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Perspective: The stars are brightly shining

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Danny Milisavljevic (Purdue University), Ilse De Looze (UGent), Tea Temim (Princeton University)

The corner of Cassiopeia dazzles. Its newfound brilliance stirs the soul.


Recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope are nothing less than surprising, startling, stunning. Swirls of light in glowing shades of reds, greens, and blues form a heavenly kaleidoscope of awe-inspiring wonder.


I have always loved the constellation Cassiopeia; for many a late summer night I have stood on a dock at a North Woods lake and gazed up at its beauty. Forming the outline of a W against the night sky, its simple splendor is easy to find with the naked eye. Who would guess from our earthly viewpoint that there was so much more light in the vast darkness surrounding it?


And yet, thanks to the amazing capabilities of the Webb Telescope, newly captured celestial images keep pouring forth, each more breathtaking then the next. Although a vast number of astronomical words explain and interpret, such as cosmological evolution, light echo, supernovae, it is the pictures that tell the story.


And I am so grateful they do.


Especially now when the world often seems so dark: the horror and violence in Gaza, the ongoing slaughter in Ukraine; the suffering of the homeless and hungry. Shadows of darkness that block out the light.


Perhaps in that haze, we are blinded to the daily miracles that surround us: the marvels of modern medicine; the generosity of those who feed the hungry and clothe the poor; the beauty of our earth; the kindness of a stranger.


Centuries ago, the Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” With the bonus of these glorious imagines from space, I am gratefully reminded, even in when times are dark, that yes indeed, the stars are brightly shining.

Marnie O. Mamminga has been a professional essayist and features writer for more than 20 years.