Earth’s great range of environments—mountains, oceans, forests, deserts, plains, and more—and diversity of life inspire much praise for the Creator. But as the psalmist points out, the heavens also declare God’s glory.
Venturing beyond our planet, we encounter all kinds of harsh places. Earth’s two “siblings,” Venus and Mars, both started their history with liquid water. But what a difference a few billion years makes!
Even though all of Venus’ water has disappeared into space, the planet’s surface experiences pressures greater than those encountered by a diver half a mile under Earth’s ocean. Venus’ dense atmosphere raises the temperature to well over 800oF—higher than the hottest location on Mercury. The low atmospheric pressure (not to mention somewhat frigid temperatures) on Mars stands in stark contrast. The only place on Earth with the same low pressure is 100,000 feet above sea level, roughly three times higher than airplanes fly!
Moving farther from Earth, one encounters Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. None of these gas giants possesses a solid surface, meaning no chance for liquid water. Yet, each one exhibits at least one surprising or unique feature. For example, Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot” is a giant storm more than twice the diameter of Earth, with winds over 300 mph, ongoing for at least 400 years. Saturn, besides displaying its beautiful set of rings, would float in a tub of water—if you could find one big enough. Together, Jupiter and Saturn host more large moons than the Sun has planets. Jupiter’s moon Europa sports a deep, liquid ocean covered by miles of solid ice. Saturn’s icy moon Titan (average temperature approximately -300oF) hosts lakes, seas, and rivers flowing with liquid methane and ethane. Uranus, the first planet discovered by telescope, rotates on its side and has the coldest atmosphere in the solar system. Meanwhile, Jupiter’s storm seems like a nice summer breeze compared to Neptune’s winds. These gales regularly blow across the bluish planet with speeds exceeding the sound barrier (as measured at Earth’s surface).
The solar system also contains countless asteroids, comets, and other debris that occasionally hit one of the larger bodies. The most recent event, other than the Russian meteor blast on February 15 of this year, occurred in 1994 when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter. Even the small pieces of this comet released more energy than the simultaneous detonation of the world’s entire nuclear arsenal. Most of these collisions happen on Jupiter, where they do not impact life.
Living here on Earth and witnessing the harshness of the rest of the solar system, I am reminded of Mr. Beaver’s comment regarding Aslan, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” God’s creation agrees.