A Christian scientist is being recognized for his assistance with the development of NASA's first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and he is praising God for creating something so beautiful.
The first images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope were released on July 12, now the whole world knows what the Carina Nebula, Stephan's Quintet, Southern Ring Nebula, and galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 look like with clear pictures.
Scott Acton, a graduate of Abilene Christian University, helped develop the telescope that captured these images. After graduating from West Texas University with a physics degree and at Texas Tech University with a Ph.D., Acton immediately began to work in the aerospace workforce.
At now 60 years old, Acton works as a scientist at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, and he was the wavefront sensing and controls scientist on the James Webb telescope project. It was almost a 24-year journey.
Before finding himself at Ball Aerospace, Acton was working in Hawaii working for Keck Observatory on the Big Island. He and his family lived there for six years and he had a side job working as a contractor for aerospace companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies. These two companies were some of the many that submitted proposals to build a telescope for NASA.
Acton told Christian Chronicle that he believed that Ball Aerospace would receive the contract to build NASA's telescope, and because he wanted to be part of the equipment's construction process, he applied to work for the company. In 2001 he moved to Boulder and joined a team assigned to work on the telescope's optics.
No matter what a person believes, Acton believes the images from the James Webb telescope will be a spiritual experience.
"Seeing these images will increase your faith. It will increase your faith in whatever you have faith in, but it will absolutely increase it," says Acton.
The Christian scientist clearly remembers what his experience was when working on the project.
In February, his team had a throwaway image from the telescope's fine guidance sensors and placed it on infrared detectors, downloading the photo after approximately a 40-second exposure. When he saw the final image, Acton cried.
"When you stretch the contrast in the image, I realized that single image contained probably 500 galaxies that had never been seen before."
Acton explains that just one of those galaxies could contain 100-200 billion stars, and those stars could have planets within a habitual zone meaning that there could be planets that can sustain life.
After looking at that image, Acton went back home to his wife and talked about what he saw. In that moment, he remembered a verse from the Bible, Job 38:7, and when he imagined all those galaxies, "I pictured them singing."
"Not in any kind of a language that people could understand, but certainly the emotion we can understand. I would call that emotion, joy. It's almost like the galaxies or the universe was happy that after all this time we could finally see them."