About the Moon – Armstrong Air and Space Museum

armstrong-air-and-space-museumNightfall at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum

Apollo 11 Moon Landing — 1969

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin navigated the lunar module they piloted, named the Eagle, down onto the surface of the moon. Within moments of their landing, Armstrong radioed NASA Mission Control in Houston, Texas, his now infamous message, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Soon afterwards, Armstrong made a more profound statement when he became the first person to set foot on the moon, saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Three years later, on July 20, 1972, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, — the birthplace of Armstrong — opened its doors. Thirty-eight years later, in the summer of 2010, the museum celebrated the 41st anniversary of the moon landing via their first annual Summer Moon Festival. This occurred in July of 2010, and was held in collaboration with the City of Wapakoneta. Then, fast forwarding to July 19 – 21, 2018, a time that marks the ninth year of the moon festival, we now find ourselves commemorating the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And if past celebrations predict future ones, it goes without saying that the 50th anniversary of the moon landing promises to be a special event.

Regarding Neil Armstrong

Many who knew Armstrong characterized him as the reluctant hero who only wanted to serve his country (NASA, 2012). Indeed, he shied away from the limelight, and after his career at NASA, enjoyed a short tenure teaching aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, but he always remained humble. In fact, Armstrong never had any part in the museum that bears his name.

Armstrong’s Famous Walk

History indeed offers much perspective on Armstrong’s famous first steps on the lunar surface. What follows is an excerpt from the book From Beirut to Jerusalem by author and columnist Thomas L. Friedman (1991):

When American astronaut Neil Armstrong, a devout Christian, visited Israel after his trip to the moon, he was taken on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.

“I told him, ‘Look, Jesus was a Jew,’” recalled Ben-Dov. “These are the steps that lead to the Temple, so he must have walked here many times.”

Armstrong then asked if these were the original steps, and Ben-Dov confirmed they were.

“So Jesus stepped right here?” asked Armstrong again.

“That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.

“I have to tell you,” Armstrong said to the Israeli archeologist, “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.”

The Exchange between the Astronaut and the Archeologist

Considering Armstrong’s reclusive nature, it is quite amazing that the exchange between Armstrong and Ben-Dov was ever captured in the annals of history. Even more remarkable is how we came to know of it, as if we were there alongside Armstrong in Jerusalem touring the Temple Mount and listening in on him questioning Ben-Dov. But, most importantly, rather than getting a potentially biased opinion about the first moon walk appearing in an op-ed piece somewhere from some pundit, we can directly credit Armstrong himself as the one offering such a candid viewpoint on his own first steps.

Like all of us, Armstrong was not perfect. Only one man in the course of history was perfect, and that was Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we learn that Christ Himself knew no sin so that He could bear our sins.

What about the Moon?

What is the origin and purpose of the moon? This question was the topic of a presentation given by Professor George Matzko of Bob Jones University on August 21, 2017, during the total solar eclipse (click here to watch or listen to Dr. Matzko’s presentation).

The Moon’s Origin

Simply put, we need to look no further than Genesis 1:14 to discover the moon’s origin and purpose. Moreover, Dr. Matzko advocated that the moon in and of itself “provides us with one of our strongest arguments for creation.” However, because evolutionary constructs attempting to explain the moon’s origin are so prevalent, Dr. Matzko further offered several remarks on the history of such theories, including their downfalls.

Dr. Matzko began with a discussion of fission theory, a defunct theory today. This theory described the moon as being “scooped out” of the earth from a location thought to be where the Pacific Ocean is today. According to Dr. Matzko, however, fission theory specifically gave us three major problems.

  • First, the earth would need to be moving ten times faster than it is right now. In other words, there has never been enough turning energy, known as angular momentum, in what is known as the Earth-Moon system.
  • Second, the moon would need to pass through the Roche limit (i.e., 10,000 miles from Earth’s surface). The moon passing through this limit would break apart and leave us with a ring of debris orbiting the earth instead of a moon in orbit due to differences in tidal forces at the 10,000-mile mark.
  • Finally, moon rocks brought back to the earth from the Apollo missions consist of major composition differences compared to earth rocks. For example, there is much less iron found in moon rocks than found in the rocks of the earth.

When fission theory was abandoned, capture theory came into vogue. Proponents of capture theory claimed there was a “wandering moon” captured by Earth’s gravity. Professor Matzko explained that the main problem with capture theory is its difficulty in describing why the moon is roughly five percent away from having a perfectly circular orbit around the earth.

After fission theory and capture theory, condensation theory became prevalent. Proponents of condensation theory claimed that dust and debris circling the earth coalesced to turn into the moon. However, Dr. Matzko explained how this theory ultimately had difficulty in describing why we ended up with just one moon orbiting Earth, and not many moons.

Today, the dominant theory for the origin of the moon is collision theory (referred to as the “Big Whack”). The theory puts forward that a large Mars-sized object called Theia collided with the earth, partially annihilating both objects. This action led to the remaining fragment of Theia orbiting the earth in conjunction with a large debris field. During this collision’s aftermath, the earth coalesced back into its spherical shape, and the orbiting fragment of Theia out in the debris field spun into the spherical-shaped moon as we know it. However, Professor Matzko raised several specific problems with collision theory:

  • First, where did this large object come from?
  • Second, how did the moon’s orbit become nearly circular?
  • Third, computer simulations showed there was a problem with angular momentum and the speed of the earth. To attempt to solve this problem, the proponents of collision theory built two “whacks” by the alleged Mars-sized object into their computer simulations, and not just one.
  • Fourth, at some point in time lunar recession over the evolutionary notion of billions of years would result in the moon being within the Roche limit, a situation that would break up the moon due to the resulting tidal forces. Similar to the issue with fission theory, the effects of this phenomenon produces a ring of orbiting material around the earth rather than the spherical moon.

Despite these theories, Professor Matzko went on to describe, rather intriguingly, that evolutionists today realize there is still a problem in explaining the origin of the moon within the confines of evolutionary constructs. Most recently, for example, there was an issue raised concerning similarities in oxygen isotope content found in the Earth’s crust and on the moon. The issue arose because there should be no similarity if Theia came from a different part of the solar system, as is proposed.

Because of the failure of each of the previous theories, in early 2017, another theory on the moon’s evolutionary origin called the multiple impact theory came on the scene. According to Dr. Matzko, multiple impact theory describes multiple small-sized objects striking the earth, but these strikes are thought of as several events occurring as singular impacts over time. Therefore, with each event, debris is ejected into orbit. Subsequently, each event forms a mini moon. Over time all the mini moons somehow merge into one mighty moon. Proponents of this theory say that computer simulations will result in the right oxygen isotope content, but as Professor Matzko recounted, this situation will happen just “twenty percent of the time.”

In reality, the moon is a wonderfully remarkable thing.

The Moon’s Purpose

According to Genesis 1, the purpose of the moon is three-fold:

  • A light source that helps divide day from night
  • A light source for signs, for seasons, and for days and years
  • To provide light for the earth

And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon

– Deuteronomy 33:14 (KJV)

The Moon’s Importance in Agriculture

Apart from several biblical references that mentioned the moon’s importance to seasons and agriculture, Professor Matzko cited scholarly articles that describe the moon’s effect on protein content in certain grains. Interestingly, without the moon, protein production within certain types of grain would apparently not occur.

Remark: Though not listed by Dr. Matzko, the light the moon provides throughout its full-moon phase in mid-September or mid-October, known as the Harvest Moon, is worth mentioning. This light was especially important for early agricultural societies that needed a source of light to reap their fields by late into the evening hours of the fall harvest. In fact, there were many early cultures that relied on celestial observations to make a lunar calendar to mark the seasons (Struik, 1987). (Please click here for our recent blog that touched on the importance of astronomical observatories, including a passing comment on ancient agricultural societies.)

The Moon’s Fascinating Effect on the Four Seasons

If you have ever wondered if there really is a discrete, purposeful influence by the moon on our seasons, you might be interested to know that the moon has an incredibly stabilizing effect on Earth’s tilt. Professor Matzko noted that our seasons are directly impacted by this well-balanced tilt.

Final Thought

Professor Matzko’s entire presentation contains many entertaining and interesting anecdotes, and is well worth your time to watch or listen to (click here).

Could you consider yourself in a role that helps improve our understanding of the Earth-Moon system?

Starting out now on your very own discovery of the intricacies of God’s creation through scientific study might very well help you in discerning what path you should take in the future. Christian scholarship extending into professional roles — from astronauts, astronomers, and physicists to mathematicians and engineers — is sincerely needed in education and culture.

For further reading:

Astronaut on Creation—a telling interview with Colonel Jack Lousma, a veteran of Skylab

The Work of His Hands—a book by Colonel Jeffrey Williams, a veteran of the International Space Station

An Astronaut’s Perspective on Creation—an interview with Captain Barry Wilmore, a veteran pilot of two Space Shuttle missions (and one stay aboard the International Space Station)

Information on the Earth-Moon system can be obtained from Encyclopedia Britannica.

Maybe one of the writing prompts for our creation science writing contest was developed specifically for you!

We invite you to discover the writing prompts and entry rules/guidelines for our creation science writing contest (see the essay contests web page, and please feel free to download the page’s printer friendly version). Look for topics dealing with cosmology and mathematics, or view our introductory question that ultimately helps to take you down the path to particle physics or medicine.

References

Friedmand, T.L. (1991). From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Matzko, G. (Professor). (2017, August 21). The origin and purpose of the moon from the Bible and science [Webcast]. Eclipse Experience. Retrieved from https://livestream.com/BJU/eclipse/videos/162607441.

NASA. (2012, August 25). Neil Armstrong 1930-2012. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/topics/people/features/armstrong_obit.html.

Struik, D.J. (1987). A concise history of mathematics. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

Calcite cracks and sinkholes

An outing to Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, Ohio, is a visit to the only fractured cave in the nation. The original entrance to this cave system started in the late 1800’s as a small sinkhole. Today, once inside the cave, its disjointed, fractured origins are quite easily identified in the cave’s upper system sedimentary rock. In fact, Seneca Caverns offers up to eight underground levels that cavers can tour. Visitors get to try their caving skills exploring seemingly vertical descents from one level to the next with a water table at the bottom, known as Ole Mist’ry River.

Although Seneca Caverns is less ornate in its stalactites and stalagmites than the Ohio Caverns in West Liberty, Ohio, visitors get to view various stalactite seed formations estimated to be eighty-eight years old. These formations are found distributed over the ceiling of the fourth level of the cave, called Cathedral Hall. One type well-worth seeing is the very early growth stage of a young stalactite curtain formation.

The third question in our series of writing prompts available to students for our creation science writing contest considers the growth and formation of stalactites and stalagmites, including consideration of factors influential on their rates of growth. For instance, the 1932 article “An Unusual Occurrence of Stalactites and Stalagmites” by Karl Ver Steeg serves as a credible reference offering such valued information. In fact, the following bottom left image shows the face page to that article, and next to it the bottom right image is a companion picture that shows exposed stalactites made of calcium hydroxide — or Ca(OH)2 — identified under a railroad bridge over Bever Street in Wooster, Ohio. For the students choosing this question, a summary that highlights any differences between stalactites exposed to the elements (like the kind mentioned in Ver Steeg’s 1932 article) and stalactites formed underground (like those formed within the caves of the Ohio Caverns) is also encouraged, given that a comparison of such contrasted settings may show intriguing results with respect to growth rates. (Hint: Ver Steeg’s article will help with such a comparison.)

question-3-part-3Exposed stalactites under a railroad bridge

Could you consider yourself in a role that helps improve our understanding of the geology of the planet?

Starting out now on your very own discovery of the intricacies of God’s creation today through scientific study might very well help in discerning what path you should take in the future. For example, for a possible career path, such study could help you better understand the activities of geologists. And one of your first activities ought to be growing your very own stalactites. In fact, in the book 77 Fairly Safe Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons by Professor Donald B. DeYoung (2013), lesson #74 called “Cave Icicles” allows readers to do this very thing.

Just maybe the writing prompt that deals with geology (as well as the fossil record) was developed specifically for you!

We invite you to browse the aforementioned question here, as follows: “essay contests.”

References

DeYoung, D.B. (2013). 77 fairly safe science activities for illustrating Bible lessons. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Ver Steeg, K. (1932). An unusual occurrence of stalactites and stalagmites. The Ohio Journal of Science, 32(2), 69-84. Retrieved from https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/2552/V32N02_069.pdf?sequence=1.

A trek of galactic proportions

trek-from-fitz-roy-to-atacama-desert

Introduction

In an earlier blog examining the climate zones and ecosystems of Mount Kilimanjaro, we pondered whether or not a trek greater than the climb up this mountain exists. Today we reveal that trek, a journey that takes place in South America, and that breaks the limits between the stunning and surreal. We will begin in Patagonia at Cerro Fitz Roy, and then travel north into Chile to discover a number of archeological sites found within the reach of an ancient road system built by the Incan Empire. Finally, we will we climb high onto an elevated expanse that is home to the driest desert in the world: the Atacama Desert of Chile, our destination. The high elevation, dry air, and vast size of this desert make it an ideal spot for several large, state-of-the-art astronomical observatories; however, we will concern ourselves with just two of them.

Our aim is to explore two game-changing, ground-based telescopes currently under construction in Chile’s Atacama Desert: the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope. Afterwards, we will turn our gaze toward the heavens to appreciate yet another great telescope project underway elsewhere — the James Webb Space Telescope, a project poised to carry on the legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Patagonian landscape and Cerro Fitz Roy (or Mount Fitz Roy)

Why begin at Cerro Fitz Roy? Simply put, Cerro Fitz Roy is a mountain marked by beauty and contrast. In terms of its beauty, the mountain rises with pomp and grandeur from the jaw-dropping vistas of the Patagonian landscape. And in terms of contrast, the sheer, jagged peaks of this mountain (reminiscent of the Dolomites in Italy) represent a bold departure from the nearly seamless geography shared with the nation-states of Argentina and Chile. The mountain itself is found in Los Glaciares National Park — named for its numerous glacial ice extensions that spread out from the world’s second largest ice expanse (second after Antarctica). Moreover, despite the inherent beauty of Cerro Fitz Roy, this mountain is said to be one of the most technical mountains to climb. Therefore, the vast majority of visitors and would-be climbers are contented simply to gaze upon the mountain’s scenic peaks and sheer cliffs from the nearby safety of a small glacier lake called Laguna de los Tres (see picture above).

Note: Los Glaciares National Park contains a vast number of glaciers born from one of the largest existing ice caps in the world (second after Antarctica). The park itself lies at the southern end of the world’s second largest ice field (again, after Antarctica), the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is the much-larger cousin to its northern counterpart, the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. In fact, both ice fields are remnants of the Patagonian Ice Sheet. Furthermore, Los Glaciares National Park is the home to a very unusual glacier known as the Perito Moreno Glacier. The notoriety of this glacier comes from its atypical nature in that unlike most glaciers in the world that are actively retreating, the Perito Moreno Glacier is actively advancing.

The Inca Road

We now set out to find the so-called Chilean Inca Trail (the branches of the Inca road system in Chile) as we travel northward to the Atacama Desert, a search that will also allow us to explore several Chilean archeological sites along the way.

In Patagonia:

  • Cueva Fell—a natural cave near the Pali-Aike volcanic field
  • Pali-Aike National Park—location of a prominent volcanic cone called Pali-Aike Crater
  • Madre de Dios Island—a coastal island that contains several interesting and unique caves containing evidence of early cultures

In southern Chile:

  • Monte Verde—significant contributions to the fields of archeology and evolutionary anthropology were made here
  • Pilauco Bajo—a paleontological and archeological site
  • Chan-Chan—a coastal archeological site
  • Budi Lake—a brackish tidal water lake (unique because it is not of glacier origin)
  • The city of Purén
  • Mocha Island—the waters off this coastal island were the purported home of a whale that helped inspire the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville, as predating Melville was an earlier novel by the American explorer J.N. Reynolds called Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific.

In central Chile:

  • Pucará del Cerro La Muralla—a strategic observation point believed to be the southernmost fort of the Incan Empire
  • Pukara de La Compañía—a fort used by the Incas. This site represents our first official stop along the Inca road system as we continue on our way toward the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.
  • Huaca de Chena—an archeological site containing the remnants of a purported ancient astronomical observatory

Remark: Note the importance of astronomical observatories among early civilizations, especially among early agricultural societies. These observatories came directly from the need of people to construct calendars on which they could incorporate their celestial observations to predict the position of the sun and the phases of the moon for crop planting and harvesting (Genesis 1:14, English Standard Version; Struik, 1987).

The Atacama Desert of northern Chile:

  • Tulor—the oldest archeological site in Chile
  • Pukará de Quitor—a stone fortress overlooking the valley of the river San Pedro
  • Atacama Giant—a large, famous anthropomorphic geoglyph carved into the landscape on the side of a hillcrest

Our Destination: the Atacama Desert

The Driest Desert in the World

The Atacama Desert is an elevated plateau placed in the middle of two separate mountain chains in northern Chile (the Andes to the east and the Chilean coastal range to the west). For three very different reasons, which together produce a sandwiching effect, this desert is the driest desert in the world.

  • The first phenomenon is the prevailing winds, the so-called easterlies or easterly trade winds, which blow out of the east and move westward. These winds must cross up and over the Andes — the mountain chain lying east of the desert. As the easterlies push up and over the Andes, any moisture that they contain condenses and falls as rain on the mountain chain’s eastern half (the side of the Andes opposite the desert). The critical feature of this prevailing system, and thus its significance to the dryness of the desert, is that the easterlies contain little-to-no remaining moisture as they continue blowing westward over the desert.
  • Second, as a result of the easterlies’ climb over the Andes, a system of high air pressure predominates over the Atacama Desert (and northern Chile).
  • And the last phenomenon mentioned, though not the least in significance, is the multifaceted effect of the Humboldt Current. The Humboldt Current is a specific cold water current that is found in the Pacific Ocean adjacent to South America. Near Chile, the chilled waters carried by the current effectually suppress moisture developing in onshore oceanic breezes. Moreover, similar to the aforementioned occurrence of moisture lost to the Andes as the trade winds make their way westward, any potential moisture contained within the westerly onshore breezes will be lost as these winds push eastward and rise up over the Chilean coastal range — the mountain chain lying west of the desert.

The View of the Sky from the Atacama Desert

milky-way-atacama-desert-redshift-scopeAtacama Desert salt flat reflecting the Milky Way

A remarkable feature within the desert’s perimeter is the presence of a large salt flat. In fact, it is the third largest salt flat in the world, and is known by the name Salar de Atacama. Moreover, a large segment of Salar de Atacama makes up a nature reserve called Los Flamenco National Reserve. At times, certain parts of the salt flat trap a thin layer of water that spreads discreetly over a very large surface area. This phenomenon gives the water preserved in this section of Salar de Atacama an absolutely docile, yet stunning appearance of mirrored glass. Perhaps one of the more intriguing things about this effect is that it offers guests unique opportunities to capture beautiful, unmarred images of our Milky Way Galaxy exquisitely reflected upon the clear surface (see picture above).

Note: Located inside the Los Famenco National Reserve is a strange landscape called Valle de al Luna, or “Valley of the Moon,” a name which is eerily suggestive of the lunar surface. In fact, even more bizarre is the striking similarities between the landscapes found throughout the Atacama Desert region as a whole and those of the planet Mars. Thus, for several decades now (click here to learn more), NASA has taken advantage of the desert’s Martian-like environment as the perfect location to test various prototypes of its Mars rovers.

At this point along our trip, prior to entering the final leg of our journey, we pause momentarily to think about where we have been and what we have seen. Looking back through our mind’s eye, we have travelled thousands of miles to encounter vistas as broad and extreme as they are majestic and surreal, and similarly we have enjoyed quaint places that seem timeless. In addition, beyond their significance to the fields of geology and geography, many of the places visited were important within the fields of archeology, anthropology and paleontology, as well as climatology and oceanography.

Starting out once again, each step now takes us up a winding road to discover a new, state-of-the-art telescope called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) atop Cerro Pachón (or Mount Pachón), until in tandem we move carefully to nearby Cerro Las Campanas (or Mount Las Campanas) to encounter the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). Afterwards, we will eagerly turn our gaze toward the heavens to appreciate yet another great telescope project underway elsewhere — the James Webb Space Telescope, a much anticipated project poised to carry on the legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) at Cerro Pachón

At the time of this writing, first light is scheduled for early 2019.

The LSST is a new, unique telescope, and also a new paradigm — one that looks for movement and change across the sky in days, months, and years. Designers have engineered the LSST to perform at top-notch levels among three facets (speed, breadth, and depth), so the LSST will be distinctly capable of traversing the time domain instead of focusing purely on the space domain. At the heart of the LSST lies the largest digital camera ever constructed. The LSST essentially allows users to point an extremely large, telescope-sized camera at the night sky, pan the universe, and click picture after rewarding picture.

The first facet (speed) — The compact construction of the LSST allows for swift movements that sweep it around in arcs at 10 degrees per second, or 20 miles per hour. It actually will scan the entire southern sky every 4 days, an accomplishment which epitomizes the absolute shift in paradigm it achieves when compared to the composite map made of the northern sky once every year using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico.

The second facet (breadth) — Its three-mirror design facilitates a wide field of view, a focal plane large enough to capture the diameter of seven full moons in one picture (or the equivalent of Orion’s belt). The camera’s 3.2 billion pixels and lens of roughly 5.5 feet in diameter makes this range of view possible (see the accompanying picture of the camera and housing below).

lsst-camera-observatory-cut-awayA dissected view highlighting the large 3.2-gigapixel, state-of-the-art digital camera, with its roughly 5.5-foot diameter lens, that will be installed on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (top image), and a cut-away view showing the internal structure of the observatory planned to house this telescope (bottom image).

The third facet (depth) — At comparatively 3.5 times the size of Hubble’s 2.4-meter primary mirror, the large primary mirror of LSST will facilitate a much deeper view of the universe than we have been able to see thus far. The LSST is designed to utilize a primary mirror 8.4 meters in diameter, an adaptable secondary mirror 3.4 meters in diameter, and a tertiary mirror 5.0 meters in diameter. Interestingly, the LSST is the world’s first telescope to have a tertiary mirror embedded in its primary mirror, a beneficial alignment that contributes significantly to the compact size of this telescope (see image below).

lsst-mirror-configurationAlignment of mirrors with camera placement

Several scientific collaboration teams

Several research teams will collaborate to make sense of all the data coming in from the LSST. These teams will assist LSST directors in guiding the program’s scientific goals. For instance, the Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) Team will help work on galaxy structure goals. In particular, the AGN Team will work on mapping solutions to the challenges of doing quasar science with the LSST, and on leading investigations of super-massive black holes that are actively accreting with respect to the time domain.

Note: On the topic of quasars, a recently published article in Answers Research Journal, called “A Test for Quasar Cosmological Redshifts” by astronomer Danny R. Faulkner, emphasized the importance of incorporating the redshifts associated with these objects into the development of a recent creation cosmology.

Public participation

The LSST will have a robust educational and public outreach program for amateur astronomers and the community at large (click here for more information).

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) at Cerro Las Campanas

First light is scheduled for 2023.

artistic-gmtArtistic rendering of the Giant Magellan Telescope

“Make no little plans” – George Ellery Hale

The GMT is the first telescope to incorporate off-axis primary mirrors (as pictured above). It will specialize in the infrared and visible spectrums, and will be sensitive enough to see a candle lit on the moon.

The GMT’s primary mirror is designed as a composite of seven individual mirrors: six off-axis mirrors and one central-axis mirror. Given that each of these mirrors is 8.4 meters in diameter, the effective diameter of the GMT is 24.5 meters (or slightly more than 10 times the diameter of the 2.4-meter primary mirror of Hubble). Moreover, the expected resolution of the images obtained with the GMT will be 10 times the resolution of the images from Hubble. Although the GMT is anticipated to come online by the end of the decade when the first four of its primary mirrors are in place (i.e., three off-axis mirrors together with the central-axis mirror), first light is officially planned for 2023.

Not only will the GMT incorporate seven primary mirrors, but it will also utilize seven secondary mirrors (each 1-meter in diameter). The technology behind each secondary mirror makes them readily adaptable to correct blurring in the imaging. In fact, this adaptive technology (called “adaptive optics”) combined with the presence of the large diameter of the primary mirror greatly contributes to the resolution made possible with the GMT.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor

The launch of the rocket carrying the JWST is scheduled for early 2021. The JWST will specialize in the infrared spectrum, and will be incredibly sensitive in this range (sensitive enough, in fact, to detect the heat signature of a bee on the moon).

artistic-jwstSize of the James Webb Space Telescope

With a primary mirror diameter of 6.5 meters, compared to Hubble’s 2.4-meter diameter mirror, the JWST has over five times more collecting area than Hubble, giving the JWST much more sensitivity. In addition, while Hubble orbits the earth at approximately 350 miles inside low earth orbit, the JWST will be situated roughly a million miles further away (and orbit the sun). Moreover, the JWST will optimally detect the infrared wavelengths of light, compared to Hubble which is optimized for visible and ultraviolet light. This means that the JWST will be much better suited (and much better situated) to detect and investigate very distant objects, since light emitted from such objects drops off very aggressively into the infrared spectrum.

Conclusion

Having reached the journey’s end, we take the opportunity to reflect upon the three large telescopes discussed here, as well as their significance. However, because each telescope offers renewed anticipation for us to peer deeper into our window on the observable universe (referred to as “look-back time”), we also wish to reflect upon something which bears repeating concerning our place in all of this.

primary-mirror-comparisonsA useful summary showing the relative sizes of the primary mirrors found in existing telescopes and the telescopes of tomorrow. (Notice all the telescopes mentioned here are found in the bottom half of the diagram.)

First Thought

In a recent blog, we discussed the redshifts of galaxies and quasars per our review of an article appearing in Answers Research Journal called “A Case for Cosmological Redshifts” by astronomer Danny R. Faulkner. In addition, we also included favorable comments about test results subsequently published by Dr. Faulkner that support extragalactic, cosmological redshifts, based on the redshifts of quasars and their corresponding apparent magnitudes, as follows:

One reason an understanding of cosmological redshifts becomes important to further study is that two telescope projects are currently underway: the Giant Magellan Telescope and the James Webb Telescope. The former is a land-based telescope located in Chile, and the latter is a space telescope scheduled to be the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Both of these telescopes will have better imaging capabilities than the HST, and thus reach farther back in look-back time. (“Remark,” para. 13)

Second Thought

Much enthusiasm is placed on the JWST carrying on the legacy of Hubble, and it is indeed true that the JWST will continue this legacy. Yet without sensitivity to wavelengths emitted across the visible and ultraviolet portions of electromagnetic spectrum, the JWST will not truly replace Hubble. The true replacement of Hubble will occur once first light is achieved collectively by all three of the telescopes discussed here (the LSST, the GMT, and the JWST). The day this happens will mean we have boldly entered a new age of discovery, an era when look-back time becomes greatly amplified.

Something that Bears Repeating

With these two thoughts in mind, let us return to the early 1990’s to the comments made by Alistair Begg (1994), who not only captured the sense of enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, but also reminded us of our true place in the age of deep space discovery:

That’s fine. That’s a wonderful telescope. As far as telescopes go, that’s really good. But here’s the deal folks — God has seen all this stuff from every angle that’s possible to see. He’s seen it when He created it; He’s seen it from every conceivable point. And what we ought to be saying is, ‘Isn’t it amazing that God in His providence has allowed us to grow smart enough to be able to design one of these things that allows us to begin to probe into the vastness of our solar system, and begin to scratch the surface of what God in His infinite wisdom has been able to do all along.’ (9:18 – 9:57)

Final Thought

In closing, as we wait for the day in the not-so-distant future when all three observatories are completed and the LSST, GMT, and JWST each become operational, we can rest assured that beliefs such as Alistair Begg’s concerning the bigger picture have neither lost their relevancy nor misplaced their appropriateness in helping keep our focus on this overall picture in perspective. And, rewardingly, it is the outlook offered by this perspective that is the reason why the journey described here ranks among the greatest treks on earth.

References

Begg, A. (Senior Pastor). (1994, January 23). Nehemiah goes into action [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/nehemiah-goes-into-action/.

Struik, D.J. (1987). A concise history of mathematics. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

Wininger, K.L. (2018, May 19). The expanding universe: The redshifts of galaxies and quasars indicate distance [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://studiesoncreation.org/2018/05/19/the-expanding-universe-the-redshifts-of-galaxies-and-quasars-indicate-distance/.

Calcite – stalactites and stalagmites

stalactites-and-stalagmites-ohio-cavernsCalcite – CaCO3 – inside the Ohio Caverns

A visit to the Ohio Caverns in West Liberty, Ohio yields evidence of a recent creation. While the caverns formed thousands of years ago as a result of glacial melt water, their underground stalactites and stalagmites, composed of calcite (CaCO3), are the end result of mineral water seeping through the porous limestone bedrock. Moreover, these beautiful “crystal-like” formations are still very active today. Iron in the soil adds beautiful red hues to some of the calcite formations, while magnesium adds a beautiful blue to others.

The third question in our series of writing prompts available to students for our creation science writing contest considers the growth and formation of stalactites and stalagmites, including consideration of factors influential on their rates of growth. For instance, the 1932 article “An Unusual Occurrence of Stalactites and Stalagmites” by Karl Ver Steeg serves as a credible reference offering such valued information. In fact, the following bottom left image shows the face page to that article, and next to it the bottom right image is a companion picture that shows exposed stalactites made of calcium hydroxide — or Ca(OH)2 — identified under a railroad bridge over Bever Street in Wooster, Ohio. For the students choosing this question, a summary that highlights any differences between stalactites exposed to the elements (like the kind mentioned in Ver Steeg’s 1932 article) and stalactites formed underground (like those formed within the caves of the Ohio Caverns) is also encouraged, given that a comparison of such contrasted settings may show intriguing results with respect to growth rates. (Hint: Ver Steeg’s article will help with such a comparison.)

question-3-part-3Exposed stalactites under a railroad bridge

Could you consider yourself in a role that helps improve our understanding of the geology of the planet?

Starting out now on your very own discovery of the intricacies of God’s creation today through scientific study might very well help in discerning what path you should take in the future. For example, for a possible career path, such study could help you better understand the activities of geologists. And one of your first activities ought to be growing your very own stalactites. In fact, in the book 77 Fairly Safe Science Activities for Illustrating Bible Lessons by Professor Donald B. DeYoung (2013), lesson #74 called “Cave Icicles” allows readers to do this very thing.

Just maybe the writing prompt that deals with geology (as well as the fossil record) was developed specifically for you!

We invite you to browse the aforementioned question here, as follows: “essay contests.”

References

DeYoung, D.B. (2013). 77 fairly safe science activities for illustrating Bible lessons. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Ver Steeg, K. (1932). An unusual occurrence of stalactites and stalagmites. The Ohio Journal of Science, 32(2), 69-84. Retrieved from https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/2552/V32N02_069.pdf?sequence=1.

Eighth International Conference on Creationism

poster-for-icc

Exciting news! We are hosting a booth this summer at the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, from July 29th to August 1st, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

— Evening sessions are free and open to the public. —

In addition to attending several conference sessions, we will be promoting our creation science student-paper writing contest!

Please view our promotional poster.

Please view our contest flyer.

Our prayer is to meet up with conference attendees from all walks of life as we actively seek out educators, scientists, Bible scholars, and various other professionals who advocate God’s work in creation to join us in our efforts to advance creation science research.

Stop by and introduce yourself; we look forward to meeting you!

The expanding universe: the redshifts of galaxies and quasars indicate distance

milky-way-atacama-desert-redshift-scopeImmensity of the observable universe

The latest article — actually the first of two related articles — by astronomer Danny R. Faulkner (2018) called “A Case for Cosmological Redshifts” was published earlier this year in Answers Research Journal. In the article, Dr. Faulkner reviewed at length three important discoveries in cosmology: the Hubble relation, the expansion of the universe, and the redshifts of quasars. Moreover, Dr. Faulkner explored the historical ramifications of these discoveries while emphasizing the development of a well-ordered cosmological model of the universe, especially regarding the construction of a correct biblical cosmology. As a result of the comprehensiveness and utility of the review, the article has rapidly become a valuable resource in the creation literature by helping many of us better understand the observational science that has taken place for close to a century now on the expanding, observable universe. This is something particularly important to those of us who are not astronomers.

Given the impact on our understanding of cosmology offered through Dr. Faulkner’s article, we are currently revising our cosmology-related question for the 2018-2019 update to our student writing contest. Presently, this question focuses on generalized concepts related to galactic redshifts and cosmic microwave background radiation. However, within the question’s revised framework, we intend to stress why the aforementioned discoveries reviewed by Dr. Faulkner are important for a working, biblically-based cosmology. Therefore, the students who choose this question for their papers will need to write about fundamental concepts behind the redshift of light. We anticipate having these students describe the electromagnetic spectrum, the duality of light, the concept of spectroscopy, and the notion of redshift. We will also require a table that highlights differences between so-called normal galaxies and the most energetic active galactic nuclei (i.e., quasars).

As for the balance of this blog, we turn our attention to the key points discussed in Dr. Faulkner’s article. However, for reasons of clarity related to definition of terms used in the article, it is worth mentioning here that when Dr. Faulkner uses the term recent creationists, he is referring to people who believe creation was recent — that is, believe in a recent creation — rather than a reference to creationists from recent decades.

The immensity of the observable universe: A quick summary of “A Case for Cosmological Redshifts.”

Hubble relation:

The Hubble relation is named after Edwin Hubble based on his famous 1929 paper “A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae.” Using the Hooker 100-inch telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, Hubble plotted the redshifts of 24 individual galaxies (with each galaxy’s redshift expressed in velocity per second) compared to distance (in units of parsecs). A linear relationship was shown, such that the larger the galaxy’s redshift, the greater the galaxy’s distance is from the earth. Thus, the heart of the paper (i.e., the observational science behind the plot of the data) represents the original work showing an expanding universe.

Universal expansion was anticipated by early cosmologists (for example, De Sitter, Friedman, and LeMaître) who had applied general relativity to the universe prior to or about the same time as Hubble’s discovery of the Hubble relation.

– Danny R. Faulkner, Astronomer

Pragmatically, the Hubble relation confirmed a prediction based on general relativity — one of the most successfully tested theories of all time. In point of fact, prior to the publishing of Hubble’s paper, cosmologists had used the theory of general relativity to predict that the universe would be either expanding or contracting.

Dr. Faulkner painstakingly addresses three issues:

  1. Is the universe expanding? According to Dr. Faulkner, the most straightforward interpretation of the data is, “yes,” the universe is expanding.
  2. Does the redshift of light from other galaxies indicate distance? Similarly, the most straightforward interpretation is, “yes,” redshifts associated with other galaxies indicate distance. Observationally, this specific form of redshift is cosmological in nature, in other words, occurring because of the stretching of space (see below).
  3. Does the redshift of light from quasars also indicate distance? From Dr. Faulkner’s review of evidence compiled over the last 50 years, this answer is a compelling “yes.” Here, too, the redshift is also cosmological in nature, which means it likewise occurs as a result of the stretching of space (again, please see below).

The expanding universe and the redshifts of galaxies and quasars indicate distance.

Difference between Doppler motion and cosmological redshifts:

Doppler motion describes the shift of light out of the visual range and into either the bluer ultraviolet range (for light from objects that travel toward you) or the infrared range (for light from objects that travel away from you). More precisely stated, the wavelength of light from objects traveling toward you is compressed, and the wavelength of light from objects traveling away from you is stretched. Therefore, because everything in space is always moving (including our solar system), the light from any light-emitting object in the observable universe is the combined sum of its Doppler motion (either blueshifted or redshifted) and its cosmological redshift (due to the inherent stretching of space away from us).

As a result of all of this stretching and compressing of the wavelengths of light across the universe, we discover one important fact: the farther away that an object is from us, the more redshifted the signal becomes. In other words, we can have confidence that the light from objects of great distance is dominated by (or more heavily weighted toward) the infrared range of the spectrum.

Hubble constant:

The Hubble constant, H0, is the measurement that defines the expansion rate of the universe. Today’s estimate for H0 is roughly 70 kilometers per second per megaparsecs (i.e., 70 km/s/Mpc).

Enter quasars:

Quasars were initially discovered in the early 1960’s, but it took astronomers some time to figure out what they were seeing. In fact, the term quasar means “quasi-stellar object.” According to Dr. Faulkner, a quasar is a point in space that has more luminosity than that of an entire galaxy (trillions of stars). Though described as a “point in space,” quasars are roughly the size of our solar system compared to the enormous span of a galaxy, such as our very own Milky Way Galaxy or perhaps the “near-by” Andromeda Galaxy. One of the most popular quasars is known as 3C 273; however, a quasar called 3C 454.3 is one of the most luminous known objects in the universe. It is thought today that quasars are powered by super-massive black holes.

artistic-quasar1Artistic rendition of a quasar

Notably, quasars emit across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radiowaves to x-rays. In fact, they were first discovered through radiotelescopes. However, as already mentioned, the most distinguishing feature about quasars is their high luminosity (since their peak emission is in the near ultraviolet and optical ranges). It is also important to note that quasars have a large redshift that is cosmological in nature, and thus quasars are very distant objects. More importantly, this combination of high redshift and vast distance equates to a large look-back time (and we can consider look-back time as our window into the observable universe).

Today, quasars are recognized as early galaxies, and are described or noted as galaxies characterized with an active galactic nucleus (AGN). Interestingly, our understanding of galaxies is presently viewed as a continuum that ranges from the most active AGNs (such as quasars) to the so-called normal galaxies (such as the Andromeda Galaxy or the Milky Way).

Remark: Earlier we mentioned that the article highlighted here is the first of two related publications by astronomer Danny R. Faulkner in Answers Research Journal. For the sake of completeness, in the second article called “A Test for Quasar Cosmological Redshifts,” Dr. Faulkner published the outcome of a simple test that revealed a correlation between the redshifts of quasars and their corresponding apparent magnitudes (a finding that supports extragalactic, cosmological redshifts). In the concluding remarks of that work, Dr. Faulkner argues that “it would be much more productive [for recent creationists] if extragalactic redshifts were incorporated into developing a recent creation cosmology” (p. 54).

One reason an understanding of cosmological redshifts becomes important to further study is that two telescope projects are currently underway: the Giant Magellan Telescope and the James Webb Telescope. The former is a land-based telescope located in Chile, and the latter is a space telescope scheduled to be the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Both of these telescopes will have better imaging capabilities than the HST, and thus reach farther back in look-back time.

References

Faulkner, D.R. (2018). A case for cosmological redshifts. Answers Research Journal, 11(3),31-47. Retrieved from https://assets.answersingenesis.org/doc/articles/pdf-versions/arj/v11/cosmological_redshifts.pdf.

Faulkner, D.R. (2018). A test for quasar cosmological redshifts. Answers Research Journal, 11(4),49-56. Retrieved from https://assets.answersingenesis.org/doc/articles/pdf-versions/arj/v11/test_quasar_cosmological_redshifts.pdf.

Hubble, E. (1929). A relation between distance and radial velocity among extra-galactic nebulae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 15(3), 168-173. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/15/3/168.full.pdf.

Climate and oceanography

hurricane-francesThe track of Hurricane Frances (2004)

Not only is Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Jupiter, Florida the eastern-most spot in Florida, but it’s also the point where the Gulf Stream comes closest to the eastern seaboard of the United States. Yet, with a trajectory aimed at the lighthouse in 2004, Hurricane Frances came to an unprecedented halt, as the eyewall continued to rotate freely just 30-miles offshore. This unusual occurrence in the hurricane’s path was due to a weather system over Florida that blocked the hurricane’s course — a forecast that was historically unparalleled. However, as rare as this event was, Hurricane Frances eventually wobbled and came onshore making landfall on Hutchinson Island, Florida, just 30-miles north of the lighthouse.

Nicolas Carnot was a French physicist regarded as the Father of Thermodynamics.

Hurricanes are also known as Carnot heat engines (named after Nicolas Carnot). A hurricane is a conduit that moves heat energy from a warm reservoir to a cool reservoir (i.e., from the warm surface temperatures of the ocean to the cooler temperatures of the upper level atmosphere). And as the case is with any hurricane — such as Frances — when hurricanes perform this work, they move across the warm, tropical waters, creating upswells that leave much cooler oceanic surface temperatures in their wakes. A short article in the journal Nature named “Hurricane Heat Engines” renders a clear, concise description of this kind of thermodynamic mechanics.

One of the questions selected for our creation science writing contest focuses on hurricanes as heat engines and the equilibrium temperature of the earth. This question serves to prepare students for more complex concepts relative to the study of climate and oceanography. As case in point, built within the context of this question’s writing-prompt, we present the mathematical formula that renders a planet’s surface temperature.

Could you consider yourself in a role that helps us understand the relational balance between the heating (i.e., greenhouse heating) and cooling (i.e., hurricanes as heat engines) of the planet?

Starting out now on your very own discovery of the intricacies of God’s creation today through scientific study might very well help in discerning what path you should take in the future. For example, for a possible career path, such study could help you better understand the responsibilities of meteorologists.

Just maybe the writing prompt on the study of climate and oceanography was developed specifically for you!

We invite you to browse the aforementioned question here, as follows: “On the Study of Climate and Oceanography.”