Spring Arrived in the Northern Hemisphere!

Spring Arrived in the Northern Hemisphere!

Just a few hours ago (11:49 p.m. EDT March 19 or 0349 GMT March 20, 2020) spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. Officially it is spring, even though it may not feel like it where you live.

For the next three months, the days will continue to get longer as the Sun moves farther north. This year, the Sun reaches its greatest northern latitude on June 20 when it will be at its highest elevation in the Northern Hemisphere sky. In the Southern Hemisphere, it will be at its lowest elevation. The autumn equinox will arrive on September 22. Then, on December 21, the Southern Hemisphere will have the Sun directly overhead at 23 degrees south latitude while it will be at the lowest point in the north.

At Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Penninsula of Mexico, the Mayans built a huge pyramid to a serpent deity around A.D. 1000. They engineered the pyramid so that at the spring equinox, the Sun’s light resembles a huge snake slithering down the steps on the structure’s face. The Mayans called the equinox “the return of the Sun Serpent.” They recognized the reliable and consistent seasons that make life possible. They could not comprehend everything required to create that consistent reliability. They didn’t know the God who created all things.

What does it mean that spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere? It means that God has designed the Earth and our solar system to be predictable. He located our planet the just-right distance from a just-right star (our Sun). He gave Earth’s axis a just-right tilt relative to our just-right orbit around the Sun to create the seasons. The result, as we wrote yesterday, is that we have a planet suitable not just for life, but for advanced life.

Scientists today use SETI to search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. They use telescopes and space probes to look for an exoplanet suitable for life. So far, after millions of hours and unknown amounts of money spent searching for alien life, the results have been zero.

Whether life exists anywhere else in the cosmos makes no difference for the existence of God. As spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, it reminds us that life exists here. As we see life blossoming all around us, we are reminded that every human life is precious God. He put us here for a purpose.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2020

Vernal Equinox Arrives Today

Vernal Equinox Arrives Today

The orbit of the Earth around the Sun produces variations in the seasons with four orbital positions having particular significance. Today, March 19, 2020, the Sun will pass directly overhead at the equator. The exact time will be 11:49 p.m. EDT (0349 GMT March 20, 2020). We can rejoice that the vernal equinox arrives today!

This is the earliest equinox in the United States in 124 years! As you can see in the diagram, the usual date for the vernal equinox is March 20 or 21, depending on where you live on the Earth. The reason it arrives on the 19th this year in North America is somewhat complicated, but it has to do with leap years and daylight saving time. We won’t get into that, but I thought we should explain why the diagram differs from this year’s dates.

There is wonderful history of how the Greek scholar Eratosthenes of Alexandria used the equinox to measure the circumference of the Earth. He knew that on the equinox, a pole stuck vertically in the ground left little or no shadow at noon, depending on location. He compared the length of the shadow of a pole in Syene, a town in southern Egypt, with one in Alexandria in northern Egypt. Using the difference in the shadow lengths, he calculated the circumference of the Earth. His calculation was very close to the known circumference today, and it proved the Earth was round. He did that in 245 BC, long before Columbus sailed.

The four polar positions roughly predict the seasons that have been used by every culture to control planting, harvesting, and preparing the soil. In Genesis 1:14, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of space to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” God not only instituted day and night, but He also positioned the Sun and Moon so they could be used to mark the seasons we would need to live on this planet.

As the vernal equinox arrives today, we wish you a happy equinox!! Enjoy the season and the official end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. We will have more on the spring equinox tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2020

Premillennial Dispensational Eschatology and Ecology

Premillennial Dispensational Eschatology and Ecology

Misguided religious understandings can frequently lead to clashes with scientific evidence. We have pointed out many times the biblical and scientific problems with premillennial dispensational eschatology (end-times theories). Dr. Al Truesdale has written an article in the ASA Journal titled “Last Things First: The Impact of Eschatology on Ecology.” (See link below.) In the article, he points out that if you maintain that God will suddenly take believers to heaven before the dramatic destruction of Earth, there is no need to be concerned about the environment.

Second Peter 3:10-11 predicts the end of planet Earth. The passage describes the destruction of Earth when the elements will be destroyed by fire. If this planet will be burned to nothing, why take care of it? Some suggest that if the planet is to be destroyed in the relatively near future, there is no need to be concerned about climate change. Why sacrifice to preserve what will be destroyed anyway?

We all know that there are passages in the Bible that talk about things being everlasting. The word translated “everlasting” in passages like Isaiah 24:5 and Jeremiah 32:40 is the Hebrew word “olam” meaning “age-lasting.” That does not intend to suggest an eternal time-frame. No Hebrew word affirms an eternal duration to anything except God. The Bible has numerous references to the end of the age.

In addition to problems with the destruction of the cosmos, premillennial dispensational eschatology attempts to make God’s Kingdom and the return of Christ into a political event of a physical kingdom. The new heaven and the new Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 are spiritual in nature. First Corinthians 15:50-57 makes it clear that it is not a physical, political war that Jesus is coming to wage. His purpose is to return us to a relationship with God that is spiritual.

God told the man to “take care of the garden, dress and keep it” (Genesis 2:15), and the Bible gives no time-frame for when the cosmos will be dissolved. Taking God’s word “literally” means caring for the Earth and all God has given us. We cannot justify exploiting and destroying planet Earth based on the premillennial dispensational eschatology theories of human denominations.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Dr. Truesdale’s article is in the American Scientific Affiliation Journal, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith, March 2020, pages 3-14. Read it online HERE.

Leap Day Arrives Today!

Leap Day Arrives!

This is Leap Day. We all seem to know that Leap Day arrives every four years, but not everyone is aware of why or what message is involved. NASA gave the following explanation on the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” at apod.nasa.gov.

“In 46 BC Julius Caesar reformed the calendar system. Based on advice by astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, the Julian calendar included one leap day every four years to account for the fact that an Earth year is slightly more than 365 days long. In modern terms, the time it takes for the planet to orbit the Sun once is 365.24219 mean solar days. So if calendar years contained exactly 365 days, they would drift from the Earth’s year by about one day every four years, and eventually, July (named for Julius Caesar himself) would occur during the northern hemisphere winter. By adopting a leap year with an extra day every four years, the Julian calendar year would drift much less. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII provided the further fine-tuning that leap days should not occur in years ending in 00, unless divisible by 400. This Gregorian Calendar system is the one in wide use today. Of course, tidal friction in the Earth-Moon system slows Earth’s rotation and gradually lengthens the day by about 14 milliseconds per century. That means that leap days like today will not be necessary … about 4 million years from now.”

As Leap Day arrives, the message is that Earth’s position, mass, stability, and motion are not just happy accidents. They are carefully designed, precise, and secure. Genesis 1:14 tells us, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” The Hebrew word translated “seasons” in this verse is “moed” which means “an appointed time.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). Leap Day is a gentle reminder of what a special place God has given us to live and how important it is for us to take care of it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Solar System Design

Solar System Design

The March 2020 issue of Scientific American (page 10-11) carried an interesting interview with well-known astronomer Dr. Mike Brown. One of the issues raised is the uniqueness of our solar system compared to other known planetary systems in the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers have discovered thousands of extra-solar planets, and the evidence shows that our solar system design is not typical.

Dr. Brown points out that we are finding giant planets that are closer to their suns than our planet Mercury. We also find stars with eight very small planets that are also inside the orbital distance of Mercury. We don’t see a planet as small as Earth located as far from the parent star as we are anywhere else in the Milky Way. That makes the chances of having a planet in the “Goldilocks Zone” (where water could exist as a liquid) very low. It also means that the masses of the giant planets close to their parent stars must be enormous, and the speed of their orbits must be astronomical.

The process of solar system formation is subject to debate. However, the new observations make it difficult to find any explanation that works. The extra-solar discoveries just add more evidence to the fact that our solar system design is a unique product of engineering.

Proverbs 8 finds “Wisdom” speaking, and she says in verses 22-27, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His work before the Earth ever was … when he prepared the heavens, I was there.” The production of our planet was an incredible work of design, not an accident. That certainly urges us to care for what God has created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Drones and Alien Invasions

Drones and Alien Invasions

The old adage says, “If you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. That seems to be accurate as people are reporting new waves of invading flights with increasing frequency. Part of the problem is that people are confusing drones and alien invasions.

In December of 2019, people were placing videos on YouTube and other similar sites of “huge planes with large wingspans flying in formation over Colorado and Nevada.” Between December 19 and 21 of 2019, England’s second busiest airport was closed for about 33 hours, canceling hundreds of flights and affecting over 100,000 passengers because of confusing drones and alien invasions. There are always religionists and atheists who will attempt to use these sightings to promote their agenda. There are many causes for people to see things in the sky that they don’t understand. Satellites, stars, planets, planes, meteors, the International Space Station, military flares, helicopters, and now drones are on the list of reported UFOs.

Drones are used by journalists, photographers, police, railways, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, surveyors, Amazon.com, the military, and hobbyists. When it comes to drones and alien invasions, the Colorado Department of Public Safety issued an update on January 13, 2020, stating that they found no incidents that did not have a good explanation.

Some people claim that we need help from aliens to live successfully. They fail to realize that the instructions on how to live are available, and people all over the world are living by them. They are simply following the teachings of Christ. (I don’t mean the teachings of any religious person.) It isn’t that we don’t know what to do. We need to eliminate the greed, selfishness, ignorance, and desire for fame and notoriety that is producing the new wave of claims of extraterrestrial visitation. This was the case in the past, and history is merely repeating itself. Even the entertainment industry is jumping on board with a new movie about the return of E.T.

We want to say again that we are not suggesting that there is no life elsewhere in the cosmos, and the Bible doesn’t say that either. What we have, however, is many vulnerable people being exploited because of their loss of faith in God. That has caused them to search in the wrong places for a better and a more abundant way to live. That is true of both secular and religious shysters. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That doesn’t mean buying into any human-made religion or personality. It means living as Christ has called us to live.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2020, page 6.

Drake Equation and Planet Civilizations

Drake Equation author Frank Drake

In the long history of looking for life elsewhere in the cosmos, one of the exciting discoveries has been learning the things a planet needs to support life. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake proposed what is called the Drake Equation. He was looking for a way to calculate the number of inhabited planets in our galaxy with which communication might be possible. Drake’s equation lists seven parameters that would determine the answer to that question. They are:

1) The rate of formation of stars in our galaxy.

2) The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

3) The number of planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life.

4) The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

5) The fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

6) The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

7) The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

If you knew each of these probabilities, you could calculate how many planets in our galaxy might be inhabited by intelligent beings with whom we could communicate. Drake gave each of these parameters a number or probability, but they were wild guesses. Once you have the numbers, all you need to do is multiply each of these variables by each other.

Let me explain. What are the odds of drawing the ace of spaces from a card deck twice in a row back to back? The odds of drawing one ace of spades out of a full deck is 1 out of 52 since there are 52 cards in a deck. To calculate the odds of doing that twice in a row would be 1 out of 52 times one out of 52. You multiply the individual probabilities, so the total probability would be one out of 2704. If you knew the likelihood of each parameter in the Drake equation, multiplying them together would give you the theoretical odds that we could receive radio communication from intelligent life on another planet in our galaxy.

Going back to the card analogy, if you drew one time out of a deck of 52 cards, the odds would be one out of 52. If you drew the ace of spades 52 times in a row, the number would be astronomical since you would multiply the result 52 times! The problem with the Drake equation is that the parameters are unknown and are probably unknowable.

There are also variables that the Drake equation didn’t include, such as the type of star. For example, a supermassive star will have a very short life expectancy. Researchers at Rice University reported in January of 2020 that many stars have extended magnetic fields which overlap the Goldilocks zones of most exoplanets. (As we have explained before, we say that a planet is in the Goldilocks zone when it can contain water in the liquid state). These strong magnetic fields will strip away any atmosphere the planet might have. Our Sun has a magnetic field, but it is not strong enough to strip electrons from atoms and molecules in the Goldilocks zone where Earth is located.

More variables regularly show up, and they tell us that our solar system and Sun have been carefully designed and formatted so that we can exist. Psalms 1:19 continues to take on new meaning with every discovery we make in space. “The heavens (do) declare the glory of God, and the firmament (does) show His handiwork.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine March 2020, page 9.

Frank Drake was involved in the founding of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which we have discussed previously HERE and HERE and HERE.

Dark Matter Mystery Deepens

Dark Matter Mystery Deepens

As we have explained before, scientists understand that a vast percentage of the matter in the creation is something they call dark matter. The simplest way to understand dark matter is to realize that when something is spinning around a core, there must be a force to keep the spinning mass from flying away because of centrifugal force. The dark matter mystery is the unknown quantity preventing spiral galaxies like the Milky Way from flying apart.

If you spin a child around so fast that their feet come off the ground, you must hold their hands tightly. If you let go, they would fly off away from you. Stars going around the center of a galaxy also have to be held by some force. The stars move so quickly that no known force could keep them where they are. That means there is a gravitational force we can’t see holding the stars in their position. We refer to the mass that exerts that gravitational force as dark matter.

Astrophysicist Peter van Dokkum of Yale University has announced the discovery of a galaxy known as DF2, which has stars and star clusters moving at a very slow pace around the core of the galaxy. In all other galaxies having stars at the same distance as stars in DF2, the stars are moving three times as fast as the stars in DF2. That can only mean that there is less dark matter in DF2.

This discovery increases the dark matter mystery because it appears that dark matter is not constant in the cosmos. The amount of dark matter in a galaxy depends on what is needed to keep everything moving at a speed that produces stability in the galactic system. There is a great deal of debate about this discovery, but it appears that the design of galaxies has a new variable that is critical to their existence. That critical factor is how much dark matter has been supplied to keep the system stable. God has tools affecting the creation that we are just beginning to understand. The role of dark matter is only one of those.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine, March 2020 page 45-51.

Stars and Habitable Zones

Stars and Habitable Zones - NASA

The more scientists study Earth and other objects that surround us in space, the more variables we realize must be carefully controlled for life to exist. Many times before, in our posts, our videos, our books, and our printed quarterly, we have discussed the growing list of parameters that must be carefully chosen. NASA posted a graphic of different kinds of stars in the cosmos and whether they could support life. This picture of stars and habitable zones adds to our understanding of the unique qualities of our Sun.

Water is essential for life. Science defines life as having properties such as moving, breathing, eating, reproducing, and responding to outside stimuli. We don’t discuss “rock people” or “gas people” because they don’t fit that definition. For that reason, scientists are interested in stars and habitable zones–the just-right “Goldilocks zone” surrounding a star where water can exist as a liquid.

In their daily posting on apod.nasa.gov for January 31, 2020, NASA gives the distribution of Goldilocks zones for G spectral stars like our Sun, which are yellow, K dwarf stars, which are orange, and M stars, which are red. The other spectral groupings, such as blue stars, are not considered because of their high radiation levels and activity, which would make life impossible.

The most common type of star in our galaxy, making up 73% of all stars in the Milky Way, are M stars. These red stars have very active magnetic fields and massive radiation. Their Goldilocks zone would be minimal and very close to the star. Orange K stars make up 13% of the stars in the Milky Way. They have a modest Goldilocks zone but are fairly active with some radiation levels. Yellow G type stars like our Sun, make up only 6% of the stars in the Milky Way. These stars have very large Goldilocks zones, and they are very quiet compared to K stars.

As we consider stars and habitable zones, we must realize that the type of star is just the beginning of the variables necessary for a star system to support life. Other critical factors include the size of the star, the location of the planet relative to the star, and the shielding a planet has for protection from the radiation of the star. Also, the stability of the star’s location in the Milky Way is another factor that goes into a life-supporting planetary system.

Our existence is not a product of chance. The more we learn about the Earth, the Sun, and the stars and habitable zones within the Milky Way, the more we understand that the statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” is a massive understatement of what God did to make a place for us to exist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Making Molecules on Jupiter

Making Molecules on Jupiter

In recent years we have come to understand how God formed many of the elements that make up our world and our bodies. We watch stars producing new elements, and we realize that this system was designed by God to take the hydrogen produced in the beginning and continually make heavier elements by thermonuclear fusion. It is incredible to witness the power and design in a nova or supernova and to understand that this is God’s forge to make new elements. Now we have another picture of a design God has used for making molecules.

Molecules are combinations of atoms put together to produce a compound. Simple compounds like water and methane are difficult enough to produce. The huge molecules, such as amino acids that make up living materials, require a particular environment to form. Many of them have been found in space debris, but their origins are not clear.

The latest NASA report on Jupiter has given us some new understanding of making molecules. NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft orbits only 15,000 kilometers above Jupiter’s cloud tops. Using new data from this spacecraft, astronomers have announced that Jupiter is apparently mostly liquid. It is not a ball of rock with a blanket of liquids and gases, as Earth-based observations seemed to indicate.

It’s hard to realize the size of Jupiter (2.5 times the mass of all other planets combined), its rapid spin rate (more than twice as fast as Earth’s), the amount of lightning that we observe, and the extreme temperatures are all working in a liquid. It indicates an environment similar to what we can create in our laboratories here on Earth to produce complex molecules. The Miller-Urey experiment of 1953 earned a Nobel prize for producing an environment in the lab capable of making molecules of amino acids. Now we see a location in space that duplicates much of Stanley Miller’s famous experiment. To be facetious, perhaps God should get a Nobel Prize for something that was operational long before any human existed.

The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator. Knowing His methods just increases our wonder at His power and wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from apod.nasa.gov. January 6, 2020.