Sometimes scientific instruments themselves are quite remarkable. Take, for example, modern telescopes. Their amazing measuring capacities and the stunning images they provide buoy astronomers’ hopes for solving mysteries about the nature of the cosmos. Such understanding also presents powerful new evidence for RTB’s biblical creation model.
Making use of a 2.5 meter telescope on Apache Peak in New Mexico, the first phase of the new and ambitious Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is now complete. So far, the SDSS has covered 8000 square degrees of sky and detected over 200 million objects. Such extraordinary capabilities result from 50 years of technological advancement.
Until recent years the photographic plate supplied astronomers with snapshots of the universe. The plate permitted a large telescope to operate essentially as a powerful camera, not only providing a permanent record of an image of the heavens, but also allowing the scientist, by keeping the “shutter” open, to detect extremely faint objects at the edge of the universe. Comparing multiple photographs of the sky taken with filters of different colors, an astronomer could determine gross spectral characteristics of the various objects in the image. And by obtaining images at several different epochs, an astronomer could detect variability of an object’s intensity, or color, over time. A survey of the sky done in the 1950s called the National Geographic Society-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (NGS-POSS) has served astronomers for several decades with wonderful images of a major part of the sky1.
Today, however, the photographic plate has been replaced by arrays of CCDs (charge coupled devices). These light sensors allow astronomers to take digital pictures similar to those from a personal digital camera, but the CCD arrays used in telescopes are larger and more sensitive. The Sloan telescope has a CCD array of 120 megapixels (instead of 5 or 10 megapixels in a personal camera) and makes an image of the sky about 1.5 square degrees in size, equivalent to eight times the area of the full Moon.
The SDSS, a field guide to the universe, “will systematically map one-quarter of the entire sky, producing a detailed image of it and determining the positions and absolute brightness of more than 100 million celestial objects. It will also measure the distance to a million of the nearest galaxies, giving us a three-dimensional picture of the universe through a volume one hundred times larger than that explored to date. The Sky Survey will also record the distances to 100,000 quasars, the most distant objects known, giving us an unprecedented hint at the distribution of matter to the edge of the visible universe.”2
Results from the Sky Survey will provide astronomers with a high-quality, detailed map of the universe. Reasons To Believe scholars expect that such superior mapping of the universe will produce even more evidence for the biblical creator and for RTB’s cosmic creation model. Advances in mapmaking will likely affirm that “[t]he heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
The great Andromeda Galaxy, over 200,000 light years across and approximately two million light years away, is visible to the unaided eye as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. As the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way Galaxy, this object is only one of millions of galaxies now accessible to astronomers through powerful instruments.