Our place in the universe
Posted on Aug 21st, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The planets are known as Goldilocks planets as they are neither too hot nor too cold and they are just right for the presence of water and the development of life.
In May, NASA announced the spacecraft had been crippled by failure of a reaction wheel that keeps it pointed in the right direction. In August, the administration announced Kepler could no longer continue its search for planets.
Prior to the May failure, Kepler had discovered 4,437 planets.
According to a study by California Institute of Technology the Milky Way Galaxy contains at least as many planets as it does stars, resulting in 100–400 billion planets outside our solar system. At least two billion of these are potential Goldilocks planets.
Ethan Siegel, a theoretical astrophysicist living in Portland, Ore., says there may be as many as 100 billion galaxies in the universe. That escalates the number of potential Goldilocks planets to 200 billion.
I think we can safely say, “We are not alone in the universe.”
However, the closest star is Proxima Centauri, 4.3 light years away. It’s more than unlikely we will see someone travel at 186,000 miles per second in our lifetime. At that speed a person could circumnavigate the equator approximately 7.5 times in one second.
We’ll have to leave the possiblity of visiting Goldilocks planets to the Captain Kirks of the 23rd century.
Nevertheless, as residents of this tiny planet on the outskirts of a galaxy among galaxies, we need to adjust our earth-centric views of creation.
The United Methodist Social Principles states, “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology. . .We find that as science expands human understanding of the natural world, our understanding of the mysteries of God’s creation and word are enhanced.”
I’m uncertain how we should respond to the Kepler findings. Perhaps we should simply turn up the volume on the hymn “How Great is Our God.”
Understanding our place in the universe certainly makes our concern about national borders seem silly.
Be nice to each other. We all live in the same ant hill.