What the Mercury Transit Tells Us

What the Mercury Transit Tells UsAbove is a photo of the Sun. If you look closely, you will see a small dot in the upper half near the right side. That is the planet Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun. Mercury made what astronomers call a “transit” of the Sun on Monday morning, November 11, 2019. In our area of the country, the sky was overcast, and it was snowing. However, Bill Ingalls of NASA took this photograph from his location in Arlington, Virginia. I find it interesting to consider what the Mercury Transit tells us.

What’s so special about Mercury passing in front of the Sun? For one thing, it doesn’t happen very often. Although the last time was only three years ago, the next time will be in 2032, but it won’t be visible from North America. The next Mercury transit visible in North America will be in 2049. Since Mercury is closer to the Sun, it passes between the Sun and us every 116 days. However, most of the time, it is either above or below the Sun from our view, and Earth’s atmosphere makes it invisible in the daylight.

Scientists used precision telescopes and equipment to study the transit. They can learn more about the atmosphere of Mercury as it is silhouetted against the Sun. Historically Sir Edmund Halley (1656-1742) watched a transit of Mercury and realized that it could be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun. It occurred to him that a transiting planet would appear in different positions to viewers in different locations on Earth. Measuring the apparent shift between two distant Earth locations at the same time and applying a little math, one could calculate the distance to the Sun. In 1769, after Halley’s death, astronomers used a transit of Venus to calculate the Earth-Sun distance.

Think about what the Mercury transit tells us without even seeing it? Because of the fact that astronomers can know in advance the exact date and time of a transit of Mercury (or Venus), or a solar eclipse (when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun) we realize that the solar system is orderly. We can study the heavens and learn of the Creator. We can see His wisdom and design of our planet and the solar system in which it exists. We can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1:20) as the heavens declare His glory (Psalms 19:1).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Moon Record in the Solar System

Moon Record in the Solar SystemThe solar system record for the largest number of moons has just been taken over by Saturn. Previously Jupiter was the record holder with 79. Now the moon record in the solar system goes to Saturn with 82!

Astronomers used some of the world’s largest telescopes, including the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii to make the recent discoveries. The same team led by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., discovered 12 previously unknown moons around Jupiter last year. Now they have helped Saturn pull ahead of the competition.

Here we are living on a planet with only one Moon. Should we feel disadvantaged? Not at all! Imagine how confusing it would be to live on a planet with 82 moons. Seriously, one is enough. That is especially true when we have one Moon that is just right. We have pointed out before how precisely well-designed and well-placed our lone Moon is. Here are a few reminders with links to get more information:

Our Moon…
…has just the right mass to stabilize Earth’s rotational tilt.
…is just the right distance from Earth to create beneficial ocean tides.
…is just the right size to create total solar eclipses, which have helped us to learn more about the Sun.
…works with the Sun and stars to “mark seasons and days and years” (Genesis 1:14)
…reflects the light of the Sun to give a night light essential for many forms of life.

Those are a few of the reasons our Moon is the best one in the whole solar system! We asked before, “How many moons are enough?” Even though the number of known moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn has changed since we asked that question, the answer is still the same. One Moon, precisely designed and positioned, is exactly what we need. We hold the moon record in the solar system for the best Moon of all! There are too many “coincidences” for it to be an accident. We see the work of a Creator, who is an amazing Engineer.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

God’s Creation Method for the Moon

Gods Creation Method for the MoonAstronomy magazine (November 2019, page 44) has an interesting article on some of the facts about the Moon. The information is based on the 842 pounds (382 kg) of rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. Every time an issue of this magazine comes out, I have two groups of people who like to write to me with their analysis of the meaning of an article in the magazine. (We also have several who do the same thing with other scientific magazines and journals.) The discussion of the letter writers has to do with God’s creation method.

One of the people wrote that this Moon data clearly shows that God had nothing to do with the creation of the Earth or the Moon. The other person tried to deny the data maintaining that God “spoke the Moon into existence,” and it was not a natural process. Both of these writers miss the point.

First, there is no reason for believers in God to challenge the scientific data in the article. In this case, the ratio of the isotopes of oxygen in Earth rocks and Moon rocks are the same. The average high school physics student can tell you how that measurement is made and how reliable it is. Earth’s spin axis and the Moon’s orbit are related, and once again, basic physics equations can verify that data. There is no reason to question the data. That data led to the impact hypothesis that the Moon was formed when a Mars-size body impacted the Earth and threw off debris which coalesced into the Moon. There is no reason to feel that somehow those facts deny the existence of God or the description given in the Bible.

The Bible simply says that God created the heaven (“shamayim” – the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1) and the Earth (“erets”). It does not describe God’s creation method. Verse 14 tells us, “God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky…” In verse 16, this is expanded with the words, “God made (“asah” in Hebrew meaning He made or fashioned what already existed) two great lights …” Then it says that He “…let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” The material is created in verse 1, where “bara” is used indicating an act that only God can do. The fashioning “as signs to mark seasons and days and years” in verses 14-18 uses the Hebrew “asah,” not “bara.” Genesis 2:3 tells us that God “rested from all his work which God created (bara) and made (asah).” Both processes are involved.

What science is trying to do is understand God’s creation method to fashion the Moon, which is discussed in verses 14-18. This Astronomy article is not trying to understand what He did in verse 1. Sound waves coming from the voice of God did not create the Moon. Whether God spun the Moon out of the cloud of matter from which He formed the Earth, or whether He formed the Moon by a collision, is still being debated by scientists. Whatever opinion one might hold is an opinion of God’s creation method – how He did what He did. It does not in any way reflect negatively on His power and creative ability or on the biblical description of what God did to give us “two great lights.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

If God Should Go On Strike

If God Should Go On StrikeToday we want to share a little poem we found. It was originally published in “This England” by an anonymous author.

IF GOD SHOULD GO ON STRIKE

How good it is that God above has never gone on strike.
Because He was not treated fair in things He didn’t like.
If only once He’s given up and said, “That’s it, I’m through
I’ve had enough of those on earth, so this is what I’ll do.
I’ll give my orders to the sun ‘Cut off the heat supply!’
And to the moon – ‘Give no more light, and run the ocean dry.
Then just to make things really tough and put the pressure on,
Turn off the vital oxygen til every breath is gone.
You know He would be justified if fairness was the game,
For no one has been more abused or met with more disdain
Than God, and yet He carries on supplying you and me
With all the favors of His grace and everything for free.
Men say they want a better deal and so on strike they go.
But what a deal we’ve given God to whom all things we owe.
We don’t care whom we hurt to gain the things we like;
But what a mess we’d all be in if God should go on strike.

We think the message is worth considering.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11Every once in awhile, I get to sit back and think about what I have witnessed in my life’s journey. A reminder of one of the highlights of that journey is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

My time of being involved in scientific events of significance began when I was fortunate enough to win the Westinghouse National Science Fair competition for Bloomington, Indiana, in 1954. That program allowed me to spend a few days with some of the top scientists in the country. I got to hear about what they were doing and what lay ahead in their particular disciplines. I was a high school junior at the time and totally entrenched in atheism. I believed that I had two choices. I could reject all of science and immerse myself in the senseless traditions (as I saw them) of religion. The choice I preferred was to be an atheist and participate in the wonderful possibilities of the future molded and made possible by science.

The most distressing part of the National Science Fair was that several of the best-known scientists of that day both publicly and privately expressed belief in God. My science teacher named Wayne Gross at University High School in Bloomington was a man of deep conviction that God was the creator of all things. He believed that science was just a way of understanding what God had done and using that knowledge to improve the lot of all humanity. The seeds of doubt in the religion of my parents (atheism) had been sown.

Many years later, as a science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I sat glued to the television on July 20, 1969. I was watching Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they traveled to the Moon, landed on it, and returned with massive amounts of data and samples. I had left atheism and started my ministry just a year before the Moon landing, and I had been encouraged and tutored by many people in the space program.

As a teacher, I was able to attend numerous meetings with all of the scientists who contributed to that incredible accomplishment. I was even allowed to give a lectureship at the Space Center in Houston, which was attended by a large number of the people involved in the Apollo success. The man who introduced me at that lectureship was the man in charge of the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) from the time it left the mother ship until it returned. He began the program by suggesting that there would be those who would think that I would be talking to a group of atheists since nearly everyone there was involved in a scientific way with the Apollo program. He then asked everyone who worked in the program to stand, and virtually everyone in the room stood. He then asked everyone standing who believed in God to sit down, and only four people remained standing. I know there are all kinds of objections to that action, but it underlined the fact that as Dr. Frank Baxter has said: “The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the creator.” We don’t have to put our brain in park to be a Christian.

July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing, and we are talking about returning to the Moon. Morgan Stanley estimates that the net worth of the United States space economy by 2040 will be 1.1 trillion dollars (Astronomy magazine, July 2019, page 19). There are good reasons, both politically and economically, to go to the Moon and on to outer space. As we do so, one lesson we must in mind is that every discovery we have made in space has supported the biblical record. Science and faith have a symbiotic relationship in space as well as on Earth. All of this goes beyond astronauts reading Genesis 1 as they orbited the Moon.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

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

Moon’s Golden Handle

Observing the  Moon's Golden Handle

If the sky is clear tonight (March 16, 2019), you will have an opportunity to observe an interesting phenomenon known as the Moon’s Golden Handle.

The Sun’s light will strike a mountainous area of the Moon at a shallow angle. The Moon will be in what is known as the waxing gibbous phase. Waxing means that more of it is becoming visible as sunlight increasingly illuminates the surface. Gibbous means that it is not yet a full moon, but it is more than a half moon. At this exact angle, the sunlight will illuminate the Jura Mountain Range, and the mountains will appear as an arc on the upper left side of the Moon’s visible surface. The arc resembles a tiny handle on the side of the Moon, so it has been called the Moon’s Golden Handle.

Galileo (1564-1642) observed this phenomenon as he looked through an early telescope. You can see it with a pair of binoculars. If you have a small telescope, you can get an even better view. The angle of the light gives a unique opportunity to get an idea of what the surface of the Moon is like. Not only does the Moon have mountains, but it has lava flows and numerous craters from bombardment by meteors.

The fact that we can predict when lunar eclipses will take place and when phases of the Moon will occur shows how much precision God has built into His creation of the cosmos. We know when the Moon’s Golden Handle will be visible because we can depend on that precision as we depend on God. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).

–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2019

Another Blood Moon

Another Blood Moon
This past Sunday night the Western Hemisphere experienced another blood moon. We often hear the phrase “blood moon” applied to total lunar eclipses. That’s because the Moon takes on an orange or red glow when the eclipse becomes total. It has nothing to do with blood and nothing to do with Bible prophecy. Lunar eclipses are natural phenomena which occur when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are in perfect alignment. Earth’s shadow falls across the Moon and gives it an eerie, orange glow.

I took this picture at about midnight local time when the temperature was hovering close to zero degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the cold, I didn’t get a good focus and didn’t stay outside very long. Numerous other people took better photos and posted them on the web. They all look similar since we were all seeing the same view. Our Moon always keeps the same face toward us. Some people refer to the back side of the Moon as “the dark side of the Moon.” However, there is no dark side. The Sun shines on the back side each time the monthly “new moon” occurs. The Moon is in tidal lock with Earth keeping the same side facing us year-round.

For those of us who live in North America, this will be the last total lunar eclipse for a while. We will not see another blood moon until May 16, 2022. (Asia, Australia, and the Pacific will see another blood moon on May 26, 2021.) Perhaps this will give us a little break from those who try to convince us that lunar eclipses are a prophetic sign. The only sign we see in total lunar eclipses is that the solar system God created is still working in the way He designed it to work. Days, months, seasons, and years (Genesis 1:14) continue as they will until God decides it is time to bring this present world to a close. And nobody knows when that will be.

Last July we posted an explanation of why the red color and what causes lunar eclipses. We encourage you to read that post by clicking HERE.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Gravity Force and Life

Gravity Force and Life
Four fundamental forces impact our lives: electromagnetic force, strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity force. We couldn’t live without them. More than that, we couldn’t live without them being exactly what they are and carefully balanced against each other.

Gravity is the weakest by far. For example, the strong nuclear force is 10 to the 38th power stronger than gravity. That is one followed by 38 zeroes. That strong nuclear force holds the nucleus of atoms together, but it acts over very short distances within the atom. The gravity force acts on larger objects over much greater distances.

If gravity were as strong as any of the other three forces, it would crush you and everything else as well! Because gravity is relatively weak, you can stand and walk. But it’s strong enough that you can also jump without flying off into space. Gravity holds our planet together. It also holds Earth in orbit around the Sun at the right distance to allow life to exist. Gravity keeps our Moon in orbit around Earth, and the Moon’s gravity stabilizes Earth’s rotation and causes the tides which clean our ocean shores.

Gravity is also a major force in our weather, causing air masses to move as their density changes. A stronger force of gravity would create strong and destructive winds. Gravity even makes plants grow upward no matter which direction you place the seed in the ground.

As matter moves around in the cosmos, it’s attracted to other matter by gravity. Gravity formed the stars and planets. Planets are spherical because gravity force pulls them into that shape. It is also the gravity force that pulls hydrogen molecules together to form stars. When the hydrogen molecules reach enough mass, the gravity force squeezes them tightly enough to cause nuclear fusion. The fusion of hydrogen atoms turns them into the essential heavier elements that make up planets and our bodies.

The gravity force is just right to make the universe, stars, planets, and life possible. If it had been slightly more or less, none of these things would exist. We think the precision of the forces of nature is not an accident, but the design of a wise God.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

How Many Moons Are Enough?

How Many Moons Are Enough?
When it comes to moons, it seems that Earth got cheated. We have only one moon while Mars has two. Neptune has fourteen moons. Uranus has twenty-seven. Saturn not only has rings, but it also has sixty-two moons. Lucky Jupiter has sixty-seven! To add to the embarrassment, puny little Pluto, which is no longer considered a planet, has five times as many moons as Earth has! The only bragging point we have is that we can say we have more moons than Mercury and Venus. (They have none.) So how many moons are enough?

Actually, one works very nicely. Our single moon is critical to the existence of life on Earth. It’s because of the moon that Earth has a stable tilt on its axis of 23.5 degrees. That tilt prevents temperature extremes on this planet. With no inclination, the area of the Equator would be extremely hot and the poles extremely cold and dark all year. With a greater tilt, seasonal weather changes would be extreme all over the planet. Because of the angle of the inclination, we have proper seasons, and the air gets mixed to temper the weather extremes.

Our moon has the right mass at the right distance to keep Earth’s tilt stable. The moon plays several crucial roles in making our planet a great place to live, but stabilizing the tilt is one that’s extremely important. So how many moons are enough? I would say that one moon of the right size and at the right distance is just right.

Oh, and those other planets with more moons — none of them are habitable. Guess who has bragging rights now? Thank God that he gave us a just-right moon, and we don’t need any more. We see evidence of God’s design in every detail of our planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2018