The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Psalm 19 begins with a beautiful affirmation that creation declares the glory of the Creator: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made” (Psalm 19:1 GWN).

When the psalmist looked at the sky and marveled at the things God had made, he was acknowledging that the God in whom he believed was the creator of all things. The honor of God that the heavens declare includes all that the psalmist believed about his God, that is, creation reflects God’s wisdom, his power, his provisions, and above all, God’s faithfulness.

When the psalmist wrote these words he was unaware that among the many stars he saw in heaven, there were ten planets (if one includes Pluto as a planet) in the sky. The Greeks knew that there were “five planets visible to the naked eye, but they didn’t understand them as planets in our sense of the word. The word planet comes from a Greek adjective meaning wandering, used to modify the word star. Ancient astronomers distinguished two types of stars: fixed stars and wandering stars.”

Among these five “wandering stars” was the planet Mars, whom the Greeks called Ares, the son of Zeus and Hera, and the Greek god of war. The planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war called Mars. The Babylonians called the planet Mars, Nergal, a god of fire, war, and destruction.

Mars has caught the imaginations of almost every person living on earth today. NASA has planned a mission to Mars by 2030. The goal is to eventually have settlers on the planet and terraform it for permanent colonization. In preparation for this, NASA has sent various spacecrafts to Mars, including Curiosity, Opportunity, and the InSight spacecraft.

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars on January 25, 2004. A few months ago, NASA lost contact with Opportunity, but before contact was lost, Opportunity provided scientists with a voice from Mars. Here is how TIME reports what scientists have done to capture a song from Mars.

At the 2018 Supercomputing Conference in Dallas on November 13, engineers from England’s University of Exeter unveiled what they dubbed a Martian “soundscape,” a two-minute harmonic composition that captures — or, more precisely, interprets — the sound of a sunrise on Mars. The particular sunrise they chose was a special one, the 5,000th Opportunity witnessed on Mars.

The Exeter engineers began with a picture of the sun hanging low over the Martian horizon, and then began analyzing and processing it a pixel at a time. The picture was scanned left to right, and each pixel was assigned a tone based on its color, brightness and, in the case of pixels making up the image of the ground, its terrain elevation. Brighter spots were assigned higher tones, with the highest of all sounding out when the scan passes the sun.

The technique, known as “data sonification,” serves more of an aesthetic purpose in this case than a practical one. It’s just plain pretty and just plain cool, and that’s more than enough. But it has other applications too.

“Image sonification … can be used in several domains, from studying certain characteristics of planet surfaces and atmospheres, to analyzing weather changes or detecting volcanic eruptions,” said Domenico Vicinanza, one of the developers of the Mars song, in a statement.

Below is what a sunrise on Mars sounds like:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made” (Psalm 19:1 GWN).

Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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