On April 11, 2019, scientists released the first actual image ever taken of a black hole. The black hole picture used wavelengths that are outside of what our eyes can detect. Astronomers used eight radio telescopes to see wavelengths that are beyond human vision. They photographed a black hole that is as large as our entire solar system, so it is a supermassive black hole.
This scientific accomplishment is significant because it allows scientists to test some of the predictions of Albert Einstein even down to the shape of the hole. A black hole is so massive that even light itself cannot escape the gravitational pull. The relationship of gravity and the shape of space is a concept proposed by Einstein that has radically improved our understanding of the nature of the universe.
There are important implications for apologetics in this discovery as well. A significant question that has been debated by atheists and believers for hundreds of years is whether the universe had a beginning or whether it has always existed. The biblical concept is that there was a beginning. Well-known atheists have claimed that matter/energy is eternal and just gets changed from one form to another forever. The nature of a black hole is that it sucks in everything that gets near it, including light. There is no escaping a black hole and attempts to propose a way around this fact such as wormholes and white holes have all been disproven.
If the universe has existed forever, and if black holes are continuously sucking in all matter including electromagnetic radiation, what would be the ultimate result? It seems pretty obvious that everything would have been sucked up by black holes and there would be nothing left but one supermassive black hole. That obviously isn’t the case, so there must have been a beginning to the creation.
If there was a beginning, there had to be a cause to that beginning. Ideas such as string theory and brane theory have attempted to get around this logical point without success. If there was a cause, there has to be a causer. The design, intelligence, and purpose that we see in the cosmos identify some of the properties of that causer, and God fits those criteria uniquely.
NASA posted this picture on apod.nasa.gov on April 8, 2019. Yang Suite took the photo in northern Norway of a phenomenon that lasted about 30 minutes. Witnesses said that colorful clouds, dots, and plumes suddenly appeared. Can you imagine what would have happened if the sky over Washington D.C. had been filled with what you see in this picture? Are they space aliens?
In this case, the picture is of a NASA-funded project called Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE). Gas tracers were dispersed from two short-lived rockets into the ionosphere at altitudes of 70 to 150 miles (112-240 km). The goal was to measure how the solar wind transfers energy to the Earth and powers auroras. Science still has much to learn about the design of the solar system and how something like an aurora takes place. So are they space aliens? No, and anytime we can see something that we don’t understand, we should seek to understand it and recognize the design and intelligence that is involved. The more we know of the creation, the closer we can get to the Creator.
I have a bicycle wheel that I use to demonstrate circular motion and forces to my physics students. Some of the forces that we can demonstrate seem to contradict common sense, but they are physical forces that make life possible.
The wheel has a handle on both sides. If you spin it rapidly and put one handle in the crotch of your hand between your thumb and first finger, you can completely let go of the other handle, and the wheel will stay in place, seemingly defying gravity. As the wheel slows down, it begins to wobble, and the slower it goes, the more rapid its turning motion is. This is called precession, and it applies to all spinning objects.
Several years ago when I was teaching this unit in my physics class, I did this demonstration. My class skeptic, who tried to make sure I knew he wasn’t impressed with anything I did, said: “OK – big deal, how does that mean anything to me?” My reply was that he wouldn’t exist if the universe had not been designed with these laws in place creating the physical forces that make life possible.
We live on a globe spinning at roughly 1000 miles per hour. The globe itself is revolving around the Sun at 67,000 miles per hour in a solar system that is orbiting the core of our Milky Way galaxy at 515,000 miles per hour. Each of those motions involves forces that make life possible. We would not have weather moving heat and moisture around the globe without the rapid spinning. The Earth would collapse into the Sun if we weren’t traveling at such an enormous speed. The solar system would collapse into the core of the galaxy and be absorbed by the black hole that holds our system together if we weren’t moving fast enough to avoid such a thing happening.
We understand these fundamental laws of physics, but our observations tell us that the picture we have painted here is oversimplified. Stars on the outer edges of the galaxy are circling at roughly the same speed as stars near the core, and that should not be happening. We know that there must be dark matter filling in for the lapses in speed that we measure. Either that or the darkness is simply in our understanding.
The reality of the motions and physical forces that make life possible on Earth are there for us to examine. However, the implications of what we see defy our imagination and speak of the reality of the God who designed and created it all.
Atheists frequently use Galileo as proof that religion is destructive and that good scientists don’t believe in God. In reality, Galileo is a poster child for the view that we try to present in all of our websites, videos, and printed materials.
Atheists have created a classic example of “fake news,” and the facts are undeniable in Galileo’s case. Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible, and he remained so all of his life. Among his most famous statements about science and faith were, “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics … The human mind is a work of God and one of the most excellent.”
Galileo argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around. That was in opposition to the way the church leaders interpreted the Bible. The Pope urged Galileo to present both sides of the argument in a book. The Pope insisted that since God is omnipotent, He could create natural phenomenon any way He wanted to. Galileo wrote the book as a dialogue between the two sides. He named the character presenting the argument in favor of an Earth-centered solar system “Simplicio” meaning “buffoon.” Galileo made the Earth-centered case seem dull-witted. That caused the Pope to put Galileo in the permanent isolation of house arrest. Galileo was never tortured, and his house arrest was in the hospitality of luxurious private residences belonging to friends.
The main point here is that Galileo is a poster child for the harmony of science and faith because he was a believer in the biblical worldview who advanced a better scientific understanding of the universe. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Legislator.” Johannes Kepler who gave us the laws of planetary motion wrote: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed upon it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”
As the famous scientist Michael Faraday lay on his deathbed, a visiting friend asked him what his speculations were now that he knew he was dying. His response was “Speculations, man, I have none! I have certainties. I thank God that I do not rest my dying head upon speculations, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
Since Galileo is a poster child for science and faith, you could also add Kepler and Faraday and several others.
Although space-travel movies are exciting and fun, they are not very realistic. Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light. There is overwhelming proof that he was right. That fact has an impact on the reality of space travel.
Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross wrote an excellent book entitled Why the Universe is the Way It Is. In this book, he states that due to the laws of physics the top speed of a spaceship would be limited to about one percent of the speed of light, or 6.7 million miles (10.8 million km) per hour. Based on that, he says that for aliens to travel from any other planetary system where intelligent beings could possibly exist would take at least 25,000 years! (Remember that it will take nine months just to travel to Mars, our neighboring planet.)
So when you watch a two-hour movie in which people travel from one planetary system to another at hyper-light-speed, remember that it’s only Hollywood. The reality of space travel is not what we see in the movies. We live in a universe designed by a Creator who gave us a special place with everything we need to live. Is there any kind of life, not just intelligent life, anywhere else in this vast universe? We don’t know, but the chances of meeting intelligent beings from another planet are very, very slim. That’s the reality of space travel.
By the way, my picture is poking a little fun at a statement made by the well-known atheist biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. He begins chapter 1 by stating, “Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?’”
So does discovering evolution indicate advanced civilization and the level of our intelligence? More importantly, does evolution explain the reason for our existence? Personally, I think the reason for our existence is not found in evolution, but begins in Genesis chapter 1 and is developed in the rest of the Bible.
Today, March 20, 2019, is a special day as the spring equinox arrives for the Northern Hemisphere. Today the Sun will set exactly in the west and tomorrow it will rise exactly in the east when observed from the Equator. The day will be exactly 12 hours long and night will be exactly 12 hours long. After today in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will be longer than the nights. Officially spring arrives today at 9:58 PM Greenwich Mean Time (5:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time where we live).
In reality, all of this is an exaggeration of the real situation.Don’t expect a balmy spring day if you live in Michigan (as we do) or other northern areas. Ice and snow have to melt, and the land has to warm up. Nevertheless, the equinox does remind us of Earth’s design and how many variables control our existence on this planet. What does happen on this day is that the Sun will be directly overhead at noon at the equator.
During the northern winter, Earth’s tilt has caused the Sun to be overhead south of the Equator. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the Sun’s location relative our planet will drift north until June. When the summer solstice occurs on June 21, the Sun will be overhead at 23 degrees north latitude. The more direct sunlight not only warms the Northern Hemisphere, but it avoids overheating the Southern Hemisphere.
If Earth did not have a 23-degree axis tilt, the Sun would beat down on the equator from directly overhead all year long. The Equator would become so hot that nothing could live there. The northern and southern latitudes would both freeze. Wind belts created by air rising violently at the equator would be hurricane force 24/7. We see that happening on planets in the solar system that do not have an axis tilt.
Ancient people knew that the position of the Sun changes throughout the year. They used elaborate but primitive observatories to determine the time to plant and harvest based on the Sun’s position. Unfortunately, this led many cultures to worship the Sun. Nowhere does the Bible encourage or condone the worship of any celestial bodies. The Bible recognizes the seasons and the role of the Sun as designed by God for human existence. (See Genesis 1:14-15).
The ancient psalmist David said it (Psalms 8:4) and the writer of Hebrews quoted it (Hebrews 2:6), “What is man that you keep him in mind or the son of man that you look after him?” The equinox is a good time to be reminded of God’s provisions for us and thankfully worship the Creator, not the creation.
Yesterday we mentioned that the Sun was at the exact angle to illuminate the Moon’s Jura Mountain Range. The effect is sometimes called the Golden Handle of the Moon because it resembles a small handle on the side. Since the sky was clear here in southwest Michigan last night, I took a picture of it. The tiny “handle” that you see is a semi-circular ridge surrounding a flat plain called the Sinus Iridium (Latin for the Bay of Rainbows). Sinus Iridium is actually an impact crater which has filled with lava, and the “mountains” that the Sun is illuminating is the edge of the crater.
In the NASA photo, you can see wave ripples on the surface as the lava flowed into the basin of the crater and hardened.
On our Does God Exist? educational tours of the Canyonlands we always visit Meteor Crater in Arizona. It is perhaps the best-preserved impact crater on Earth. At three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) across, it is awe-inspiring to see. By comparison, the Sinus Iridium crater is 150 miles (240 km) across. You can also see several smaller impact craters that were formed after the lava flow.
As you examine the surface of the Moon, you will see that it is covered with impact craters caused by meteor and asteroid collisions. Earth has been bombarded with asteroids in the past. There is evidence of a large (93 mile, 150 km) impact crater called the Chicxulub Crater near what is today the Yucatan Peninsula.
Since Earth is a bigger target for impacts, why is Earth’s surface not pockmarked with craters like the Moon’ surface? Scientists have found evidence of about 190 impact craters on Earth. Most of them were early in Earth’s history, and erosion, plate tectonics, and other forces have hidden them from view. More importantly, we are protected from many of the impacts by our atmosphere. The heat from friction as a meteor enters the atmosphere at high speeds usually, but not always, causes them to burn up before they touch the ground. The more we see of God’s creation, the more we see His wisdom and power.
You can read more about impact craters and their effect on life on planet Earth in our previous posts by using these links. METEOR CRATER (also called the Barringer Crater) and the CHICXULUB CRATER. You can read about a Martian Meteorite HERE.
On a clear night look around to find the brightest star. (Don’t get confused with planets which sometimes are more brilliant than stars.) The brightest star in the sky is Sirius.
The name comes from an ancient Greek word which means “glowing.” It’s in the constellation Canis Major which means “big dog.” Sirius is at the base of the dog’s neck. It looks bright because it’s 25 times more luminous than the Sun and is “only” 8.6 light-years away. Other stars are more luminous, but they don’t appear as bright because they are farther away from the Earth.
We see Sirius as a single star, but it’s more than that. It is actually a binary star consisting of Sirius A and Sirius B. A binary star is two stars orbiting around a central point. There are star systems composed of 2, 3, 4, or more stars orbiting each other which look like a single star to us. Astronomers estimate that half or more of the stars we see in the night sky are actually multiple star systems.
If our Sun had been part of a multiple star system, we wouldn’t be here. Imagine being on a planet orbiting a star which is orbiting one or more other stars. Gravitational forces would pull the planetary orbit apart. Days and seasons and years would be completely chaotic. Life would not be possible.
Genesis 1:14 tells us that God established the Sun and Moon to “serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.” It’s no coincidence that we are orbiting a single star to light the day, and we are orbited by a moon to light the night. Together it is an unusual and extraordinary system. It is a gift from God.
One of the struggles we all have in dealing with the creation of the cosmos is understanding the vastness of space. When someone tries to give a naturalistic explanation for Earth and its abundance of life, they assume that the variables necessary for the creation of life and the conditions required for life to exist have just happened naturally. Because of the number of stars and planets, they assume that the creation can be a product of blind opportunistic chance.
In 1961 Frank Drake (a founder of SETI) presented what is known as the Drake equation. It involves multiplying seven variables that are necessary for creating a planet with intelligent life by the odds of each of those variables happening by chance alone. Let’s say the odds of having one of Drake’s seven variables are 1 in a million. Those promoting chance explanations of the creation would say that since there are 100 billion stars in the galaxy in which we live, the odds are reasonable for the creation to happen by chance.
There are many problems with this equation and the chosen variables. One statistical problem is that you can’t just have one variable which is isolated from all the other variables. If there are seven variables, then they all have to be accomplished at the same time in the same place. You can’t have variable one at one place at one time, and variable two at a different place and at a different time.
We don’t seem to comprehend the vastness of space, and how isolated stars are from one another. An excellent example of this is the asterism we call the Big Dipper. Seven stars make up the Big Dipper. When seen from Earth, they seem to be close together. The fact is that the stars are nowhere near each other. Mizar, the second star from the end of the handle is 78 light years away from Earth. (A light year is how far light goes in a year – roughly 588 quadrillion miles.) Dubhe, the star at the top edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper is 124 light years away. Merak which with Dubhe makes up the pointer stars of the Big Dipper is 79 light years away from Earth and 45 million light-years from Dubhe.
The size of the cosmos is incredible, but that size does not make chance explanations of the creation accurate. Having the right size planet going around a star that is a red giant would not support life. If you had the right size planet going around a spectral G-2 star (like our Sun), it would not support life if it were located at the core or in the equatorial plane of the galaxy. All variables have to work together at the same time and place, and that is unlikely considering the vastness of space.
When wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22-23 she says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the Earth was.” The vastness of space isolates us from the destructive forces that exist throughout the cosmos. It also reinforces the statement of Romans 1:20 which says “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.”
Data is coming in from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS for short. It is the most powerful telescope ever deployed to look for planets orbiting other stars. Over two years, TESS can cover all 360 degrees of sky visible from Earth’s orbit. Our previous satellite called Kepler could only scan a small segment of the sky. Already Tess has identified over 300 probable exoplanets including one named HD 21749b which has the lowest known temperature for a planet orbiting a bright nearby star. (“Nearby” being 53 light-years away.)
The problem with this is that what astronomers consider “cool” is not cool from our standpoint. The surface temperature of HD 21749b is 150 degrees Celsius, which is way too hot for liquid water. (Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.) A year on that planet equals 36 Earth days as it makes a complete orbit around its star. Most of the other exoplanets found at this time are vastly hotter than HD 21749b.
Astronomers have found other planetary systems, but they again have properties that would preclude any kind of life. Some of them have a planetary density equal to that of pure water. Some have orbits that are highly eccentric. Pi Mensae b, for example, has an orbit that varies widely. Its closest distance to its star approximately equals the distance from Earth to our Sun. The longest distance is similar to Jupiter’s distance from the Sun.