Posted by: T. Boyd | April 23, 2009

Heavenly Clocks

My Dad's pocket watch - most accurate for its time

He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness,and the light dwells with Him. (Daniel 2:22 ESV)

There are some really interesting stories about the stars and clocks. Two tales come to mind. One is Galileo and the first study he made of Jupiter. And then a century or two later, the story of the British watchmaker, John Harrison.

Galileo took his first successful telescope and turned it on the planet Jupiter on Jan. 7, 1610. He recorded the sight in his notebook, making a sketch of the planet which had become larger than a pinpoint of light in the eyepiece. But he also noticed three stars near the view of the planet that happened to be in a straight line, with that line passing through the center of Jupiter.

The second night he looked again, and something seemed wrong. He faithfully sketched this new view, comparing it with the first one, and the stars were not in the same arrangement that they had been the first night, although they still were in a straight line. Had he made a mistake the first night?

He could not wait until the 3rd night, but alas! It was raining that night. Later in the week, he was able to look again at Jupiter and these strange stars and see that the arrangement was indeed different from either of the other two sketches. What was going on?

It took him several days finally to catch on. These points of light were not stars, but four moons of Jupiter orbiting quite close to the planet, with the moon (now called Io) nearest Jupiter, making a complete circle around the host planet in a mere 42 hours. Note: frequently you can only see 2 or 3 of them, because one or more of them are behind or in front of the planet, which is why it took several days to see all four.

What was really significant about this, and it got him in trouble with the church hierarchy, was that here was a clear example of something in orbit around a body other than the earth. Much debate was going on at that time because many believed that the whole universe revolved around the earth, including the sun. But Galileo was able to agree with Copernicus that the earth is not at the center of everything, and here was proof in the Jovian system. (Jove = Jupiter).

The second story is about the first clock made accurately enough to carry on a ship and yield accurate navigation data on a round trip voyage from England to the New World. I will write about that story soon.

And how did they check the clock for accuracy? By the moons of Jupiter! This was in 1714, and by then tables for the times of the motions of these 4 moons of Jupiter were published for navigation, with accurate predictions of these motions for several months into the future.

So, once again, here is a beautiful example of the Designer of the universe giving us a hidden source of knowledge – a mystery – that has been revealed to mankind. In fact the Greek word translated as mystery in the Bible means something hidden that has been uncovered. Isn’t our Lord wonderful!


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