How do we see stars billions of light years away?

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A question that frequently comes up is, ‘How do we see stars billions of light years away if the universe is only about 6,000 years old?’

The Bible clearly teaches that the Creation is only about 6,000 years old. God made everything about 6,000 years ago. Actually, He made the earth first in Genesis 1:1 and later made the stars in Genesis 1:14. Evolution says that the stars evolved first before the earth was formed. The two views are polar opposites of each other.
Astronomers have observed that about every 30 years a star dies and explodes into a supernova (ICR September, 1998). If the universe were billions of years old there should be several hundred million supernovas; however, astronomers have observed less than 300 supernovas in the universe. This limited number of supernovas shows that the universe is less than 10,000 years old, just like the bible says.

So, how do we know the distance of the stars? If you learned trigonometry in school then you know that if you have two observation points, you can calculate the distance to a third point. It is simply solving a triangle. The problem is that the earth is only about 8,000 miles in diameter. Compared to star distance this distance is too small to be of any significance. To enlarge this distance we use earth’s orbit around the sun instead. The earth is about 93 million miles away from the sun. This is a long distance. However, at the speed of light it is only 8 minutes away! It only takes the sunlight 8 minutes to get to the earth. So, if we are 8 light minutes from the sun, the diameter of earth’s orbit around the sun is 16 light minutes.

If we were to look at a star today and then look at the same star 6 months later, we will have looked at the same star at two observation points 16 light minutes away. While this distance of 186 million miles may sound huge, it is still not much.

For example, one year has about 525,000 minutes. If the little yellow dot in the picture below represented the earth’s orbit: it is way too big for the picture.

Here is an example to show the math involved with this process. If we had two surveyors 16 inches away from each other looking at a dot 525,000 inches away (over 8 miles), wouldn’t you agree that would make a rather skinny triangle? This is exactly the triangle you get when two people on opposite sides of earth’s orbit try to measure just one light year…just one! When measuring one light year, the triangle we get has an angle of just .017 degrees.

Now imagine this. Two surveyors set up their surveying transits 16 inches apart and try to measure the distance to a dot 8 and 1/3 miles away: without knowing that distance in advance. They are both focusing in on the dot and the only information they have is the measurement of 16 inches between themselves and the angle out of parallel. Now they have to calculate the distance to the dot based on that little angle change that they get.

This would be extremely difficult for them to calculate. And this just simulates measuring out to 1 light year! There certainly would be a lot of guess work involved. If they extended the distance to 100 light years they would have a much bigger problem. Now the dot would be over 830 miles away! This would be like two surveyors, just 16 inches apart, in Pensacola, Florida trying to calculate the distance to a dot in Chicago, Illinois! I would have to say that measuring 100 light years would be impossible. There is no question about it: measuring a distance of millions or billions of light years is impossible!

Scientists cannot measure distances beyond 100 light years accurately. No one knows what light is or that it has always traveled the same speed throughout time, space, and matter. Is it a wave, photon, a particle? We know what light does, but we don’t know exactly what it is. Nobody knows the substance of light. We surely do not know that it has always traveled at the same speed.

The theory behind a black hole is that light can be attracted by gravity. Well, if this is true you cannot say that the speed of light is a constant. At Harvard University back in 1999 they slowed light down to 38 mph. The next year they slowed it down to 1 mph and later they slowed it down to a complete stop! At Princeton University back in 2,000 they accelerated the speed of light by 300 times its normal velocity!

When someone says that a star is 10 billion light years away and therefore we can prove that the universe is billions of years old, they have several problems in their logic from the start. Remember, a light year is a distance: NOT a time! Since the speed of light is not proven to be consistent, why would star distance have anything to do with the age of the universe? The stars probably are billions of light years away. We just cannot measure them.

Everyone is asking the wrong question when they ask how the light from the stars got to the earth. They are asking the wrong question. Seventeen times in the bible it says that God stretched out the heavens. If God stretched out the heavens, the correct question to ask would be ‘how did the stars get from here to there?’ The Bible says pretty clearly that God made the earth first and then he made the stars. Suppose He made the earth and then he stretched out the stars from here. Adam would see the stars on day 6. As the star is being stretched out in space it is going to leave behind a trail of light. So the stars could be billions of light years away today and still have been created just about 6,000 years ago as the bible says.

(From the ‘Questions and Answers’ DVD by Dr. Kent Hovind. His materials are not copyrighted.)


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