Cosmic Cool Down – What Does It Mean?
Not one but five writers of Scripture describe God’s “stretching out” of the heavens. From a scientist’s perspective, these ancient writers predict the twentieth-century discovery of continual cosmic expansion.1 The book of Romans tells readers that the entire creation is subject to the law of decay. Again, a scientist would see this statement as an obvious reference to the second law of thermodynamics.2
The apologetics importance of these two points cannot be overstated. They demonstrate that the Bible—long before scientific observation and experimentation—identified the basic features of the big bang universe; expansion (from a beginning point) and cooling.
Until recently, scientific confirmation of cosmic cooling, though persuasive, came from indirect measurements. The situation has changed, however, with the advent of optical telescopes like the 400-inch Keck. Such instruments have the capacity to detect the temperature of the cosmic background radiation (the radiation left over from the creation event) in very distant gas clouds. Because the light (temperature indicator) from these clouds began its journey to Earth so long ago, detecting it represents a look far back into the history of the universe.
In 1994, the Keck telescope enabled astronomers to determine (via spectral lines of carbon) the temperature of gas clouds when the universe was about one-third its present age. The hot big bang model predicts that at this early epoch the cosmic temperature was almost three times higher than the temperature of nearby regions of space. Specifically, the background radiation in the distant clouds observed should be 7.58 kelvin (that is, 7.58° Centigrade above absolute zero, or –446.05° Fahrenheit) compared to the 2.726 kelvin that astronomers see in nearby space.
The Keck observations indicated a temperature of 7.4 ± 0.8 kelvin in the two distant gas clouds observed.5 In the words of David Meyer, Northwestern University astrophysicist, these measurements were “strikingly consistent with the big bang theory,”6
In 1996 the same team of astronomers made a second set of measurements using the identical technique on a more distant gas cloud. The measured temperature matched the predicted temperature, 8.105 kelvin.7 In December of 2000 a different team measured a still more distant gas cloud, one that shows us the universe at about one-sixth its present age. The detected background radiation temperature of just above 9 kelvin again aligned with the predicted temperature.8
These temperature readings show a pattern: the universe is progressively cooling from 9 to 8 to 7 to just under 3 kelvin. The data establish, simply and directly, that we live in a universe that behaves just as the Bible described thousands of years ago. n
- Job 9:8, Ps. 104:2, Isa. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13, Jer. 10:12; 51:15, Zech. 12:1, The Holy Bible.
- Rom. 8:19-22, The Holy Bible.
- Gen. 1:1-18, The Holy Bible.
- Hugh Ross and John Rea, “Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First!” Facts for Faith 3 (Q3 2000), 26-32.
- Antoinette Songaila et al., “Measurement of the Microwave Background Temperature at Redshift 1.776,” Nature 371 (1994), 43-45.
- David M. Meyer, “A Distant Space Thermometer,” Nature 371 (1994), 13.
- K. C. Roth et al., “C I Fine-Structure Excitation by the CMBR at z = 1.973,” American Astronomical Society Meeting, 189, 122.17 (December, 1996).
- R. Srianand, P. Petitjean, and C. Leadoux, “The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation Temperature at a Redshift of 2.34,” Nature 408 (2000), 931-35.