On Friday night my wife and I enjoyed a planetarium show that really sparked the imagination. The only thing that bugged us was the laser light show that was interspersed throughout; it was a funky bit of entertainment, uninteresting, and failed to add depth to the real presentation. It was the beauty and mystery of the universe that really captured our attention.
The show examined black holes, binary stars, exoplanets, our solar system, the moon’s recession from the earth, eclipses, and plenty of other awe-inspiring wonders around the known universe.
The topic on exoplanets was fascinating. I’ve read-up on different ways scientists can discover planets orbiting distant stars, but it was helpful to see a visual to get a better grasp. One of the ways scientists do this is by using sensitive equipment that detect the dimming of a star over time. The equipment is so sensitive it can actually tell when a celestial object orbits a star and passes along a particular course by measuring a dip in brightness, and then measuring it again when that object orbits the opposite side of the star. Once scientists have graphed and plotted the orbit, they can predict when that object will make it’s next pass along that path. This data is then examined to determine if the object is indeed a planet, or something else.
Using this technique, the professors and students at the university have published papers on their discoveries, and they’re expecting to have at least three more papers published this year before making them public.
Discovering binary stars can be done similarly to planets. It turns out that the Constellation Perseus contains a binary star system (two stars orbiting a common gravitational center) that represents the eye in Medusa, the Gorgon. The star system is named Algol, and for years the ancient world noticed that it varied in brightness, so it was this spooky observation that led to it becoming Medusa’s eye. We now know that the dimming action is the result of a dimmer star passing in front of a brighter star during its orbit.
At one point the professor brought up one of my favorite astronomy topics- moon recession. Most people aren’t familiar with the fact that the moon is actually receding from the earth, meaning that it’s getting further away over time (approximately 1.5 inches per year). As an illustration the professor had a member of the audience hold one end of a rope and walk about eighteen feet away, and he explained that the moon had receded this distance over the last 150 years. Now that may not seem like a lot, but if we’re talking about evolutionary time frames and billions of years, then we stumble upon a big problem.
One member of the audience asked if the moon would eventually drift away sometime in the far distant future, and the professor explained that the sun would eventually expand to such a great size that it would basically eat up the moon (and earth) before it could escape.
The concept of the moon recession is actually very good evidence for a young earth creation. We know that tidal forces cause the moon to recede at a rate of about 1.5 inches per year (it would have been greater in the distant past), so we can use this data to determine how much closer the moon should have been long ago. Keep in mind that the moon and earth are considered by evolutionists to be about 4.5 billion years old. If we go back in time, say 6,000 years, the moon would have been about 800 feet closer to the earth, which isn’t all that remarkable. But if we go back 1.5 billion years, at this rate the moon would have been touching the earth!
Obviously the moon and earth could never have been that close to each other. The closest the moon could have been would be about 11,500 miles due to gravitational forces; this is known as the Roche Limit. Since this could never be the case, we know that neither the earth nor the moon could be billions of years old. The evidence, therefore, demonstrates that the earth and moon are quite young.
I asked the professor about this, and he agreed the moon would have been much closer to the earth one or two billion years ago, but he reasoned that the moon would have still been forming then. But he admitted he didn’t have a very good explanation as to how this could logically be so, and he left it at that, and I didn’t press him.
Overall it was a worthwhile event, and I plan to return for future events.