NASHVILLE (BP) – Within images released by the James Webb telescope, Christians can not only get previously unseen views of the cosmos, but resounding confirmation of God’s creative design and man’s perspective in it.
David Block, emeritus professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Danny Faulkner, who taught for 26 years at the University of South Carolina-Lancaster before joining Answers in Genesis, spoke with Baptist Press about the magnitude of the Webb telescope’s findings and how those discoveries are challenging Christians and non-Christians alike.
Both astronomers joined peers in recognizing the magnitude of the recent pictures presented by NASA while also pointing to how the images impact them as believers.
“My initial response was complete awe,” said Block, who also spoke about it on South African TV. “We are seeing extraordinarily rich, technical detail. It’s a marriage of science and art.”
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For Faulkner, the images also confirm God’s handiwork in the universe. And while seeing billions of galaxies containing innumerable planets tempts scientists with questions of life among the stars, Faulkner doesn’t think any will be discovered.
“I predicted [July 11] before they presented the first photo that they would show something saying they had found an Earthlike planet,” he said. “I was wrong, and surprised, because that would have been huge.
“They’re hoping at some point to detect an exoplanet that’s comparable to the Earth in size and might have the same kind of environment we have. … I don’t think they’re going to find it, but that’s their motivation.”
The James Webb Space Telescope was developed to utilize infrared technology to extend and complement discoveries brought by the Hubble Space telescope. Launched on Christmas Day last year, its mission duration is to be an estimated 5-10 years.
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The telescope uses 18 mirrors coated with gold that, upon reaching a point 1 million miles from Earth toward the sun, opened up very much like a flower to gather in light. The first full image from the telescope was released July 11 during a public event at the White House with President Joe Biden.
The Webb telescope is capable of looking 13.6 billion light years away. For perspective, the Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 100,000 light years across.
The Webb telescope gathers nearly 12,000 times as much light as the common 60 mm brand most amateur astronomers start with in the backyard, said Faulkner. It also is nearly three times larger and collects seven times as much light as the Hubble.
Those dimensions and infrared imaging are bringing pictures of the most distant galaxies. And, the discussion is something to which Christians should pay close attention.
“We should listen to what’s being said and found,” Faulkner said. “And we should always interpret what we find in terms of God’s Word. That’s what Answers in Genesis is all about. We view God’s Word as the foundation for everything and it’s the standard by which everything is compared.”
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In Block’s career, he has been a visiting research astronomer at the Australian National University, European Southern Observatory in Germany, California Institute and Harvard University. He’s returning to Harvard for another visit in January.