Planetary Atmospheric Pressure

Planetary Atmospheric Pressure

The media often overlook how many things have to be “right” for life to exist on a planet. Planetary atmospheric pressure is one factor.

By “life,” we mean the standard textbook definition of organisms that can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli, and reproduce. The problem is that many conditions make other terrestrial planets (planets with hard surfaces) unlikely to harbor life. Life is even less likely on Jovian planets that are primarily gaseous. You can postulate balloon-like living organisms in Jupiter or Saturn’s atmosphere, but radiation and electrical problems make that unlikely as well.

Planetary atmospheric pressure depends on the weight of the gases above a planet’s surface. The air pressure on Earth’s surface is 14.696 pounds per square inch a sea level. That pressure allows water to exist as a liquid, and it will enable various gases to dissolve in the water. We all know what happens when you shake a bottle of carbonated beverage and then quickly remove the cap. The sudden drop in pressure causes an explosion as the dissolved carbon dioxide escapes from the liquid. For organisms to absorb oxygen dissolved in water, which fish do, the atmospheric pressure must be high enough for the oxygen to dissolve. The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars is .01 of the pressure on Earth. That means water on Mars would contain no oxygen or dissolved gases.

There has been discussion about finding water on the Moon or Mercury, but those atmospheric pressures are considerably lower than those on Mars. That means water would not be in a liquid state. On the other end of the pressure spectrum is Venus, where atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than on Earth. At that pressure, toxic gases would be dissolved in any water that existed on the planet.

Planetary atmospheric pressure is just one more variable that must be carefully and precisely chosen when constructing an environment that will support and sustain life. The creation is far more complicated than most of us realize. As we learn more, we must stand in awe of the God who created our planet.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Astronomy magazine, February 2021, page 10.

Mighty Powerful Sun

Mighty Powerful Sun

The power released by the Sun every second is equal to ninety-six billion megatons. One megaton is the explosive power of one million tons of TNT. That is a mighty powerful Sun.

All of that energy is released by immense numbers of tiny hydrogen atoms fusing into helium atoms at a rate of four hydrogens to make each helium. The process requires incredibly high temperatures to get it started. After the fusion, the helium atom has less mass than the total of the four hydrogen atoms by 0.7 percent, indicating that a tiny amount of mass has been converted into energy. The energy released provides heat to keep the process going and the energy that powers our solar system and our planet.

Humans duplicated the process of atomic fusion in 1952 with the first hydrogen bomb. It was repeated in 1954 with a more powerful explosion equal to fifteen megatons. To obtain the high temperature required, scientists had to use an atomic (fission) bomb to get the fusion process going.

The hydrogen bomb is the most power that humans have ever been able to release, and we hope it’s the most that will ever be released on Earth. Compare that one-time 15 megatons to the ninety-six billion megatons per second released in the Sun. Then compare our mighty powerful Sun to many other stars which dwarf the Sun’s power. The stars Rigel and Deneb each release the energy of 200,000 Suns, but even they are not the largest power generators in the universe.

All of this is already far beyond my ability to comprehend. I can only say, “Tell everyone about God’s power…his strength is mighty in the heavens” (Psalms 68:34 NLT).

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Escape the Human Noise

 Escape the Human Noise

I have always been fascinated that sometimes Jesus wanted to be by Himself, away from the crowds and even His disciples. He was God in the flesh, but He needed to escape the human noise. There are times in my life when I just want silence. There is an island on Saganaga Lake in Ontario where my family built a cabin. I have always loved going there because all you can hear is the wind and the waves.

The December 2020 issue of Scientific American carried an interesting article about human noise. Amazingly, human noise produces seismic vibrations that can be measured by instruments as deep as 400 meters below Earth’s surface. Scientific studies of seismic vibrations in 172 locations worldwide showed that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the volume of human noise fell by 50% in some places. In rural areas, the noise level depression was even lower. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the human noise level fell on Sundays, but it has declined and stayed depressed since the pandemic began. When you add up the noise of trains, buses, planes, and cars, the noise level is very high. It is not enough to cause earthquakes, but it does have other effects.

The big question for science to answer is, What effect noise has on not just humans, but on the world as a whole? Are animals affected by the noise levels we create? How does noise affect a child’s ability to concentrate? Do noise levels affect the concentration and productivity of workers in a factory? Are some forms of mental illness affected or even caused by our exposure to noise?

Noise has a role in the Old Testament. In Joshua 6, we see that noise played a role in the fall of the walls of Jericho. Many passages talk about various noises in a variety of situations. Some passages emphasize the need for quiet. Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God …” After the noise of wind, earthquake, and fire, God spoke to Elijah in a soft whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13). In the New Testament, Paul commends the Christians who study “to be quiet, and to do your own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11).”

All of us need to escape the human noise of this world and have a quiet time to focus on God and quietly glorify Him.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Grand Canyon Stratigraphy

Grand Canyon Stratigraphy

Over the years, this ministry has taken groups of people on what we call the “Canyonlands Tour” more than 30 times. A highlight of that trip is visiting the Grand Canyon. Looking into the Canyon, we see the various layers of rock, with each layer having a different set of properties. The study of Grand Canyon stratigraphy shows God’s design that allows us to live on this planet.

The materials in the layers (strata) of Earth all come from the molten material that made up the planet at its origin. Molten material solidified into granite. The red orthoclase material weathered out of the granite first, producing clay. Feldspars containing vital elements like iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium came out of the granite, leaving quartz behind. The quartz became sand, and the other elements became soil, limestone, and all the other materials we see in the strata today.

As we stand on the edge of the Canyon, we can see the alternating layers of the Grand Canyon stratigraphy. We see sandstone (made of quartz), shale (made from mud), conglomerate (made from gravel), and limestone (a chemically precipitated rock made slowly in an area of quiet water). Deep within the canyon, we see layers tilted at an angle, indicating catastrophic geologic activity. Below that, we see rocks that have been altered by heat and pressure (metamorphic rocks). At the very bottom, we see the original volcanic granite from which all of this was formed.

We gaze in awe at the history of Earth before our eyes, and we marvel at God’s wisdom in design to prepare this incredible planet on which we live.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

The Cords of Orion – What Are They?

Orion Nebula
Orion Nebula – NASA
cords of Orion

In the book of Job, God asks the character Job, “Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?” What are the cords of Orion?

Since ancient times, people imagined that the asterism in the Orion constellation resembles a hunter holding a sword. The sword appears to consist of three stars. However, if you look closely, you can see that the central star is a little “fuzzy.” With a telescope, you can see that it’s not a star, but a nebula.

The picture of the Orion Nebula was taken by NASA’s Hubble space telescope. Nebulae are star factories, where clouds of dust and gas are collapsing to form stars. At “only” 1344 light-years from Earth, Orion is our closest star factory. Astronomers have observed about 700 stars in various stages of formation in the Orion Nebula.

There are many more nebulae where stars are being made today, as they have been since the universe began. These star factories are responsible for creating the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy and beyond. They show that God is not a magician who pulls a universe out of his sleeve. God is an engineer who has designed an amazing system that makes possible everything we can see, and much more that we can’t see.

As we look at the cords of Orion, here is something to consider. God, who is outside of time, created a star factory in time, which then generated a star we call the Sun. Then He provided a home for us on the third planet from that star where we can look up and see star factories, like the Orion Nebula, at work.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Did Science Find Life on Venus?

Did Science Find Life on Venus?
Venus

The media loves to jump on any sensational scientific finding, even if their headlines totally misrepresent what science has discovered. We have seen several headlines suggesting that scientists have found life in the atmosphere of Venus. Did science find life on Venus?

The fact is that a Japanese robotic satellite that has been orbiting Venus since 2015 records data in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. The satellite has detected spectra for the chemical phosphine (PH3). Phosphine is a flammable, toxic gas made of one phosphorous atom attached to three hydrogen atoms. It is difficult to make in a typical chemistry lab. Biologists know that there are microbes that can make phosphine. Finding the chemical in the upper clouds of Venus, where the temperatures are low enough for the gas to exist, raised some questions about whether microbes could have produced it.

It is possible that the phosphine could have been produced by conditions on Venus that are not available on Earth. Such conditions could be very low pressures, long term effects of ultraviolet light, and long periods of time. The environment of Venus is highly toxic, even to microbes, so microbe production is unlikely. Scientists have found many of the chemicals essential to life or possibly produced by living organisms on several moons in the solar system. The creation process produces chemicals that can be associated with life, including water. The environmental parameters of all of these places are so extreme that no astronomer expects to see an alien walking around.

The Bible doesn’t say that Earth is the only place where life exists, and it may be that God has created life elsewhere. As humans leave our planet searching for chemicals and materials to meet the 21st century’s needs, we may find a storehouse of essential materials, both metallic and biological. Did science find life on Venus? No. This newest media hype does not tell us anything we didn’t already know, but the discovery is interesting.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Look Through a Telescope

Look Through a Telescope

Modern technology has given all of us a chance to look through a telescope and see what is in outer space. In the “old days” the only people that could look outside our solar system were astronomers who had access to powerful telescopes. Now all of us can look out and see what lies beyond our solar system without buying a telescope because the pictures are available to us on the web. If you go to apod.nasa.gov you can see pictures taken through the world’s largest telescopes. The picture for August 7, 2020, is of the Pipe Nebula. As I stare at the picture, I am awestruck by the number of stars in the cosmos.

Why are there so many? Why is the cosmos so big? If you believe that God created it all, why did He create billions of stars in billions of galaxies? If Earth is the only place with life, why are there other planets, other stars, other solar systems? Why is space full of matter like the Pipe Nebula? Obviously no one knows the answers to all these questions. Anyone who gives a dogmatic answer that invalidates the existence of God is claiming to have more knowledge than the rest of us. Those who claim the pictures are fakes or artistic works have not taken the trouble to go to an observatory and look through a telescope. Most observatories have arrangements that allow the general public to do that. We have no excuse for doubting the credibility of the pictures.

Whether you are an atheist or a religious fundamentalist, your viewpoint makes massive assumptions. Here are a few things you should know, that may make you uncomfortable:

No observation made has ever challenged the basic biblical claim that there was a beginning and that it was caused. You can argue about what the cause was, but attempting to deny that there was a beginning, puts you at odds with the observations and the laws of physics–even at a quantum level.

There is no support for the assumption that planet Earth is the only place in the universe where life exists. If there is life elsewhere, God created it, and the Bible does not say the Earth is the only place where God created life. However, the distances are so huge that we will never know if this is the only place–at least not in our lifetimes. Many years ago, I debated an atheist on a talk show with Larry King. A listener called in and asked the atheist and me “What would you two do if a space ship landed in plain sight and a little green man got out and asked, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” That raises all kinds of issues, but it makes the point. By the way, the atheist’s answer was, “Punt.”

As we look through a telescope we are looking into the distant past light-years ago. No one knows what the distant future holds. Could it be that God wants humans to colonize the cosmos? Perhaps our vision of God’s kingdom is too small. Every time I look at one of those pictures of star fields or look through a telescope, I am reminded of Psalms 8:3-4 “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained: What is man, that you are mindful of him?”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Planetary Atmosphere Variations

Planetary Atmosphere Variations - Earth

The dominant theory for the origin of the planets in our solar system assumes that they all evolved from a single mass or nebula. Several factors support that idea. Those factors include the fact that the planets lie roughly in one plane, that they all revolve around the Sun in the same direction, and that there is mathematical predictability to their location. Most of the irregularities that might indicate against a common source, such as variations in planetary tilt, have reasonable explanations. However, new planetary atmosphere variations are difficult to explain.

Recent studies of the atmospheres of the terrestrial planets have shown wide variations. Our atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, but nitrogen on Venus is 4%, and on Mars, it is 2.7%. Both Mars and Venus have atmospheres that are 95% carbon dioxide, while Earth is 0.1%, and Mercury has none. Earth and Mercury have oxygen in their atmospheres, 21% and 42% respectively, but Venus and Mars have less than 1%.

Astronomers theorize that they can explain these planetary atmosphere variations.
They suggest that the atmospheres are not original to the planets, but were produced by processes that took place after the formation of the planets. The best guess now is that impacts and outgassing formed the atmospheres. This is not a trivial matter because life is not possible without the proper combination of atmospheric gases.

The Genesis account describes the production of Earth’s structure in a sequence. Genesis 1:6-9 indicates separate creations of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere. The new data support the idea that once Earth was created, continued activity prepared it for life. Once again, we find the scientific evidence in support of the Bible’s description.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Astronomy magazine, August 2020, page 12.

Life in a Lava Tube on Mars

Life in a Lava Tube
Lava River Cave, Arizona

Lava tubes on Earth are dark and cold places. It’s unclear what they may be like on Mars, but perhaps someone will find out. Future Martian explorers may experience life in a lava tube.

Camping out on Mars is not a good idea. There is no breathable atmosphere, and the radiation is deadly. Without much of an atmosphere, the temperature on Mars varies extremely. On a summer day near the equator, the temperature may reach a comfortable 70 degrees F (20 degrees C). However, without the thermal blanket of an atmosphere, the night-time temperature can drop to minus 100 degrees F (minus 73 C). At the poles, the temperature can get down to minus 195 F (minus 125 C). The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees F (minus 60 C).

Transporting materials to build a suitable shelter on Mars would be difficult. Any structure would have to be small and still might not give adequate protection from radiation. The surface of Mars receives unfiltered solar radiation, cosmic rays, and ionized particles from the solar wind. With the lack of an atmosphere or a magnetosphere, which we have on Earth, there is nothing to block the dangerous radiation. The amount of radiation is many times what astronauts experience in the International Space Station (ISS). NASA limits astronaut exposures in the ISS to months. Explorers might have to spend years on Mars. Just getting there will take about seven months.

What does this have to do with life in a lava tube, and what are lava tubes anyway? During a volcanic eruption, molten lava can bore its way through the ground and run out into the open. When the molten lava exits, it often leaves behind a cave-like underground tube. I explored the Lava River Cave (bottom picture) in Arizona, located in the Coconino National Forest. The walls are black basalt, which the lava left behind, and there is no light except at the entrance. The temperature remains constant at around 40 degrees F (4 degrees C). In most places, the ceiling is high enough that I could stand up, but in other areas, I had to crouch down or get on my hands and knees. The top picture shows a larger lava tube in Iceland.

Researchers have detected what appears to be lava tubes on Mars near Hadriacus Mons, which is a volcanic mountain formed long ago when the Martian interior was hot. They suggest that those lava tubes would be the best location for a Martian outpost. The lava tubes would give protection from the radiation, and it might even be possible to seal one off, pressurize it with oxygen, and heat it. They tested the radiation protection concept in some lava tubes on Earth, including the Lava River Cave in Arizona.

All of this drives home how blessed we are to have a home on planet Earth. I can step outside on a beautiful day, breathe the oxygen, feel the filtered rays of sun on my face, enjoy the pleasant temperature, and thank God for the blessings. Stepping out of the lava tube on Mars without the protection of a super-spacesuit would mean instant death. Even though I enjoyed exploring the lava tube in Arizona, I wouldn’t want to live there. Life in a lava tube does not interest me. I enjoy living on this planet, which God designed to give us everything we need if we will just take care of it.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Wandering Stars in the Sky

"Wandering Stars" in the Sky

The ancient Greeks saw the five visible planets and called them “wandering stars” because they moved randomly across the sky instead of staying in fixed positions like the stars. The word “planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.”

We have known for many centuries that the planets are not stars. They appear to wander because they orbit the Sun, just like our planet Earth. They orbit at different speeds, making them appear to wander in the sky. For astronomers to classify a celestial body as a planet, it must meet three requirements:

  1. It must have enough mass for gravity to cause it to become spherical, unlike an asteroid.
  2. It must not have enough mass to cause thermonuclear fusion, which would make it a star.
  3. It must have cleared the area of debris known as planetesimals.

We have five planets that are visible without the aid of telescopes or even binoculars. Two of the visible planets are called inferior planets, not because of importance but because their orbit is inside Earth’s orbit. They are Mercury and Venus. The other three are known as the superior planets since they are beyond Earth’s orbit. They are Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

There is one essential thing the ancient Greeks did not understand about the solar system. They did not know that it is orderly. The Greeks saw a pantheon of gods controlling various aspects of the Earth and skies. Each of their gods had all of the bad traits of humans struggling with each other. It was the Judeo-Christian concept of one almighty and wise creator God who created an orderly system that led to the scientific understanding of the cosmos.

Today, we can study and understand the wisdom of God in creation. Because of that, we can know where the planets and stars, as well as solar and lunar eclipses, will be visible at any given time and from any location on Earth. Those “wandering stars” are not wandering after all.

— Roland Earnst © 2020