Last week I spent two days learning from a rocket scientist. He gave a talk on Friday about the James Webb Space Telescope and he had a tech rehearsal earlier that week.
Run-throughs are nice because you get all the information, with the added perk that you can make a mistake or two and there is no audience to be perturbed. I sat there with my little A/V tablet, ready to tweak volumes as needed. Once everything was settled, I was able to sit back and absorb the information.
I had not looked up the Webb images before. When they were announced, I assumed I would come across them one day. I am not much of a space guy. (I can point out two constellations. Two!) I was in no great rush.
This is where I should impress you with the fancy tech details. That I run a digital IMAX projector system. That the screen is three and a half stories tall and sixty feet wide. That we have an input on one of the projectors where we can plug in a laptop. That the rocket scientist brought raw image files with him, and we could not only project the satellite pictures up on the screen, but that the files were so large that we could zoom in and see the universe even closer.
Or I could tell you that I was overwhelmed. That I sat there as tears formed. There were a few thoughts running through my head, but the most dominant was, “Oh my God.” Over and over. The universe is so much bigger than all our crap. And space keeps expanding. And God’s in control of it all. Science is the discovery of God’s creation. God works on an inconceivably large canvas.
I also learned new nerdy tidbits. There are things called Einstein Rings. When the telescope takes pictures of a high-gravity area (in this case, some very large galaxies), it takes in the time-space warping. What is sent back are curved lines. And in one image, you can see a series of curved lines, almost like a magnifying glass that shows a series of arcs trying to make a circle of light. Without the Einstein Rings, without the lights being slowed down by the mass of the nearby objects, the telescope would not have been able to send back such bright pictures.
And then there’s the fact that a scan of my eye looks just like a nebula. Because the same force that creates the big things creates the little things too.
I enjoyed my time of awe. I made sure to thank the scientists. And on Saturday, when the real presentation happened, I was able to hear other people react. They gasped. They said, “Oh my God.” They looked at the universe up on the giant screen and remembered that there is much more beauty in creation than what we see every day.
I like facilitating those kinds of experiences. I like science and I love God. Being allowed to share pure awe with a theater full of hundreds of people was rather wonderful.
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