Evidence of Life on Mars

Evidence of Life on Mars - There isn't any.
Selfy by Mars Curiosity Rover – NASA

The media has sensationalized the finding of organic molecules from Mars. For many people, hearing that something is “organic” means it is related to life. For example, in 1996, scientists reported on their study of a meteorite identified as ALH84001 found twelve years before in Antarctica. Characteristics of the meteorite indicated that it had come from Mars, and analysis showed that it contained organic compounds. Media reports immediately claimed that this was evidence of life on Mars at some time in the past.

Research on ALH84001 reported in January of 2022 shows the organic molecules probably came from the interaction of water and minerals and is not related to living organisms. Two chemical reactions known as serpentinization and carbonation can produce organic molecules when water and minerals react underground. Those reactions occur on Earth, and the researchers concluded that was most likely what formed the organic materials in ALH84001. Earlier researchers had made similar findings on a Martian meteorite named Tissint, which landed in Morocco in 2011.

Neither of these meteorites gives evidence of life on Mars. Organic molecules can form by abiotic (non-life) chemical reactions when water is present, along with the minerals that make up organic materials. Evidence shows that Mars is a place where abiotic chemistry has been very active, creating large amounts of organic compounds but no evidence of any form of life.

God is an incredible chemist. One reason many chemists are active believers in God is that they see the wisdom and creative design built into chemistry, making life possible. There is strong evidence that the laws of chemistry were fine-tuned for life, especially human life.

We may eventually find living things elsewhere in the solar system or other systems. However, finding organic compounds does not give evidence of life on Mars or anywhere else.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: “Organic molecules in an ancient Mars meteorite formed via geology, not alien life” in Science News (February 12, 2022, page 10) and Science VOL. 375, NO. 6577, January 13, 2022

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

“Planet Earth – Unique And Bizarre.” Those are the words used by Astronomy magazine (June 2021, page 21) to describe the results of studies of the planets within and beyond our solar system. Why is Earth a unique and bizarre planet?

We have four terrestrial planets in our solar system. In addition to Earth, they are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Those planets have smaller masses than Earth, ranging from Mercury with 5.5% of Earth’s mass to Venus with 81.5%. They also have radically different atmospheres. Venus, which is closest to Earth’s size, has an atmosphere that is 96% carbon dioxide. Mars, roughly half of Earth’s size, is 95% carbon dioxide and 2.7% nitrogen. By contrast, Earth’s atmosphere has 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and less than .1% carbon dioxide.

NASA stationed an observation satellite at the Lagrange point between Earth and the Sun. That is the location where Earth’s gravity balances the Sun’s gravity. The satellite will remain stationary at roughly a million miles from Earth, gather data, and compare Earth data with information from other solar systems. It shows that Earth is the only planet we know of with abundant liquid water driving an active water cycle. 

Scientists believe life itself is responsible for much of the design of planet Earth. Earth’s vegetation has taken whatever carbon dioxide was in our atmosphere and turned it into oxygen. It is no coincidence that the Genesis account portrays plants as the first thing to appear after God created the dry land and seas. 

Another factor making Earth a unique and bizarre planet is the abundance of minerals. Earth has massive minerals of all kinds. Meteorites contain a very small number of minerals, and the Moon has more than the meteorites, but far less than Earth. The media tends to suggest that everything in space is like what we see on Earth, but the data that scientists are gathering shows that our planet is radically different. 

At the end of each day of the Genesis account, God said, “it is good” (Genesis 1:10,12, 18, 21, 25). The first chapter ends with God saying, “it is VERY good.” Over and over, the Psalms call our attention to how unique our planet is. “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, and the son of man that you visit him” (Psalms 8:3-4). Psalms 19:1 adds, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows his handiwork.” 

Our unique and bizarre planet was created by an Intelligence that shaped it into the one place that can support human life, not only in our solar system but perhaps in the entire creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Astronomy magazine

Another Gun Issue to Consider

another gun issueThere is another gun issue which we rarely talk about. It relates in some ways to meteorites.

Many years ago, a lady in Alabama was sitting on her couch with her leg up on the coffee table. Suddenly a large chunk of rock came crashing through the ceiling striking her on the leg and continuing through the floor. It turned out to be a meteorite, a piece of rock from outer space. The rock survived its journey through Earth’s atmosphere and reached the surface to land in the woman’s home. We have had sporadic meteors striking our atmosphere at 79,000 to 130,000 miles-per-hour. Atmospheric drag slows these hunks of rock to 200 to 400 miles-per-hour. Our atmosphere is designed so that larger meteoroids break up about 10 miles above the surface, and the fragments produced rarely get to the ground.

So there is another gun issue in which humans in celebration fire a gun straight up into the atmosphere. That action poses great danger. In Puerto Rico alone, two people were killed and 25 injured on New Year’s Eve because of celebratory bullets that come down on their heads. A bullet has to achieve a velocity of 157 miles-per-hour to penetrate human skin and damage organs. Bullets fired into the air can reach a speed of 400 miles per hour upon their return to the ground.

In Los Angeles between 1985 and 1992 doctors at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center treated 118 people for random falling bullet injuries, and 38 of them died. A 1994 study published in the Journal of Trauma showed that of those 118 people, 77% were hit in the head and had a mortality rate of 32%. Rifle bullets of .30-caliber fired straight-up reach altitudes of 10,000 feet and descend at 300-600 feet-per-second. Even bullets from handguns fired straight-up return to the ground at speeds between 150 and 250 feet-per-second.

So we have another gun issue. Almost always, your safety is more endangered by what humans do than the dangers of the planet God created for our home. I am reminded of the very old line from the Pogo comic strip: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from an article in Astronomy magazine, September 2019, page 14

Sinus Iridium on the Moon

Sinus Iridium on the Moon
Sinus Iridium on the Moon

Yesterday we mentioned that the Sun was at the exact angle to illuminate the Moon’s Jura Mountain Range. The effect is sometimes called the Golden Handle of the Moon because it resembles a small handle on the side. Since the sky was clear here in southwest Michigan last night, I took a picture of it. The tiny “handle” that you see is a semi-circular ridge surrounding a flat plain called the Sinus Iridium (Latin for the Bay of Rainbows). Sinus Iridium is actually an impact crater which has filled with lava, and the “mountains” that the Sun is illuminating is the edge of the crater.

Sinus Iridium on the Moon

In the NASA photo, you can see wave ripples on the surface as the lava flowed into the basin of the crater and hardened.

On our Does God Exist? educational tours of the Canyonlands we always visit Meteor Crater in Arizona. It is perhaps the best-preserved impact crater on Earth. At three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) across, it is awe-inspiring to see. By comparison, the Sinus Iridium crater is 150 miles (240 km) across. You can also see several smaller impact craters that were formed after the lava flow.

As you examine the surface of the Moon, you will see that it is covered with impact craters caused by meteor and asteroid collisions. Earth has been bombarded with asteroids in the past. There is evidence of a large (93 mile, 150 km) impact crater called the Chicxulub Crater near what is today the Yucatan Peninsula.

Since Earth is a bigger target for impacts, why is Earth’s surface not pockmarked with craters like the Moon’ surface? Scientists have found evidence of about 190 impact craters on Earth. Most of them were early in Earth’s history, and erosion, plate tectonics, and other forces have hidden them from view. More importantly, we are protected from many of the impacts by our atmosphere. The heat from friction as a meteor enters the atmosphere at high speeds usually, but not always, causes them to burn up before they touch the ground. The more we see of God’s creation, the more we see His wisdom and power.

You can read more about impact craters and their effect on life on planet Earth in our previous posts by using these links. METEOR CRATER (also called the Barringer Crater) and the CHICXULUB CRATER. You can read about a Martian Meteorite HERE.

–Roland Earnst © 2019

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