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July 9th, 2008, 09:24 AM
During the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, from 1645 to 1715, there is believed to have been a decrease in the total energy output from the Sun, as indicated by little or no sunspot activity. Known as the Maunder Minimum, astronomers of the time observed only about 50 sunspots for a 30-year period as opposed to a more typical 40-50,000 spots. The Sun normally shows signs of variability, such as its eleven-year sunspot cycle. Within that time, it goes from a minimum to a maximum period of activity represented by a peak in sunspots and flare activity.
Beginning in 1611, Galileo Galilei made drawings of lower sunspot activity before the Maunder Minimum. Records of sunspot activity during the Minimum from other astronomers confirm the lower number of sunspots over the70 year event.
July 9th, 2008, 09:36 AM
Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
Does a Spin–Orbit Coupling Between the Sun and the Jovian Planets Govern the Solar Cycle?
We present evidence to show that changes in the Sun’s equatorial rotation rate are synchronized with changes in its orbital motion about the barycentre of the Solar System. We propose that this synchronization is indicative of a spin–orbit coupling mechanism operating between the Jovian planets and the Sun. However, we are unable to suggest a plausible underlying physical cause for the coupling.
A new paper published by the Astronomical Society of Australia titled:
Does a Spin–Orbit Coupling Between the Sun and the Jovian Planets Govern the Solar Cycle?
contains a warning about earthly climate change not immediately obvious from the abstract:
Based on our claim that changes in the Sun’s equatorial rotation rate are synchronized with changes in the Sun’s orbital motion about the barycentre, we propose that the mean period for the Sun’s meridional flow is set by a Synodic resonance between the flow period (~22.3 yr), the overall 178.7-yr repetition period for the solar orbital motion, and the 19.86-yr synodic period of Jupiter and Saturn.
According to an interview with Andrew Bolt, of the Australian Newspaper, Herald Sun, Ian Wilson, one of the authors explained:
It supports the contention that the level of activity on the Sun will significantly diminish sometime in the next decade and remain low for about 20 - 30 years. On each occasion that the Sun has done this in the past the World’s mean temperature has dropped by ~ 1 - 2 C.
August 11th, 2008, 07:16 AM
Monday, 11th August 2008
Astronomy meets tradition in tonight's meteor shower
As night settles in this evening, our planet silently plunges through the orbit of comet Swift-Tuttle, encountering debris left over by the comet each time it approaches the sun, every 130 years.
This debris rams into the upper atmosphere at speeds of 60 kilometres per second causing the air to ionise and shed bright streaks of light as the grain-sized particles vaporise. This is what we see as meteors or shooting stars.
This meteor shower has been observed for a very long time and is known as the Perseid Meteor Shower or Dmugħ ta' San Lawrenz in Maltese tradition, as this feast falls on the same dates when this meteor shower takes place. The point in the sky - the radiant - where these meteors, if traced back, seem to originate is in the constellation of Perseus and hence the name of the meteor shower, The Perseids.
August 11th, 2008, 01:55 PM
Auroras, eclipses, meteor showers and the like are all natural phenomena. At which point we should regard them as part of "signs in the heavens" prophecies is difficult to determine. We are currently at solar minimum in the 11-year sunspot cycle. Solar maximum is expected in 2011-2012. Will this incite "signs" heralding God's prophetic vision for mankind? Who knows?
The gravity of the planets exert a negligible effect on our sun, so I think it's useless to speculate on any alignment, or "szyzygy," having any impact. In fact, there is a law of physics (can't remember the name, sorry) which states that a body's gravitational pull is inversely proportional to its distance. In other words, a planet twice as far from another planet has one-fourth the gravitational pull, not one-half, as one might expect.
As for the Mayan calendar and its purported "end," it amuses me to imagine the Rapture coincidentally happening on that date. That would give the world a ready-made explanation for the instantaneous disappearance of millions of people. I can easily see God using that in his favor. (Not that I think the Mayans had any special insight into end-time prophecies, though.)
August 25th, 2008, 11:37 AM
Sloshing Inside Earth Changes Protective Magnetic Field
The Earth's magnetic field extends about 36,000 miles (58,000 km) into space, generated from the spinning effect of the electrically-conductive core that acts something like a giant electromagnet. The field creates a tear-drop shaped bubble that has constantly shielded life on Earth against much of the high-energy radiation flowing from the sun.
The last major change in the field took place some 780,000 years ago during a magnetic reversal, although such reversals seem to occur more often on average. A flip in the north and south poles typically involves a weakening in the magnetic field, followed by a period of rapid recovery and reorganization of opposite polarity.
Some studies in recent years have suggested the next reversal might be imminent,
Radiation storms from the sun could fry electronic equipment on satellites that suddenly lacked the protective cover of a rapidly changing magnetic field.
September 2nd, 2008, 06:55 AM
Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century
Drop in solar activity has potential effect for climate on earth.
The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.
The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.
According to data from Mount Wilson Observatory, UCLA, more than an entire month has passed without a spot. The last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.
September 2nd, 2008, 06:56 AM
In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.
September 2nd, 2008, 06:57 AM
But will the rest of us? In the past 1000 years, three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. One was large enough to be called a "mini ice age". For a society dependent on agriculture, cold is more damaging than heat. The growing season shortens, yields drop, and the occurrence of crop-destroying frosts increases.
September 25th, 2008, 04:48 AM
Solar wind weakest since beginning of space age
The intensity of the sun's million-mile-per-hour solar wind has dropped to its lowest levels since accurate records began half a century ago, scientists say.
Measurements of the cosmic blasts of radiation, ejected from the sun's upper atmosphere, were made with the Ulysses spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The solar wind "inflates a protective bubble, or heliosphere, around the solar system," which protects the inner planets against the radiation from other stars, said Dave McComas, Ulysses' solar wind principal investigator and senior executive director at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
"With the solar wind at an all-time low, there is an excellent chance the heliosphere will diminish in size and strength," said Ed Smith, NASA's Ulysses project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"If that occurs, more galactic cosmic rays will make it into the inner part of our solar system," added Smith.
Scientists say the weakening of solar wind appears to be due to changes in the sun's magnetic field, but the causes of these changes are unknown.
The weakened solar activity can be beneficial because it slows satellites around the Earth, allowing them to remain in orbit longer.
The sun normally experiences 11-year-cycles between periods of great activity and lesser activity.
September 29th, 2008, 05:04 AM
The Apocalypse of Isaiah 24
By Eric Lowther
This was all a good friend’s fault: he just had to ask me to look into “Earth’s ‘pole shifts’” in relation to the eschatological prophecy in Isaiah 24. “I have heard some lines of thinking that suggests the Earth’s rotational axis may have in the past, and is expected to again, shift from its current position to another angle with respect to the plane of the ecliptic.” After a bit of research, the following is what I came up with.
While initially studying Isaiah 24, these key phrases jumped out:
(1a-b) Behold, the LORD will lay waste the earth and make it desolate,
He will distort its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
(3) The land shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled;
(6) the inhabitants of the earth are burned,
And few men are left.
(12) Desolation is left In the city,
and the gates are battered into ruins.
(18c) For the windows of heaven are opened;
the foundations of the earth tremble.
(19) The earth is broken asunder,
The earth is split open,
The earth is violently shaken.
(20) The earth staggers like a drunken man,
it sways like a hut. (author’s paraphrase combining RSV & NKJV)
These phrases clearly describe a major earthquake. All the effects noted here were observed in the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and have been well documented in other earthquakes since. “The earth is burned (vs.6),” could have been a pocket of natural gas that ruptured and exploded (a modern analogy are gas pipelines). “The earth staggers like a drunken man (vs.20),” was probably a phenomenon called ‘liquefaction’: during a major earthquake, sandy or otherwise loose soil actually behaves like liquid.
Also take note of these two verses:
The words of Amos ... which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah... two years before the earthquake. ~ Amos 1:1 (NASB)
… Yes, you shall flee
As you fled from the earthquake
In the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
~ Zechariah 14:5 (NKJV)
In commentaries on the Book of Amos, there is extensive speculation about why an earthquake is mentioned in vs.1:1; Zechariah 14:5 being the only other instance in the Bible. Oddly, the quake is not mentioned at all in 2 Kings 15 or 2 Chronicles 26; perhaps the ancient redactors of these books did not consider it worthy of inclusion?
Besides the quake of Isaiah 24:19-20, many phrases in vss.4-13 (e.g. “the proud people languish,” “the earth is defiled under its inhabitants,” “the city of confusion is broken down”) could describe the careless, complacent, depraved condition of Judah's elite during the earthquake (cf. Amos 4:1-3). Israel is situated on the west side of a rift valley, which is actually the northern end of the Great Rift Valley that extends southward through the Red Sea into eastern Africa. Although major earthquakes are rare, there are moderate quakes at somewhat regular intervals. For example, an earthquake of 5.0 on the Richter Scale occurred on 11 February 2004, the epicenter being in the Northern Dead Sea region (along the rift); more recently, on 15 February 2008, a quake measuring 5.3 was centered ten miles northeast of Tyre, Lebanon, and caused significant damage to the city of Shechem and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
One must remember the knowledge & mind-set of the time Isaiah 24 was written, well over 2,000 years ago. References here to ‘the earth’ (16 of them in the whole chapter) probably meant only the known world of the Middle East, not the entire planet as we now know it, a ‘blue ball’ orbiting alone in space. The immediate conditions described in vss. 19-20 quite likely describe a massive earthquake of 7.6 or greater on the Richter scale. But that was not the writer’s purpose; he was not reporting an earthquake he witnessed, but used the imagery of a cataclysmic earthquake to describe a vivid prophesy about future event(s) affecting Earth as a whole. According to Torrey's New Topical Textbook, Isaiah 24:19-20 falls under the category Earthquakes: “illustrative of the judgments of God,” (cf. Isaiah 29:6; Jeremiah 4:24). The New Interpreter's Bible has an interesting comment: “vss. 19-20 use the imagery of an earthquake, but this is no ordinary earthquake. It will strike the whole earth with violence beyond measure.”
Back to the original question about “Earth’s ‘pole shifts’”: whether or not the prophecy of Isaiah 24 supposes a world-wide celestial-caused event is impossible to discern from Scripture. The only event I'm aware of (to modern science, that is) that could cause Earth's rotational axis (or ‘poles’) to shift in relation to the ecliptic plane — ‘officially’ known in astronomy as ‘obliquity of the ecliptic’* — is a large meteorite impact at an oblique angle near one of the rotational poles, likely an asteroid of at least 8-10 kilometers. But in such an event it would take hundreds of years for the ecliptical angle of Earth’s rotational axis to shift enough to cause climate change; whereas the impact itself would be immediately catastrophic, causing global cooling due to ejected material (darkening of the sun & moon in vs.23?), and possibly planet-wide earthquakes such as those described in vss. 19-20.
Although no Scripture should be taken lightly, the allusion to “the sun & moon will be darkened” is all the more profound due to similar phrases appearing in no less than six other places in the Bible! Check out these passages:
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not give their light;
The sun will be darkened in its going forth,
And the moon will not cause its light to shine.
~ Isaiah 13:10 (NKJV)
When I put out your light,
I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
And the moon shall not give her light.
~ Ezekiel 32:7 (NKJV)
The earth quakes before them,
The heavens tremble;
The sun and moon grow dark,
And the stars diminish their brightness …
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
~ Joel 2:10,31 (NKJV)
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” ~ Matthew 24:29 (NKJV)
I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. ~ Revelation 6:12 (NLT)
Note that the darkening of the sun & moon in Joel 2:10 and Revelation 6:12 occur in conjunction with a great earthquake; Isaiah 13:10 and Ezekiel 32:7 also state the stars & heavens will go dark. Along with this darkening, in Matthew 24:29 Jesus says “stars will fall from heaven,” which could indicate an intense meteor shower: dozens of ‘shooting stars’ falling every minute, thousands each hour. Remember, the ancients believed that meteors blazing across the sky were literally stars falling from heaven.
There are historical precedents & plausible scientific explanations for each of these phenomena. An excellent example of “darkening of the sun & moon” occurred in the early 19th century. Significant global cooling occurred after the April 1815 explosions/eruptions of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, which ejected an estimated 36 cubic miles of rock into the atmosphere. This added to substantial amounts of volcanic dust already spewed out by other major eruptions in 1812 & 1814; the accumulated events caused ‘The Year Without a Summer’ of 1816. This abnormally cold summer resulted in freezing weather throughout the year across the northern hemisphere; devastating crop failures & famine, especially in Europe and the American Northeast; along with ‘brown’ and ‘red’ snowfalls throughout the year in parts of Europe.* A similar effect to an even greater magnitude would be caused by a large asteroid impact which would quite likely eject greater amounts of debris into the atmosphere. As shown in graphical representations of the impact events that presumably caused the mass extinctions of the past, some of this ejecta could go into low sub-orbit, re-entering the atmosphere as ‘falling stars’: an intense meteor shower.
Since I first researched & wrote this article in April 2008, I have seen Lee Strobel’s The Case For A Creator. In the video he describes how, by utilizing observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have refined the values of the cosmological constant. Without going into a highly scientific explanation here, these newly refined values show that Earth’s position in the solar system, which makes life possible on our tiny planet, are so ‘fine tuned’ that they exist within tolerances of up to 10-120 reduced Planck units.* Not only does Mr. Strobel make the point of “how could tolerances this infinitesimal have happened by evolution?”, he also makes note of the influence of the moon’s stable orbit on Earth’s position. It is now widely accepted that the centrifugal gravitational pull of the moon’s orbit is what actually stabilizes Earth’s rotational axis, keeping Earth’s poles at their present angle to the ecliptic plane (currently, the axial tilt is approximately 23°26”*). Now, if an asteroid of ≈10 km struck the moon — which has only .02% of the volume and .0123% the mass compared to that of Earth’s* — the impact could easily knock the moon out of its current orbit, causing a radical fluctuation in the Earth’s axial tilt. Such an event could possibly also change the precession of the axis, and induce a planet-wide ‘wobble’ which would last for eons (this latter effect has been discovered on the moon, the result of a meteor impact about 1000 years ago). This now seems to me a more likely scenario than the direct hit mentioned above, but I wanted to keep both for the sake of debate.
Of special note: there are now catalogued over 400,000 asteroids in our solar system (registered by the International Astronomical Union (IAU)), discovered at the rate of ≈5,000 per month*. Although the orbits of these bodies are carefully plotted so that ‘near-earth’ objects can be identified, their small size makes them highly susceptible to gravitational pulls from the planets, thus plotting their orbits into the distant future is difficult to impossible.
Meteoric impacts on Earth are far more common than first thought before the 1990s (the definition of ‘impact’ here includes the atmosphere & oceans, not just dry land). On the average, each year one of only 3-6m size, with the explosive potential of a small nuclear bomb, strikes Earth. Since most of Earth’s surface is water or otherwise uninhabited by humans, most surface impacts go unnoticed; and more often, meteors explode in the atmosphere. While U.S. spy satellites started operating in the 1960s — originally intended to detect atmospheric nuclear detonations — they have detected hundreds of explosions in the atmosphere caused by natural sources*. Of course, the great danger here is that a natural explosion could be mis-interpreted as a man-made nuclear device. But that’s another story.
Back to Isaiah 24, G. G. D. Kilpatrick wrote a fascinating exposition for The Interpreter’s Bible (my paraphrase): “The entire chapter is a picture of the world scourged by God. A divine house cleaning of sin, not only of people who have strayed from the Law and polluted the earth (vs.5), but of Earth itself. The contamination of evil is so great that evil permeates even the structure of the world. And, to prove that no one is exempt — God is not a respecter of persons [cf. Acts 10:34; Galatians 2:6] — all people from the highest of the wealthy to the lowest of the poor will be affected (vs.2). The impersonality shown by natural disasters abolishes instantly all artificial classifications. Something has to be done with a world profaned and an Earth poisoned by human sin. The Bible knows nothing of the theory that matter itself is evil. The great disasters which ravage nature and destroy life are not depicted as the work of evil spirits, but always as judgment on human sin. Is there some kind of moral sympathy between man and nature? Is man merely a temporary manifestation of a type of life, which for a little while infests Earth then passes, leaving to time the healing of his disfigurement & pollution? Or as the Bible claims, is man of such moment to God that Earth is at his service?”
The Apostle Peter seemed aware of this upcoming cataclysm when he wrote:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? ~ 2 Peter 3:10-12 (NKJV)
Among other things, this passage refers back to both Isaiah 24:19 and a prophecy of Micah:
The mountains will melt under Him,
And the valleys will split
Like wax before the fire,
Like water poured down a steep place.
~ Micah 1:4 (NASB)
Unfortunately, this article has probably generated more questions than answers. And of course, I have no intention of downplaying God’s divine role in this prophecy, attempting to explain it away with modern science. But such uncertainty is the study of Biblical prophecy. And as I pointed out in my article Modern Idolatry, we as believers in Christ must be ready to face what will happen if modern society does not turn away from its idolatrous practices (emphasis added):
The LORD said to the sons of Israel … “you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” ~ Judges 10:11,13-14 (NASB)
Blessings in Christ Who guides us,
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