As noted in parts 1 and 2 of this series of articles, examining the history of the universe can test the biblical doctrine of cosmic creation in five important ways:
- Was the universe created?
- How was the universe created?
- Was the universe supernaturally designed in advance for life and human beings in particular?
- How successful was the Bible in predicting future scientific discoveries about the universe?
- How old is the universe?
In parts 1 and 2, I explained two new techniques that provide additional chronometers for dating various stages in the life cycles of star clusters. One technique was developed by a team of Italian and American astronomers led by M. Cignoni1 and the other was developed by American astronomers James Davenport and Eric Sandquist.2 In this article, I will describe the development of a cosmic chronometer relevant for the birth and growth of galaxies and quasars.
The big bang creation model3 implies quasar merging events occurred during the early history of the universe. Quasars are young giant galaxies undergoing aggressive star formation and rapid growth of the supergiant black holes residing in their nuclei. In the big bang creation model, galaxies are jammed together much more tightly during the first few billion years of cosmic history than they are today. This prediction makes quasar-merging events an expected feature of the early universe. Determining the timing and character of these early merging events helps establish exactly what kind of big bang is responsible for the universe in which we live.
A team of American astronomers led by Paul Green searched for possible merger events4 by looking through a sample of binary quasar candidates in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 6. They found two quasars, SDSS J125455.09+084653.9 and SDSS J125454.87+084652.1, inside a large highly disturbed galaxy. On the sky, the two quasars are separated from one another by just 21 kiloparsecs (68,000 light-years). For comparison, the visible diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy is 37 kiloparsecs (120,000 light-years).
Prior to this discovery, astronomers could only hypothesize the triggering of two quasars during a merger event. Now such an occurrence has been observed. Detailed numerical modeling indicates the merging system consists of two massive spiral galaxies prograde (orbital motion in a forward direction) to their mutual orbit. The gas rich environment of the merging galaxies and the bright luminosity of the two quasars in the galaxies’ nuclei demonstrate that the black holes in the quasars’ cores must be growing rapidly. The completion of the merging event will probably cause the two black holes to merge and become a supergiant black hole.
Merging events like the one observed by Green’s team provide an explanation for the extremely massive black holes (up to the equivalent of 16 billion times the mass of the Sun) astronomers observe in the nuclei of nearby large galaxies. This observation confirms a major feature of the universe’s development as predicted by the big bang creation model. In the fourth and final part in this series I will discuss chronometers that determine even earlier epochs in the development of the universe.
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 (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, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3rd ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), 23–29.
4. Paul J. Green et al., “SDSS J1254+0846: A Binary Quasar Caught in the Act of Merging,” Astrophysical Journal 710 (February 20, 2010): 1578–88.