Why So Much Stuff in Space?

Why So Much Stuff in Space?
One of the questions people ask about God’s creation is why so much stuff in space? If humans are the focus of God’s creation, why did He create so many planets, galaxies, and stars? If God’s purpose was to have the human race as the battlefield for the struggle between good and evil, surely He didn’t need to create 100 billion other stars in our galaxy and billions of other galaxies.

There are so many assumptions involved in this question that it would take many more pages to explore them all. First, this question assumes that God’s creation of life only happened here. It assumes that there are no other planets anywhere in the creation that have sentient beings living on them. You can argue that forever, but the Bible doesn’t give an answer. The Bible only describes Earth because it presents a message for our planet and its people.

The question also assumes that God only intended for us to live on the surface of this planet. I get letters regularly from people who suggest that we have no business going into outer space because God intends for us to live here and nowhere else. That is a massive assumption, and one that I suggest is misguided. One recent discovery has given another possible answer to why so much stuff in space. Humans are rapidly exploiting the mineral wealth of planet Earth. We know that the Earth contains a finite amount of iron, nickel, cobalt. If we should survive on Earth for much longer than the 21st century, we are going to run out of resources.

Japan’s robotic spacecraft Hayabusa 2 visited asteroid 162173 Ryugu (pictured) in June of 2018. Data from the spacecraft indicates that this asteroid is composed almost entirely of nickel and iron. The spacecraft was returning a sample to Earth for analysis. This asteroid is one kilometer wide, and at the current market value, the iron and nickel in the asteroid are worth over 80 billion dollars. God’s plan for us may be far greater and longer than we realize. Space contains a wealth of mineral resources. God has provided for us in many ways, and we always seem to have just enough of a resource to get us to the next source. We had just enough wood to get us to hydrocarbons, and just enough hydrocarbons to bring us to nuclear and solar power.

Our problem is not resources. Our problem is being able to get along with each other well enough to avoid destroying ourselves. Jesus Christ has the answer to that major issue, but the size of the cosmos merely reflects God’s power and wisdom. As we wonder why so much stuff in space, we have to think of the words of the psalmist, “What is man, that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet” (Psalms 8:4-6).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For more on asteroid Ryugu click HERE.

‘Oumuamua: Mysterious Space Visitor

'Oumuamua: Mysterious Space Visitor
In October of 2017, astronomer Robert Weryk using a telescope in Hawaii discovered an object careening through our solar system from somewhere in interstellar space. Astronomers assumed it was an asteroid from some other stellar system in our galaxy. UFO promoters saw it as a spaceship from some other star system that was spying on our planet. The name given to it is ‘Oumuamua which is Hawaiian for “scout.”

The object was quite narrow and seem to be less irregular than most asteroids. Closer examination has shown that the surface of the object is a reddish color which is typical of some comets which have a crust covering an icy interior. Its size is approximately 800 by 100 feet (230 by 35 meters).

Studies of the trajectory of ‘Oumuamua show it is tumbling and changing directions in a way that indicates a force other than the Sun’s gravity working on it. Naturally, the UFO promoters were overjoyed saying that this proves that alien spacecraft are all around us, and we just happened to catch this one. The SETI Institute used its powerful Allen Telescope Array to examine the object but detected no radio signals indicating intelligence. The problem with the UFO idea is that the change of direction is much smaller than what rockets on a spacecraft would cause. The overall trajectory of ‘Oumuamua has not changed significantly as it heads out of the solar system. It is traveling to fast for any of our existing spacecraft to reach it, but it will still take 20,000 years to be completely clear of our solar system.

After much study, astronomers concluded that ‘Oumuamua is a comet. When comets get near the Sun, they spew gases from their interior. This jetting of gas always has some effect on the trajectory of the comet. The amount of change in ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory is consistent with the effect of a comet’s gas jets.

As we have emphasized before, the Bible doesn’t say that Earth is the only place in the universe where God chose to create life. At present, however, there is no credible evidence that there is life elsewhere, although microscopic forms may exist on Mars and some moons in our system. The idea of alien visitation is pure speculation with no evidence to support it.

The Lord tells us how to live in another existence. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 to learn more about it. Waiting for an E.T. to come and whisk you away to a heaven is wishful thinking. Waiting for the Lord to come again has much more promise and much more supporting evidence.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks
In our post yesterday we mentioned that the Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow night August 11-12 and 12-13. Earth is making its annual journey through the trail of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. When those pieces of rock, mostly ranging in size from a grain of sand to pea-sized, enter Earth’s atmosphere at supersonic speeds, they burn up from the heat of friction. We see the streaks as “shooting stars.”

Earth has been passing through the Swift-Tuttle debris since July 17 and will not be clear of it until August 24. So even though the Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend, it is possible that you might see some of the meteors over the next few days. However, on these two nights, they should be visible at the rate of about one per minute. The best time to see them is after the Moon sets, and the best place is an area free of lights and with an open sky.

Every day anywhere from 100 tons to 1,000 tons of meteoritic material enters the Earth’s atmosphere. This material can come from comets or asteroids. The asteroid 3200 Phaethon produces the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December. There are other pieces of rock, dust, and debris in space that sometimes get trapped in the Earth’s gravitational field, and contribute to the hundreds of tons of material that reach Earth every day.

So what are the lessons we get from all of this? For one thing, Earth is not a static planet. It is gaining new mineral wealth every day. Our planet is vibrant and alive and has changed over the eons of its existence. The design of Earth’s defensive shield is incredible. With all of this material left over from the creation processes, it is critical that we have an atmosphere that is dense enough to burn up the space junk that comes toward us.

Every time scientists get a meteor sample we learn more about our neighbors in space. We knew a lot about the makeup of asteroids before science actually landed a spacecraft on one. Our knowledge of comets was advanced before we were able to leave Earth’s gravity and examine one up close. We continue to learn about the unique nature of the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and the material that makes up our solar system.

While you are outside, take a look at Mars which is still closer and brighter than usual and visible until about 4 AM local time. Saturn will be visible until 2 AM. Venus will set about 9:30 PM and Jupiter at 11 PM. The planets travel near the ecliptic, the path of the Sun and Moon across the sky, so here’s your chance to enjoy them all. As the Perseid meteor shower peaks, it reminds us of the words of the psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalms 19:1).
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Believing in Uniformitarianism Raises Questions

Believing in Uniformitarianism Raises Questions
Evolution makes a very large number of assumptions. One of those assumptions called uniformitarianism is the belief that no process has ever operated in the past that is not going on today. Believing in uniformitarianism gives some answers, but it raises many questions.

Today we know how glaciers work and how volcanoes form and shape the land. We are aware of all of the various forms of erosion and the chemical processes that alter materials of the Earth. When we look at something like the Grand Canyon, we assume that those same processes deposited the rocks and shaped the canyon. There are places high in the canyon where there are beach deposits that look like the beaches we see along the shores of Lake Michigan. That leads us to believe that at one time there was a lake in what is now the canyon. When we look at the Coconino sandstone in the Grand Canyon, we see the remains of sand dunes that look like the ones I see out the window of my house. The angles of the dune faces, the frosting of the sand grains, and the footprints of lizards that sink deep into the dune faces all cause us to rule out a flood as the cause of the Coconino sandstone.

At the same time, processes going on today don’t explain catastrophic events that seem to have happened in the past. In the 1980s scientists found evidence suggesting that an asteroid struck the Earth and altered the history of our planet. Some scientists expressed strong resistance to the asteroid proposal and gave all kinds of alternative explanations. If an astronomical event of that magnitude took place wiping out a majority of land species, the evolutionary theories of that day would have to be modified or discarded. This gave support for proposals like punctuated equilibrium, but it also caused many people in the scientific community to reject the asteroid as a possible cause. Those believing in uniformitarianism and naturalism resisted any attempt to suggest that catastrophic events may have shaped the Earth’s history.

From a biblical standpoint, we see that there have been catastrophic events in the past that are not happening today. The flood of Noah, the crossing of the Red Sea, the deaths of the firstborn in Egypt, and all the miracles the Bible describes are not happening today and thus are not uniformitarian. These, however, are rare and are the exception to what happens on a daily basis.

New evidence shows that believing in uniformitarianism as the single cause of the Earth’s history is not valid. Evidence shows that about 12,800 years ago there was a very rapid cooling of the Earth called the Younger Dryas. One proposal is that a massive pulse of cold freshwater from glaciers flooded the ocean cooling the planet. Another suggestion is that a comet exploded in the atmosphere triggering wildfires which produced enough soot to block the Sun and cool the planet. In 1908 in Tunguska, Siberia, an event like that occurred when a meteoroid exploded producing as much energy as 1000 Hiroshima bombs and gave support to the idea that astronomical catastrophes caused some structures on Earth.

Scientific literature is full of current research reports supporting catastrophic change in the Earth’s history. Scientists will continue this debate, and new finds will establish support for various theories. It remains clear that believing in uniformitarianism and naturalism to explain the total history of our planet is on shaky ground.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News, July 7, 2018, P 18.

Asteroids Have Value

Vesta, Largest of Asteroids

What happened to the dinosaurs? The prevailing theory for the extinction of dinosaurs involves an asteroid collision at Chicxulub in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Whether you accept that theory or not, there is no question that there are vast numbers of asteroids in space. They are apparently leftovers from the formation of the planets. At least nine times an asteroid has hit the earth leaving a crater that can be studied and mapped today. Some of the craters are huge. The largest is a crater 186 miles (300 km) wide in South Africa called the Vredefort crater. The question is, “Why would God allow such objects to exist knowing they could become a threat to life on Earth?”

First, we need to realize that such collisions are incredibly rare and so far they have never impacted humans. There are more than half-a-million known asteroids. The largest is Vesta (pictured) which is 329 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter. The smallest are only 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter. Objects smaller than that are called meteoroids. According to NASA, the total mass of every known asteroid is less than the mass of our Moon.

Scientists are studying their chemical composition of asteroids. What they have found is that they are very rich in rare-earth metals as well as iron, nickel, and cobalt. In the future, we may replace depleted resources on Earth by mining asteroids. Experts have estimated that the value of minerals in asteroids is in the trillions of dollars. Two American companies are gearing up to pioneer asteroid mining operations–Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources.

We think too small when we think that God planned for humans to be limited by the resources of Earth. What appeared to be a threat in the past may turn out to be an incredible blessing from God in the future.
Data from Discover Magazine, July/August 2017, pages 50-51 and https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/asteroids/indepth.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Asteroid 2015 BZ-509

Jupiter And Asteroids
Jupiter And Asteroids

A recently discovered asteroid is raising new questions. The cosmos is one of the great evidences for the existence of God. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.” Psalms 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…” We see a constant stream of new proposals year after year giving possible scenarios about how the solar system and Earth were produced. In the nearly 50 years that we have been writing, we have seen a dozen or so theories advanced and discarded because they couldn’t account for new observations.

This month Science News (May 13, 2017, page 5), carried a story about a strange asteroid. This will once again cause some rearranging of the current best guesses as to how the solar system and the Earth were formed. Research reported in Nature magazine (March 30, 2017) shows an asteroid that revolves around the Sun backwards, even though it is in Jupiter’s orbit. If you were to look at the solar system from the north star, you would notice that everything revolves around the Sun in a counterclockwise direction. Moons, asteroids, and planets are basically all in one plane and all moving the same way. Jupiter is the most massive planet in the solar system, and it has a multitude of rocks called asteroids that orbit around the Sun in the same direction. Now we have an asteroid that is in Jupiter’s orbit but revolves clockwise around the Sun.

If you think about that for a minute, you will see that it would logically follow that in the first orbit this asteroid would have slammed into Jupiter like a car driving the wrong way down a one-way street. In time at least, Jupiter should have sucked in this wayward hunk of rock. The orbit of asteroid 1015 BZ-509 is such that in one orbit it goes on one side of Jupiter and on the next orbit it goes on the other side of Jupiter, so the gravitational jerk of Jupiter is canceled out. Computer simulations show that this arrangement is permanent. It has been going on for a long time and will continue into the future.

We are not suggesting you invent a God to explain this oddity, but theories about the creation have to include anomalies like this one. Every day new observations are made, and on a regular basis they add to the complexity we see in the cosmos. The Creator had to know about, produce, and control all of these things for us to exist. For Bible students, these things do remind us of the truthfulness of Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider your 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…”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Life on Ceres?

Ceres Organic Material
Ceres Organic Material

News items in the media in early March have made the spectacular announcement that “life material” has been found on Ceres, an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Technically that announcement is correct, with the weasel word being “life material.” NASA was very careful to announce that they have “not actually found any signs of life on the dwarf planet.” What they have found on Ceres is a spectrograph of light reflected from the surface giving the same pattern as seen in hydrocarbons on Earth–specifically kerite and asphaltite.

We have pointed out repeatedly that finding life in space is not a biblical issue. The Bible doesn’t tell us that God did not create life elsewhere, and He very well may have. There is a deeper motive for announcements like this one. If you are going to teach that life began in a primeval soup full of organic molecules, you have to find the molecules to put into the soup. Amino acids have been found in meteorites and in dark nebulae, but most have been small and very limited in complexity.

Life and its formation are so complex that even having the “soup” doesn’t tell you much about how life could have formed. The picture that is emerging of the early days of Earth does not show an environment hospitable to the organic soup that is postulated by some cosmologists. The assumption of anaerobic conditions is not valid, and the number of agents hostile to life existing seems to grow with every passing discovery. Future studies will tell us more about how God prepared the Earth and perhaps the universe for life, but none of this is a threat to the faith of those who believe that God is the creator of all we see. Data from Science News, March 18, 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017