In 2018 the European Space Agency announced that their subsurface radar had discovered what they thought was a lake on Mars. It was about 20 Kilometers across and beneath 1.5 kilometers of ice at the South Pole of Mars. This discovery set off media speculations about creatures living in the lake that could be similar to the deep sea creatures in Earth’s oceans.
A study in the July 16, 2021, issue of Geophysical Research Letters does not support the lake on Mars. It turns out that the radar images were mirages caused by either clay minerals or frozen brine. Furthermore, the proposed lake was at the South Pole, making it even more unlikely that it is a water lake.
We learn several lessons from this incident.The first is that you cannot rely on news of sensational scientific discoveries in the popular media. They are interested in anything that will attract readers or viewers. The original report by the European agency gave data and made one possible explanation of what their data showed. Science, unlike religion, has built-in methods to explore whether a proposal is reasonable. In other words, it is self-correcting. Changes in religious understanding usually result in name-calling and polarization.
The second point is that we often interpret research data in terms of what we see on Earth. For example, the original radar data did not show just one possible lake on Mars. Other researchers have pointed out many radar plots like the one detected by the European satellite detected. Scientists speculated that this could be a lake because they have detected lakes deep in the Earth where pressure and volcanic activity keep the water in a liquid state.
The possibility of a lake on Mars is not a biblical issue. However, this incident does give us insight into the workings of research in astronomy and how the media report it. The more we learn about Mars, the more we realize what a wonderful place Earth is. While Mars has a few conditions similar to those on Earth that allow life to exist, other Martian parameters would not support life. The unique design of planet Earth becomes more apparent as we study Mars and other objects in space.
The cosmological evidence for the creation of the cosmos is vast. The first step in discussing this is whether there was a beginning to the cosmos or whether space, time, and matter/energy are eternal. Black holes prove the universe had a beginning.
For many years, atheists maintained that if believers can say that God has always existed, it is just as reasonable to say that matter/energy has always existed. Unbelieving scientists proposed many theories, such as the oscillating universe, to avoid the message of Genesis 1:1. However, the laws of thermodynamics made it difficult to believe that the cosmos has always existed.
New observations by astronomers have offered another proof that there was a beginning. Black holes are no longer just a theoretical tool of Einstein and other physicists. Astronomers have seen evidence of black holes. They have photographed them, and now but they have seen them in action. Scientists observed two black holes colliding, and they have detected a black hole swallowing a neutron star.
Neutron stars are the incredibly dense remains of a stellar collapse. One teaspoon of matter in a neutron star would have a mass of a billion tons. As astronomers watched, a black hole caught a neutron star in its gravitational field. The neutron star made 500 orbits of the black hole in less than a minute, generating as much energy as all the visible light in the observable universe. Scientists on Earth detected the bursts of energy from the collision in January of 2020, but they just released the data on June 29, 2021, in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
There was a beginning to time, space, and matter/energy. All of the evidence supports that fact. The design features that we see everywhere in creation show us that we are not some cosmic coincidence but the product of an intelligence that had a purpose in creating us.
As we said yesterday, science cannot detect 68.3% of the energy in the cosmos, but we know it is there because of its effect on the galaxies. Also, today’s scientists cannot detect 26.8% of the mass in the universe, but they know it is there because of gravity. They call it “dark matter.” To make their theories work, scientists now say that there must be a bizarre form of matter that does not affect or interact with light, visible or invisible, in any way. They call this hypothetical particle which cannot be seen or detected, “the axion.” The axion would explain dark matter, but the big question is how can we detect it?
As science attempts to understand the nature of the world we live in, it becomes evident that the creation is not just the physical world that our senses can detect. Seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting are wonderful, but they are just physical manifestations of something far more significant.
For Christians, this is not the mystery that it might be to an atheist. Hebrews 11:3 says it well: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” My physics studies have convinced me that the world we can see is just a snippet of the total creation.
We are beginning to understand that there are many dimensions beyond what our senses perceive. Even when we extend our senses with machines, we still cannot detect the axion. The wonder of creation simply brings us back to the Psalmist’s song: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The cry of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-23 reminds us of our limitations: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or before the Earth existed.”
Remember that “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). Science is a friend of faith, and God has given us a limited view of what He has done. The full scope of creation is beyond our comprehension, but science helps fill in some gaps in our understanding. Perhaps someday science will find the axion.
The complexity of the cosmos is so incredible that it baffles the best scientific minds of our day. Scientists have employed elaborate machines to try to understand more of the nature of the creation.
When I was a high school student, we learned that the cosmos is made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. All of chemistry and physics could be explained by the measurements of these three particles. When I took my first college course in nuclear science, I began to work in the cyclotron, assisting graduate Ph.D. candidates. I realized the creation was not as simple as it appears. As an atheist, this was distressing because I could see that human knowledge of the complexity of the cosmos was, at best, incomplete.
As a graduate student, I was privileged to work with equipment that could smash protons to see what was inside. “Fundamental particles” was a term that began to show up in the scientific literature, and gradually another “simple explanation of everything” began to emerge. It was called “The Standard Model of particle physics.” It consisted of leptons (such as the electron), and quarks which made up protons and neutrons.
This model also required force particles called bosons to hold things together. With larger and more powerful accelerators, scientists discovered still more particles which were the glue holding everything together. These particles were part of the structure of matter called gluons and the Higgs boson. The complexity of the cosmos was becoming more impressive.
Despite all of this work by literally thousands of physicists worldwide, they were still seeing things that didn’t fit all of the models. Galaxies were spinning too fast to hold together unless some unknown and unseen force was counteracting the centrifugal force of the rotation. The latest measurements show that 68.3% of the creation is made up of energy we can’t detect by any existing instrumentation. We can measure the mass of the cosmos, but 26.8% of the mass we know must be there because of gravitational fields is missing. Scientists now refer to the two missing quantities as “dark energy” and “dark matter.”
The complexity of the cosmos causes us to wonder at the intelligence that created all of this. We will examine this topic more tomorrow.
On the morning of June 10, 2021, the Sun will rise as a crescent in areas of the far northern United States and southern Canada. That will include the upper peninsula of Michigan, northern New York State, New England, and southern Quebec and Ontario. It’s the beginning of the first solar eclipse of 2021.
Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. This will not be a total eclipse because the Moon will not completely cover the Sun. It’s called an annular or “ring of fire” eclipse. Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from view, as we saw in 2017. Because the Moon’s orbit is elliptical, it is not always the same distance from Earth. This time, it’s too far away for its shadow to cover the Sun.
When the eclipse reaches its peak, there will be a ring of light from the Sun visible all the way around the Moon’s shadow. Unfortunately, that ring of fire will not be visible anywhere in the United States. The full annular eclipse will only be visible in a narrow path across northern Canada, parts of Greenland, and northeastern Russia. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much wider area, including much of North America, Asia, and Europe. If you are attempting to view any solar eclipse, do not look directly at the Sun without special eye protection similar to welding glass. Ordinary sunglasses will not do. Some websites give instructions for building a simple pinhole viewer.
If you miss the first solar eclipse of 2021, you might be interested to know you will probably miss the next one. It will be a total eclipse on December 4, visible in Antarctica. Don’t despair. There will be more in the coming years. You can also safely watch the eclipse live on the websites listed below. We can accurately predict solar and lunar eclipses years in advance because of the excellent engineering design God has put into our solar system.
On the morning of May 26, 2021, the Moon will turn red in what some people refer to as a “blood moon.” Is this a fulfillment of Acts 2:20-21? Certainly not. It is merely another lunar eclipse.
Unfortunately, most of us in the United States will see little or none of it. In the western part of the country, the penumbral stage will begin as the Moon sets in the west. The umbral, or complete, stage will only be visible along a slice of the Pacific coast, in western Alaska, and all of Hawaii. It will also be visible across the International Dateline into parts of Asia and Australia.
There are several lessons this event can teach us. The first one is theological and has to do with how we read the Bible. To correctly understand this Bible passage, you have to look at who said it, to whom, why, and how the people it was addressed to would have understood it. Acts 2:14-40 is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. Peter spoke to the Jews who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate an event peculiar to the Jews, and he quoted Joel 2:28-32. The Jews understood “the last days” to refer to the Messiah’s coming as prophesied in Isaiah. Everyone understood the Moon turning to blood was a symbol of the great change that was coming.
So how do we know that the “moon will turn to blood” on May 26? God constructed the universe with such design and intelligence that we can tell when the Moon will enter the umbra of a lunar eclipse, and we can know that to the second. We also know that the Sun’s light shining through Earth’s atmosphere colors the Moon red while refracting the blue light away. What we see reflected from the Moon is that red light. This event has no spiritual significance. The last total lunar eclipse took place on January 21, 2019. Unlike the return of Christ, we can accurately predict when another lunar eclipse will be.
We see God’s wisdom and design in the precision of the creation and the remarkable position of the Moon and Earth allowing Earth’s shadow to fall on the Moon. As they have in the past, some people will try to use another lunar eclipse for religious purposes, but our plea is to count this as one more evidence that science and faith are symbiotic. The only religious significance of the things we see in the sky is to remind us of God’s power and design.
On May 5-7 of this year, people across the United States saw a train of lights in the night sky. Calls flooded TV and radio stations from Texas to Wisconsin as people claimed to see alien spacecrafts coming to America. Some of the stories got very imaginative as people started reporting contacts with the aliens and volunteering to leave Earth with them. This reminds us of the old saying, “If you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything.”
It seems that in this day, when many people are rejecting God, their only hope for a better existence is that aliens will come and straighten everything out. This has led to people jump to conclusions about whatever they see in the sky.
What the people saw was not alien spacecrafts coming to America. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been launching constellations of what they call “Starlink satellites.” SpaceX has sent about 1500 satellites into orbit to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. In the past month alone, SpaceX has launched dozens of satellites. You can identify them because they travel in the same orbit, one right after the other.
These satellites are becoming an issue for astronomers who are finding a great deal of light pollution from all this activity. There is even concern about how all these extra lights in the sky might affect nocturnal animals who use the stars for navigation.
As people imagine seeing alien spacecrafts coming to America, we remind you of what we have said many times. The possibility of life on other planets is not a biblical subject. If there is life out there, God created it. The willingness of people to believe in aliens from space while rejecting belief in God is pathetic. It is rooted in ignorance of the night sky and the size and distances involved in the cosmos.
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.
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 their desperate attempt to find an inhabited planet, some media people have jumped to the conclusion that any planet close to 8000 miles (13,000 km) in diameter will be inhabited. One of the candidates orbiting a star in our galaxy is called K2-141b, and it is reasonably close to us in size and location, a little under 200 light-years away. However, K2-141b is not another Earth.
Astronomers have discovered that its atmosphere has all the elemental components of rocks. That has to mean that the surface temperature of the planet is hot enough to vaporize rocks. That would be more than 5400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 C). K2-141b is not another Earth.
At this time, when people are concerned about global warming, we must consider how many factors on Earth and the surrounding area give use the proper temperature for life to exist. Without the variables that keep our planet cool, we could not have a surface temperature of less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 C). The size, temperature, and activity of the Sun have to be just right. The amount of ocean surface that reflects solar heat back into space is crucial. The factors that restrict greenhouse gases, the relatively low value of volcanic activity, the lack of exothermic chemical reactions, the reflectivity of clouds, and many other factors all influence our temperature.
Even though K2-141b is not another Earth, there may be other planets with conditions that permit surface temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, allowing liquid water. But evidence shows that such planets are rare, and their design would be from the same source as our planet. If God has created life elsewhere on a planet that will allow life to exist over the long haul, it will be another demonstration of incredible wisdom and design. Our planet is exceptional, and taking care of it should be a high priority for all of us.