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Scientists measure the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud and why you care

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists have measured with greater accuracy than before, the precise distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud, an irregular, satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, visible in the Southern Hemisphere. The new measurement will allow scientists to more accurately determine distances to farther objects and assess the actual rate of the universe's expansion.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Astronomers are always measuring things. Measurement is at the heart of the science and astronomical measurements have revealed much about the nature of our universe. For example, we now have some sense of the vast scope of our universe which spans about 13.7 billion light-years across.

We also know the universe is expanding faster and faster. What we don't quite understand is how and why, we just know that it is.

The new, more accurate measurement of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) has revealed that the irregular galaxy is about 163,000 light-years away, meaning that it takes that many years for light from the galaxy to reach Earth. Researchers are confident of the measurement to a degree of about two percent. They expect better measurements soon, which will get their accuracy to one percent.

Making more accurate measurements of the LMC allows scientists to calibrate equipment and make more precise measurements of much farther objects. By measuring these distances, we can calculate the rate of expansion for the universe.

This will allow researchers to predict the future fate of the universe and all that is in it.

We know from exhaustive study of creation that we are made of dust which originally comes from stars that exploded billions of years ago. Only in those cosmic cataclysms, is there sufficient force to forge elements heavier than iron. Many of those elements are essential to life.

Even the gold wedding band you perhaps wear was forged in the heart of an exploding star.

When we study these things, although the subject matter may seem esoteric, we are studying ourselves. For many people, we already enjoy a sense of purpose and why, but knowing how is important too. To understand how we were created, in the scientific sense, allows us to better understand the mind of God. 

For when we study our universe, we are not studying things which are alien, but rather things which are intimately familiar, and intrinsic to our being.

In other words, when we go to the stars with telescopes and probes, we are not studying what's beyond. Rather we are, in a very literal sense, looking in a mirror.

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