How many video satellites are in space

Gaia satellite takes a close look at the stars

Poinsettia puzzle

R. Deschner / EKHNEKHN environmental pastor Hubert Meisinger is pleased that the Gaia space telescope has arrived safely in space

After the successful start, ESA's "Gaia" astronomy telescope will re-measure one billion stars. Is it also possible to understand to what extent a star showed the way to the crib in Bethlehem around 2000 years ago?

20.12.2013rh article: Download PDFPrintShareFeedback

Author: Rita Haering

Category: News, Dossier, Heroes, Creation, Christmas, Science

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R. Deschner / EKHNESOC manager Dr. Thomas Reiter (left), who was an astronaut himself in space, welcomes Pastor Hubert Meisinger to the ESA control center in Darmstadt

“I am really happy that the satellite has arrived safely in its target orbit. We picked up the signals from the satellite, made the first checks of the on-board systems - and everything is fine. You can imagine, of course, that takes a load off your heart. Because the phase from take-off until the satellite is in orbit is a very, very critical one, ”said Dr. Thomas Reiter, Director of the ESA Control Center, ESOC (European Space Operations Center) and Director of Human Spaceflight at ESA.

On Thursday, December 19, the Gaia astronomy telescope successfully launched into space. In the ESA control center in Darmstadt, scientists, journalists and invited guests watched live as the telescope weighing over two tons took off on board a Soyuz rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana.

The Gaia mission aims to re-measure over a billion stars and produce a three-dimensional map of our Milky Way.

EKHN environmental pastor: "Making the inexplicable understandable"

After the successful start of the Soyuz rocket, Pastor Dr. Hubert Meisinger on several experts who shed light on the Gaia mission in the ESA control center from their perspective. He is a consultant for environmental issues at the Center for Social Responsibility at the EKHN and director of studies for the dialogue between theology and the natural sciences at the Evangelical Academy in Frankfurt. Meisinger illustrated why people first explained the origin of the Milky Way using myths. “People are fascinated by inexplicable phenomena - and they have always wanted to understand them. This is a driving force that drives science, but it is also a reason for myths, rituals and religion, ”says the theologian. It is about making the inexplicable understandable and meaningful for human life.
In front of top-class scientists, engineers and journalists, Meisinger sheds light on the relationship between science and theology. “Both are in a friendly dialogue and mutual exchange, both want to make things understandable. "He emphasized the importance of the Gaia mission:" A mission like Gaia will be so big that it will certainly expand our horizons significantly. In a certain way we will also change our view of the inexplicable. "

Understand the past and future of the Milky Way better

“I think it is a very fundamental question to understand: Where do we actually come from? How did that come about? What are the underlying mechanisms? The fascination of answering such questions is enough reason to carry out such missions ”, explained Thomas Reiter, who in 1995 undertook a space exit as an astronaut. The analysis of the data that Gaia sends to earth will provide answers to his questions. “By precisely measuring the position and movement of the stars, it is possible to predict their future position and to reconstruct their former position. This will enable us to better and better understand the history of its origins and future development, ”explains Dr. Florian Renk, Gaia's mission analyst. The collected data should provide further insights into how the home galaxy of planet earth was formed and how it will continue to develop in the future.

Star over bethlehem?

Since Gaia enables a closer look into the past of the Milky Way, it should also be possible to find out whether a special constellation of stars actually stood over the crib of Jesus in Bethlehem around 2000 years ago. Florian Renk explains: “From a cosmological point of view, 2000 years are not very long, that is, the starry sky did not look very different 2000 years ago than it does today.” There are different explanations for the Star of Bethlehem. Renk names the first variant: "An exploding star would be a possible explanation, but no remnants of a supernova that could have occurred 2000 years ago have been found." Another explanation could have been a comet or a special constellation of planets. Renk clarifies the most likely variant: "The planets appear as particularly bright objects in the night sky, but move against the starry background, so that constellations can arise in which two bright objects are very close to each other."

But would such scientific knowledge also have an impact on belief? Pastor Meisinger explains: “If you take theological research seriously, you know that the story about the Star of Bethlehem had a very important function. The early Christians pondered how to give honor and respect to this child who later became Jesus Christ. ”Therefore, the biblical writer related other unique events during this period to the birth of Jesus. Meisinger makes it clear that this is why the evangelist did not tell the untruth, but that it was his way of expressing his faith.

Chances for the unforeseen: Another life or even God in space?

Gaia will measure space with unprecedented precision, one of 106 light-sensitive sensors alone has a resolution of almost a billion pixels. The Toulouse project manager Vincent Poinsignon explains: “Gaia's super eye could measure the fingernail of a person on earth from the moon.” Would it therefore be possible that Gaia could discover previously unknown life in space? The experienced space travel boss Reiter explains: “The Gaia mission will not be able to clarify the question of life on another planet. But it could of course be possible to discover an exoplanet that is exactly the right distance from a central star that has a mass similar to that of Earth. And using appropriate analysis methods, one could determine whether there is water, possibly even in liquid form. ”Therefore, for him, this is a question of probability. Reiter shares his assumptions: “I cannot imagine that in this infinite expanse, in this huge universe, there aren't several places that have similar conditions as here on our earth, and that there is life there - in which Anyway, the forum has already developed or is in the process of developing. "

The most famous Christian prayer begins with the words “Our Father who is in heaven”. Would that mean that God could possibly be found in the universe? Pastor Meisinger smiles: “The English language offers subtleties here that we don't have in the German language. In the English language, science would explore the 'sky'. While heaven, which we understand as divine heaven, is called 'heaven'. "For the theologian it is clear:" Gaia will provide many new fascinating insights into the sky, the stars and the universe. Nevertheless, Gaia will not be able to depict the divine heaven. "