The headlines earlier this week announced the news with great excitement: the first photo of a black hole had been revealed by astrophysicists at a press conference in Washington, D.C. I know it’s a big deal in the world of astronomy, but I saw the photo and wasn’t that impressed. My first thought was that it was maybe taken with an iPhone 6. I will have to say, though, that I’ve had a hankering for a doughnut ever since I saw the photo.
In actuality, two years ago this month, scientists used a global network of telescopes to see and capture the first-ever image of a black hole, according to the announcement by researchers at the National Science Foundation on Wednesday. They captured a picture of what they called a “supermassive” black hole and its shadow at the center of a galaxy known as M87, nearly 55 million light-years from Earth. They also tell us that the black hole itself has a mass that is 6.5 billion times that of our sun.
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” announced Sheperd Doeleman, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and director of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.
“We’ve been studying black holes so long, sometimes it’s easy to forget that none of us have actually seen one,” France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, said in the news conference. Seeing one “is a Herculean task,” she said.
I feel better, because up until this point I hadn’t seen one either. That’s because black holes are notoriously hard to see. Their gravity is so extreme that nothing, not even light, can escape across the boundary at a black hole’s edge.
Of course, if you are a fan of Star Trek you already knew all you needed to know about black holes, even if you’d never had the opportunity of seeing one. Roughly speaking, a black hole is a spot in the vastness of space which astronomers tell us acts like a giant vacuum or whirlpool sucking everything around it into the hole.
Up until recent years, the only black holes that had been found were in galaxies millions of light years away from the earth, like the one we saw this week which had been photographed. But about a decade ago astronomers made the startling announcement that a black hole had been found nearby in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Headlines proclaimed that inevitably our sun and all the planets around it–including earth–will be sucked right into it and everything will be gone. Uh oh.
Does that news bother you? Does it scare you just a little bit? Personally, I have mixed emotions. First of all it explains some things. Now I know where all those socks that never returned from our dryer have been going. And maybe this explains what happens to our keys or remote control when they seem to constantly disappear.
But think about it. If someday we’re going to be sucked up into this black hole, what’s the point of all of this stuff we do anyway? Why bother, if the end is coming, and our destruction is inevitable?
Let me suggest that what you believe about the future, and where your hope ultimately lies, will greatly determine how you live until the end comes. Whether those astronomical events will actually occur I can’t tell you. But I do know that there is a Creator of the heavens and earth–and black holes too–“who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6). And He has proven, time and time again, that He can be trusted.
So I will rest well tonight, knowing that my future doesn’t depend on a random event from a galaxy near or far, but it rests in the hands of a loving God, who has already shown how much I matter to Him, by the sacrifice He made for me when He sent Jesus to die for me. We are especially reminded of that during this season, and as we gather to worship for Palm Sunday this week.
“Cast all your cares on Him,” the apostle Peter wrote, “because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). That’s enough for me, even if there’s a black hole looming in my future. How about you?
I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.