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Seeing That Which Cannot Be Seen

· Random Thoughts

This week has been so exciting in science. This week for the first time ever we got to see a picture taken of a


broken image

Many people were underwhelmed by the picture because, as one person described it, it looks “like a dad trying to take a photo of a solar eclipse and forgetting to focus the camera.”

But there’s so much more to this picture than a simple blurry orange-ish ring. First of all, in order to get this picture over 200 scientists controlled 8 different high-powered telescopes at all different points on the globe and pointed them all at the same thing. Then all of them took pictures of exactly the same thing for about a week. Then came the fun part. For the last 2 years these images have been put through algorithms refining them and combining them to obtain the single photo that has been plastered all over your news.

So what actually was learned from this puffy cheeto looking thing? Since 1783 there have been ideas and theories about these dark spots whose gravity is SO STRONG that even photons of light can’t escape them. These theories were updated in the early 1900s when Einstein came up with the theory of General Relativity. Ever since then scientists have been studying these amazing phenomena trying to better understand them, but having some difficulty. All of the black holes nearby that we know of (~13 in total) are too small and we are unable to see their “Event Horizon”. This is all the glowing stuff around it, the gas and light all being sucked towards this black hole, but still able to be seen surrounding it. For example, if the sun were to collapse and create a black hole, its event horizon would be less than 2 miles wide and thus very difficult to see from light years away.

But THIS BAD BOY is MASSIVE! The black hole photographed is from galaxy M87 and has a mass that is 6.5 billion times that of our Sun. Its event horizon has a radius of roughly 20 billion kilometers, more than three times the distance Pluto is from our Sun. (See picture)

broken image

And now we know so much more about black holes than we have ever been able to discover just from our theories. There is one slight problem though… we call it a picture of a black hole, but...

- a black hole is this thing that lets no light out because its gravity is so strong

- a picture is created by taking in light of different colors to see an image


So in this picture we’re not really seeing a picture of the black hole, we are seeing the outline of it due to being able to see the event horizon around it. But either way, science is changed forever. Scientists will continue to use the data they’ve collected to learn more things about what is happening in or near black holes.

This week as I was reflecting on this amazing moment in science, a thought occurred to me. Our view of God is like our view of this black hole. Many people’s reason for not believing in God is because they can’t physically see Him or interact with Him. All we have these days is stories in a book about Him and a bunch of people’s belief in this relationship. For them that’s not enough. And they say that’s all there is.
But this morning at daily mass I was struck. The priest opened his homily over the gospel (John 8:51-59) with the question, “How often do you see Jesus?” Then he went on to talk about how every selfless act on this Earth is God acting. When we see those acts of love we are seeing Jesus. And this made me think of the black hole. We may argue that we are not actually seeing the black hole, we’re seeing the halo of gas surrounding it. But that event horizon is the only physical thing that we humans can see of this black hole and yet millions of people all over the world celebrated when they were able to see that because they saw it as proof of their ideas and theories.

When we see selfless acts of love, do we celebrate that much? Do we shout for joy because we just witnessed our God? Because it’s the same thing. And we get to witness this miracle every day.

We may never see Jesus in the Second Coming here on this Earth while we are alive, but we DO see him every day. We see him in our neighbor, in our coworker, in strangers. All we have to do is look. Hundreds of scientists were brave enough to look for signs of the black hole and devote years to getting that picture. I hope that you take the time to see how lucky you are. You have the rest of your life to see the face of Jesus DAILY in your fellow humans around you. Look for it. And while you look for it, try to be it. Try to daily show selfless acts of love so that others around you can witness this true miracle of seeing “that which cannot be seen.”