The Skies Proclaim His Handiwork Day 5: Meteors, Comets and Asteroids
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1, ESV)
And the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (Revelation 6:13, ESV)
There are some pretty breathtaking sky shows in the darkness of night. From the unusual moon phases and colors to the beauty of the stars, we see that the natural phenomena is all known and orchestrated by our Creator God. It causes us at times to feel so small as we stare into space, wondering why God values us and sees each one of us as significant. Today, we will look at meteors, comets and asteroids, studied and enjoyed by astronomers and space enthusiasts, but all a part of God’s wonderful creation.
A meteor is defined by Wikipedia as a solid piece of debris from an object such as a comet, asteroid, or meteoroid that originates in outer space and survives its passage through the atmosphere to reach the surface of a planet or moon. Meteor showers are stunning and occur when earth is orbiting the sun and passes through debris left over from disintegrating comets. The meteoroid burns and intensifies as it falls, allowing us to get a good view of it. A meteor is less than 10 meters in diameter; if larger, it’s classified as an asteroid. Most meteorites dissolve as they fall toward earth and many fall into the ocean. Craters in the planets and the moon are caused by a meteorite or asteroid making contact. The largest meteorite, weighing in at 60 tons, is the Hoba Meteorite. Meteors are made up of stone or iron or a mixture of both. If you do some online searching, you’ll find various meteors for sale for quite a large sum of money!
A comet is a small, icy solar system body that warms and begins releasing gases as it passes close to the sun. This allows us to occasionally see the comet along with its tail. Unlike an asteroid, the comet is made up of frozen ammonia, methane or water, with only a small percentage of rocky material. A comet’s tail is made up of dust and gases and is the most visible part of a comet. Each comet has 4 components: a nucleus, a coma, a dust tail and an ion tail. Comets orbit the sun, just like the planets do. Comets are rarely visible earth without a telescope, but about once every 10 years, a great comet is visible to the naked eye. Perhaps the most notable one is Haley’s Comet, appearing every 76 years; I remember seeing it in 1986 when I was still in high school.
An asteroid is a rocky object that orbits the sun but is too small to be called a planet. There are millions of asteroids and they range in size; the bigger ones (hundreds of miles wide) are viewed as dangerous should they collide with earth. The area where most asteroids lie is between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This asteroid belt holds more than 200 asteroids larger than 60 miles wide apiece. An asteroid is rich in various metals and water; they may contain rings made out of dust and occasionally have tails, and 150 asteroids even have their own moons. Scientists pay attention to asteroids in order to properly predict any threat they pose to our planet should they collide, causing great devastation.
As we look at these extraordinary objects in outer space, it’s hard not to recognize the hand of God in each one. Our human minds cannot take in all that God has created; so much is known only to Him. While space can make us feel small, we can greatly appreciate that despite the vastness of the universe, God craves a personal relationship with each one of us. I find it especially humbling as we’ve studied the skies—skies which seem so large and significant—that God would send His only Son to this small world to rescue us. What a beautiful truth, one in which we can find such comfort! In the vastness of the universe, God brings His focus to just one—me! And you! This should encourage each one of us to be grateful for His love of us—immeasurable and unconditional.