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Light Travel-Time Problems

Reason 7: Supernova 1987a

on June 1, 2007
Stars explode in brilliant fireworks displays called supernova about once per hundred years per galaxy. The last supernova to have been observed in our galaxy was observed by Johannes Kepler about 400 years ago.

Appealing to a Christian like us (Kepler) for your data? At any rate, does this show that our galaxy doesn’t necessarily hold to about 1 supernova every 100 years then. See what happens when one makes uniformitarian assumptions?

By observing many different galaxies in the universe on a given night, however, we can actually observe many stars exploding throughout the universe on even a single night. We were lucky on February 23, 1987 to have observed a star exploding on the edge of our galaxy, about 150,000 light years away from us.

We don’t have a problem with the distances. But for the readers, light years are measures of distance, not time.

How do we know it is that far? First, the distance to the star had been determined by measuring how bright it was before the star exploded. But even more remarkably, the laws of physics that govern how stars like the star that observed to explode in 1987 actually explode is generally understood, and we can predict how much energy is released, not just in light, but in the particles called neutrinos that are emitted in nuclear reactions. It is amazing that we were actually able to measure the neutrinos coming to us from this distant star, and from this we were able to independently confirm that the star was 150,000 light years away. Therefore, the star exploded 150,000 years ago, telling us that our galaxy, at least, is older than 150,000 years old.

Let’s think through some of the many hidden assumptions in this line of reasoning:

First, you have assumed that light has always traveled at the same speed. (Most creationists think this is probably a reasonable assumption—but it is an assumption, not an observable fact.)

Second, you have assumed that the effects of gravitational time dilation are insignificant. According to Einstein’s theories, time can flow at different rates under different circumstances. Under the right conditions, light from the most distant galaxies could have arrived at earth in very short amounts of time. Yet, you seem to have totally ignored this important principle of physics.

Third, you have assumed (without justification) a particular synchrony convention. The terrestrial equivalent of this fallacy would be assuming that noon in London, England is the same as noon in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, you have assumed that the light arrived entirely by natural means. Such reasoning is no different than those who reject the resurrection of Christ because it cannot be explained by natural forces. However, God created the stars supernaturally during Creation Week (Genesis 1:14–19) and made them to give light upon earth. Since this happened during Creation Week, God may have used different means to get distant starlight here than the “natural” means by which He upholds the universe today.

We again point out that the big bang (the most popular secular alternative to biblical creation) has a light travel-time problem of its own. There are a number of cosmological theories that effectively answer this alleged light travel time problem. I suggest “Dr. Russ Humphreys' A Young-Earth Relativistic Cosmology” and “Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?


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