WHISPERS FROM HEAVEN
In 1980 a huge radio telescope system was built in the remote deserts of central New Mexico. It is called the Very Large Array (VLA). The array consists of twenty seven dish antennas, each weighing 230 tons and 25 meters in diameter. The VLA was built to ‘listen’ to radio emissions from our solar system and beyond, to the edge of the known Universe, billions of light–years from the Earth. It has made key observations of black holes, proto-planetary disks around young stars, probed the Universe’s cosmological parameters and provided new knowledge about physical mechanisms that produce radio emissions.
Few realize that the VLA has also been used to listen for possible radio signals from intelligent beings somewhere in the universe, who might be attempting to contact us. The project is named SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The film by Carl Sagan entitled ‘Contact’ where astrophysicists receive an unexpected series of signals that provide the first 100 prime numbers, was based on the SETI project. Information like this could only have been sent by intelligent beings. Alas, that story is still fiction, in spite of great hope that mankind might hear from extraterrestrials!
The exceedingly fine-tuned universe, the incredible odds for life to emerge from non-living matter and the unusually privileged position our earth has in space, make the odds of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe very low. Even if there were intelligences like ours, the millions of light years needed for signals to reach earth from sources in our galaxy alone, make it all but impossible for us to know who else is out there!
However, we know from Scripture that God created the heavens and the earth, made humans in His Image, and 2000 years ago he himself made a soft landing on planet earth, as recorded by eye-witnesses in the Gospels. If the Creator of the Universe visited planet earth and expressed His love and care for us, doesn’t it seem strange that we dismiss this ‘Intelligent Being’ so easily and instead, seek for 'intelligent life' beyond our solar system to contact us and tell us how to live a better life?
The VLA and its more recent, much improved Expanded VLA version, require careful listening by radio-astronomers to the weak signals from space. The array needs to be in a location with minimum radio interference from man–made radio noises. Both the VLA and humans need solitude and quiet to be able to hear 'from beyond'! We need to practice intentional listening in order to hear that ‘gentle whisper’ from God. While despondent and hiding in a cave, Elijah heard that comforting whisper. (1 Kings 19:12) Are you also listening?
for more information about Radio Astronomy visit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory