Signs in the Skies?

Astronomy 2017 Year in Review

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This past year (2017) had its fair share of astronomy and astrophysics-related news stories and phenomena. Everything from a new model of how the moon was formed, to predictions of alien contact within the next 10 years, to detection of gravitational waves, to interstellar asteroids, to a spectacular total solar eclipse visible in areas of the United States from coast to coast. Let’s take a look at some of these news stories from the cosmic-evolutionary view and see how some have been paradigm changers. Then we’ll look at things from the biblical perspective.

Habitually Wrong

On February 22, 2017, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of seven earth-sized planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1.1 Astronomers claimed that three of those exoplanets were in the habitable zone (defined as a zone where liquid water could occur—and consequently potentially harbor life). But the reality has proven far different as those planets all had serious drawbacks to having liquid water and being hospitable to life. You can read more about these “habitable problems” in our article here.

In March a new hypothesis for the formation of our moon was presented.2 Rather than the current secular “glancing collision” model, a team of Israeli researchers proposed that the earth had several moons in the past, all formed by collisions with the earth, which then were ejected and maybe collided with each other, forming larger moons, until the present moon reached its current size. Astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner examined the implausibility of this hypothesis in “A New Theory for the Moon’s Origin.”

The more we learn about exoplanets, it is clear that earth is unique, that it was designed for life by God . . . and that life exists nowhere else.

In April another potentially habitable planet was announced—LHS 1140b.3 But its claim of being habitable seems to rest on rather loose interpretations. In his blog post “The Latest “Earth-Like Planet”: LHS 1140 b,” Dr. Faulkner discussed the numerous problems which point to this planet being hostile to life. The more we learn about exoplanets, it is clear that earth is unique, that it was designed for life by God (Isaiah 45:18), and that life exists nowhere else.

In June we found out that Chris Impey, deputy head of astronomy at the University of Arizona, believes we will find extraterrestrial microbial life within 10 years.4 A NASA scientist was a little more cautious in November and estimated we will find it within 20 years.5 Ironically, in the previous year we were told that the reason we couldn’t find alien life is that climate change on exoplanets has killed any life that may have existed.

August was an exciting month, as the total solar eclipse traversed the United States from west to east on August 21. AiG astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner gave some eclipse-viewing tips on August 4 and also blogged on supposed end-of-the-world prophecies (false ones, as it turned out) surrounding the eclipse. Then in a post-eclipse blog on August 29, Danny posted some stunning pictures of and thoughts on the eclipse . (For those of you who have ever heard the term “kid in a candy store” and wondered what your mental picture should be, you should look at the last picture in this blog.)

Doomsayer Declarations or “Are You Ready?”

But August wasn’t all fun and games, and the August 25 article about (then) upcoming predictions concerning September 23 turned out to be one of the most-read articles on our website this year. Misapplications of the Revelation 12:1–6 prophecy of signs in the heavens seemed to be swirling all year and reached a fever pitch right after the August 21 eclipse. This article examined the forced and false applications of doomsayers and rebutted them. Reading into Scripture is never a wise practice, and making predictions about the Lord’s return is folly, especially when Jesus himself tells us that no one can know the day (Matthew 24:36).

The unfortunate outcome of all this misapplication of prophetic Scripture is to numb people to the reality of Christ’s return.

In early September, Dr. Faulkner again had to tackle the September 23 mania with a blog about increased sunspot activity. Then he had to tackle the mistaken notion of the number of stars in the constellation Leo, also in response to this situation. And just as in March when Danny addressed it, Nibiru reared its ugly hydra head again (actually it seems to have many more heads and lives than Hydra ever did). Finally in October, Danny mused on the fallout of the September 23 false prophecies (and a few that were readjusted to October 21, due to their not coming to pass in September) and was finally able to put this one to bed. The unfortunate outcome of all this misapplication of prophetic Scripture is to numb people to the reality of Christ’s return. Failed prophetic utterances tend to make people scoffers. But, as Dr. Faulkner asked repeatedly though all of this, instead of seeking a sign, “are you ready”?

Golden Opportunity

Later in October some big news was released. Gravitational waves were detected at two locations (Italy and the United States) and were detected at several wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.6 The eye-catching teasers for most of the news stories focused on a statement in the above article which said “as the stars’ outer layers launched into space, the force formed a vast cloud of subatomic particles that would cool into many Earths’ worth of gold, platinum and uranium.” But before you could say “Eureka, there’s gold in them there stars,” Dr. Faulkner burst that speculation with this article. Also in late October, NASA issued a press release that the first interstellar asteroid had been spotted entering and then leaving our solar system.7 We covered that item in the article “1I/‘Oumuamua: The Discovery of the First Interstellar Asteroid” and concurred that Oumuamua (as it was subsequently named) likely was an interstellar asteroid.

Throughout the year we also covered the resurgence of the flat earth movement. Several articles and blogs looked at biblical and observational arguments against a flat earth. In November, Dr. Danny Faulkner attended the first Flat Earth International Conference in Cary, North Carolina, and recounted that experience in his blog “What I Learned at the First Flat Earth International Conference.”

It was indeed a very interesting year in astronomy. And as we look forward to events in 2018 and gaze up and admire the beauty of the heavens which God created (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 1:10) and which testify to the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), let us keep in mind that as Christians we can look forward to even greater things!

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17, NKJV)
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13, NKJV)

Footnotes

  1. Ashley Strickland, “Astronomers Discover 7 Earth-Sized Planets Orbiting Nearby Star,” CNN, February 22, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/22/world/new-exoplanets-discovery-nasa/index.html.
  2. American Technion Society, “How Earth’s Previous Moons Collided to Form the Moon: New Theory,” Science Daily, January 9, 2017, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170109125125.htm.
  3. Jason A. Dittmann et al., “A Temperate Rocky Super-Earth Transiting a Nearby Cool Star,” Nature 544 (April 20, 2017): 333–336, doi:10.1038/nature22055.
  4. Rob Waugh, “‘We Will Find Aliens Within Ten Years,’ Scientist Claims,” Metro, June 12, 2017, http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/12/we-will-find-aliens-within-ten-years-scientist-claims-6703384/.
  5. Margi Murphy, “NASA Scientist Expects to Find Aliens Within 20 Years,” New York Post, November 17, 2017, https://nypost.com/2017/11/17/nasa-scientist-expects-to-find-aliens-within-20-years/.
  6. Eric Betz, “Dawn of an Era: Astronomers Hear and See Cosmic Collision,” Astronomy, October 16, 2017, http://www.astronomy.com/news/2017/10/astronomers-hear-and-see-cosmic-collision.
  7. “Small Asteroid or Comet ‘Visits’ from Beyond the Solar System,” NASA, October 26, 2017, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/small-asteroid-or-comet-visits-from-beyond-the-solar-system.

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