EN2: Where do stars come from?

Imagine filling up a helium balloon . . . bigger, bigger, bigger . . . BOOM! The balloon bursts. Where does the helium gas go? The helium molecules scatter into the surrounding air, dissipating very quickly. If there were no surrounding air, but simply vacuum, the helium molecules would fly away even more quickly. If you were an astronaut in space, working outside your space station, and your spacesuit sprung a big leak, you would be in deep trouble. Your air escapes into space and won’t be coming back. Neither will you!

The laws of physics, which are based on our experiences and organized by mathematics into useful equations, teach us that gas expands until some force constrains it, whether the force is derived from the elastic skin of a balloon or a gravitational field. Why doesn’t the Earth’s atmosphere fly away? Earth’s gravity keeps both us and our essential air close to the surface.

What about stars, which are gigantic clouds of very hot gas? High temperature gas tends to expand and escape, with molecular velocities proportional to the square root of the temperature. The helium atoms in your balloon on a cold day (zero degrees Centigrade, or 273 Kelvin) have an average speed of about 1,200 meters per second. If you start heating up your balloon, even after you have sealed it so that no helium can escape, the balloon will expand as long as its temperature keeps going up. Heat it up hot enough and it will burst. Don’t try this all by yourself!! Make sure a responsible adult supervises this experiment! (And DON’T USE HYDROGEN! Hydrogen is explosive!)

The surface of the sun enjoys an average temperature of about 6,000 Kelvin. That is VERY HOT, even compared to the melting temperature of iron, which is only 1783 Kelvin. At 6,000 Kelvin, the average speed of a helium atom is about 5,600 meters per second. But the sun is so large, containing so much gas, that its gravitational field provides a strong enough force to hold onto its gas. The sun is enormous, a sphere large enough to fit 1,000,000 Earths inside. Its energy comes from the “burning” of hydrogen and helium gas via nuclear reactions in the sun’s core. In the sun’s core, the temperature rises to millions of degrees, so that hydrogen and helium nuclei are speeding fast enough to smash into each other, “fusing” together to form other elements, and releasing enough energy for the sun to burn for at least billions of years into the future.

So where did this gigantic flaming ball of gas come from? There are lots of ideas about this, but you should know that astrophysicists have not produced a solid explanation for the origin of stars based on natural processes. Scientists that believe in the Big Bang explanation for the universe have a variety of problems that have not been solved. These include:

1. What was “there” before the Big Bang? There was no matter or space or time. It’s hard to even think about the universe not even existing. There wasn’t any “there” for anything to be there.

2. What caused all of the matter and the energy and the space to contain it to pop into existence?

3. Why did this incredibly tiny, incredibly dense mass expand from a size smaller than the dot above an “i” into the enormously large universe we see today?

4. Once you have an expanding and heated sphere of hydrogen and helium gas, why doesn’t it just keep expanding forever and dissipate into a near vacuum condition, just like what happens when a balloon bursts in empty space?

. . . and especially of relevance to the topic of this article . . .

5. How is it that the gas clumps nicely into stars and galaxies? There are typically a hundred billion stars in each of hundreds of billions of separate galaxies. For a gas cloud to collapse into a star it must have just the right conditions: The gas cloud must be cool, massive enough to make up a star, and dense enough so that there is enough gravity for the cloud to start condensing. These conditions would have to be “just right” in hundreds of billions of places in each galaxy at about the same time. If the “star clouds” overlapped too much, the entire galaxy might collapse into one “super star” or black hole. And each and every star must have a proper location and velocity in order to orbit around the galaxy without just falling into the center. The improbability of all this is simply extraordinary!

In the book, Cosmology, Probability, and the Need to Explain Life, philosopher and scientist John Leslie describes the luck required to get huge gas clouds in an expanding Big Bang universe to collapse into galaxies: “Persuading expanding gases to form themselves into galaxies of stars and planets requires an adjustment of gravitational and explosive forces quite as delicate as that between the two halves of a pencil in balance on a razor’s edge.”

Other scientists, who believe that the universe was created, are convinced that the existence of so many individual stars traveling in well-ordered orbits about the center of each galaxy necessitates design. Go ahead and look at some photographs of galaxies. The spiral and barred-spiral galaxies can only exist in this form if the orbits and locations of the stars are nicely organized. Also, astronomers see no evidence of any structure that would result from one or several galactic-sized gas clouds that collapsed into a single mass. If random, natural processes were the only explanation, shouldn’t this have happened a lot? Also note that all of those galaxies are spinning because all of the individual stars can only survive if they are orbiting around each galaxy’s center.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the would-be successor to iconic astronomer Carl Sagan, admitted as recently as 2007, “Not all gas clouds in the Milky Way can form stars at all times. More often than not, the cloud is confused about what to do next. Actually, astrophysicists are the confused ones here. We know the cloud wants to collapse under its own weight to make one or more stars. But rotation as well as turbulent motion within the cloud work against that fate. So, too, does the ordinary gas pressure you learned about in high-school chemistry class. Galactic magnetic fields also fight collapse: they penetrate the cloud and latch onto any free-roaming charged particles contained therein, restricting the ways in which the cloud will respond to its self-gravity. The scary part is that if none of us knew in advance that stars exist, front line research would offer plenty of convincing reasons for why stars could never form.” (Tyson, Death by Black Hole, p. 187, 2007).

Once again we see the intense, dogmatic religious commitment of the evolutionist. Despite overwhelming theoretical barriers and an utter lack of observational evidence for the formation of stars by strictly physical processes, they hold onto their faith.

A Harvard astrophysicist, Abraham Loeb, admitted, “The truth is that we don’t understand star formation at a fundamental level.” (New Scientist, 157, “Let there be light,” 7 February 1998.)

But they do believe it! Can stars form naturally? Of course, if the conditions are just right . . . which would be a rare event, having nothing to do with the existence of hundreds of billions of stars in each of hundreds of billions of galaxies. Occasionally, you might see a news release from an astronomer who claims that he has discovered a star in the process of “being born.” In fact, such observations are fraught with ambiguity, and so the conclusions are quite uncertain, even among evolutionary astronomers. Yet it could happen rarely if there is just enough cold and dense gas in just the right place.

This scenario is completely different from the idea of bio-genesis – the idea that microbes could arise from natural chemical processes. After all, stars are so very much simpler than the biological nano-machines of life, which cannot possibly arise from chemical chance, as discussed in several other essays on this site. Yet even “simple” stars declare the creative glory of God, since there very existence defies materialistic fantasies.

The more we learn about the structure of the universe, the more amazing it appears. Have you looked up those pictures of galaxies yet? How do you think they got to be the way they are?

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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