Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

What a Sight!


m83_gendlerLast night marked a noteworthy accomplishment for me. I tracked down and viewed M83 (NGC 5236) also known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy. For over a year this was the last observation I needed to make to complete my certificate of 110 Messier Objects. For an amateur astronomer like myself, this is a significant accomplishment. Galaxies, Nebulae, Clusters of stars (both Open and Globular) I have hunted down and trained my telescope on 110 of the nicest in the night-time sky. The Southern Pinwheel galaxy is one of the most conspicuous spiral galaxies that can be seen up there. But it is also very low in the southern skies, so for us northern observers there is a limited window of opportunity each year to see it.

And so it was that for a year now my list has sat at 109 observations … with only this one to fulfill. And then it happened … a clear night, a dark spot, a detailed star-hop and … Wow! There it was! And what a Sight!  It was a great moment – a year’s patience finally paying off. I won’t say that I was giddy, but I was very happy. It was a great moment … unless you were an outsider happening to stumble upon it. Then it would have looked rather less impressive than I felt.

050409m83_stack_final-cropFor you see, the picture of M83 you saw at the beginning is not how you would have observed it in my scope. No human eyes will ever give you a view so nice. They just aren’t designed that way. If you were to have come across me in that dark field out in the countryside and asked to look through my eyepiece what you saw (if you could see it at all) would have looked something more like this second picture. A faintest whisp of a smudge of some very dim light … at best. A trick of the eye? No. It was there … but for most people it would never be something to write home about, let alone get excited about.

Yet isn’t that true of so many of our greatest accomplishments in life. At the time they are happening, they don’t really seem like much to others who might happen to observe them. A husband and wife working through a really rough spot to save their marriage. A father being there for his children. Young men and women respecting themselves and others enough to remain chaste until marriage. Students working hard in school. Men and women being diligent at their jobs. Christians reading their Bibles, praying for one another, talking to a neighbour or helping out a stranger. Not one of these things might seem impressive or exciting to an outsider, just the faintest smudge of a thought might ever be given to someone accomplishing any of this. But that doesn’t make the accomplishment any less important, any less exciting.

And that doesn’t mean that no one is watching either! God sees – His eyes are not limited like ours. And God rejoices with you in all your accomplishments by faith. For He is the King of accomplishing great deeds that the world barely takes notice of. Salvation through a cross … and a tomb. Everlasting life through the death of His Son. Faith and life freely given through the washing of Holy Baptism. Strengthened and renewed faith in (not so) simple bread and wine. The whole kingdom of heaven right here in little churches here on earth. One day his patience will pay off and the whole of creation will see things as he now sees them. One day we will rejoice with Him over all that He has tracked down and added to His list … for there in His catagory of favourite targets will be you and me!  And what a Sight that will be!


Author: kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.

4 thoughts on “What a Sight!

  1. Congratulations on viewing the Southern Pinwheel! I’ll admit, I looked at the second picture a few times to make sure I wasn’t just seeing a smudge on the screen.

    Thanks for reminding me of how God has accomplished so much in ways that I and the world don’t notice, how He works in the ordinary things, and how He sees and knows the true accomplishments of our lives (especially those in life that are through faith in God), even if no one else does.

    So, is there a next astronomical goal after the 110 Messier Objects? (Is Messier said with a French accent?)

  2. Thanks Tracey. I actually made the second picture a little easier to see than it really was (contrast, size and the like).

    There are lots of other certificates I can begin working on now … I’m part-way into my Finest NGC (another 110 object) list, but will likely concentrate on a Double star program or a Lunar certificate (again, about 100 distinct observations) The nice thing about the lunar one is that you don’t have to leave your back yard to do it (but you do have to get up really early a few times!)

  3. Oh and “Oui” it is pronounced like a Quebecois. The list is named after an 18th Century comet hunter Charles Messier. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Messier

  4. Merci pour la guide de prononciation!

    Only somewhat related, I discovered that Canada Post has International Year of Astronomy stamps out right now.

    (and I have weak web-linking skills)

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