jordan. 

I labor this point because it relates directly to the use of astronomical information in The Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Abraham.  These often confusing ideas about space and time are not a primer for astronomy as much as they are meant to add to our understanding of those massive spiritual truths with which this volume was designed to enlighten us.

First, in Abraham 3:12-13, God shows Abraham an expansive vision of the physical universe Continue reading