Ecce Cosmos: Does the Carina Nebula stellar nursery contradict Genesis 1?

A new Hubble telescope image (below) shows a 3-light year spanning nebula where stars are being born as we speak.

But wait.

Doesn’t new star formation contradict the finality of Genesis’s creation week in which God is said to have “created  [past tense] the heavens and the earth”?


Here’s what NASA’s Hubble site says about this nebula image:

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope image . . . captures the chaotic activity atop a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks. . . .

This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble’s launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth.

Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of hot ionized gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation much like a towering butte in Utah’s Monument Valley withstands erosion by water and wind.

Nestled inside this dense mountain are fledgling stars. Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions off the pedestal at the top of the image. Another pair of jets is visible at another peak near the center of the image. These jets (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively) are the signpost for new star birth. The jets are launched by swirling disks around the young stars, which allow material to slowly accrete onto the stars’ surfaces.

I suppose that if you are a young earth creationist you have to deny ongoing star formation—deny that new stars are really being born in the nebula—but in the image are the jets that scientists unambiguously say “are the signpost for new star birth.”

So what do you do with that?

A literal reading of the Bible drives the fundamentalist to deny Dionysian evolutionary flux and to cling to Apollonian fixity even in the face of direct visual evidence.

But as Pilate said of Christ—Ecce homo!—so, Ecce cosmos!

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Ecce Cosmos: Does the Carina Nebula stellar nursery contradict Genesis 1?

  1. Jul210s says:

    Let’s not be hasty. Based on the belief in Copernican and Newtonian physics, things are being born, so to speak. But all that is light years away and may now be dead. Actually, there may be nothing up there living anymore. Everything we see in telescopes and by naked eye is the past. Furthermore, or farthermore, we humans only perceive, and can only perceive, 5 percent of the universe. So where does that really leave us?

  2. Anonymous says:

    but it didnt say the heavens were finished.Or what they were doing. Just created.

  3. I’m a Christian, but I think one has to see the Bible as truth, but not literal truth, as opposed to symbolism. The deeper truth is beyond the literal.

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