Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor Shower
One of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year will reach its peak on the nights of August 11-12 and 12-13. This year’s Perseids will be exceptionally brilliant because the moon will be only a small crescent and will set early. You can best see the Perseid meteor shower after 12:00 AM local time.

The Perseids are interesting because they frequently feature a brilliant fireball which can actually cast a shadow or a bolide which is a meteor that explodes. The Perseid meteor shower gets its name from the fact that the meteors appear to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus which will be in the northeast for those of us looking up from the United States. However, you will see them streaking in any area of the sky.

The Perseid meteor shower is debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle which was discovered in 1862 and returned most recently in November of 1992. These meteors are small particles usually no larger than a pea and as small as a grain of sand. They become visible at an altitude of 55 miles (88 k) where they enter the atmosphere with an average velocity of about 133,200 miles (214,365 km) per hour. Perseid meteors usually burn up by the time they reach an altitude of 50 miles (80 km) and never contact the surface of the earth. If they did, they would be called meteorites.

So, if you can, find a place away from city lights after midnight. Lean back in a lounge chair where you can see the expanse of the sky. The best viewing is with your unaided eyes. Binoculars or a telescope will not allow you to view the whole sky. Then just enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. We will have more on the Perseid meteor shower in our post tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Why Such a Huge Universe?

Why Such a Huge Universe?
Here are some questions that are often asked by those who are skeptical of the existence of God: Why such a huge universe? How can we believe that a Creator cares about us when we are so insignificant in this vast cosmos? Those questions are worth considering.

There is no doubt that the cosmos is fantastically large. The Hubble Space Telescope aimed at a small area of sky no larger than one-tenth of the diameter of the Moon to take this Hubble eXtreme Deep Field photograph. The few bright spots with points of light radiating are stars. All the rest are galaxies—more than 10,000 of them in this picture! Some of them are as far away as 13 billion light-years, meaning that they were among the first galaxies formed.

If there are 10,000 plus galaxies in this tiny area of sky, that means there are 200 billion galaxies in the visible universe. Each of those galaxies contains an average of 200 billion stars. So why such a huge universe?

There were two critical factors at the beginning of cosmic existence—mass and expansion rate. If the total mass of protons and neutrons had been any less during the first moments of creation, hydrogen would not have fused into any elements heavier than helium. Then the nuclear furnaces of the stars could not have generated the elements carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, which are essential for life. If the mass of protons and neutrons had been any greater at the cosmic creation, all of the original hydrogen would have fused into heavier elements like iron, and life would not have been possible.

The mass also affects the expansion rate. If the cosmic mass density had been less, the expansion rate would have been too fast to form stars like the Sun and planets like Earth. If the density had been greater, the expansion rate would have slower and all stars would have been much more massive than the Sun and would give off radiation too intense for any orbiting planets to sustain life.

In other words, the universe was fine-tuned from the moment it began! Why such a huge universe? Because it had to be. It has just the right mass and expansion rate for us to be here. We don’t think that was an accident. Through the study of astronomy and astrophysics, we can see HOW God created the universe we live in, and HOW He made it possible for us to live in it. The creation of the universe is not magic. It’s a feat of astounding engineering from the very moment of creation.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Special Star – Our Sun

Special Star – Our Sun
The Sun’s corona visible during the 2017 total eclipse.
Our Sun is a special star. In the past, scientists thought that it was just an average star. However, new studies in recent years have shown many ways that our Sun is unique.

A recent study by researchers at the Flatiron Institute Center for Computational Astrophysics under the leadership of astronomer Megan Bedell shows one more way that our star is unique. The study involved examining 79 “solar twins” of the Sun. These are other nearby stars that have nearly the same temperature and mass as the Sun. Using the HARPS telescope in Chile, they measured the spectra of each of the stars. A star’s spectrum of radiation indicates what elements the stars contain and the relative abundance of those elements.

The researchers measured the abundance of 30 different elements to a precision of two percent, which is higher than others had achieved. The ratios of elements such as carbon to oxygen and magnesium to silicon were nearly identical in the stars they studied, except for the ratios in our Sun. Our star has a lesser amount of metals and elements that make up rocks. Those elements are the ones which planets are made of, so we can probably assume that those elements were removed from the Sun to make Earth and the other rocky planets.

The stars which came closest to matching the Sun’s chemical composition were only a small portion of the total stars studied. They are also missing some of the materials that could build planets like Earth. However, in the search for exoplanets, astronomers so far have not found any planets orbiting those stars that are most similar to our Sun.

This study is fascinating, and there is much more to learn. We don’t know if science will ever find any potentially life-supporting solar systems and planets anywhere else. However, we do know that our Sun and this planet seem perfectly designed as a place for us to live and to study the vast universe. It is evident that we have a special planet orbiting a special star in a special place where we can observe and study God’s creation.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Optimum Martian Viewing

Optimum Martian Viewing
Recently there has been much talk about Mars in the media. NASA and private firms such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX are working on plans to send people to Mars and eventually build a colony there. For the past month, a planet-wide dust storm has blocked sunlight from reaching the planet’ surface and caused NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover to shut down. In addition, Mars is now in “opposition” to Earth and at its closest point to us since 2003. The current position of Mars gives us optimum Martian viewing.

When astronomers say that Mars is in perihelic opposition to Earth, that means the Sun, Earth, and Mars are in a line with Earth in the middle. That makes the apparent luminosity of Mars the brightest that it is at any time. Also, it means that Mars rises each night as the Sun sets and Mars sets each morning as the Sun rises. So Mars is visible in the sky all night long, and it is two times brighter than Jupiter, which usually outshines it. In addition to Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus are also visible at this time in an east-west arc across the sky after sunset. You can distinguish Mars by its red color, and it will continue to be bright through August for the optimum Martian viewing opportunity.

On July 26, NASA announced, “It’s the beginning of the end for the planet-encircling dust storm on Mars.” However, it may be weeks or even months before the Martian atmosphere clears enough for the Opportunity to have enough sunlight to recharge its batteries and return to life. NASA hopes that the batteries will recharge before Opportunity freezes to death. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60 Celsius). That is not very hospitable to machinery, or humans.

In addition to the previous factors, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth today, July 31, 2018. It will be only 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) away from us. Mars is at its closest point about every two years. When Mars is on the other side of the Sun, it is about 250 million miles (401 million km) away. For that reason, any mission to Mars will have to be precisely timed to reach our neighboring planet in the shortest time, but it will still take months to make the journey.

With all of the challenges of reaching and perhaps colonizing Mars, the work goes on to achieve that goal. Some, such as Elon Musk, are suggesting “terraforming” Mars. That is, modifying the climate to make it hospitable to earthlings. That would require raising the climate temperature, thickening the thin atmosphere, and having a stable supply of liquid water, among other things. Elon Musk suggested a method of doing that which involves bombing the polar ice caps with explosives. It sounds like science fiction, and a new report from two leading scientists, Bruce Jakosky of NASA and Christopher Edwards of Northern Arizona University suggest that it is. Their study published in Nature Astronomy concludes that “with current technology, we just don’t see that there are any viable options” for terraforming Mars.

What we need to remember as we consider all of this, is that God has given us a planet that has all of the right conditions for us to live on and enjoy. He has already “terraformed” it for us, and we need to protect that gift and use it wisely. In the meantime, we can enjoy the optimum Martian viewing opportunity He provided for us to see the “red planet” right now.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Longest Blood Moon

Longest Blood Moon
It will be the longest blood moon of the twenty-first century. There have been books and articles about “blood moons” in recent years relating them to prophecies of various kinds. However, this event will not be a miraculous sign of some impending doom or destruction. It will not be a sign of the second coming of Christ. This lunar eclipse is an entirely natural phenomenon.

A so-called “blood moon” is actually an eclipse of the Moon. Most of the time, we see the light of the Sun reflected from the Moon. When Earth, Moon, and Sun are perfectly aligned with our planet in the middle, the Moon becomes covered by Earth’s shadow. Since Earth is much larger than the Moon, it can throw a shadow across the entire Moon. That is what will happen at 4:21 p.m. U.S. Eastern Daylight Time on July 27. However, it will not be visible in the United States. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, and it will be total in Africa, the Middle East, and part of Asia.

Why does the Moon appear red or orange during a lunar eclipse giving it the name “blood moon?” That’s because as the Sun’s light passes through Earth’s atmosphere, it is filtered and bent so that a small amount of light reaches the Moon’s surface. We see the effect of our atmosphere on sunlight when we watch the red-orange colors of a sunrise or sunset. If you were on the surface of the Moon, you would see that sunset effect as a halo around the Earth. Looking at the Moon from Earth, we see the reflection of that sunrise/sunset glow reflected back to us. The Moon takes on an eerie, but faint blood-red glow.

This lunar eclipse will be the longest blood moon of the century because of a near-perfect alignment of Earth between the Sun and Moon. From beginning to end, this eclipse will last almost four hours. The period of totality will be an hour and 43 minutes. The next lunar eclipse visible in North America will be on January 21, 2019, and it will last only an hour and two minutes. How do we know these statistics? We can know when lunar (and solar) eclipses will occur because we know how they happen. We know that our solar system is very orderly and predictable because it is well designed.

In ancient times eclipses caused people to panic. People in ancient Mesopotamia thought an eclipse was an attack by demons. The Inca people in fifteenth-century South America would shake spears and make noise to scare away what they believed was a jaguar attacking the Moon. There is a story that Christopher Columbus and his men were stranded for six months on the island now known as Jamaica. The indigenous Arawak people became less than generous in sharing food. Columbus knew from an almanac that a total lunar eclipse was about to happen. He told the local people that his God was angry and would take away the Moon in three days. When Columbus’ prediction seemed to come true, the Arawaks were terrified. They gave Columbus’ crew whatever they wanted to bring the Moon back. Amazingly, the Moon returned to normal, and everyone was happy.

So as the longest blood moon of the century comes and goes, don’t let anyone try to tell you it is some kind of miraculous sign. After all, we can’t predict miracles. The only miracle that was clearly (and repeatedly) predicted in advance and which actually happened was the resurrection of Jesus.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Life Chemical Factory on Enceladus?

Life Chemical Factory on Enceladus
The picture shows Saturn’s moon Enceladus with Saturn in the background and part of a ring visible. Scientists are talking about a life chemical factory on Enceladus. One of the interesting questions about the origin of life is the question of how the chemicals needed to produce life came into existence.

Many believers in God answer that question just saying “God created them” and leaving it at that. For many of us with interest in science, that question expands to trying to understand HOW God created those chemicals. Saying that He spoke them into existence may be theologically acceptable, but the evidence shows that God used processes that we can understand.

Enceladus is essentially a vast ocean of water surrounded by a massive layer of ice. Scientists believe that powerful hydrothermal vents mix up the material found in the moon’s porous core with the salt water that makes up its vast ocean. This material is then ejected out into space in the form of enormous plumes of water vapor and ice granules you can see in the picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft. The sight is quite spectacular, and it was into one of these plumes that NASA’s scientists were able to send Cassini to examine their composition.

What the scientists learned is that the plumes contain organic materials. These are materials that are part of the building blocks of life. Therefore, this moon seems to be a factory that builds several of the ingredients needed to produce life.

Think of how factories produce cars. Factories at different locations all over the country build the parts. The parts come together in one place where highly skilled and creative engineers assemble them into a working automobile. In the same way, we can see a possible life chemical factory on Enceladus.

The more we explore space, the more we understand why these “factories” exist and how they have been used by “the great Engineer” to produce life on Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For more information from a different perspective go to Space.com

Does Your GPS Work?

Does Your GPS Work?
Does Your GPS work? If so, you can give credit to Albert Einstein. In 1905 Einstein published the Special Theory of Relativity which said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This presented a problem because gravity acts between objects instantly and thus it seems to be faster than the speed of light. It was a problem that needed a solution.

Ten years later, in 1915 Einstein revealed his General Theory of Relativity which resolved the problem. The explanation was that the Sun and planets cause space to curve around them and this warped shape of space influences the motion of other objects passing by them. That’s why the Moon orbits the Earth, and it’s why Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun.

This warping of space also bends light beams that pass through space. In 1919 British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington confirmed that Einstein was correct. Eddington observed the bending of light from distant stars as the light passed by the Sun during a total solar eclipse.

The understanding of how gravity bends space and light beams has given us methods of making measurements in space and detecting planets orbiting other stars. Einstein also said that time is warped by gravity causing time to move more slowly near massive bodies like the Earth. The effect of gravity on time allows Global Positioning Satellites to determine the exact position of the GPS receiver you use in your car.

Does your GPS work? If it does, it works because brilliant minds have discovered many of the amazing details of God’s creation. We have been able to apply the things we have learned, but science has only scratched the surface of understanding the work of the Creator.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Flat Earth Believers Are Resilient

Flat Earth Believers
Most of our readers seem to be pretty well convinced that the Earth is round. When I mention flat Earth believers, I get mail indicating that most of our readers believe that the flat Earth subject is a joke. Most of our readers also believe that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around. As an earth science teacher in the public schools for 41 years, my students did simple lab exercises to show that the Earth orbits the Sun. However, these simple facts seem to have escaped significant numbers of people in our twenty-first century world as you can see by a web search for flat Earth believers.

The Does God Exist? ministry was founded on the belief that good science and good biblical study produce a conclusion that science and faith support each other. The problem is that there is a great deal of bad science and biblical misunderstanding out there, and the web has made it available to large numbers of people. People ascribe many beliefs to the Bible that are not actually in the Bible. Also, many scientists have allowed their anti-religious antagonism to cause them to see science and faith as enemies.

The answer to the science-faith conflict is education. We need people with a scientific understanding to clarify what science actually says when it appears to conflict with faith. We also need people with some biblical understanding to present what the Bible actually says, not what denominational views teach.

We do not claim to understand all of science or all that the Bible says. However, we have attempted to put together a team of workers who have some training and understanding. We hope to provide educational information that will reduce the hostility in the minds of those willing to look at the evidence. The Sun does not orbit the Earth. The Earth is not flat. The Earth is not 6,000 years old. The climate is changing, but humans are not the sole cause of this change, and climatic cycles have occurred throughout history. Furthermore, the Bible cannot be used to disprove any of these statements. Ignorance dies hard, and instilled beliefs are resilient. Join us as we investigate, explore, and learn together.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Venus-Jupiter Affect Earth’s Climate Cycle

Venus-Jupiter Affect Earth's Climate Cycle
A new study shows that gravitational fields of Venus-Jupiter affect Earth’s climate cycle. A research group at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University released the study on May 7, 2018. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, and Venus is our closest planetary neighbor. Together they have a significant influence on the Earth’s climate.

Dennis Kent, who led the study said, “The climate cycles are directly related to how the Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes.” The study shows that there is a repeating cycle which they calculate takes 405,000 years. That cycle causes wobbles in the Earth’s orbit leading to climate extremes. Not only do studies like this help us understand the past, but they also help in our understanding of current global conditions such as climate change.

The enormous number of things that have to be just what they are for life to exist on Earth continues to grow. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake, a founder of the SETI program, presented an equation that attempted to calculate the number of “earths” that might exist in our galaxy. Drake’s equation took the variables that must be right for a planet like ours to support life. He then multiplied the variables together to get the probability of another planet like ours.

Dr. Drake had only seven variables in his calculation, and today that number exceeds 50. We list 47 of them on our doesgodexist.org website, but even that list is far from complete. Now that we know that the gravitational fields of Venus-Jupiter affect Earth’s climate cycle, we have one more factor to add to the list.

Our planet is a delicate place, with an incredible number of factors all contributing to an environment where we can survive, and where humans have survived for a very long time. The more we know about the creation, the more evidence we see for a Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks

Lyrid Meteor Shower
For viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, the early morning hours of Sunday, April 22, will be the best viewing time for the 2017 presentation of the Lyrid meteor shower. From mid-April this year to about April 25 the “shooting stars” are visible with as many as a dozen or so per hour. However, on Sunday morning there will probably be up to 20 per hour.

The Lyrid meteor shower comes around every year in April. There are ten significant meteor showers each year, but the last one was the Quadrantid meteors in early January. Now, at last, with the weather a little warmer we have another chance to watch the sky.

The Lyrid meteor shower gets its name from the fact that it seems to radiate from the constellation Lyra, the harp. No, they are not “shooting stars.” The Lyrid meteors are actually fragments broken off from Comet Thatcher which passed by in 1861. That comet makes a pass through our solar system every 415 years or so.

The Comet Thatcher has been passing through and leaving bits behind for a long time because Chinese sky watchers saw the Lyrid meteor shower in 687 B.C. Apparently they were impressed because they recorded that “stars fell like rain.”

Of course, the ancient Chinese didn’t know what caused the event. We know that it’s the result of those comet pieces falling into our atmosphere, being heated by the friction of the air, and burning up. Our atmosphere does more than just give us oxygen to breathe. It also protects us in many ways. One of those protections is that it causes most objects falling from space to burn up before they reach Earth’s surface. That friction requires heat-shield protection for returning Astronauts, but those of us living on the Earth’s surface can be glad to have an atmosphere to protect us. Recently a Chinese space station the size of a bus fell into our atmosphere and disintegrated before reaching the ground. You don’t need a telescope to see the pockmarks on the Moon’s surface from asteroid impacts because the Moon has no atmosphere.

Speaking of the Moon, it will be in its first-quarter phase and will not set until about 2 A.M Sunday morning. For that reason, viewing the Lyrid meteor shower will probably be best between 2 A.M. and the first light of dawn. However, if you miss it then, you still have a few more days, but the meteors will be fewer and farther between. If you see the Lyrid meteor shower, let it be a reminder of the fact that God has designed a planet that provides for our needs and protects us while we enjoy its beauty.
–Roland Earnst © 2018