When I Consider Thy Heavens –
What Is Man?
Written by Walter Beuttler
For ages many people have stood in awe and wonder at the sight of the starry heavens. The old patriarch, Abraham, saw the same stars as we do when God “brought him forth abroad and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: Genesis 15:5. Abraham probably saw many more stars with the naked eye than we do because of the better atmospheric conditions of his country. But today, through the aid of modern telescopes, we see stars whose number is beyond all human imagination. The deeper the telescopes penetrate into the endlessness of space, the more stars they find. Not just individual stars, but whole universes that consist in themselves of myriads of stars. Yet He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Psalm 147:4.
Once, when David contemplated these celestial glories he exclaimed: When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Psalm 8:3-4. We wonder what David would say if he had access to our present day data on astronomy, the oldest and most accurate science in the world. God, the creator of the universe, has revealed himself by these very stars long before the advent of Christ. Romans 1:20.
Today, by telescopic instruments, we may behold these celestial bodies and learn of dimensions that are nothing less than staggering in their revelations. This provides us with another point of view from which to behold, however imperfectly and crude, the greatness of an omnipotent God and by contrast the smallness of an impotent human being, so that we are compelled to say with David: What is man that thou art mindful of him, and with Isaiah: Wherein is he to be accounted of?
Perhaps we shall do best by first taking a look at the earth we live on. It is nearly a perfect sphere, 7,920 miles in diameter and 24,900 miles in circumference. Since the earth moves around its own axis once in a day, we, in the latitude of the United States, whirl around this axis at 13 miles per minute, that is a speed of 780 miles per hour. Traveling at this rate from New York to San Francisco would require less than four hours. The earth moves also in an orbit around the sun in addition to the revolution around its axis. This orbit, or path around the sun, is 584 million miles long. To travel this distance once every year, the earth moves along this path at a rate of 18.5 miles per second. This is the equivalent to a speed of 66,666 miles per hour. At this speed, we would get from New York to San Francisco in less than three minutes. These figures are still more emphasized when we take into consideration that the earth weighs 6,000 million trillion tons. Thinking of the immense weight of the earth, though he did not know the figure, Job said: He (that is God) – hangeth the earth upon nothing. Job 26:7.
For our next object of contemplation we turn to our nearest celestial neighbor, the moon. This is a very small body, only 2,160 miles in diameter and revolves around the earth at the rate of 38 miles a minute or 2,280 miles an hour. Then too, of course, it travels with the earth around the sun. Its mean distance from the earth is 239,000 miles. If we were to travel there on one of our modern trains at an average speed of 100 miles per hour, it would take us 2,390 hours to get there or about 3 1/2 months. On our arrival we would find it to be a place bearing the evidences of a huge catastrophe.
The other celestial neighbor we are all acquainted with is the sun. The sun is really a star, the nearest of all stars, but much farther away than the moon. Its mean distance from the earth is 92 million and 900,000 miles. It has a diameter of 864 thousand miles, a circumference of about 2 million 592 thousand miles and a temperature of 6,000 degrees C. (10,000 degrees F.). To travel to the sun with our train would require 38,708 days, or about 106 years.
Now we take a look farther out into space at one of the nearest stars, Sirius by name. This is a very bright star in the southern winter sky and belongs to the constellation Canis Major. Sirius is approximately 54 trillion miles from the earth. This, let it be noted, is one of the nearest stars. If we were to travel there on our train it would take us 63 million years to get there. Light travels 186,285 miles a second at sea level and at this speed it takes light almost 9 years to reach the earth from Sirius. Sirius itself moves through space at the rate of 720 miles a minute or 43 thousand miles per hour. This star is so heavy, that a liquid pint of its matter weighs 26 tons; a ball of it the size of a tennis ball would weigh 7.4 tons. Jupiter weighs 310 times as much as the earth, or 2,118,230,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons. Capella, a very bright star of the constellation Auriga is 150 times as bright as the sun; is 275 trillion miles distance and moves through space with a speed of over 1,500 miles a minute. This speed would get us from New York to San Francisco in two minutes and nearly four times around the earth in one hour.
In Job 9:9 and 38:31 we have an astronomical reference to the Pleiades which is a star cluster in the constellation Taurus. As many as 16 stars of this cluster have been seen with the naked eye, though most people see only about six, yet it actually contains over 2,000 stars, all grouped together. This cluster is 1,940 trillion miles away from the earth. In the same constellation there is a star named Aldebaran. This star of a reddish color is 153 trillion miles distant, 33 million miles in diameter and flies through space at 2,000 miles a minute or 120,000 miles per hour.
The brilliant constellation Orion, also to be found in the southern winter sky, is referred to in Job 9:9 and in Amos 5:8. There Job depicts the greatness of God by calling attention to this splendid constellation. He could not have selected a better section of the sky for this purpose. Especially three stars in this constellation deserve our notice. One is Bellatrix. This star is 1,152 trillion miles distant, is 1,225 times as bright as the sun and has a temperature of 23,000 degrees C. Rigel is one of the most brilliant stars known, being 18,000 times as bright as the sun and travels at a speed of over 800 miles a second, or 48,000 miles a minute. Such a speed would take us around the earth nearly two times in one minute. Betelgeuse, the principal star of Orion, has a diameter of over 200 million miles, (the earth’s is 7,920). Its volume is 26 million times that of the sun and 34 trillion times that of the earth. In other words, if we wanted to fill the space occupied by this star, we would need 26 million suns or 34 trillion earths to do so.
Finally, we make mention of one of the greatest wonders of the sky, the great nebula of the constellation Andromeda. This nebula is actually a huge whirling spiral of stars, a universe in itself composed of myriads of individual stars. It is so far away that the stars give the appearance of a cloud. Astronomers can locate over a million of these universes and many have been photographed. The diameter of the Andromeda nebula is 45,000 light years. That is to say, that light traveling at the great speed of 186,285 miles each second would require 45,000 years to travel from one end of the nebula to the other. This makes the distance in miles 270 thousand trillion miles. The distance of this nebula from the earth is 900,000 light years. This means that it takes light to travel this distance 900,000 years amounting to 5 million, 400 thousand trillion miles. The light which we receive today from this nebula left there 900,000 years ago. If, therefore, this nebula were to disappear today, its light would still shine for 900,000 years more and then only could the discovery of its disappearance be made. This , of course, does not take into consideration any supernatural acts of God by which he may dispose of any natural laws and their phenomena. But, knowing that God has created this immense universe, we must join David saying: The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalm 19:1.