Examining in some detail the history of the universe helps 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?
Among the most compelling scientific evidences for the existence of the God of the Bible are two points involving big bang cosmology. First, astronomical observations verify the Bible’s unique and accurate predictions of big bang cosmology’s fundamental elements thousands of years before this cosmology arose.1 Second, big bang cosmology demands the existence of a personal God beyond space and time who creates the universe and exquisitely designs its physics and features for the benefit of human beings. One of the most significant cosmic feature for establishing the existence of the God of the Bible is the expansion history of the universe.
Over the past decade, type Ia supernovae have become the most important and accurate tools for determining the cosmic expansion history. Because these supernovae are so bright (at maximum brightness they outshine an entire galaxy), astronomers can use them to measure distances to high redshifts and, thus, determine cosmic expansion rates over the past ten billion years. Observations of type Ia supernovae convinced astronomers that, approximately seven billion years ago, the universe’s expansion rate transitioned from slowing down to speeding up. This conviction, in turn, led to the discovery in late 2008 that dark energy was and is the predominant component of the universe.
Recently, a team of twenty-one astronomers established a host galaxy correlation for type Ia supernovae that promises to increase the accuracy of the supernovae expansion measurement technique.2 The team presented a detailed analysis of host galaxy characteristics and corresponding light curves (see figure 1) for all the type Ia supernovae in the full three-year sample of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-II Supernova Survey.
Figure 1: A Typical Type Ia Supernova Light Curve
When a supergiant star consumes the last of its nuclear burning fuel, it undergoes a runaway gravitational collapse, resulting in a cataclysmic explosion that causes the star to shine brighter than a hundred billion ordinary stars for several days. This supernova eruption is characterized by a brightening that lasts for several weeks followed by a gradual decline in brightness over the next several months. This light curve tracks change in a supernova’s brightness from pre-eruption to maximum brightness to post-eruption decline.
Image credit for background image: NASA/Hubble Space Telescope/High-z Supernova Search Team
The team found that in passive host galaxies (those manifesting tepid star formation rates) type Ia supernovae exhibit faster declining light curves. Meanwhile, galaxies manifesting aggressive star formation rates reveal type Ia supernovae with light curves that decline more slowly. The team also discovered that type Ia supernovae are 0.10 ± 0.04 magnitudes brighter in passive host galaxies than in aggressive star-forming hosts.
The team’s results establish that if future analyses of type Ia supernovae samples take into account the altering effects produced by the host galaxies, then astronomers will obtain a more detailed and accurate picture of the universe’s expansion history. Such improved understanding will, in turn, give cosmologists a better measure of the universe’s geometry, a more accurate date for the universe’s age, and superior insight into the nature of dark energy, among other things.
The resulting superior history and picture of the universe and creation event will allow deeper and more rigorous tests of the big bang creation model. It could provide even more evidence for the Bible’s description of cosmic creation and history. We at Reasons To Believe predict that the big bang creation model and the design of the universe for humanity’s benefit will pass these future measurement tests with flying colors.
1. Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2004), 139–48.
2. Hubert Lampeitl et al., “The Effect of Host Galaxies on Type Ia Supernovae in the SDSS-II Supernova Survey,” Astrophysical Journal 722 (October 10, 2010): 566–76.