A very long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, two neutron stars circled each other. They got closer and closer, speeding up as they did so. They reached a speed of 100 orbits every second, and then they collided. The collision was so violent that a gravitational wave was sent out, and a cloud of subatomic particles was released that produced large amounts of gold, platinum, and uranium. As that happened, a blast of high-energy gamma rays was released. Through this process, we received a glimpse of God’s incredible power as the energy reached Earth last August.
As astronomers were watching at 8:41 AM EDT on August 17, 2017, they observed the gravitational waves followed 1.7 seconds later by the gamma-ray burst. They gave the identification of SSS17a to the merger of the two neutron stars. Its location was in galaxy NGC 4993. Astronomers were amazed at the timing of the collision and the fact that they had their telescopes in the right place at the right time to observe and measure it. Astronomer Ryan Foley says, “We’ve been walking around for all of humanity being able to see the universe but not able to hear it. Now we get both. It’s even hard to predict where this field will go.”
The location of the collision was so far away that it happened some 130 million years ago, and it took the energy that long to reach the Earth. Science is now beginning to understand God’s creation of gravity. Also, scientists are learning how heavy elements like gold and platinum were produced.
For Christians, all of this shows a glimpse of God’s incredible power. It almost seems as though God knew that it was time for us to comprehend His making of the special things in the cosmos. He sent a glimpse of the process in 2017, so we could see and wonder at all He has done. It gives a whole new understanding to: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Astronomy, January 2018, page 10.