Friday, June 19, 2009

Spiritual parallels to the Kitt Peak National Observatory

Last Saturday was very fun; we went to Kitt Peak (7,000 feet high) to see the observatories there on the top. I was especially excited to know that there was a solar observatory there; I remembered my astronomy teacher Mr. Firebaugh talking about it in class my senior year of high school. (It’s been twelve years and I still remember it; that’s the influence of a great teacher.)

As we were driving up the road to Kitt Peak, I was amazed at how high over the valley it was; it was possible to see for miles. It reminded me of how mountains were used as temples in the ancient world. And I thought, “How significant that the place that is chosen for viewing the heavens also gives excellent perspective for the earth as well."

This is a diagram from the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory on Kitt Peak. Yes, they point that thing at the sun, but they don’t stare into it, because that would make them go blind. Instead they project an image of the sun deep into the ground and study the image. You don’t know how excited I was to see this thing in real life!!

Here’s what the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory looks like. It makes me think that something is going to be launched out of it into space.

The sun comes in this opening in the McMath-Pierce telescope.

Some lenses in the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory. (sorry about the red tint; I was struggling with my flash)

In the McMath-Pierce telescope, the sun goes down that shaft into the furthest reaches of the pit where it hits a mirror and bounces back up where it is reflected into another shaft straight downward.

Light from the sun eventually makes its way through these holes in the ceiling of the McMath-Peirce Observatory…

…to the equipment below. I caught sight of some lenses in that pile of stuff. If you look carefully you can see the bright areas where the sunlight is being projected.

This is the solar projection for us tourists to Oooo and Ahhh over. (I really wanted to see some sunspots, but evidently this is a particularly calm time for the sun.) Still, this was REALLY cool!

I thought how interesting it was that it is impossible to look directly at the sun without being blinded and that we really can’t endure it, so we make instruments that project an image of the sun onto the earth that we can study. In the same way, we can’t look directly into the celestial kingdom; we can’t see into heaven unless we are prepared for it. It is too bright and holy; it might destroy us. Instead, we take the light that we receive and we try to project an image of heaven onto earth, and that image is something that we can work with. It’s called Zion. We study and analyze Zion, we try to fit ourselves for that. We look to the people who teach us about it, and we call them prophets, seers, and revelators. We also have the temple, that mountain where we can set our sights on the Lord and the things of eternity and receive light and knowledge through the instruments He has given us which are the ordinances revealed.

I thought too that it was interesting that Kitt Peak didn’t have just one observatory. It had many. It had 25 telescopes on that mountain, each with its respective job to do. All of them were receiving data about the heavens, all of them had their projects. Many people were involved and many people were taking their turn to see the heavens and study the stars. Isn’t that so like the church? We have all these apostles and leaders in the church, each with their special duties and responsibilities. They take their turn, and then they are called home to God.

Something else too that was very exciting was that they have these telescopes that are so advanced now and are gathering so much data that they don’t have enough people to analyze it. They want to dump it to the internet for everyone to work on; they want to distribute the load. Isn’t that so much like the church? The Lord wants everyone to do their part, and wants everyone to receive revelation and act in their calling according to the will of the Lord. He wants to bring us into the work of the Lord too.


Jared said...

That's a great post and a great point about the light from heaven. I loved visiting Kitt Peak when I was younger. I never tired of looking at the massive telescopes that allow us to peer into the depths of space.

Michaela Stephens said...

It's funny, after I posted this, I was thinking about it and I realized I had failed to point out the most obvious parallel for that projection of the sun into the earth for us to study--the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We study Him through the scriptures and through the instrumentality of the Spirit.

Jared said...

That reminds me of Helamen 14:20: "in that day that [Christ] shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you...." I think "sun" here can mean both sun and Son.

Michaela Stephens said...

Good point!