Astronomy

Is there a far away probe that has recorded the light spectrum from Earth as if it were an exoplanet?

Is there a far away probe that has recorded the light spectrum from Earth as if it were an exoplanet?


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We analyze the light spectrum of stars and distant planets to know characteristics like: chemical composition, temperature, mass, etc.

Starting from the same principle, a probe at the border of the solar system could analyze the spectrum of the light reflected by the Earth. In theory, comparing the spectra captured by the probe with what was happening here on Earth at a time, the light was reflected to the space we could discover new spectrographic patterns that would help us look for planets similar to Earth and maybe even life.

I wonder if any study like this has been done, where a whole-Earth spectrum from a distant spacecraft has been captured and analyzed, with the intent of working the problem as if it were a spectrum from an exoplanet, in order to correlate with known Earth conditions.


TL;DR: (1) we don't need to go very far to measure the spectrum of Earth's reflected light: a satellite in orbit around the Earth could easily do that; however, (2) detecting the reflected light of an Earth-size planet is extremely difficult: we currently use other techniques with much greater success.

The Wikipedia article on how scientists detect exoplanets provides a good introduction and overview - well worth a quick read. In summary:

Most of the thousands of exoplanets detected so far have been found using the transit photometry method, where the measured brightness of the star temporarily dips because a planet is blocking some of the light as it transits across the face of the star.

The next most successful technique is to measure changes in the radial velocity of the star to deduce the presence of a planet (by the "wobble" its gravity causes). This was the most productive method until 2012, after which transit photometry became the dominant detection method.

However, neither of these methods are looking for reflected light from the planet.

It is possible to deduce the presence of a planet from periodic changes to a star's brightness that would correspond with a nearby planet going through its phases (like how the Moon is bright when full and "dark" when new), but we're typically talking about a Jupiter-sized exoplanet in a close orbit - definitely not a relatively "tiny" Earth-like planet further out from the star.

It's also possible to directly detect the reflected light, or the infrared light emitted by a "hot" planet, or light that has been polarised by the planet's atmosphere - but all these methods rely on a much-bigger-than-Jupiter planet orbiting a relatively small/dim star, and preferably in our local stellar neighbourhood, since the light we're trying to detect is exceedingly faint. Note that currently the smallest directly-imaged exoplanet is still more massive than Jupiter, and Jupiter itself is over 300 times more massive than the Earth (and ten times the Earth's radius, which is even more relevant).

Note also that Proxima b (an Earth-size planet orbiting our very closest neighbour, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri) was discovered using the radial velocity method, and while efforts are under way to observe it directly, no direct image has yet been obtained. This might give you an indication of just how hard it is to directly image such a (relatively) tiny planet!

Also, we don't need to send a probe to the edge of the solar system to work out what we're looking for, as we already know exactly what the reflected light from Earth looks like - the iconic Earthrise being the most famous example. And in 1990 Voyager 1 took a famous photo of the Earth from 6 billion kilometres (41 AU) away: see the Pale Blue Dot.

By Sept 2017, Voyager 1 was 21 billion km (140 AU) from the Sun - by far the most distant probe we've ever sent. Nonetheless, that's a long way from the "border of the solar system". Voyager has entered the interstellar medium but it hasn't yet left the Kuiper Belt, and it will be another 300 years before it reaches the Oort Cloud, and tens of thousands of years before it reaches the real edge of the Solar System.


As an addendum to Chappo's very good answer, I'll note that people have indeed used satellite and spacecraft observations of the Earth to estimate what a similar exoplanet might look like (assuming we had better telescopes and instrumentation than we currently do).

For example, the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft (which had visited the comet Tempel 1 in 2005) was re-purposed as EPOXI for more comet and asteroid flybys, searches for extrasolar planet occultations of other stars -- and, along the way, observations of the Earth in 2008. A brief discussion of one of the papers analyzing the data can be found here.

(And in the early 1990s, spectroscopic observations made by the Galileo spacecraft during one of its gravitational-slingshot flybys of Earth were analyzed (Sagan et al. 1993) to see what indications of life might be detectable from space, such as atmospheric oxygen and methane.)

It's important to understand that there's no need to put something far away from the Earth (e.g., "at the border of the solar system"): you can take a nearby observation of the Earth and blur it and add noise to get the same effect. The important thing is to be able to look at the Earth from outside its atmosphere.

An alternate approach is to look at the effect of a planet's atmosphere on starlight passing through it. This has been done for the Earth by observing light reflected off the Moon during a lunar eclipse, since this sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere on its way to the Moon.


I wonder if any study like this has been done, where a whole-Earth spectrum from a distant spacecraft has been captured and analyzed, with the intent of working the problem as if it were a spectrum from an exoplanet, in order to correlate with known Earth conditions.

Looking at your question from a different viewpoint, note that what you are suggesting is studying just one example of a planet with life to make general predictions about exoplanets.

This is fundamentally flawed and the way I would explain it to you is this :

If you have never seen some particular animal before and I give you one sample of that animal, does this tell you anything about other members of the same species ? No. You don't know if you have an extreme statistical outlier or even a mutant of that species. You certainly cannot extrapolate from that that all animals will be similar.

You cannot take a single example of anything and reliably or even usefully extrapolate anything from that about a larger population you know nothing about.

In theory, comparing the spectra captured by the probe with what was happening here on Earth at a time, the light was reflected to the space we could discover new spectrographic patterns that would help us look for planets similar to Earth and maybe even life.

This is not correct. Earth, as far as we can tell, has had life of some form on it for at least 3.5 billion years of it's 4.5 billion year history. We suspect life may have existed earlier, but there is no direct evidence for that.

During that long period conditions on Earth have radically altered. Atmospheric and surface chemistry have changed completely from what we have now. The spectrum of light from early Earth (with life) would be completely different because of this. Ocean temperatures on Earth are estimated to have been as much as $55-85^circ C$ between 2 billion and 3.5 billion years ago (when life existed). Up until about 2.5 billion years ago Earth had no free atmospheric Oxygen to speak of, something that a spectrum would indicate. Now if we see an exoplanet with no apparent free oxygen can we say it has life or not ? Well it seems not from our own planet's history.

However the converse cannot be assumed either : just because we found free oxygen in the spectrum of an exoplanet it does not tell us anything about life on that planet, not even it's presence or absence.

So extrapolating from Earth's current spectrum is next to useless in terms of finding life on exoplanets.


NASA just pulled off humanity's farthest-ever visit to a space object — the New Horizons probe successfully flew by a mountain-size rock 1 billion miles beyond Pluto

Scientists just flew NASA's nuclear-powered New Horizons probe past a mysterious, mountain-sized rock beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Known formally as (486958) 2014 MU69, though more frequently called "Ultima Thule" (a controversial nickname see editor's note), the object is located more than 4 billion miles from Earth. It's 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, which New Horizons visited in July 2015.

The spacecraft phoned home at 10:39 a.m. ET, confirming it wasn't destroyed by the maneuver. This makes MU69 the most distant object that humanity has ever visited.

New Horizons pulled off the maneuver on New Year's Day, taking hundreds of photos in a highly choreographed, pre-programmed sequence. The space probe reached its closest point to the space rock — about 2,200 miles — at 12:33 a.m. ET. New Horizons then turned around to photograph its exit at a speed of about 32,200 mph.

"We're here to tell you that last night, overnight, the United States spacecraft New Horizons conducted the farthest exploration in the history of humankind, and did so spectacularly," Alan Stern, who leads the New Horizons mission, said during a press conference on Tuesday after the flyby. "Thousands of operations onboard the spacecraft had to work correctly in order for us to be able to tell you this, and now we know that it all did."

The mission was as surprising as it was ambitious: When NASA launched New Horizons toward Pluto in 2006, nobody knew MU69 existed. There wasn't even a reliable way to detect the object until astronauts plugged an upgraded camera into the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

But a signal acquired by NASA and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory confirmed the spacecraft survived.

During the press conference on Tuesday, scientists shared the best images yet, which New Horizons recorded on Monday before its closest approach. They later released an imaginative illustration of how MU69 might appear up-close:

Stern said the image tells them MU69 is about 10 miles by 20 miles, and its irregular shape could either be because it's "bi-lobate" with two different-sized ends, or it's actually two objects orbiting each other at close range.

"If we knew what to expect, we wouldn't be going to Ultima Thule," Stern previously told Business Insider. "This is what what exploration is about."

Better images should come through in the coming days, with the highest-resolution color ones expected in February. Stern said the team would start writing its first scientific paper on the data next week.

Alice Bowman, the New Horizons mission operations manager, said during the press conference that there's "a bit of all of us on that spacecraft that will just continue after we're long gone here on Earth."

"What is striking home with me is that we can build a spacecraft on Earth, and we send it out billions of miles away from Earth, and it sends us back all this wonderful data that we get to look at and learn more about our world, our solar system," she added.


In memory of Cecil William Richard Ball, RN, 1902-1985, a man of integrity, who accepted the biblical creation record and acknowledged the vastness and complexity of the universe, not thinking this to be in any way incongruous.

Genesis 1:16 has been described as a “pivotal” text in the Genesis creation account. Yet it raises questions of profound significance. The NIV translation of this text is representative of most modern English versions: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” The questions arise from the final sentence, “He also made the stars.” When were the stars created, and why was the record of their creation included at this point in the creation account? Were they created at the same time as the sun and the moon, as one interpretation of the text might suggest? Were they created for a similar purpose, as adjunct luminaries to the moon to lighten the night sky? And of crucial significance, what are the “stars”? Does the word mean what it still means today? Or might it also imply what it means from the perspective of a more recent cosmology? Can it legitimately be understood to include planets, galaxies and other objects in the night skies from which light can be seen on earth?

It might be thought that the meaning of this brief sentence at the end of v. 16 is clear enough, but of little consequence to the rest of the Genesis creation account, which deals principally with the creation of the earth as a home for living creatures and humankind. Was it perhaps an afterthought, as suggested in the note on v. 16 in the NIV, unrelated to the main thrust of Genesis 1 or included perhaps as a warning against seeing the stars in a similar way as the sun and moon were widely seen in the ancient world, deities to be worshipped? Such conclusions would be seriously flawed.

There are four principal factors which must be considered in any attempt to provide satisfactory answers to these questions: context, the original text, translation, and the meaning of the word “stars,” all of which are critical to the correct interpretation and understanding of this apparently uncomplicated assertion that God created the stars.

Context. The necessity of reading a text in context is one of the fundamental principles of biblical interpretation. Gerald Klingbeil emphasizes that “Context is key when we read scripture.”[1] Ekkehardt Mueller likewise says that “Being able to discern how a text is embedded in its context helps… avoid false or biased interpretations.”[2] In the case of Genesis 1:16 the immediate context is of crucial significance. Verse 16 must be read in the light of the surrounding text, vss. 14-15 and 17-18, which contain the account of the creation of “two great lights” and their relationship to the earth as a suitable habitat for life.

In these verses the functions of the sun and moon are clearly stated. The “two great lights,” sun and moon, were created to:

i) “give light on the earth” (vss. 15, 17)

ii) “separate the day from the night” (v. 14) or “separate light from darkness” (v.18)

iii) “govern the day and the night” (v. 18)

iv) “mark seasons and days and years” (v.14)

The question must therefore be asked, “Were the stars also created for these reasons?” “Are their functions the same as those of the sun and moon?” It goes without saying that to reply “No” to these questions is not to say that God did not create the stars. Verse 16 clearly asserts that He did. What it does not say is that He created them to assist either sun or moon in their designated roles “to govern the day,” “to govern the night,” or “mark seasons days and years.” Verse 16 does not say when or why God made the stars. In context, however, the unqualified assertion that He did make them may be a simple statement of fact, or possibly an indication that they may have been created for a different, undisclosed purpose and that the fact of their creation was included in the overall creation account because it was important for those reading it, then and in the future, to understand and remember their origin.

The Hebrew Text. Hebrew is not an easy language to read, let alone to interpret or translate. It has an unfamiliar alphabet of only 22 letters, some of which are very similar, and in the original has no vowels, punctuation, or uppercase letters, and reads from right to left in unbroken text working “backwards” until the end of the document is reached.[3] While scholars have generally come to grips with these anomalies many difficulties remain, and it is not an overstatement to say that the untrained reader would find many challenging problems, some of which are still encountered in the translated text today.

A cursory reading of Genesis 1:16 in most English translations conveys the idea that the sentence, “He also made the stars,” is directly translated from the original Hebrew, because that is how the Hebrew has been understood in context by many translation committees as well as countless individual Old Testament scholars. The original Hebrew, however, is not so straightforward. It does not have a separate sentence stating, “God also made the stars,” but merely a phrase without a subject or a verb, “and the stars,” which runs on from the preceding text without break or punctuation. The literal translation of Genesis 1:16 in The Interlinear Bible reads as follows: “And made God two luminaries the great luminary for the rule of the day and the luminary small for the rule of the night and the stars.”[4] How do “the stars” relate to the “two great luminaries”? The time or purpose of their creation is not clear and cannot be deduced from the original Hebrew text. Furthermore, there is in the Hebrew no mention of a creator or any creative activity regarding the stars, a fact that cannot simply be overlooked since it allows for an alternative translation and interpretation.

The King James or Authorised Version reads, “And God made two great lights the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” The KJV supplies the words “he made” in italics, thus remaining true to the original Hebrew but giving room in translation for a separate phrase or sentence and the widely-held understanding that the creation of the stars need not be related in time to the creation and function of the “the two great lights.” As noted, many modern English translations give a separate sentence at the end of v. 16: “God also made the stars,” or “God made the stars also,” in either instance without showing any supplied text, although the verb “made” is not present in the original text. Several more recent translations, particularly those from Jewish sources, reflect the absence of the Hebrew verb at the end of v. 16, and conclude the verse with the phrase, “and the stars.”[5] The Hebrew allows either translation, both of which are in harmony with the whole context of Genesis 1:14-18 where, as already noted, the function of the “two great lights” is chiefly “to mark seasons and days and years” (v. 14), and to “separate light from darkness” (v.18), neither of which functions the stars perform.

It is necessary at this point to comment briefly on the Masoretic Hebrew text which, after many centuries, is still the standard text for translation of the Old Testament. The Masoretes were a succession of Hebrew scholars between the 10 th and 7 th centuries BC, whose primary task was to make the Hebrew text more intelligible by adding vowel markings to the traditional text. Continuing study of this text and other versions of the original Hebrew has shown that the Masoretic text itself is not without problems, and has led to the claim that earlier versions of the Hebrew are more reliable than the annotated version produced by the Masoretes. One source summarizes the issue as follows:

“The Masoretic text was an answer to a problem that had been building in the Jewish community for centuries: biblical Hebrew was ambiguous, and most Jews did not know how to read it anymore. With no vowels, punctuation, or stress marks, the original Hebrew left a lot of room for interpretative errors.”[6]

The Masoretic text does not really solve either the basic problem of ambiguity or the specific problem arising from the unqualified statement, “He also made the stars.”

Translations. All credible versions of the Bible are direct translations from the Hebrew and Greek texts, and are the careful work of duly appointed committees. The procedure established for the translation of the King James Bible of 1611 is a fine example of the care taken to ensure that the translation was as accurate as possible. More than fifty of the best Hebrew and Greek scholars of the day, drawn mainly from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, were divided into six groups, each group given the task of translating a section of the text. They were required to translate the original text as accurately as possible and to present it in the clearest possible English of the day. Each group’s work was then scrutinized by other scholars to ensure accuracy and to eliminate as far as possible any errors or bias before the entire translation was submitted for publication. The whole process was begun in 1604 and completed in 1611.[7] It is worth noting Alister McGrath’s conclusion to his account of the KJV and its translation. “Our culture has been enriched” by the King James Bible, he maintains. “We shall never see its equal — or even its like — again.”[8]

Since then many new translations have appeared, most of them the work of committees made up of individuals from different backgrounds, with different viewpoints and theological persuasions. The aim is still to be as accurate, readable, and bias-free as possible. This is as true of the Genesis text as it is of all books of the Bible. Regarding Genesis 1:16 and the Hebrew phrase “and the stars” which immediately follows the creation account of the sun and moon, the following translations illustrate the consensus among contemporary scholars of Hebrew about the meaning of the original text:

“He made the stars also” NKJV

“He also made the stars” NIV

“He also made the stars” NLT

he made the stars also” KJV

“he also made the stars” GNT

“he made the stars also” RSV

“He made the stars also” NASB

“He made the stars also” NET

“He made the stars also” ASV

Even acknowledging the absence of a Hebrew verb at the end of v. 16, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the original text is best translated in the light of its context, as it is in all the above translations, as a stand-alone statement of reality, “He also made the stars,” without any textual or theological link to the creation of the sun and moon.

The Stars. The Hebrew word for “star” is kokab. It is used 36 times in eighteen books of the Old Testament and always means what it says as understood in English today. It is the word used in Genesis 1:16 and, for example, in Genesis 22:17 and Exodus 32:13 where God’s promise to Abraham is recorded, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky” (NIV). There is no distinction in these texts or any others where kokab is used between suns and planets and galaxies and other heavenly bodies which can be seen by the naked eye in the night sky. The same expression is still used today when we look up on a clear night and see “the stars.” In Genesis 1:16 therefore it refers to everything that can be seen in the Milky Way and beyond, planets and galaxies included. It is worth noting that the context in which the sun and moon perform their allotted functions as described in Genesis 1:14-18 implies the existence of what is now known as the Solar System, even though the author of Genesis was probably unaware of it.

The word “star” is still defined today as “a celestial body appearing as a luminous point in the night sky,” seen on earth from a flat, one dimensional perspective, although in reality most of these points of light are huge suns or massive galaxies speeding through space and millions of miles apart in a three-dimensional plane. The “stars” in Genesis 1:16 were just that, no more, no less. Their number is incalculable, which is what Abraham meant when he spoke of his descendants in these terms. The implications of all this are almost beyond comprehension.

We can now return to the questions raised earlier by the reference to “stars” in Genesis 1:16. What are they? What is their function? And why is there reference to them in a passage which is concerned primarily with the functions of the sun and moon in relation to life on earth, functions which the stars do not have?

Perhaps the best way to understand the meaning of the sentence “God made the stars also” is to see it as a parenthetical statement of fact, included in the record of creation at an appropriate point, unrelated to the immediate context, but nevertheless important enough to be part of the creation account itself. God created the stars as He created everything else recorded in Genesis 1, but not necessarily at the same time, and clearly not after the appearance of the sun and moon. This would be in harmony with the statement in Genesis 1:2, where the earth is said to have been “without form and void” with “darkness” covering “the deep” (NKJV) before the work of the six-day creation began with the introduction of light. The note on this text in the NIV Study Bible says that creation as recorded in Genesis 1 “Completes the picture of a world awaiting God’s light-giving, order-making, and life-giving word.”[9] It is not stated how long the earth existed in this chaotic condition before it was given its final form, but however long it was the “stars” were already in existence.

Cosmological Confirmation. Two significant facts emerge from the foregoing: that Genesis 1 is primarily the account of the creation of the earth as a suitable habitat for human existence, and that the earth is part of what we now know as the Solar System, which itself is part of a much larger and older cosmos. Other passages of the Bible reveal that the earth as it is now is not as it was when originally created. There has been a cosmic rebellion, now centered on earth, which is still in the process of being resolved. They also reveal that it is the Creator’s intention to create “new heavens and a new earth” when the cosmic rebellion now working itself out on earth is finally dealt with.

Be that as it may, it is indisputable that there is today abundant cosmological confirmation that the universe is older than the earth in the form in which it now exists, older even perhaps than the dark, uninhabited mass from which the earth was created and which became the battle-ground of the cosmic conflict. Cosmology and the findings of astronomy have revealed more knowledge of the universe than could ever have been imagined when Genesis was written. When cosmologists and astronomers speak today about the starry heavens as they have been revealed by the most powerful and accurate telescopes yet invented, they still speak of “stars,” in much the same way as did the author of Genesis — distant pinpoints of light in the night skies. But they also speak of planets, constellations, galaxies, star-fields like the Milky Way, comets, globular clusters, nebulae and deep space, of light-years and an expanding universe, of suns so large that they make our sun seem insignificant and our own planet infinitesimal, of untold millions of other galaxies many of which make our home galaxy, the Milky Way, very ordinary by comparison. Jo Dunkley, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University and one of today’s most accomplished and respected astronomers, writing in 2019, states that there are approximately 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, each galaxy made up of around 100 billion “stars,” many of which “will have their own systems of planets orbiting around them.”[10]

One of the best-known star-groupings in the night sky is the constellation Orion, visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the right time of year. It appears like a flat one-dimensional star formation when viewed from earth with the naked eye. But if we could view it side-on, it would be seen as it really is, in three dimensions, each “star “of the constellation separated from the others by huge distances. Orion contains two of the brightest stars in the sky and, in addition, countless others of varying size and at various distances. Somewhere near the middle of the constellation we would be able to see the Great Nebula in Orion, perhaps the best-known feature of this majestic constellation and one of the most beautiful and breath-taking of all celestial sights.[11] And we would be able to see it, through a telescope or even through a pair of good binoculars. It is a mere 1,350 light years from earth. Dunkley reminds us, “Light travels extraordinarily fast, 10 million times faster than a car on a motorway… at the incredible speed of 700 million miles an hour,”[12] or about 300,000 kms per second. The light from Orion’s Great Nebula has taken 1,350 years to reach us. It is approximately 7.9 trillion miles away. Whatever the precise figures might be, that is a very long time and a very long way. Orion and its famous nebula are a useful yardstick for trying to grasp the immense distances from earth of other stellar wonders in the universe.

There are other nebulae in the heavens around us, innumerable, distant, and beautiful. A nebula is a large cloud of distant stars or a glowing cloud of inter-stellar gas or dust and very, very large. The Gum Nebula is a case in point, only discovered in 1951, 1,600 light years away from earth. Photographs which may take over an hour to develop have revealed that it glows crimson with bright blue streaks and patches and has three attached nebulae strung out along the edge of the Milky Way.[13] Further telescopic study of this small area of the universe by the astronomer Colin Gum, after whom the Nebula was named, revealed 85 more nebulae in the same region. How many more Gum might have discovered is unknown, since he died in a skiing accident in 1960.[14] Bright and beautiful as it appears through a telescope, the Gum Nebula is nothing in comparison to the Tarantula Nebula. One description says the Tarantula is “possibly the most splendid of all nebulae in the night sky, displaying convoluted, textured loops of nebulous light set against a star-rich background…, the densest regions on the surface of this convoluted cloud glow brightly, forming an interwoven pattern of bright arcs that gave the Tarantula its form and name.”[15] It is approximately 158,000 light-years away.

In addition to nebulae there are galaxies, in huge numbers, which are also of great interest to astronomers and cosmologists. A galaxy is a star system of millions or billions of stars, of which our Milky Way is one of four types, a spiral galaxy. The Hubble telescope has confirmed an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe. To be more specific, there are two large areas of galactic activity only seen in Southern Hemisphere skies which have been of interest to astronomers for many centuries — the Clouds of Magellan. I know they exist for I have seen them myself, distant patches of light to the naked eye, but when seen through the eye of even a modest telescope, much clearer and more well-defined, complex and breathtaking.

The Small Magellanic Cloud contains ten or so “bright deep-sky objects and many more fainter ones, including nearly 2,000 star clusters and 2 billion stars.”[16] Many of the latter are so far away that while appearing as single stars, they are in fact entire galaxies, making the number of celestial objects in the Small Magellanic Cloud innumerable. The Clouds of Magellan appear to the naked eye like separated pieces of the Milky Way, but in fact are themselves huge galaxies, now known to orbit the Milky Way. The Large Magellanic Cloud is at least 160,000 light-years from earth,[17] and it has been calculated that the Small Magellanic Cloud is over 190,000 light-years distant.[18] In comparison to either, the more familiar Great Nebula in Orion is “just up the road.” Some of this can still be seen in the night sky, looking the same as it did when Genesis was written. “He also made the stars” is just as true today as when it was written, and just as relevant and just as necessary to remember as it was then. If we are to grasp the full significance of Genesis 1:16 it must be read in the original Hebrew, in context, and in the light of all that is now known about the vast universe to which our small earth belongs.

In Conclusion. We have spoken of galaxies and nebulae visible in just two or three very small areas of the sky. What lies beyond can only be imagined, even by astronomers sitting at powerful telescopes which continue to probe the night skies from all parts of the world, making discoveries about the surrounding universe of which our planet is just one tiny part. Yet enough has been said in the previous paragraphs to confirm that the universe is vast beyond conception, mysterious and wonderful, and indisputably old. It brings to mind statements which appear frequently in the Bible: “The Lord God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude” (Deuteronomy 10:22, NKJV) and “He who sits above the circle of the earth… stretches out the heavens like a curtain” (Isaiah 40: 22, NKJV) and notably Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV):

“The heavens declare the Glory of God

The skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the world.”

This remarkable poem, written some three thousand years ago (c. 1000 B.C.) seems almost prophetic in some of the concepts it enunciates and the language it uses of a cosmology that would not be known for over two and a half millennia in the future.[19] And it confirms the essential truth of Genesis 1:16, “He also made the stars” yet not, as the text itself in context indicates, at the same time He brought into being the earth as we now know it, making two great lights to rule day and night on the earth as it speeds around the sun in a solar system, itself a tiny speck in a vast and complex universe.

Furthermore He made the earth, locating it in just the right place between the arms of a spiral galaxy, from which earth’s inhabitants could see and study the universe beyond, a position known as the Goldilocks zone — “just right,” not too far from the sun so that it would freeze, not too near so that it would burn, and with clear vision of the surrounding universe.[20] It is easy to understand why earth has been called the “privileged planet,”[21] and why it is incumbent on earth’s inhabitants to understand their own planet, its history, and its place in the vast cosmos to which it belongs.

For centuries, the stars have attracted the attention of poets, philosophers, prophets, and people from all walks of life and every continent on earth. One of them was the renowned French statesman and military genius Napoleon Bonaparte who, contrary to popular belief, was not an atheist, but professed belief in God, and who in the later years of his life frequently read the Bible and held an exalted view of Christ.[22] It is said that at the height of the French Revolution, Napoleon was sailing in the Mediterranean with a group of his officers one starlit night, listening as they discussed the objectives of the revolutionaries in Paris, noting their determination to rid France once and for all from the shackles of religion and all vestiges of belief in God. He heard them discussing the reasons why God did not exist, and how it was necessary to remove the very concept of God from the minds of the populace. While Napoleon sympathized with many of the aims of the Revolution, he did not agree with its disbelief in God or the reasons for it. As the discussion drew to a close Napoleon is reputed to have said, pointing upwards, “But gentlemen, they will leave us the stars.” Apocryphal or not, this statement reflects the thinking of many who through the ages have come to the same conclusion by gazing in wonder at the night sky. It also reflects the unqualified assertion of Genesis 1:16, “He also made the stars.” Tennyson wrote, “I found Him in the shining of the stars.”[23] Untold millions would testify to a similar experience.

When considered in the light of all the available evidence, textual, contextual and cosmic, the declaration at the end of Genesis 1:16 that “God made the stars also” no longer appears as an anomaly, a problem text, but a parenthetical statement of fact, crucially important in its own right for all who would read Genesis 1 in the attempt to grasp the content and intent of the creation record. The Genesis scholar Victor Hamilton, writing in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, came to a similar conclusion. Commenting on the order of the words in the original Hebrew text of Genesis 1:16, he wrote “One may safely describe the creation of the stars as almost an afterthought or a parenthetical addition.”[24] This brief but all-important parenthetical addition to the text of Genesis 1:16 also reminds us that earth’s existence and checkered history can only be fully and accurately understood in relation to the solar system as we know it and to the rest of the vast universe, with all the inescapable implications this entails. Perhaps this was why it was written and included in Genesis 1:16 at a pivotal point in the creation account. It would be a serious error of judgment to ignore the accumulated evidence without careful and objective consideration.

Notes and References:

[1] Gerald Klingbeil, “Making Sense of the Holy,” in Bill Knott, ed., Adventist World, Silver Spring, MD, January, 2020, 11.

[2] Ekkehardt Mueller, “Guidelines for the Interpretation of Scripture,” in George W. Reid, ed., Understanding Scripture, Biblical Research Institute, Silver Spring, MD, 2005, 118.

[3] e g., A.B. Davidson, An Introductory Hebrew Grammar, Edinburgh, T & T. Clarke, 24 th edn. 1943, 4-5.

[4] J. P. Green, Sen., ed. and trans., The Interlinear Bible, n. p., Hendrickson Publishers, 2 nd edn., 1986, 1.

[5] I am grateful to Dr. Steven Thompson for drawing my attention to recent Jewish translations.


Astronomers Have Found the Brightest Supernova Yet

A brilliant explosion spotted in a galaxy far, far away is the brightest supernova ever recorded, astronomers announced today.

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Picked up by a night-sky survey, the explosion happened 3.8 billion light years from Earth. At that distance, the blast was 22,700 times dimmer than the faintest objects a human can see with the naked eye. But the far-flung supernova was so powerful that astronomers calculate if it had happened at the distance of the famed "dog star" Sirius, just 8 light-years away, it would have been as bright as the sun.

The All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASASSN), a network of telescopes divided between Chile and Hawaii, picked up the unusual object in a small galaxy on June 15. The observing team dubbed the supernova ASASSN-15lh.

The blast very likely belongs to a recently discovered class of objects known as superluminous supernovae, says study leader Subo Dong, an astronomer at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University in Beijing. But what triggered the extraordinary event is a mystery.

Astronomers group supernovae into different types based on their trigger mechanisms. A type Ia supernova occurs when a zombie star known as a white dwarf eats too much. White dwarfs are the small, dense cores left behind when a star about the mass of the sun dies. If the white dwarf has a companion star, sometimes it will draw away that star's matter, slowly increasing its own mass. Eventually the hungry white dwarf hits a physical limit and collapses, triggering an explosion.

By contrast, very massive stars—at least eight to ten times the mass of the sun—end their lives alone as type II supernovae. When these stars run out of hydrogen fuel in their cores, they begin fusing atoms into progressively heavier elements until the core is mostly iron. At this point the star collapses under its own weight, generating a huge explosion and turning the core into an extremely dense neutron star.

ASASSN-15lh was so powerful that the authors suspect the original star must have been very massive. But the chemical signatures they see in its light suggest it is suspiciously low on hydrogen, says study co-author Todd Thompson, an astronomy professor at Ohio State University.

"It's weird for massive stars not to have hydrogen," he says, but it's not impossible. "Some stars eject all their hydrogen in explosive events before they die, others lose hydrogen to binary companions." While there are some superluminous supernovae like this one that are hydrogen poor, he says, their workings are poorly understood in general.

The authors note that it's possible ASASSN-15lh got a luminosity boost from the radioactive isotope nickel-56. In a type Ia supernova, nickel forms when the gas from the companion star initiates the white dwarf's explosive end. The radioactive decay of nickel into iron and cobalt then generates light that drops off at a certain rate. But to get the kind of energy seen in ASASSN-15lh, the explosion would have needed an unlikely amount of nickel—around 30 times the mass of the sun. On top of that, the luminosity doesn't seem to be dropping off fast enough.

Enhanced-color images show the host galaxy before the explosion of ASASSN-15lh, taken by the Dark Energy Camera (left) and the supernova as seen by the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. (The Dark Energy Survey, B. Shappee and the ASASSN team)

Another possibility is that the core of the supernova became a magnetar. These objects are neutron stars with very strong magnetic fields, and that could have pumped up the blast's power. But even a magnetar can't fully explain ASASSN-15lh—the blast would have required a rapidly spinning core with an extremely powerful magnetic field, and that's unlike any magnetar ever seen. It also would have needed to convert energy from the collapse into light more efficiently than any supernova has before.

Nailing down the mechanism behind ASASSN-15lh could help astronomers better understand superluminous supernovae, which are expected to be even more numerous in the very early universe. Greg Aldering, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, notes that current and future all-sky surveys should spot more of them, because these comprehensive scans of the cosmos can catch objects that aren't located near known galaxies.

Subo adds that if we can understand them better, superluminous supernovae in the early universe could serve as standard candles—objects of reliable brightness that can be used to measure cosmic distances. Future observations of other superbright star explosions could also help probe distant, very faint galaxies, because the supernovae act like giant flashbulbs, briefly illuminating the surrounding area.

Aldering says more data needs to come in from this supernova, and more of its kind need to be observed. It might be that this one is an outlier that had some additional factor pumping it up.

Robert Quimby, an associate professor at San Diego State University, says that even though the magnetar model might have problems, "the discovery of this supernova prompted a re-evaluation of the limits of magnetar-powered supernovae." But it's also possible this supernova might be a completely new type of object, he says: "Here we have a case where the number of viable models might be zero. That is very exciting."

Aldering agrees: "Nature, given enough stars out there, makes them explode in all kinds of incredible ways. Whatever one ends up being the real mechanism will probably be extremely weird."


How Far is the Moon from the Sun?

Since the Moon and Earth travel together throughout space, they are on average at around 150 million km / 93 million miles away from the Sun. In astronomic terms, the Moon is 1 AU (astronomical unit) away from the Sun.

In light-years, the Moon is 8.20 light minutes away, or 500 light-seconds away from the Sun. At the farthest point in its orbit, the Moon is around 152 million km / 94.5 million mi, a little over 1 AU away from the Sun. At its closest point to the Sun, the Moon is 147.5 million km / 91.3 million mi away from the Sun, a little less than 1 AU.


NASA's Voyager 1 Probe Detects 'Gentle Rain' of Plasma Activity in Interstellar Space

Voyager 1&mdashthe first man-made object to enter interstellar space&mdashcontinues to detect plasma waves in deep space despite being far, far away from our sun.

Scientists think that interstellar space, which is the unimaginably vast near-vacuum in between stars, is filled with interstellar plasma.

James Cordes, George Feldstein professor of astronomy at Cornell University, said in a statement that interstellar space is "like a quiet or gentle rain," and that the activity of our sun&mdasha solar flare, for example&mdashis like a lighting burst of plasma activity.

Meanwhile Stella Koch Ocker, a doctoral student in astronomy at Cornell, added there could be more low-level interstellar plasma activity than previously thought.

Ocker said: "We're detecting the faint, persistent hum of interstellar gas."

Voyager 1 was launched in September 1977 just a month after its sister probe, Voyager 2. Despite setting off slightly later, Voyager 1 is now further away from us than Voyager 2 as it is traveling at a speed of 38,000 mph compared to Voyager 2's 34,400 mph.

Both probes are now more than 10 billion miles away from us. Signals from Voyager 1 take around 21 hours to reach the Earth, despite traveling at the speed of light.

Voyagers 1 and 2 are both considered to be in interstellar space as they are outside of the sun's heliosphere&mdasha region of space that is filled with the sun's magnetic field and solar wind.

The heliosphere extends far past the orbits of the planets until it reaches the heliopause&mdashthe boundary between itself and interstellar space. The distance from the sun to the heliopause is thought to be around 11 billion miles.

Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in 2012 and Voyager 2 followed in 2018. As they crossed through this boundary, both probes observed an increase in galactic cosmic rays and a decrease in solar wind.

Ed Stone, a Voyager project scientist, said that most of the interstellar material outside of the heliosphere comes from exploded stars.

Voyager 1's detection of interstellar gas so far away from the Earth has been published in the journal Nature by Ocker and colleagues.

The study states that the exact mechanism behind the plasma detection could be clarified by further study using Voyager, or even with a future mission to interstellar space.

Shami Chatterjee, a Cornell research scientist, said: "Regardless of what the sun is doing, Voyager is sending back detail. The craft is saying, 'Here's the density I'm swimming through right now. And here it is now. And here it is now. And here it is now.' Voyager is quite distant and will be doing this continuously."

Voyager 1 contains the famed Golden Record&mdasha circular plaque attached to the probe that contains coded messages about Earth's location in space, human culture, and some of what we know about the fundamental nature of the universe, just in case aliens find it.


Jupiter is a great big ball of gas and dust, and thus, it doesn’t even have a true surface. If you were to somehow teleport yourself to Jupiter to stand on it, you would instantly fall to your death.

However, you wouldn’t die because of the fall, but rather, the lack of oxygen, the temperatures from the clouds, or the fast winds speeds that might tear you to shreds.

With all of this being considered, why are so many spacecraft sent towards Jupiter? Jupiter is not necessarily the target for many of the spacecraft sent there.

In fact, Jupiter’s moons are far more likely to be visited, then Jupiter itself. This is because they might have the necessary conditions to sustain life.

Take, for example, the moon known as Europa. Europa has captured our interest since it has water. This moon produces ten times more oxygen than hydrogen, making it quite similar to Earth itself.

In fact, Europa may as well have more water under its surface than all the water we have on Earth. Many missions towards Jupiter are actually planned for its moons due to these features.

Some believe that Ganymede may as well have water underneath its surface, but it remains to be seen. Many believe that life already exists on the moon Europa, and scientists want to check it for such signs thoroughly.

Now Jupiter may not help us much due to its inhospitable nature, but its moons might as well provide us with some form of relief, especially since they have water, except for Io, Io is even more hostile.


Just How Fast Is the Parker Solar Probe? Astonishingly Fast

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The Parker Solar Probe just earned the title of the fastest-moving manmade object. Launched by NASA this past August, this robotic spacecraft is currently very, very near the Sun, on its way to probe the outer corona of our local star.

OK, I know you have questions. Let me just jump right into it.

According to NASA, its current speed is 153,545 mph (or 68.6 kilometers per second). But really, that just means super fast. It's nearly impossible to imagine something that fast when the fastest man-made stuff on Earth is perhaps a rail gun projectile at about 2.52 km/s. That means the Parker Solar Probe is traveling at a speed that is 27 times faster that the fastest thing we've got down here. Zoom fast.

Of course, light is even faster. Light has a speed of about 3 x 10 8 m/s (300,000 km/s). But why does that matter? You can't get an object up to (or greater than) the speed of light. Why? Let's start with an example. Suppose I have a force of 1 Newton and I push on an object at rest with a mass of 1 kg for 1 second (I'm using easy numbers). The momentum principle says that the momentum is the product of mass and velocity. Also, the force applied to an object tells us the rate of change of momentum. This means a 1 Newton force for 1 second gives a CHANGE in momentum of 1 kg*m/s (the change part is important).

This mostly works for super high speeds. The momentum principle still works as long as you use a better definition of momentum. It should look like this (in one dimension).

In this expression, the p is momentum (don't ask why) and the c represents the speed of light. Notice that as the velocity gets closer to the speed of light, you get a much smaller increase in speed for the same force. In fact, if the velocity was equal to the speed of light you would be dividing by zero—which is generally a bad thing.

Just to be clear, there aren't two models for momentum. You can always use the more complicated version of momentum. Try this: Calculate the momentum of a baseball with a mass of 0.142 kg and a speed of 35 m/s. First do this with the simple formula of mass times velocity and you get 497 kg*m/s. Now try it with the more complicated formula. Guess what? You get the same thing. I recommend using the simple formula whenever possible.

Just how fast is the Parker Solar Probe going compared to the speed of light? If you divide the probe's speed by the speed of light you get 0.00023. Actually, we can write this as 0.00023c (where c is the speed of light). It's fast, but it's not light-speed fast.

You will probably see something about the speed of the Parker Solar Probe labeled as the heliocentric velocity. What's the deal with that?

On Earth, this is rarely an issue. If you are driving your car at 55 mph, everyone understands that we are measuring this velocity with respect to the stationary ground. In fact, velocities only really make sense when measured relative to some reference frame. On the Earth, the obvious reference frame is the ground.

What if you didn't want to use the Earth's surface as a reference frame? Imagine a police officer pulling you over in your car and saying "oh hello, I clocked you at 67,055 mph." That could indeed be true since the Earth isn't stationary. In order to orbit the Sun, it has to travel with a speed of 67,000 mph to make it all the way around the Sun in one year. Yes, that's fast (with respect to the Sun).

If you wanted to measure the speed of the Parker Solar Probe with respect to the Earth, you would have a tough time because you wouldn't just have one value. As the probe moves closer to the Sun, the probe and the Earth can be moving in different directions. So even though the speed relative to the Sun could stay constant, its speed relative to the Earth would change since the Earth is turning in its orbit around the Sun.

If you really want to get crazy, you could use some other reference frame—like the galactic center. But let's not get crazy.

The probe will go even faster than it is already traveling. NASA projects a slightly faster speed as it gets closer to the Sun in 2024. But why does it get faster when it is closer to the Sun?

There are two key ideas here. The first is the gravitational force. This is an attractive force between the Sun and the probe. The magnitude of this force increases as the distance between them decreases. Oh, don't worry—you can't notice an increase in gravitational force as you move closer to the ground. Even if you moved a vertical distance of 1000 meters, this is insignificant compared to the size of the Earth with a radius of 6.37 million meters.

The other part of the problem is circular motion. Imagine the space probe traveling in a circular orbit (which isn't actually true). In order for an object to move in a circle, there needs to be a force pulling it towards the center of the circle. The magnitude of this sideways force is proportional to the square of the object's velocity, but inversely proportional to the radius of the circle. Putting the gravitational force and the required circular force together, I get the following expression for the orbital velocity.


Cosmic Microwave Background

And baryon acoustic oscillations

The Cosmic Microwave Background is a whisper of radiation that reaches detectors on Earth from all over the sky. When the CMB was set loose, only 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was very hot and dense and the CMB took the form of light similar to that produced by a light bulb. Now, more than 13 billion years later, the universe has expanded and cooled so much that the CMB has mostly been reduced to a gentle wash of microwaves, not unlike those that power your microwave oven.

The CMB is almost, but not exactly, the same whichever direction we look. Pictures constructed from satellite data show very subtle variations in the strength of the microwave signal. These hot spots and cold spots, which differ in temperature by only millionths of a degree, can be interpreted as very slight differences in the crowding together of matter in the young universe. Hot spots have slightly more matter than average cold spots a bit less.

The subtle ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ spots in the Cosmic Microwave Background correspond to today’s galaxies. Image source: NASA / WMAP Science Team.

These temperature differences seem to have a certain regularity, with peaks and troughs recurring in a detectable rhythm. The popular explanation for these fluctuations is that they come from a sort of sound wave that echoed around the early universe. Back then, matter had not yet formed into atoms. Instead we had a plasma of protons, neutrons and related particles, collectively called baryons. The sound waves left their imprint in the distribution of this early matter. So we can talk about ‘acoustic baryon waves’ or more informally ‘baryonic wiggles’.

By examining the imprint of these wiggles, astronomers can build a template for how the modern universe was formed, with the hot spots becoming the seeds of super-clusters of galaxies and the cold spots giving rise to relative voids. The distribution of galaxies today can be compared with patterns in the CMB, and the difference between the two patterns should depend how dark energy has affected the expansion of the universe.


Visual Proof of the Close Flat Earth Sun NASA is LYING.

We’ve been told all our lives that the sun is 92.96 million miles away with a circumference of 2,713,406 miles. We are told millions of earth’s could fit inside the sun, and that our sun is just a close star that we orbit around. But if you look closely and observe the Sun’s light and rays, you will see that our reality is much different than what we’ve been told. We have been indoctrinated into a massive lie. All you have to do is look and see the truth with your eyes.

DOES WHAT WE’VE BEEN TAUGHT MATCH WHAT WE SEE?

Here is visual proof of the close, small flat earth sun. Maybe the sun looks close because it IS CLOSE. See the truth with your eyes and stop believing NASA’s Satanic lies!

Proof of the flat earth sun:

1. Crepuscular rays shoot out from clouds at angles and converge somewhere above the clouds. Clearly the sun is NOT 93 million miles away. If it was, the rays would all be coming in at 90 degree angles. The only way the sun’s rays could create crepuscular rays is if it was close and small.

2. In these pictures you can see sun’s hot spot directly underneath the sun on the clouds and water. How is it possible for a sun 93 million miles away to create a single spot of light directly underneath it? ITS NOT! You can experiment with this using a flashlight. The farther away the flashlight is from the floor, the more widely distributed the light is. The closer it is the more you can see the condensed circle of bright light. The sun is clearly right above the clouds here:


Here you can see the sun’s light concentrated directly above the clouds. The clouds right underneath the sun have dissipated from the heat. If the sun was 93 million miles away the light and heat would be evenly distributed. The sun is close.


This is incredible footage from a ballon camera. The sun is right there.

3. In time lapse video of the sun you can see the sun getting smaller as it goes farther away and larger as it comes close. If it was truly 93 million miles away, you would not see a change in size in such a small parallax of distance.

4. You can see that the sun’s light on the horizon is illuminating locally and not widely distributed. This is only possible if the light source is close. You can see here that the sun’s light is illuminating the horizon almost the same as a bright city on the horizon. If the sun was 93 million miles away, the light would fill the entire horizon evenly. But this is not the case. The sun is clearly close and small.