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.
It is always interesting to read or hear arguments by atheists and skeptics about what we feature in this column. One recent phone call said, “The creation is too complex for rational discussion. All I know is that God didn’t do it.” In response to that, we want to look at the simplified cosmological argument. The mechanics of matter/energy interactions are indeed complex. However, it is an ignorant argument to suggest that since they are difficult to understand, you can reject God’s existence. Here is the simplified cosmological argument for God as the creator that anyone can understand, even without understanding scientific theories.
STEP 1: BELIEVE THAT YOU EXIST. If you don’t believe that you exist, then the whole discussion is untestable, can’t be falsified, and is beyond scientific investigation or debate.
STEP 4: DECIDE WHAT THE NATURE OF THE CAUSE WAS. You have two choices here. Either the cause was an intelligence, or the cause was blind, mechanistic, opportunistic chance.
STEP 5: EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE.What does the evidence show? Is chance a statistically reasonable possibility? Is there evidence of design and purpose in the creation?
STEP 6: DEAL WITH THE QUESTION OF WHY THERE IS SOMETHING INSTEAD OF NOTHING. Philosophers can debate this as long as they wish, but if the cosmos is a product of blind chance, then there is no meaningful purpose to human existence. It also means that evil does not exist, and all events on the planet revolve around the survival of the fittest. If there is an intelligence that resides in a personal God, then evil exists, and the war between good and evil gives a purpose for all human existence.
The book of Job explores these points, and Jesus Christ clearly laid out our purpose in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7. You are here for a reason. Not only do “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1) but so does the Earth, and so do God’s people. That is the simplified cosmological argument.
The media often brings news about newly-discovered planets in the “habitable zone” of some star beyond our solar system. They usually mean that scientists think the planet may be the right distance from the right kind and size of star for water to exist in liquid form. Calling such a planet “habitable” may be misleading because there are many factors required to support life.
One of those factors is that the star also has to be extremely stable, as our Sun is. Consider the fact that a change in the Sun’s luminosity of only two percent would make Earth uninhabitable. That seems hard to believe, but scientists have calculated and modeled it.
If the Sun were only two percent dimmer and everything else the same, there would be more snowfall. Because snow reflects more of the Sun’s heat than land or water does, Earth’s surface would become cooler. The cooling would cause more snowfall, resulting in more reflection of the Sun’s rays and, therefore, more cooling. The result would be a runaway freezing of the surface water, and the entire Earth would become covered with ice and snow.
On the other hand, a two percent increase in the Sun’s brightness would cause greater evaporation of Earth’s surface water. The resulting water vapor would act as a greenhouse gas, trapping more of the Sun’s heat in the atmosphere. The increased heat would cause more evaporation resulting in more water vapor and an increased greenhouse effect. The result would be global warming on a massive scale.
Either way, life on Earth would not be possible. We don’t know if there are any other planets in the universe with all the factors required to support life. Our finely-tuned Sun is only one of many features that allow life on this planet. Some people would suggest that our just-right Sun is merely an accident, but we think this is another case of design by a wise Creator.
Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of a significant astronomical event. It’s the anniversary of a star explosion. On February 23, 1987, astronomers and other observers on Earth witnessed the explosion of a star with a mass about twenty times that of our Sun. They called it supernova SN 1987A.
The explosion was bright enough to see with the naked eye. While Earth observers saw it in 1987, the explosion happened long before that. Since the star was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy 160,000 light-years from Earth, we witnessed an event that occurred 160,000 years in the past.
There have been other supernovas, but SN 1987A was the brightest supernova observed since the telescope’s invention. It was also the brightest since Chinese astronomers observed a star exploding in A.D. 1054. For the past thirty-four years, astronomers have studied the ring of fire as it expands outward from that explosion. The picture showing the remnant of the explosion is a composite image from 2014. It combines visible light from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and x-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Studying the creation process also shows us the incredible precision required to make the universe possible and create life on this planet. On this thirty-fourth anniversary of a star explosion, we are reminded of the words of an ancient psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1).
In the early 1920s, Edwin Hubble (in whose honor the Hubble Space Telescope was named) was peering through his telescope. As he examined many of the points of light that astronomers had thought were stars or “spiral nebulae” in our galaxy, he realized that they are much more than that. He discovered that they are other galaxies!
By the mid-1920s, everyone knew that our Milky Way is only one of a myriad of other galaxies. Since then, we have learned many things about our galaxy, but we still have much to learn. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy in the shape of a large saucer. Other types of galaxies–which are the majority–cannot support planets and therefore are not suitable for life.
We are spinning around our spiral galaxy at about 120 miles (200 kilometers) per second. At that rate, it will take us 250,000,000 years to make one complete orbit of the galaxy. We can’t take a picture of the entire Milky Way because to travel outside of our galaxy would take many thousands of years–even at the speed of light. We can take pictures of other galaxies, and this one is another spiral galaxy named M74.
The Milky Way’s disk is about 100,000 light-years across, and we are about 27,200 light-years from the center. It’s good that we are not near the center because that is the location of a giant black hole. It is also fortunate that we live in an area of the galaxy that is not crowded with quasars, black holes, and other major hazards. The galaxy area with the most gas and dust is less than 500 light-years from the central plane–far away from us. That means we are in an area relatively free of debris, so this is an excellent spot to get a good view of our galaxy as well as other galaxies and stars.
Is it just a coincidence that we are in the right kind of galaxy and in the best position in that galaxy to be safe and to be able to study and observe the universe? We think God wanted us to be in a hospitable place where we could see the majesty of His creation.
More and more data shows that leaving Earth and venturing into outer space away from Earth’s constant gravity and the protection of our atmosphere and magnetosphere is much more destructive than anyone imagined. One of our regular readers sent us a quote from NBC News about the potential health problems of space travel. Here is what it says:
“The number of deaths due to heart disease among the Apollo lunar astronauts is almost five times greater than that in non-flight astronauts, or astronauts who never flew missions in space, researchers from Florida State University found. Compared to astronauts who flew only in low Earth orbit (LEO), the heart risk among Apollo astronauts is four times higher. There were no differences between LEO and non-flight astronauts.”
We recently reported on the astronaut twin study, which showed physical changes even in low Earth orbit. We don’t yet know what potential health problems of space travel may become evident in the long-term.
Micro-gravity and exposure to radiation seem to combine to cause bodily harm. Earth’s magnetic field is more protective than science has understood. Working in the International Space Station is less of an issue because the LEO means that some of Earth’s protections still function.Going to Mars may be impossible with the present spaceship design.
We will be interested in future data on travel to the Moon and prolonged existence in outer space. We know that God’s design of planet Earth makes it suitable for life, but we are not fully aware of the potential health problems of space travel. You can read the full NBC report from HERE.
One of the things that has entered the debate about life in space has been the presence of water. Astronomers have found methane, ethane, and other compounds in oceans on other planets and moons in our solar system. Unlike water, they are not polar molecules. The polar structure of water makes it an apparent necessity for life. Scientists have debated about whether water has existed or does now exist on Mars, our Moon, or one of the many moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Now there is evidence of massive amounts of water in our solar system.
We have posted before about NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” website (apod.nasa.gov). On January 15, 2021, the page showed this picture taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015, as it flew by Pluto. The photograph shows areas of frozen nitrogen and carbon monoxide. It also shows massive amounts of water ice frozen into mountains reaching up to 11,000 feet (3,353 m), which is comparable to mountains on Earth.
There is more and more evidence that, at least in our solar system, water is quite common. Because of the temperatures in the outer planets, that water is in a frozen state. Liquid water has a very narrow range of temperatures, and that means the zone in which a planet can have liquid water is very small. Because of that, life on another planet is improbable, but the potential for humans establishing or supporting life elsewhere is relatively high.
Verse two of Genesis 1 tells us that the early Earth had water in the liquid state: “And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Massive amounts of water apparently dominated the planet. Verse six tells us that there was “a firmament in the midst of the waters” that divided the waters. It isn’t until verse nine that dry land appears. The keyword in these verses is the word translated firmament in English. The Hebrew word used here is “raqia.” It is used nine times in Genesis 1 and eight times elsewhere in the Old Testament. Four of those eight are in the visions of Ezekiel 1:22-26.
The Bible’s economy of language leaves us to understand the “firmament” from its context. The most accurate understanding is what, in modern terms, we would call an “interface,” a zone of change. In many cases, that zone is the atmosphere, so in verse 20 of Genesis chapter one, we have birds flying in the firmament. Genesis 1:14-15 tells us that the Sun and the Moon became visible as the darkness (Genesis 1:2) of the cloud cover (Job 38:8-9) in the firmament cleared. Ezekiel saw his chariots in the firmament.
The discovery of mountains of frozen water elsewhere in the solar system indicates that the original cosmos had massive amounts of water, as Genesis 1:6 implies. It also tells us that when the Earth’s temperatures settled to between zero and 100 degrees Celsius, the water became seas covering the planet. This is one more evidence for the integrity of the Genesis account as it describes the creative design of God, simplified so that all humans can understand it.
It’s 2.5 billion light-years away, and brighter than the over 100 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy combined. If it were even as close as 30 light-years from us, it would appear as bright as the Sun, which is only eight light minutes away. Before anyone ever saw it, scientists detected it by the radio waves that it sends out.
In 1963, astronomer Allan Sandage was the first to observe quasar 3C 273 with a telescope. Quasars are the brightest objects in the known universe. They’re massive discs of particles that surround a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. They emit intensely powerful energy as the black hole sucks the life out of matter and pulls it into its abyss. The energy is brighter than 100 billion stars.
The cloudy streak in the picture from NASA’s Hubble Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 is a jet of energy that was fired off by the quasar at some time in the past. That streak is 200,000 light-years long! It would be impossible to survive in a galaxy with a quasar in its center. The intense energy from the quasar would destroy life while the black hole devoured the matter. We can be thankful that this quasar is so far away, even though it is one of the nearest.
Life on Earth is possible because we have no black holes or quasars near us. We think the universe reveals the work of an amazing Master Designer. We agree with Dr. Allan Sandage, the first person to observe a quasar, when he said, “Science makes explicit the quite incredible natural order, the interconnections at many levels between the laws of physics…Why is the design that we see everywhere so truly miraculous?… As I said before, the world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone.”
Every time we get a better view of outer space, a new mystery steps forward. In 2015 a spacecraft called New Horizons went past Pluto and raced into outer space. The computers onboard the spacecraft were programmed to block out all light from known objects in the Milky Way galaxy. You would expect that if no light from stars or galaxies could get into the light measuring devices on New Horizons, it would measure only total and complete darkness. Instead, what New Horizons told us is that outer space is not dark but incredibly brilliant.
Outer space has an amount of light equivalent to the light from all the known galaxies in space! Tod Lauer, a spokesperson for the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory in Tucson, says, “There’s something out there unknown.” The most likely scenario for this unexplained light is that there are still more galaxies and stars or clusters of stars beyond the reach of our telescopes, illuminating the distant clouds of matter.
Astronomers have said that the size of the cosmos is not only larger than we can describe with our known science and mathematics, but it is also larger than we can imagine. David wrote in Psalms 139:7-12, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. … If I say ‘Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you…”
On September 28, 1969, a meteorite fell near Murchison, Victoria, Australia. When scientists studied the meteorite, they found amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of proteins. In 1971, researchers reported that the Murchison meteorite’s amino acids were primarily glycine. Recent studies of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have also detected glycine. Other studies of space materials have revealed that nucleobases and sugars exist in outer space. These studies indicate that there are life chemicals in space, but it is essential to understand that these compounds are not life.
The media has used headlines to suggest that science has found life in outer space. That is not the case. We have learned that there are life chemicals in space, but not life. These compounds are the key components of DNA and RNA, and that means that if there is life elsewhere, it will be made of the same stuff that we are made of. Claims of exotic forms of life existing all over the cosmos are exaggerations and not supported by the evidence. However, it is possible that God has not limited life to planet Earth. To travel throughout the cosmos, we may need to use the life chemicals available in space.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He said to take the gospel to the “kosmos.” From that Greek word, we get the English word “cosmos.” Carl Sagan said, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” You can find “kosmos” used in Matthew 24:21 and 25:34 and Mark 14:9 and 16:15. The Greek word “aion” is used elsewhere in Matthew, Mark, and Luke when referring to a habitable planet.
Jesus said to preach the gospel to every creature wherever they can be found. If I were to meet a sentient alien life form that could understand my speech, I would want to tell them about Jesus Christ. Hearing Christ’s teaching and the wisdom and power of God would improve the existence of any being who heard it.