The Complexity of the Cosmos

The Complexity of the Cosmos

The complexity of the cosmos is so incredible that it baffles the best scientific minds of our day. Scientists have employed elaborate machines to try to understand more of the nature of the creation.

When I was a high school student, we learned that the cosmos is made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. All of chemistry and physics could be explained by the measurements of these three particles. When I took my first college course in nuclear science, I began to work in the cyclotron, assisting graduate Ph.D. candidates. I realized the creation was not as simple as it appears. As an atheist, this was distressing because I could see that human knowledge of the complexity of the cosmos was, at best, incomplete.

As a graduate student, I was privileged to work with equipment that could smash protons to see what was inside. “Fundamental particles” was a term that began to show up in the scientific literature, and gradually another “simple explanation of everything” began to emerge. It was called “The Standard Model of particle physics.” It consisted of leptons (such as the electron), and quarks which made up protons and neutrons.

This model also required force particles called bosons to hold things together. With larger and more powerful accelerators, scientists discovered still more particles which were the glue holding everything together. These particles were part of the structure of matter called gluons and the Higgs boson. The complexity of the cosmos was becoming more impressive.

Despite all of this work by literally thousands of physicists worldwide, they were still seeing things that didn’t fit all of the models. Galaxies were spinning too fast to hold together unless some unknown and unseen force was counteracting the centrifugal force of the rotation. The latest measurements show that 68.3% of the creation is made up of energy we can’t detect by any existing instrumentation. We can measure the mass of the cosmos, but 26.8% of the mass we know must be there because of gravitational fields is missing. Scientists now refer to the two missing quantities as “dark energy” and “dark matter.”

The complexity of the cosmos causes us to wonder at the intelligence that created all of this. We will examine this topic more tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

June 20, 2021, was the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest period of sunlight of any day this year. Now that we have passed the summer solstice, the days are getting shorter. That raises the question of why the summer solstice is not the hottest day of the year since the Sun is up for the longest time. The answer to that is simple. It’s because every day until September’s fall equinox has more hours of sunlight than darkness, and there is a heat lag. It takes a long time for Earth to heat up after winter, so normally the hottest day is well after the summer solstice.

A more important point is why the summer solstice happens and how it is critical to life on planet Earth. The cause of the solstice and the equinox is that Earth is tilted on its axis by 23 ½ degrees. As it orbits the Sun, that tilt causes every point on Earth to experience different amounts of Sun each day and controls the angles at which the Sun’s rays hit Earth’s surface. On the equinox, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator. At noon, the Sun would shine down to the bottom of a well on the equator. Every other latitude on the planet would have the Sun’s rays hitting Earth’s surface at an angle that is not perpendicular.

As Earth revolves around the Sun, it is essentially a giant gyroscope with the poles always pointed in the same direction. It isn’t until the solstices that the Sun would shine right down a well at its northern or southern position, and that happens to be 23 ½ degrees north or south latitude. So why is that important?

If Earth did not have the axis tilt, we would not have the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun would always be directly overhead at the equator all the time. Land near the equator would be so hot that life could not exist there. Areas to the north and south would be extremely cold. The temperature differences would create extreme winds, making life difficult. When scientists ran computer simulations, they found that 23 ½ degrees is ideal for minimizing overheating and cooling.

Earth also has a heat sink designed into it—the oceans. Most of the southern hemisphere is covered with water, while the northern hemisphere has more land. Since Earth’s orbit is an ellipse rather than a perfect circle, the southern oceans absorb much of the heat when Earth is closest to the Sun. It just happens that Earth is closest to the Sun when the Southern Hemisphere is in the summer season. It seems like it was planned that way.

We are thankful that we had the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth’s tilt, spin, and distribution of land and water are not accidents. They are designed features of our planet that speak of God’s wisdom and planning in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

First Solar Eclipse of 2021

First Solar Eclipse of 2021

On the morning of June 10, 2021, the Sun will rise as a crescent in areas of the far northern United States and southern Canada. That will include the upper peninsula of Michigan, northern New York State, New England, and southern Quebec and Ontario. It’s the beginning of the first solar eclipse of 2021.

Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. This will not be a total eclipse because the Moon will not completely cover the Sun. It’s called an annular or “ring of fire” eclipse. Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from view, as we saw in 2017. Because the Moon’s orbit is elliptical, it is not always the same distance from Earth. This time, it’s too far away for its shadow to cover the Sun.

When the eclipse reaches its peak, there will be a ring of light from the Sun visible all the way around the Moon’s shadow. Unfortunately, that ring of fire will not be visible anywhere in the United States. The full annular eclipse will only be visible in a narrow path across northern Canada, parts of Greenland, and northeastern Russia. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much wider area, including much of North America, Asia, and Europe. If you are attempting to view any solar eclipse, do not look directly at the Sun without special eye protection similar to welding glass. Ordinary sunglasses will not do. Some websites give instructions for building a simple pinhole viewer.

If you miss the first solar eclipse of 2021, you might be interested to know you will probably miss the next one. It will be a total eclipse on December 4, visible in Antarctica. Don’t despair. There will be more in the coming years. You can also safely watch the eclipse live on the websites listed below. We can accurately predict solar and lunar eclipses years in advance because of the excellent engineering design God has put into our solar system.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

You can view the eclipse live on the Date and Time website and the Virtual Telescope Project.

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or UFOs

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or UFO

Apparently, the media are running out of things to talk about, so they have resurrected the claims of alien visitation to Earth. In June, U.S. intelligence agencies are supposed to release a report detailing what the government knows about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Former CIA director John Brennan has stated that there have been scores of credible sightings of UAPs or UFOs that “may be piloted by a different form of life.” We have repeatedly pointed out that this is not a biblical issue. The Bible does not say that Earth is the only place where God created life.

The attention this matter is getting indicates several things about the United States today. First, the media will jump to any conclusion, no matter how bizarre it is, to get attention. Secondly, people who have rejected God and the Bible have to find some other answer to the mysteries of life, and alien intelligence has always been one of them.

UFO simply means we are too ignorant to know what we are looking at. It doesn’t make any difference if you call it Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. The number of possibilities that do not involve alien spacecraft is vast. Many UFO sightings are simply reflections off of the cockpit or window of the observer’s vehicle. Also, being in an unfamiliar environment can cause people to misinterpret what they see.

Once when I was working in Canada, a group of people claimed that a ghost was haunting a woods nearby. One night, several of us camped out in that woods. At about 2 a.m., we saw a ghost, complete with an open mouth and two eyes. It glowed a greenish-yellow color and then vanished. One of the native Canadians in the group laughed because he knew what we were seeing. The aurora borealis (northern lights) were flickering wildly in a solar maximum, and the ultraviolet radiation caused bioluminescence in a dead tree. In broad daylight, we could see that, but at night, with our imaginations running wild, it looked totally different.

Atmospheric refraction or reflection off high clouds can make city lights visible many miles from the city. Earthquakes generate radiation, and some of it is in the visible spectrum. Weather balloons, flares, test aircraft, cloud reflections, satellites, planes, or drones can all become Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. With this new report, we will see a barrage of headlines from conspiracy advocates, tabloid writers, and psychics. In truth, it is more likely that the number of actual mystery objects will be very small. Jesus Christ has answers to the real struggles in life, but E.T. does not.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week magazine for May 28, 2021, page 17.

Space Spacing and Design

Space Spacing and Design

One of the arguments we make in our discussion of cosmology is that Earth’s design is unique. There are so many variables that must be “just right” for our planet to exist that suggesting it is a result of chance is statistically impossible to believe. We are not just thinking about the conditions of planet Earth, although that alone would be convincing. The more we learn about outer space by using the excellent new tools available to researchers, the more we see that our star is unique. Our Sun is a G-2 spectral star, which means its length of life, stability, radiation, and size are all critical. Now, as we examine space spacing, we know its location in space is critical as well.

The nearest star to our solar system is 4.3 light-years away. That means it takes light from that star 4.3 years to get to us. At that distance, the effect on us from whatever happens on that star is minuscule, so we are not at risk. Imagine a cube of space three light-years on each side. Now imagine putting 100 stars in that cube. A group of stars called the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules has that stellar density at its core. The total cluster is 150 light-years in diameter, and it has hundreds of thousands of stars.

We hear media presentations that say there are 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. They suggest that with so many stars, and many of them having planets, our Earth must be just one of many inhabited planets in the galaxy. The reality is that most of those stars could not sustain a planet with life because they are too hot or too cold or too large or too small. We must also consider space spacing, meaning that their location relative to other stars is also a factor. No one would look for a life-bearing planet in M13, the Great Globular Cluster. If you would like to see a picture of it, just click HERE.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The word “glory” in Hebrew is “kabod,” which the lexicon says can be translated as “heaviness,” which we can understand to mean beyond mortal reach. That was true to the ancients in biblical times who, with no light pollution, could lie awake on a clear night and see a patch of light and wonder what it was.

In 1716, Edmond Halley noted that patch in his observations. Now we clearly see what it is, and it shows God’s wisdom and power in remarkable new ways. Even space spacing shows wisdom of design. We live in an exciting time when new tools give us more and more views of what is in the heavens astounding us at God’s “heaviness.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Alien Spacecrafts Coming to America

Alien Spacecrafts Coming to America - Starlink Mission
60 SpaceX Starlink satellites stacked on a Falcon 9 Rocket ready to be deployed into orbit

On May 5-7 of this year, people across the United States saw a train of lights in the night sky. Calls flooded TV and radio stations from Texas to Wisconsin as people claimed to see alien spacecrafts coming to America. Some of the stories got very imaginative as people started reporting contacts with the aliens and volunteering to leave Earth with them. This reminds us of the old saying, “If you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything.”

It seems that in this day, when many people are rejecting God, their only hope for a better existence is that aliens will come and straighten everything out. This has led to people jump to conclusions about whatever they see in the sky.

What the people saw was not alien spacecrafts coming to America. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been launching constellations of what they call “Starlink satellites.” SpaceX has sent about 1500 satellites into orbit to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. In the past month alone, SpaceX has launched dozens of satellites. You can identify them because they travel in the same orbit, one right after the other.

These satellites are becoming an issue for astronomers who are finding a great deal of light pollution from all this activity. There is even concern about how all these extra lights in the sky might affect nocturnal animals who use the stars for navigation.

As people imagine seeing alien spacecrafts coming to America, we remind you of what we have said many times. The possibility of life on other planets is not a biblical subject. If there is life out there, God created it. The willingness of people to believe in aliens from space while rejecting belief in God is pathetic. It is rooted in ignorance of the night sky and the size and distances involved in the cosmos.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Source: Associated Press by Claudia Lauer, 5/8/21.

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

“Planet Earth – Unique And Bizarre.” Those are the words used by Astronomy magazine (June 2021, page 21) to describe the results of studies of the planets within and beyond our solar system. Why is Earth a unique and bizarre planet?

We have four terrestrial planets in our solar system. In addition to Earth, they are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Those planets have smaller masses than Earth, ranging from Mercury with 5.5% of Earth’s mass to Venus with 81.5%. They also have radically different atmospheres. Venus, which is closest to Earth’s size, has an atmosphere that is 96% carbon dioxide. Mars, roughly half of Earth’s size, is 95% carbon dioxide and 2.7% nitrogen. By contrast, Earth’s atmosphere has 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and less than .1% carbon dioxide.

NASA stationed an observation satellite at the Lagrange point between Earth and the Sun. That is the location where Earth’s gravity balances the Sun’s gravity. The satellite will remain stationary at roughly a million miles from Earth, gather data, and compare Earth data with information from other solar systems. It shows that Earth is the only planet we know of with abundant liquid water driving an active water cycle. 

Scientists believe life itself is responsible for much of the design of planet Earth. Earth’s vegetation has taken whatever carbon dioxide was in our atmosphere and turned it into oxygen. It is no coincidence that the Genesis account portrays plants as the first thing to appear after God created the dry land and seas. 

Another factor making Earth a unique and bizarre planet is the abundance of minerals. Earth has massive minerals of all kinds. Meteorites contain a very small number of minerals, and the Moon has more than the meteorites, but far less than Earth. The media tends to suggest that everything in space is like what we see on Earth, but the data that scientists are gathering shows that our planet is radically different. 

At the end of each day of the Genesis account, God said, “it is good” (Genesis 1:10,12, 18, 21, 25). The first chapter ends with God saying, “it is VERY good.” Over and over, the Psalms call our attention to how unique our planet is. “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him” (Psalms 8:3-4). Psalms 19:1 adds, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows his handiwork.” 

Our unique and bizarre planet was created by an Intelligence that shaped it into the one place that can support human life, not only in our solar system but perhaps in the entire creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Astronomy magazine

‘Oumuamua and Space Aliens

‘Oumuamua and Space Aliens

Some people want to believe that everything we see and experience is the product of space aliens, and sometimes this belief ends up in tragedy. In March of 1997, a man named Marshall Applewhite convinced 39 people that a spaceship was following the Hale Bopp comet. He persuaded them to leave their physical bodies to join the aliens on the spacecraft. Despite tragic events like that, many people are investigating similar claims of aliens such as ‘Oumuamua.

In October of 2017, astronomers at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii observed a strange space object. They named it ‘Oumuamua, which is Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger” because it apparently came from outside the solar system. Some thought it was an alien spaceship sent to investigate planet Earth. The object was traveling at 196,000 mph (315,000 kph) as it zipped through the solar system.

As astronomers continue to track ‘Oumuamua, they have found that it is accelerating as it heads out of the solar system. That fact has fueled more attention by those who believe it is not a natural object. It could be a comet, but astronomers have not observed a tail, which comets have. An asteroid is another possibility, but the trajectory does not show any connection to the Sun’s gravity as an asteroid would have. Why the object is accelerating is also not likely to match any asteroid or cometary explanation.

First, we want to remind you that life in space is not an apologetic or biblical issue. Years ago, I did a radio debate moderated by Larry King in Washington D.C. Someone asked my atheist opponent what he would do if a spaceship landed on the Whitehouse lawn and an alien got out with a Bible in his hand and said, “Has Jesus been here yet?” That would raise all kinds of other questions, but it does make the point that the Bible doesn’t tell us that Earth is the only place in the cosmos where life exists.

The current thinking about ‘Oumuamua is that it is a pancake-shaped piece broken off from a planet outside of our solar system. It has been speeding up because the Sun’s heat vaporized some solids, providing the acceleration force. There is no indication that alien intelligence is guiding ‘Oumuamua or that its composition indicates an unnatural origin.

If we would spend the same amount of time and energy encouraging people to get along with each other that we spend trying to get alien help to solve our problems, we might actually accomplish something. Jesus told us that He came so we could have “life and… have it more abundantly.” Following God’s Word instead of celestial objects like ‘Oumuamua can accomplish that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity
Photo of the Suez Canal blocked by the giant ship taken from the International Space Station.
Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The Moon does many things that affect life on Earth. Sometimes its power can help in ways we never considered, such as opening the Suez Canal.

For a week, we saw news reports about a giant ship blocking that canal which carries much of the world’s shipping. The offending vessel is one of the world’s largest container ships, and it got stuck on the sand and turned sideways to block the entire channel. Tugboats and dredging vessels worked to dislodge it, but they were toy boats by comparison. You could think of a child with a toy shovel and sand bucket trying to free a beached whale and push it back into the ocean. I saw a news report with an “expert” saying it could take weeks to free the vessel.

Then, the Moon stepped in. The March full-moon arrived over the weekend and helped to free the ship. We have said before that the Moon does many things to support life on Earth. Its light helps nocturnal animals, and sometimes humans, to find their way. The Moon’s gravity stabilizes the Earth’s tilt which causes the seasons. The gravity also causes the tides that clean the ocean’s shores and estuaries. The tides and the moonlight play an essential role in the reproduction of sea turtles and many crustaceans. The tides even help to free stuck ships.

On March 29, the container ship Ever Given became dislodged, opening the Suez Canal. The 1,300 foot-long ((400 m) vessel would still be stuck if the Moon’s gravity had not raised the water level to lift it enough that the tug boats could move it. Tides are highest during the full-moon. At that time, the Sun and the Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Their gravity pulls on the water raising the tides. In this case, that force was enough to free a ship the size of the Empire State Building from being stuck in the mud and thus to open the Suez Canal.

One more thing about the Moon is that it has just the right size to allow us to have total solar eclipses, which benefit scientists in their study of the Sun. We never stop marveling at the powerful forces in God’s creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Reference: Space.com

Space Is Not Orderly and Simple

Space Is Not Orderly and Simple

Our Milky Way galaxy is somewhat orderly, with the stars orbiting what appears to be a large mass at the center – probably a black hole. Simulations of galaxies shown on science programs present a consistent whirlpool of material, all spinning in the same direction and obeying the physical laws we teach in a high school physics class. But space is not orderly and simple.

Simple explanations don’t work with galaxies like M64, sometimes called “The Evil Eye Galaxy” or “The Black Eye Galaxy.” In that galaxy, stars and gas close to the core orbit in one direction, but those further out rotate around the core in the opposite direction. Astronomers believe that this behavior indicates two galaxies collided, producing the confusion, but why the systems are in the same plane doesn’t match that explanation well.

There are cases in our solar system where objects revolve in different directions, including the moons of Mars and some other planets. Uranus is tilted on its side, spinning perpendicular to the ecliptic. Space is not orderly and simple or as benign as science fiction might like to portray it. Each time science makes a discovery showing that space is not orderly and simple, we have to wonder at God’s creative nature. Did He put some of these things together to challenge our creative thinking?

The most exciting aspect of all this is the unique stability and beauty of our planet. On March 27, 2021, NASA released a report stating that new telescope observations show there is no chance of something in space colliding with Earth that would threaten our existence for at least the next 100 years. We should thank God for His marvelous creation and for the fact that He designed our planet for the long haul. Now, all we need to do is to take better care of it.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

For more on M64 see the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for March 29, 2021.