Thursday, July 11, 2013

ALMA observes the birth of a massive star!

Image Manchester University

Another Space Theology bookmark Manchester University
Scientists have observed in unprecedented detail the birth of a massive star within a dark cloud core about 10,000 light years from Earth.

The team used the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile -- the most powerful radio telescope in the world -- to view the stellar womb which, at 500 times the mass of the Sun and many times more luminous, is the largest ever seen in our galaxy.

"The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud," said lead author Dr Nicolas Peretto, from Cardiff University. "We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim. One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant -- the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way!

Co-author Professor Gary Fuller, from The University of Manchester, said: "Not only are these stars rare, but their births are extremely rapid and childhood short, so finding such a massive object so early in its evolution in our Galaxy is a spectacular result. “Our observations reveal in superb detail the filamentary network of dust and gas flowing into the central compact region of the cloud and strongly support the theory of global collapse for the formation of massive stars.”
Read the entire article from Manchester University
See also my blog on ALMA

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vatican Observatory

Pope Benedict XVI visiting the observatory
Image Vatican Observatory
The Vatican Observatory located behind St. Peter's Basilica in Rome has both a respectable history and a dignified location. Quoted from the web site:
In its historical roots and traditions the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world. For the first foreshadowing of the Observatory can be traced to the constitution by Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) of a committee to study the scientific data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar which occurred in 1582. The committee included Father Christoph Clavius (1538-1612), a Jesuit mathematician from the Roman College, who expounded and explained the reform.

From that time and with some degree of continuity the Papacy has manifested an interest in and support for astronomical research. In fact, three early observatories were founded by the Papacy:
  • the Observatory of the Roman College (1774-1878),
  • the Observatory of the Capitol (1827-1870), and
  • the Specula Vaticana (1789-1821) in the Tower of the Winds within the Vatican.
These early traditions of the Observatory reached their climax in the mid-nineteenth century with the researches at the Roman College of the famous Jesuit, Father Angelo Secchi (1818-1878), the first to classify stars according to their spectra.

With these rich traditions as a basis and in order to counteract the longstanding accusations of a hostility of the Church towards science, Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) in 1891 formally refounded the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) and located it on a hillside behind the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
Vatican Observatory History
quoted text is formatted and slightly modified by me

Vatican Observatory

Questions, please!
The site has a very nicely written section for the curious - and not always so friendly - general public around the world, starting, how else, with the Galileo affair.

Here are the questions, visit the FAQ page to read the answers:
  • The Galileo Affair
  • For FAQs about Galileo, please visit our history of astronomy page.
  • Why is the Vatican interested in astronomy?
  • What is the mission statement for the Vatican Observatory, at least in part?
  • Is the Church looking for something in space, for example, a sign from above, for lack of a better way to put it?
  • It seems to have been the Jesuit Priests who have been most involved with the sciences for the Church. Is this a valid statement?
  • Do you report your findings directly to the Holy See? What is the pope's involvement in the Vatican Observatory?
  • Is one of the roles that the Vatican Observatory plays in astronomy that of verifying what other astronomers are telling the public in order to make sure what they are reporting to the public is actually true?
  • Does the pope have a personal interest in astronomy?
  • How did you personally become interested in astronomy, and what led you to become a Jesuit astronomer?
  • What is the Vatican Observatory's position on the use of Mount Graham, a precious mountain resource, for an astronomical observatory?
visit the FAQ page to read the answers!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The 'Waters Above' in John Hartnett's Cosmological Model

A case study of what Astrotheology is not

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Genesis 1:1-8 KJV

Hartnett's model guided by Genesis
University of Western Australia physicist and cosmologist, professor John Hartnett (1952-) actively develops cosmological model that fits to the seven days of creation in the beginning of the Bible. Within this model he gives an interpretation of the curious "waters above" and "waters below" that God separates on the second day of creation.
His interpretation of the waters was published in Creation Ministries International context first as an article The ‘waters above’, Journal of Creation 20(1):93–98, April 2006 and included in his book John Hartnett, Starlight, Time and the New Physics. Creation Book Publishers, 2007.

Hartnett's interpretation of the waters of creation simplified from Hartnett 2007, 93-94:
  • Earth was made first and the entire Universe on the Fourth Day of creation
  • Earth was made out of water
  • Waters were divided to those upon Earth and those orbiting beyond Neptune where they protect the future living inhabitants of Earth 
Here is the abstract of Hartnett's 2006 article
The disks of gas, dust and debris recently observed with modern infrared and millimetre wave instruments in nearby star systems are considered to act as locators to large colliding bodies. These observations are problematic for the evolutionary nebula theory of the formation of planetary systems, but can be easily interpreted from a creationist worldview. I propose that these cratering bodies are analogues for the ‘waters above’, which in part were used by God during the Curse and the Flood. In this view, the ‘waters above’ would represent all the bodies, large and small, that lay beyond Neptune in our solar system, including all the cometary material, mostly made of water ice. The total amount today only equals about 0.43 M⊕ (Earth masses), but before the Curse it may have been as much as 100 times more. Some of these large colliders left their mark on the earth’s surface as impact craters, as seen today from space. Some may even have triggered the Flood. Spectroscopic analysis of the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Quaoar reveals that its surface comprises crystalline water ice and ammonia hydrate (NH3.H2O). Both of these should have been destroyed by energetic particle irradiation over timescales of 107 years, so their existence is evidence for a young solar system andagainst a 5-billion-year timescale. In addition, Quaoar’s spectrum, in the 1 to 2.5 μm band, is very similar to that of Charon, the moon of Pluto, which has long been suspected of being a captured KBO. Evidence is thus mounting that these objects may be the remains of a watery halo as in the ‘waters above’.
J.G. Hartnett 2006

Genesis and Science mixed
Hartnett represents a highly educated modern physicist whose scientific contribution to cosmology and astrophysics is internationally recognized. His creationist writings are famous among Christian creationists around the world and provide for many the ultimate proof that God indeed has created the Universe and that science is in harmony with Genesis.

Unfortunately, neither the cosmological explanation of the 'waters above' created after Earth and before the Universe nor the interpretation of what the writer(s) of Genesis 1 wrote is true.

The two persons, divine and human, are neither mixed nor changed in the Son of God. It is also impossible to divide or separate the two natures in Jesus, Son of Mary.

With this Chalcedonian hermeneutics we can also humbly approach the study of the Cosmos as believers in the Word of God.

  • Let us not mix Genesis and Science together.
  • Let us not change the true nature of Genesis or of Science.
  • As Christian believers we accept the claim that Genesis is both divine and human 
  • As Christian believers we accept that we cannot define (divide, separate) what in Genesis is divine and what human.

Astrotheology in practice
This criticism is an invitation from a Theologian to an eminent Cosmologist to repent!

Following the paradoxical model expressed in Chalcedonian Ecumenical Creed there is a path forward that allows professor Hartnett to continue working by all his ability and strength as a student of Cosmology and also allows him to study Bible and creation as a genuine believing Christian.

Hermeneutically correct approach would be to study the 'waters above' as a modern commentary to Genesis, splendid ideas what could be in question, without forcing such concepts into the text as the true meaning or as the divine revelation in the text. We cannot define the divine separate from the human as the bishops of Chalcedon noted in 451 AD.

Hermeneutically correct approach would be to study the 'waters above' using all the tools available for scholarly research of the Biblical text. Taking Genesis as it is in its own time, its own historical, geographical and prescientific context, as a genuinely Geocentric text with poetic beauty. Without denying its truly human and historically bound nature. We cannot define the human separate from divine as the bishops of Chalcedon noted in 451 AD.

So, being practical, how would this affect Hartnett's creationist publications?

Well, it would introduce the real Bible into his writings and teach his students around the world what this eminent scholar can learn from the World of God.

The presence of Ea in the Urwasser of Sumerian mythology might be a good starting point.

Maybe followed by the dividing of Tiamat in Babylon.