Distant Starlight

by Morris Yoder | Nov 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Leo Triplet of galaxies
Leo Triplet. Photo © Morris Yoder.

As always when we learn more about God’s wonderful creation, we face mysteries that are hard to explain. It reminds us that the larger the sea of knowledge, the greater the boundaries of the unknown. These anomalies are not a surprise, as the entire creation process was a miracle far beyond our ability to conceive and fathom. If God, by simply speaking, can create from nothing, then any dilemma we face in trying to understand how the universe operates is just a trivial issue to Him.

According to the Bible, God made a mature creation. Consequently, there was a practical appearance of age everywhere—in man, animals, the Garden of Eden, and the stars. So, we should expect to see this appearance of age when we look back in time through telescopes, even if we could look all the way back to Creation.

How does light travel across millions of light-years of space and still reach the Earth in the short time since Creation? It is absolutely no problem for God to get light to the Earth quickly. He can work miracles and, in so doing, bring light to the Earth in ways that we could never understand. However, astronomers have also found ways that God could have brought light to the Earth through purely natural processes, without bending the laws of physics and thus invoking a miracle. There are a number of scientific papers detailing these concepts.

Some feel that God may have placed light in transit between us and the stars on the day of their creation. However, that would involve God placing the appearance of events, like supernova explosions, in the sky that would never have actually happened.

Other possibilities that have been explored could account for things like supernovas. Some theorize that the speed of light has slowed down over time. Also, creationists such as Dr. Russell Humphreys and Dr. John Hartnett have explored answers involving gravitational time dilation, which means that the flow of time itself is altered in certain areas of the universe as a result of distribution of mass and the expansion of it. A clock near a large mass or a clock in orbit will measure time more slowly.

We measure time by the relationship the Earth has with the Sun—one rotation is a day; one orbit is a year. Time dilation is a difference in the flow rate of time as measured by two clocks in differing circumstances. We observe this to be happening around us in a small way even today. For example, GPS satellites are farther away from Earth’s mass and are moving faster than we are. These two issues cause time to move at a different rate for them. Engineers have built in a compensation for that time dilation effect so the GPS system can accurately pinpoint locations through precisely timed signal transmissions. If the compensation for different time rates were stopped, positioning error would build up in our GPS receivers at the rate of about 1,300 feet per hour. The system would quickly become useless if not adjusted for the different time flow rate.

A key ingredient that makes gravitational time dilation an option for bringing starlight to the Earth quickly is the expansion of the universe. This expansion is not just an assumption; it’s something that we can see happening in the cosmos today. Interestingly enough, the Bible tells us in at least ten places that the heavens are being, or have been, spread out.

Dr. John Hartnett has proposed a solution that involves time dilation resulting from the enormous accelerated stretching of the “fabric of space” (spacetime). Dr Russell Humphreys has proposed an answer based on time at the outer edge of the universe running much faster than earth-time because of gravitational time dilation resulting from expansion and tension of spacetime. In both of these time dilation models, the entire universe was created just 6,000 years ago. But, since that time of creation, more time has elapsed for the outer universe than for the Earth, allowing long term processes to take place and distant starlight to reach Earth.

The Anisotropy Synchrony Convention explores possibilities in the weakness of our understanding of the speed of light. We can only measure the round-trip speed of light. This has perplexed scientists. Some people, like Dr. Jason Lisle, propose that light travel could be instantaneous toward us and half the normally accepted speed in the other direction. That would give us the average round trip speed of 186,000 miles per second which we measure today. There is no way we could know that this is the case though.

Many secular scientists would like to insinuate that the seeming starlight problem from the creationists’ viewpoint must mean extra evidence for the Big Bang theory. Not so, however, because the Big Bang struggles with basically the same issue. The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) permeates the universe all around us. Even the Big Bang with its billions of years does not allow for enough time to correspond with the even distribution of light and heat in the CMB that we see today.

What we know, though, is that God is omnipotent, and thus is not limited. So, neither should we through human reasoning, limit Him to our comprehension of things when our weak minds are perplexed with something we don’t understand.

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