Saturday, February 29, 2020

From My Nature Journal: So What’s a TCO?

And now, from the 'It Might Give a Whole New Meaning to the Phrase New Moon' category, it appears that our earth has a new traveling partner, at least for a while.

I saw in the news earlier this week that a second moon has been discovered in the Earth’s gravitational system, a discovery at the Catalina Sky Survey that took place only two weeks ago, February 15. What’s the Catalina Sky Survey? According to the Internet, it's "a NASA-funded project supported by the Near Earth Object Observation Program (NEOO) under the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), based at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona." All those abbreviations make it sound pretty important. Who knew? Essentially, their job is to discover comets and asteroids. And since at least one of those programs is there to recognize threats to our earthly existence, I guess that's a good thing, though I often think that would be a way better way to go than our destroying ourselves (either militarily or environmentally), which we sure seem bent upon sometimes...

The article's title is what grabbed my attention: Earth Captures Object Temporarily, Possible Mini-Moon. It's not very large, this object, somewhere only between six and eleven feet in diameter, so it can hardly be compared to Ol' Luna, but it's finding a chaotic path through our gravitational system, influenced by both Earth's and moon's pulls. It has even been given a name. 2020 CD3. Cute, hey> Leave it to NASA. Additionally and amusingly, we find it has been hanging around the vicinity for two or three years by now, which also gives us a great boost of NASA confidence. Lots of asteroids actually fly by Earth, though, and the only reason it's being considered a mini-moon at this point is that it has been hanging around so long. But astronomers feel it will eventually 'tire' of sticking around here and get back within a few weeks to its heliocentric (sun-centered) orbit, being flung somewhat differently as a result of its 'close encounter of the Earth kind.' 

This kind of thing is not that rare. It happened about thirteen years ago as well, an object adoringly named 2006 RH120, rotating Earth for eight months or so before it was jettisoned. But here’s the interesting thing to me: this phenomenon has a name, and that’s where my title comes in. In the astronomy field, these bodies are called Temporarily Captured Objects, or TCOs.

Temporarily captured objects. As usually happens with this blog, it’s a phrase like that one that will seize my interest and draw me to a faith parallel. In the spiritual realm, there are a lot of people like this, people whose spiritual attention is gotten, usually in some kind of crisis or time of need, but whose attention is only temporary. I was fascinated by the stories that came out of Hawaii back in January of 2018 when they had gotten that North Korean missile scare, tales of all kinds of people turning to prayer who had never prayed in their lives, prayer to a God they had not even believed had existed. And I prayed for those people at that time that such a thing might actually cause them to stop and think: why did I pray to a God I did not even think was there? But that’s extreme, that sort of Armageddon-ish fright. I think people do this all the time, God temporarily capturing their hearts, but over time, often fairly quickly, moving away from a Son-centered orbit. Actually, I not only think people do this all the time, I see people doing this all the time, and it’s heartbreaking. Temporarily captured objects.

Jesus called it out. He spoke about it in the Parable of the Soils when he explained some of its meaning by saying, ”The seed that fell on the rocky soil is likened to those who receive the Word with joy, but they send down no roots, believe for a while, then fall away in time of trouble. The seed that fell among the thorns are those who heard the Word, and as they go on their way are choked with the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” These are the temporarily captured objects. Then there are those of a different nature, of whom Jesus said, ”Those in the good soil? These are they with an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, hold it tightly, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

Lent is upon us, a season in the church’s year that is meant for introspection, for repentance, for consideration of just why you and I needed an Easter. It’s a good time for self-examination, for soul-searching, for contemplation of whether or not we are ‘all in’ with God. And if not, why not?

God has captured me and has never let me go. It is the same with many I know, and it is my prayer he will capture you as well.
~~ RGM, February 29 2010

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