From the Pastor: A Sign In The Heavens For All To See?
Several weeks ago my news feed fairly exploded with news that Betelgeuse (the star, not the movie) might go supernova. Here is a snippet from Space.com.
One of the brightest stars in the sky has been dimming. But, while it might be signaling that it's ready to explode, it's probably just fading because of strange, stellar physics. Betelgeuse, a reddish star that's one of the brightest in the night sky, has been noticeably "fainting," or getting dimmer. The approximately 8.5 million-year-old star, which is part of the Orion constellation, has been one of the most recognizable stars in the sky because of its brightness and coloration. But this recent, dramatic fading has prompted scientists to suggest that the star might be entering a pre-supernova phase, dimming before it collapses and "dies" in a fiery supernova explosion. If the star does become a supernova, Betelgeuse would likely be as bright as, or even brighter than the moon for weeks or even more.
Every news agency gave differing bits of information about what happens with a supernova, what danger (or lack of it) we would be in, and other such things. Obviously, not everything can be explained in any one article. But this quoted part about how bright it would be and how long it may be that bright caught my attention. As I started looking for more information about that aspect of it I discovered that because it lies on the celestial equator, it is already visible just about everywhere. After a supernova Betelgeuse explosion, literally everyone on Earth might witness this bright blast. The Atlantic expanded on this with the following.
The view would be mind-boggling, day or night. The Orion constellation can be seen from nearly everywhere on Earth, which means nearly everyone could see the exploding star. It would easily cut through the artificial-light pollution that prevents 80 percent of the world—and a staggering 99 percent of the United States and Europe—from experiencing a clear view of the night sky. “At the predicted brightness of a Betelgeuse supernova, you could be standing in the center of the biggest city in the world, and you would certainly see it,” says John Barentine, an astronomer and the director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit that works to mitigate light pollution. “You couldn’t miss it.” Even more spectacular, the display would stick around. The gleaming orb would remain visible for more than a year, perhaps even longer. How strange it would be to witness day in and day out, to understand, for the most part, that the blaze is simply a natural wonder of the universe, but still feel, on a deeper, more primitive level, that the sky looks very wrong.
So as I am reading these sensational articles (they all admit somewhere long past the headline, that they may be off by 100,000 years or more in “predicting” that Betelgeuse will explode any day now), going through my mind was that if God wanted us to wake up and come to attention, this might be just the ticket. And, sure enough, I am not the only one thinking along those lines. Explanations are coming in about just how important the Orion cluster of stars might be to Catholic typology. Even Catholic sources vary a bit in detail, though they all agree that Our Lord put the stars in position and gave ancient men cloudy wisdom to spin tales about the constellations which in the future (our times) would be fulfilled, such as: Orion was regarded as the Loyal Shepherd of Heaven and he is battling Taurus, the bull, a symbol of evil, as he stomps on the rabbit Lepus (or maybe a serpent). All the while the constellation Eridanus River, a river of judgment leading to the underworld, flows nearby, into which is wading a monster named Cetus. There are so many details that I cannot possibly remember them, let alone try to explain them. Most of it is foreign to me, since I have very limited experience or education in astronomy of any sort, let alone in knowing the ancient myths concocted about them. But I find it quite intriguing to wonder if God would show such a spectacular sight as a supernova to all of mankind during such a dark period of humanity (dark in the spiritual and societal sense, though in the technological sense we have so much light as to obscure most of the stars which begat these myths about the constellations in the first place). What would be our general response? The Star of Bethlehem brought mostly yawns, yet it was a bright message from God. Will men of today see any of God’s handiwork in a new astronomical spectacle as has never before been witnessed by men? (Lk 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves) Or simply pat themselves on the back for knowing the “science” behind what could otherwise be seen as religious superstitious nonsense? Will this be the time each man sees the state of his own soul? Three days of introspection, fear, love or hate? Perhaps we will see. Or perhaps there is just a dust cloud passing between us and Betelgeuse which is temporarily blocking its light and its imminent explosion of death is just the latest media frenzy about nothing.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
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