On Tuesday, NASA announced that they had discovered 1,284 new planets in the universe. This discovery doubles the number of known planets to nearly 5,000.
Searching for planets since 2009, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has zoomed in on about 150,000 stars—just a sliver of the universe. Of the 1,284 newly discovered planets, nine are what NASA calls “Goldilocks planets”—not too hot, not too cold—but just right for sustaining life.
The latest discovery is thanks in large part to a new technique for analyzing the telescope’s data. 150,000 stars generate a lot of data points, but NASA has devised ways to analyze it more quickly. When planets pass in front of the stars, the telescope sees the shadows being cast. Like clouds passing in front of our own sun, the starlight changes, and the telescope makes a note and sends it back to earth.
With this information, NASA statistically analyzed and computed the likelihood that the shadows were caused by a planet. The 1,284 newly ID’d planets measure up to NASA’s 99% probability requirement, so NASA feels confident enough to call them “planets.” Another 1,327 candidates, NASA said, are also likely to be actual planets, but they haven’t quite made the cut yet. More data and analysis are needed.
The stars in the sky have always intrigued and inspired human beings, from scientists to poets. The Kepler space telescope allows us to look deep into the night sky like never before, making it easy to collect a lot of data about the universe and analyze it. It’s also easy to miss the proverbial forest for the trees. The magnitude of 150,000 stars is hard to fathom, and it can blind us from seeing what the universe says to us.
While the scientists call attention to the magnitude of the universe, we need poets to show us its meaning and significance. In the Bible, King David did just that when he wrote Psalm 19. He didn’t have all the data that NASA does, but he was able to look into the night sky and see the forest. Psalm 19 helps us see it too.
But the faraway stars are not the only reminders David sees. He turns to the Scriptures and reminds us that the God of the stars is also the God of the Bible. The stars and the Scriptures point us back to God himself. As majestic as the night sky is, we can rejoice even more that God offers us a clear way to know him, beginning with the stars and ending with his Scriptures.
God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
God makes a huge dome
for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun’s a new husband
leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The daybreaking sun an athlete
racing to the tape.
That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
warming hearts to faith.
The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.
God’s Word is better than a diamond,
better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
better than red, ripe strawberries.
There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool?
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
Keep me from stupid sins,
from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day sun-washed,
scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
These are the words in my mouth;
these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock,