Structures Too Big for the Big Bang

Astronomers have found evidence of superclusters of galaxies and of quasars (and voids) that are so large they are not explicable by current theories. But structures too big for the Big Bang are not too big for God.

Beginning in the 1970’s there was an effort to determine what has been called the “peculiar motion” of galaxies. This is referring to the motion of galaxy clusters relative to other galaxies. Scientists wanted to determine if the universe would continue expanding forever or eventually stop expanding and recollapse. So they started looking at the motion of galaxies that are “local” versus galaxies that are very distant. Here “local” means a few hundred million light years. Compare this to the estimated size of the observable universe, which would put the edge of the observable universe about 46 billion light-years away from us (recent estimate).

In 1975 it was reported that our own galaxy was moving at a velocity of about 500 km/sec. This was something the scientific community was skeptical of at first. There was an effort to improve estimates of the speeds of galaxies. So scientists had the idea to measure velocities in relation to the cosmic microwave background radiation, since it is uniform in all directions. So in 1977 it was found that our solar system was moving about 400 km/sec and that the Local Group of Galaxies that we are in is moving at about 600 km/sec. (So the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy for instance are both in this group.) These speeds were much more than what was expected. This was discussed in an article by well-known astronomer Alan Dressler, in Scientific American from September 1987, called the “Large-Scale Streaming of Galaxies.” [Ref.1]

Cosmological Questions
One question raised by scientists is how did our Local Group of galaxies come to be moving at such a speed? Another question is how did these clusters get so big? Could gravity pull galaxies into these clusters, even in billions of years? Some have even said that these findings challenge an important assumption in Big Bang theory, called the Cosmological Principal. The Cosmological Principle is the assumption that even you could look at the universe on a large-enough scale the universe as a whole would be uniform in density. This assumption implies that if we could map the locations of galaxies at large enough distances, the clustering would become small and insignificant in comparison to the universe as a whole. But surprising things have been found about galaxy clusters since 1987. The universe is made up of clusters of clusters of clusters of galaxies that astronomers did not expect to exist at such large distance scales. This challenges Big Bang theory, at least in the view of some astronomers. The problem has gotten bigger and bigger over the years as scientists have found there are clusters of galaxies that cover vast unimaginable distances and they all seem to have significant speeds. At the largest distances measuring the speeds of the clusters becomes very uncertain. But it raises the question of how could the galaxy clusters be accelerated to such speeds? Even 14 billion years may not be enough time for such large superclusters to be accelerated by gravity to these speeds.

Consider where we are in the universe. We are in the Milky Way galaxy (now thought to be a Barred Spiral type galaxy) and the Milky Way is part of a cluster of neighbor galaxies called “The Local Group.” Sounds kind of hum-drum, but our Local Group of galaxies is moving toward a larger supercluster made of several other galaxy clusters called the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster. But the article suggests there must be an even greater supercluster beyond Hydra-Centaurus. (Note that the Hydra cluster is about 100 million light-years in size.) This large supercluster, unidentified in the 1987 Scientific American article has been referred to as the Great Attractor. In more recent years the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster was found to be part of a larger cluster called the Norma Cluster and both Norma and Centaurus are part of an even bigger supercluster called Laniakea. So you could say that the Laniakea supercluster (or some say hypercluster) is our “home” supercluster. The name “Laniakea” means “immense heaven” in Hawaiian. One article describing the discovery of the Laniakea cluster in 2014 described it this way: “This so-called Laniakea Supercluster is 500 million light-years in diameter and contains the mass of one hundred million billion Suns spread across 100,000 galaxies.” [Ref.2,3] Wikipedia describes the Laniakea supercluster this way: “The Laniakea Supercluster encompasses approximately 100,000 galaxies stretched out over 160 megaparsecs (520 million light-years). It has the approximate mass of 1017 solar masses, or a hundred thousand times that of our galaxy . . . .” [Ref.4]

Recently discovered supercluster – the BOSS Great Wall!
An article on the PBS website, apparently from a Nova TV program, tells about the B.O.S.S. Great Wall of galaxies. B.O.S.S. stands for Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey , part of a larger mission called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Part III. The article is called “BOSS Supercluster Is So Big It Could Rewrite Cosmological Theory.” [Ref.5]

Quotes from this:
“The BOSS Great Wall is a tight network of four superclusters. The largest two form a stretched-out wall of galaxies that’s about 1.2 billion light years long.” . . .

“It looks like we have a structure that is bigger than anything else: like two Sloan Great Wall scale structures right next to each other,” said Heidi Lietzen of the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of La Laguna in Spain, who was the lead author of the new study. “The question now is: is it too big for our cosmological theories?”

How should these superclusters be explained?
An article in New Scientist by Stephen Battersby in 2011 has a good explanation of the issue. [Ref.6]

“We know that the universe was smooth just after its birth. Measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the light emitted 370,000 years after the big bang, reveal only very slight variations in density from place to place. Gravity then took hold and amplified these variations into today’s galaxies and galaxy clusters, which in turn are arranged into big strings and knots called superclusters, with relatively empty voids in between. . . .

On even larger scales, though, cosmological models say that the expansion of the universe should trump the clumping effect of gravity. That means there should be very little structure on scales larger than a few hundred million light years across.”

Some Theories Proposed to Explain the Superclusters:
1) “Coagulating dark energy”. Dark energy a theoretical concept for something causing the universe to expand in an accelerating way. But Dark Energy is normally thought to be uniform, so this is wondering, what if it isn’t uniform.

2) Maybe Einstein’s theory of gravity doesn’t work on these vast distance scales. Do we need a new theory of gravity for large distances?

3) Could dust or stars in our own galaxy be confusing the data somehow? This seems unlikely considering the care put into the analysis of the data but there are uncertainties.

4) Could the universe have a fractal structure? This means it has a structure that repeats at all scales of distance. The question this raises is why would the Big Bang do this? This requires a mathematical order of a kind that would be hard to explain as coming from the Big Bang.

Or, does this suggest supernatural creation by a Creator-God? Superclusters could have had their structure from the beginning, so they would not necessarily form due to gravity at all.

An Even Bigger Problem – Quasar Superclusters
In 2013 it was reported that scientists had discovered a cluster of 73 quasars that stretches across a region over 4 billion light-years in size! [Ref.7,8] This has been called the Huge Large Quasar Group, or Huge LQG. [Ref.7,8] Quasars are believed to be Black Holes, often at the center of galaxies. Astronomers are uncertain how one quasar could form, so how could 73 of them form into a cluster? One theory for quasar formation is that two galaxies, both of which have a Black Hole at their centers, would collide. The galaxies would pass through each other but the Black Holes are thought to merge into one object like a quasar. How many galaxies would have to collide to form a cluster of 73 quasars? Also, the Huge LQG has another quasar cluster relatively near it with 34 quasars in it. Below is a graphic map of the Hugh LQG and it’s smaller neighbor LQG, taken from the technical paper publishing it in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. [Ref.8]

Figure 1 Sky angular distribution of the 73 quasars of the Huge-LQG (redshift z = 1.27, circles), is shown,
together with that of the 34 quasars of the CCLQG cluster.

Below is a quote from the abstract of the MNRAS technical journal on the Huge LQG. [Ref.8]

“A large quasar group (LQG) of particularly large size and high membership has been identified in the DR7QSO catalogue of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It has characteristic size (volume1/3) ~500 Mpc (proper size, present epoch), longest dimension ~1240 Mpc, membership of 73 quasars and mean redshift z = 1.27. . . . This new, Huge-LQG appears to be the largest structure currently known in the early Universe. Its size suggests incompatibility with the Yadav et al. scale of homogeneity for the concordance cosmology, and thus challenges the assumption of the cosmological principle.”

Bigger Still – The Hercules-Corona-Borealis

The Huge LQG is still not the largest structure we know of. There is a massive super-supercluster even bigger. It could be as much as 10 Billion Light-Years in size and it is called the Hercules-Corona-Borealis. It was found by astronomers who were looking into another mystery, some very distant objects called Gamma Ray Bursters (GRB’s). These objects are a big powerful mystery. They are very very far away and can give off incredible amounts of energy. They have brief bursts of gamma rays and X-rays followed by infrared radiation. Scientists aren’t sure what they are, so they describe them by what they do. There was a region of space that was unusually high in gamma rays. Gamma rays are emitted from certain nuclear reactions. It was discovered that in this region of space there was at least 19 GRB objects covering a vast distance.

The scientific paper reporting the discovery of this supercluster described it this way:

“The GRB cluster at z ~ 2 appears to identify the presence of a larger angular structure that covers almost one-eighth of the sky. This encompasses half of the constellations of Bootes, Draco, and Lyra, and all of the constellations of Hercules and Corona Borealis. This structure
has been given the popular name of the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, or Her-CrB GW.

We estimate the size of the Her-CrB GW to be about 2000–3000 Mpc across. Few limits on its radial thickness exist, other than because it appears to be confined to the 1.6 < z < 2.1 redshift
range. This large size makes the structure inconsistent with current inflationary Universal models because it is larger than the roughly 100 Mpc limit thought to signify the End of Greatness at which large-scale structure ceases.“ [Ref.9]

Note that the authors of the above paper make the point that in some ways the cosmological principle does seem to fit some observations about the density of the universe. But these superclusters do not fit current theories and they continue to surprise scientists.

These are discoveries that demand a non-Big Bang theory. There are other cosmological models being explored by astronomers and physicists from various points of view. In 2004 an open letter was published in New Scientist that listed the names and institutions of scientists who were willing to go on record as questioning the Big Bang. Since 2004 this list of scientists has grown. It now has 218 scientists and engineers listed as well as a number of others. Supernatural creation is only one alternate approach considered today by some individuals with Ph.D.’s in Physics or Astronomy. Astronomers should be commended for exploring non-Big Bang models.

This article is a summary of a topic available in the Good Heavens! podcast.

References

1. Dressler, Alan. “The Large-Scale Streaming of Galaxies,” Scientific American, Sept. 1987, pp. 46-54.
2. National Radio Astronomy Observatory. “Newly identified galactic supercluster is home to the Milky Way.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2014. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903133319.htm
3. R. Brent Tully, Hélène Courtois, Yehuda Hoffman, Daniel Pomarède. “The Laniakea supercluster of galaxies.” Nature, 2014; 513 (7516): 71 DOI: 10.1038/nature13674
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laniakea_Supercluster
5. Gearin, Conor. “BOSS Supercluster Is So Big It Could Rewrite Cosmological Theory,” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/physics/boss-supercluster-is-so-big-it-could-rewrite-cosmological-theory (published March 11, 2016)
6. Battersby, Stephen. “Largest cosmic structures ‘too big’ for theories” New Scientist, June 21, 2011. See also Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.241301.
7. Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). “Biggest structure in universe: Large quasar group is 4 billion light years across.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130111092539.htm
8. Clowes, Roger G., Harris, Katheryn A., et. al. “A structure in the early Universe at z ∼ 1.3 that exceeds the homogeneity scale of the R-W concordance cosmology” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 429, pp. 2910–2916 (2013). DOI:10.1093/mnras/sts497
9. Horváth, Istvan, Bagoly, Zsolt, Hakkila, Jon, and Toth, L. V. “New data support the existence of the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall” Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 584, A48 (2015) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201424829

Encountering Noah’s Ark

On August 9, 2017 I visited the new Theme Park/Exhibit called The Ark Encounter in the Cincinnati area, in Kentucky. The Answers In Genesis (AIG) ministry has built a full size replica of Noah’s Ark for people to visit.

Caption:  I stand perhaps 150 yards from the AIG Ark Encounter near Williamstown, Kentucky.

 

 

 

 

The dimensions of the Ark from Genesis (see the KJV or NKJV Bible)
Length: 300 cubits
Width: 50 cubits
Height: 30 cubits

As built by Answers In Genesis (20.4 inches per cubit, or 1.7 ft./cubit)
Length: 510 feet
Width: 85 feet
Height: 51 feet
Cost: Approximately 100 million dollars

I believe Adam, Eve, Methuselah, Noah, and others mentioned in Genesis 1-11 were real people and that the global Flood was a real event in the time of Noah. The Ark Encounter from Answers In Genesis is a great place to visit. Everything is well done and there are activities to do outside the Ark itself, such as a zip line ride and a small zoo. There are a number of small shops to get crafts and snacks. There is also a very nice restaurant that has a marvelous buffet that is able to handle a large crowd. On the Ark itself is 3 levels of exhibits. It took my friend and I perhaps something over 5 hours to see everything. You realize how big the Ark is as you walk to see it all. It really is a lot of walking. The Ark Encounter is built almost totally of wood. It is said to be the largest timber-framed wooden structure of its kind in the world. It uses 1.5 million board feet of heavy timber. Some of the building methods followed those used by Amish builders, who are experts in building wood structures. The back side of the Ark is connected to a building made with modern typical construction methods which includes the elevators and restroom areas. The Ark is also set 15 feet above ground on special concrete piers. Inside, there are areas that demonstrate how various kinds of animals could be housed and managed inside the Ark as well as how Noah’s family would live. There are two theater areas inside the Ark. Though the structure is wood, the displays and exhibits are very high-tech. Some exhibits were created using 3D printing technology. I would say the exhibits essentially answer all the common questions people have about Noah’s Flood and Noah’s Ark.

As we were arriving to the Ark Encounter, it occurred to me that what Christians were doing today in visiting the Ark today in Kentucky is much like when Noah was building the original. Noah spent years building the structure and had to solve many challenging problems to do it. He must have done it outside of cities of the time, in order to have space and wood to do it. People probably came out to see it, even if just to laugh at Noah. This is like today, when people visit the Ark. Some come with family though they don’t believe it, and so they see the faith of others and they wrestle with what faith in the God of the Bible means. The gospel is presented at the Ark Encounter in multiple ways, so it really is a good place to bring non-christian friends or family. So people go outside of Cincinnati today to see the Ark (south of Cincinnati near Williamstown, KY). The people of Kentucky and Cincinnati know the Ark is there and so it is a witness that points to the faith of Christians who believe the Bible is literally true. There are still people who believe the book of Genesis tells us real history, even today in 2017. This faith is not outdated or misplaced, nor is it wishful thinking. The Ark Encounter exhibits demonstrate reasonable answers to the questions people have, in order to remove obstacles to people believing in Christ. So, Christians demonstrate their faith today in going to see the Ark. We don’t actually know how Noah and his family solved all the problems of living on the real Noah’s Ark, but this is not a problem. If we can come up with reasonable answers to the questions today, then Noah could have found reasonable answers to the problems then.

Caption:  Front end of the Ark.  Friend Mark stands near it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ark Encounter affirmed many things that I have taught about Noah’s Flood and Noah’s Ark over the years. But I also learned a number of things in my Ark encounter. I learned about extinct animals I had never heard of because the exhibits showed replicas of a number of extinct animals, that would have been on the real Ark. I learned about methods of removal of waste from the Ark and ventilation of the Ark that would be feasible for Noah’s family to use on-board the Ark. I learned that the number of animals needing to be on-board the Ark could have been less than I had expected (about 6,700 by AIG research). In a number of ways, Noah’s family had to find ways to “work smarter, not harder” to manage caring for the animals. The Ark Encounter helps visitors find answers to their questions on the Flood. The Ark Encounter also helps people imagine the corruption of the preflood human society, where people lived at the same time as dinosaurs. Geological evidence for the Flood, the cause of a post-flood ice age, and other scientific questions were addressed also. Reasonable well-informed answers are provided. Granted some of the exhibits are based on speculative reconstructions, but demonstrating that this can be done today implies it is plausible Noah and his family could have done it in the past.

The Answers In Genesis Ark structure is not the first replica of Noah’s Ark that has been built, but it is probably the most authentic. In 2012 CNN did a story about a man in Dordrecht, Netherlands who built a replica of Noah’s Ark. It has been called Johan’s ark, after Johan Huibers, the man who built it. Johan is a wealthy businessman. He built it to be a “Bible museum.” Huibers did not have the means to built an ark in an authentic way. He put barges together and then put wood around it. Huibers did make it the Biblical dimensions but he seems to have used a smaller value for the length of a cubit than Answers in Genesis, if the CNN article is correct.

In Bremerton, Washington there is a Noahs Ark Restaurant, but it is not built as a replica of Noah’s Ark, it is more of a theme of the restaurant. There have also been a number of churches built to be similar to Noah’s Ark. Churches have always considered it as a salvation message, that Jesus is like “our Ark” and the one way to be saved.

There has also been ship engineers and naval architects who have studied Noah’s Ark. Some have made small scale engineering models and studied them in wave tanks. The late Henry M. Morris showed that the dimensions of the Ark made it almost impossible to capsize in the water. The engineering studies have consistently shown the unique proportions of the Ark from scripture make it quite stable in the water. Another study by a mechanical engineer (from the 2013 International Conference on Creationism) looked into whether immersion in water for extended periods of time would weaken the structural strength of the Ark. The conclusion was that any weakening effect was not great enough to threaten the structural integrity of the Ark.

In our modern world, where Bible stories are often thought of as like myths or legends, the Ark Encounter shows that we can believe the Bible is really true. Much attention to detail in the exhibits demonstrate how a family like Noah’s long ago might have managed all the challenges and lived through the experience. The sight of the AIG Ark structure is very impressive. It will undoubtedly spark much conversation about the Bible and the book of Genesis. The key issue brought up by the Ark Encounter is probably the authority and historicity of Genesis in the Bible. The Ark Encounter is a quality attraction that I highly recommend.

Caption:  Noah reaches to catch the dove to return him to his cage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Website from Tim Lovett and others on the engineering of the Ark.
http://worldwideflood.com

Christianity and Reasons for Faith – by Wayne R. Spencer