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Creation Astronomy News

Volume IV, Number 1 (April 2013)

 

In this issue:

  • Mercury: New Discoveries Delight Creationists
  • The Star of Bethlehem, Revisited


The planet Mercury

Image credit: NASA

 

Mercury: New Discoveries Delight Creationists

The Messenger space probe has been very fruitful.

A few weeks ago, the Messenger spacecraft completed its first extended mission around Mercury.

Before Messenger arrived at Mercury, most of what we knew about the planet came from one space probe (Mariner 10), back in 1974 and 1975.

Thus, both creationists and evolutionists alike were eager to see what would be revealed by the Messenger mission–the first spacecraft to visit Mercury in over 30 years.

Messenger has been an exciting mission in many ways, especially for creationary scientists.

The Messenger spacecraft

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics
Laboratory/Carnegie Institution
of Washington

In fact, it’s not exaggerating to say that Messenger’s discoveries have delighted creationists – even more than we originally expected.

On the other hand, Messenger has challenged the secular model for how Mercury formed – the idea that Mercury (and the rest of the Solar System) formed from a cloud of gas about 4.5 billion years ago.

Even before Messenger arrived at Mercury, it was known that Mercury doesn’t conform to the secular model. I discussed this in my Solar System DVD.

(One secular scientist has actually called1 Mercury a “red herring” and a “trap” for secular modellers, because it causes so many problems for people trying to explain how the planet got here without a Creator.)

Therefore, evolutionists were hoping that Messenger would solve their problems with Mercury.

Instead, it’s made them even worse.

The Giant Impact Model Discredited

As I explained in my Solar System DVD, Mercury is very dense. This creates a problem for secular astronomers: their model says Mercury could not have formed with such a high density.

Therefore, most astronomers have believed Mercury originally formed with a much lower density. Soon afterwards, a ‘giant impact’ occurred, when a large asteroid crashed into Mercury.

During this collision, all the lower density material somehow sorted itself out from the higher density material.

Afterwards, the low-density stuff just wandered off into space somewhere, leaving only the high-density material behind.

According to secular astronomers, this is why the planet has such a high density today.

Is there any evidence for this contrived story? Only that if it’s not true, the secular model can’t explain Mercury.

In other words, secular astronomers just have faith that it happened.

Unfortunately for them, Messenger has shown that their faith was misplaced. For one thing, we’ve discovered that Mercury has a lot of volatile elements, such as sulfur and potassium. However, if a giant impact had occurred, these volatile elements would have been vaporized and escaped into space. They wouldn’t be there today.

Since they are there today, this means a giant impact never occurred.

And that means secular astronomers can’t explain how a small but high-density planet like Mercury can exist. Their model says it shouldn’t. But it does.

But wait, there’s more

Along with contradicting a giant impact scenario, Mercury’s volatile elements cause other problems for the secular model.

For example, Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. The secular gas-cloud model says that at this close distance, temperatures would (obviously) be high, so only certain elements could have condensed out from the cloud.

Conversely, other elements could not.

One of the elements that couldn’t have condensed out of the cloud is sulfur. Therefore, if Mercury had formed from such a cloud, it wouldn’t have any sulfur on it.

But it does. (In fact, Mercury has a higher concentration of sulfur than any other rocky planet.)

Secular astronomers are now spinning tales of how Mercury must have formed elsewhere in the Solar System (where sulfur could have condensed), and then migrated inwards to its present location.

But that’s just story telling.

It also just exchanges one problem for another. This story doesn’t explain why the migration occurred. Nor does it explain how and why the migration stopped before Mercury migrated all the way into the Sun.

A “Jaw-Dropping” Find

Another Messenger discovery was these “blue hollows”: blue pits and depressions, up to a few miles across.

Blue hollows on Mercury

Blue hollows, marked by the rectangle.
Image credit: Science/AAAS

These have been called “this jaw-dropping thing that nobody ever predicted.”2 We aren’t certain what causes them, but they seem to be the result of volatiles escaping Mercury’s surface.

Many of these hollows appear quite fresh. Apparently, whatever process creates them is still going on today in some places.

If Mercury were really billions of years old, geological processes like these would have ceased long ago. Mercury was supposed to be “an old burned-out cinder.”2

But these hollows make Mercury look quite young.

A Magnetic Personality

Along with creating new problems for secular models, Messenger fanned the flames of some old ones.

In my Solar System DVD, I described how the Mariner 10 spaceprobe discovered that Mercury has a magnetic field – even though, according to the long-ages model, it shouldn’t.

Yet again, evolutionists were forced to make excuses for why the planet didn’t fit their model.

Conversely, this magnetism fits the Creation model quite well. If Mercury was created recently – say, six to ten thousand years ago – it could still have a primordial magnetic field.

In fact, Dr. Russell Humphreys (a Bible-believing physicist) realized that Mercury’s magnetism had some exciting implications.

Back in 1984, Dr. Humphreys had published3 some predictions about planetary magnetism, based on a Biblical passage (2 Peter 3:5) about the creation of the Earth and heavens.

His predictions were spot-on. Years before any spacecraft visited Uranus and Neptune, he successfully predicted the strengths of their magnetic fields.

(In contrast to this, the secular predictions were wrong, especially for Uranus, which had a field strength about 100,000 times stronger than evolutionists had predicted.)

Dr. Humphreys also noted that Mercury’s magnetic field – the field that secular astronomers couldn’t explain – fit his model quite well. He predicted that once Mercury’s field was measured again, it would be found to be decaying at a fairly quick rate.

From a secular perspective, this prediction was silly. Although evolutionists couldn’t explain why Mercury has a magnetic field, they were still confident that Mercury was 4.6 billion years old.

Therefore, whatever the source of the field may be, it must be stable – because it has lasted 4.6 billion years.

But when Messenger arrived at Mercury and started taking measurements…

The Creationary Predictions were Confirmed, While the Secular Predictions were Disproved (Again)

Messenger found that Mercury’s field strength had fallen by almost eight percent since its last measurement 36 years earlier.

This works out to a half-life of about 320 years. In other words, Mercury loses half its magnetic field strength every 300 years or so. This is an astonishingly quick rate for an entire planet.

It’s also very close to the predictions of Dr. Humphrey’s Bible-based model for Mercury.

On the other hand, it thoroughly contradicts secular expectations.

With a half-life of 320 years, Mercury’s field should have been completely gone billions of years ago – if Mercury were actually billions of years old.

Apparently, it’s not.

Mercury: A Testimony to Creation

Over and over, Mercury has confounded predictions from evolutionists, while delighting creationists.

As this newsletter issue is being published, NASA is trying to get funding to extend the Messenger mission for another two years.

In a time when the US government has accumulated a gargantuan debt, it’s difficult to justify unnecessary expenses.

But if Messenger’s funding gets extended anyway… I for one won’t mind.



Stars in the sky

Image credit: ESA/Hubble

 

The Star of Bethlehem, Revisited

In the previous issue of this newsletter, I discussed the Star of Bethlehem.

I pointed out that a major difficulty with a natural explanation of the Star was the passage in Matthew’s Gospel which said the Star “went before” the Magi until it “stood over” the location of the child.

I also pointed out that one popular explanation was that Jupiter stopped in the sky, as it went into retrograde motion.

As one reader pointed out, this might have been confusing to some readers. So here’s a clarification.

To the unaided eye, planets appear as stars – except these “stars” move.

(In fact, our word “planet” comes from a Greek phrase that means “wandering star.”)

We don’t see them moving when we look at them. But if you observe the same planet night after night, you’ll see that it appears in a slightly different place each night, compared to the ‘background’ of stars.

Most people today are oblivious to this. But ancient cultures were far more familiar with the night sky than we are, for several reasons:

  • Many of them had fallen into pagan forms of worship that included the stars, so they were more motivated to learn the sky.
  • Since they didn’t have electricity, they didn’t have all the distractions of modern life that tend to keep us indoors during the evening.
  • They also didn’t have light pollution from electric lights, so the sky they saw was far darker than the one most of us see today.

For these and other reasons, ancient sky-watchers were very familiar with the planets, and how they looked like stars but moved from night to night.

Sometimes this movement is rather odd. Instead of moving in a straight line, sometimes a planet will go retrograde – it will go into reverse and move backwards for a while. Then it will reverse course again and resume moving forward (“prograde”).

As an example, there’s a nice animation from NASA about halfway down this page:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/nightsky04/

This shows the retrograde motion of Mars in 2003. As you can see, Mars moved forward (compared to the background stars) until late July.

At that point, it reversed course and moved backward until late September, when it reversed course again and moved forward from then on.

Notice that the retrograde motion takes a while, and it takes longer for more distant planets. Jupiter retrogrades for 121 days, which is about four months long (and it does so once every 13 months).

Thus, the Magi didn’t see Jupiter come to a screeching halt4 on that night in Israel two thousand years ago. Retrograde motion is a slower and more gradual process than that.



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Erratum

The previous issue of this newsletter incorrectly attributed the Star of Bethlehem DVD to "Steven" Larson, rather than the correct author: Fredrick R. Larson.

Footnotes

  1. Taylor, Stuart Ross, Solar System Evolution: A New Perspective, 2001, p. 301
  2. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110929-mercury-nasa-messenger-new-hollows-sulfur-space-science/
  3. Humphreys, D.R., The Creation of planetary magnetic fields, Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3):140–149, 1984
  4. Especially because there’s no sound in space…

Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. [There is] no speech nor language, [where] their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.


Spike Psarris
www.CreationAstronomy.com