Reasons to Believe

Improved Measurements of Cosmic History Confirming Creation, Part 2 (of 4)

As noted in part 1 of this article series, examining the history of the universe in some detail can test the biblical doctrine of cosmic creation in five important ways:

  1. Was the universe created?
  2. How was the universe created?
  3. Was the universe supernaturally designed in advance for life—human beings in particular?
  4. How successful was the Bible in predicting future scientific discoveries about the universe?
  5. How old is the universe?

Part 1 explained how a new technique, developed by a team of four Italian and three American astronomers led by M. Cignoni, demonstrated that the “pre-main-sequence turn-on point” provides an additional useful chronometer for determining the detailed history of the universe.1 In particular, this cosmic chronometer dates young star clusters by determining at what mass value stars in a cluster begin hydrogen fusion burning in their nuclear furnaces. This chronometer complements the “main-sequence turn-off point,” an established technique for dating older star clusters that determines at what mass value stars in a cluster have completed the nuclear fusion of all the available hydrogen in their furnaces.

Now American astronomers James Davenport and Eric Sandquist have produced yet another star cluster-dating technique.2 Rather than focusing on the burning turn-on and turn-off times of the cluster’s stars, Davenport and Sandquist probe the spatial and dynamical structure of older star clusters to determine the time of death for the cluster. In much the same way as a trauma doctor determines a patient’s time of death by measuring the moment when the patient’s heart ceased to pump blood, the two astronomers have shown there comes a time when the stars in any existing galactic star cluster will be ripped apart and scattered by the tidal forces operating within the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG). This time is called the cluster disruption time.

Davenport and Sandquist tested their technique on the old open star cluster M67. M67 contains about 1,400 stars and, according to the main-sequence turn-off-point method, is about 4 billion years old. Using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey sixth data release, the two astronomers established that from the halo of M67 to its core, the fraction of binary stars (as opposed to bachelor stars) increases and the fraction of low-mass stars decreases. These results imply M67 is suffering mass segregation due to the tidal field of the MWG. In other words, M67 is in the throes of destruction.

The researchers’ analysis explains why there are so few open clusters in the MWG with ages in the billions of years. M67 has survived as long as it has because it is unusually dense and its star population is unusually high. Davenport and Sandquist’s work proves M67 must have possessed many more stars when it was much younger.

Thanks to the research efforts of these two scientists, the astronomical community possesses a more accurate picture of the birth, development, and death of open star clusters and how in their deaths the scattered stars blend into the overall structure of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The technique developed and improved by Davenport and Sandquist is extending the range over which astronomers can reconstruct the detailed history of the MWG. Astronomers already know our galaxy manifests many unique features that make possible the existence of advanced life on Earth.3 They also know the MGW’s spiral structure has remained remarkably symmetrical and stable throughout the past 10 billion years. As astronomers put Davenport and Sandquist’s technique to use, the potential exists to discover several more such unique and life-friendly galactic features.

These details will result in a better understanding of the MWG’s history and, thus, will provide an even more definitive test of the biblical doctrine of cosmic creation. Davenport and Sandquist’s work already yields yet another falsification of young-earth creationism because in order for today’s astronomers to observe large dying star clusters the universe must be at least a few billion years old.

In the third part of this series, I will explain how astronomers confirmed an important prediction of the big bang creation model by catching a glimpse of two quasars caught in the act of merging.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Subjects: Origin of the Universe, Universe Design

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.

References:

  1. M. Cignoni et al., “Pre-Main-Sequence Turn-On as a Chronometer for Young Clusters: NGC 346 as a Benchmark,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 712, no. 1 (March 20, 2010): L63–L68.
  2. James R. A. Davenport and Eric L. Sandquist, “Death of a Cluster: The Destruction of M67 as Seen by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey,” Astrophysical Journal 711 (March 10, 2010): 559–72.
  3. Hugh Ross, More Than a Theory (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 128–32.