Tiny and dying but still-powerful stars called pulsars spin like crazy and light up their surroundings, often with ghostly glows. So it is with PSR B1509-58, which long ago collapsed into a sphere just 12 miles in diameter after running out of fuel.
And what a strange scene this one has created.
In a new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, high-energy X-rays emanating from the nebula around PSR B1509-58 have been colored blue to reveal a structure resembling a hand reaching for some eternal red cosmic light.
The star now spins around at the dizzying pace of seven times every second -- as pulsars do -- spewing energy into space that creates the scene.
And here's the picture:
[Red represents low-energy X-rays, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. The blue hand-like structure was created by energy emanating from the nebula around they dying star PSR B1509-58. The red areas are from a neighboring gas cloud called RCW 89. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.]
Now, I know that seeking a religious message in this image is akin to the sightings of Our Lady in a garage-stain or similar experiences; the message is in the eyes of the beholders. God doesn't need to communicate to us through cosmic imagery not visible from Earth, or with the naked eye, for that matter; the Holy Spirit can get through to us much easier through the Church, and especially through the Pope.
But I can't see this image and not think of the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, especially this part:
- "This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, TEKEL, and PERES. These words mean:
- MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it;
- TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting;
- PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
- Then by order of Belshazzar they clothed Daniel in purple, with a gold collar about his neck, and proclaimed him third in the government of the kingdom.
- The same night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was slain." (Daniel 5:25-30)
Maybe the flavor of doom from this passage appeals to me right now because of all the gay marriage argumentation going on at Crunchy Cons; I can't help but think of our former pastor's annual Christmas homily, in which he would list all the nations which set themselves against God and His Church, and end with the grim fact that none of them still existed, but the Church remains as God promised. Herod could not destroy the babe of Bethlehem; Annas and Caiphas couldn't make it happen; Pilate couldn't accomplish what they demanded he do; and our American hubris isn't going to do what these past figures tried in vain.
That doesn't mean that times aren't about to become difficult, perhaps extraordinarily so, for those of us who think that we can't reshape reality to our culture's liking without paying a high price for doing so. But America is already on a path of enmity with God; abortion, contraception, divorce, rampant sexual immorality, financial excess and fraud, and similar ills already offend Him. But let America codify that offense even further by legalizing the idiocy and the insanity that is gay marriage, and I wonder how long our nation will endure, or bear any resemblance to the "One nation, under God," she claims to be.
We have been numbered. We are being weighed. And the more we erect legal, social, and cultural walls between those who seek to live according to the laws of God and those who seek the supremacy of secularism, the more we may ultimately be divided.