God’s Fireworks: No Competition
Independence Day in America is a day for fireworks. Let’s compare the biggest artificial shows with God’s performances.
The “Fourth of July” in the USA is almost synonymous with fireworks. Americans love watching well-crafted fireworks shows. You can even design your own computer fireworks shows now with software. But take any of the biggest displays on Earth, whether in Washington DC, Disney World, the Olympics, or in major world capitals, and they will normally be limited in area (a few square miles) and low in altitude (about 300 feet or less). That’s nothing! If we take the concept of “fireworks” to include glowing phenomena caused by heat and chemistry, nobody competes with God’s displays.
Lightning: The brief bolts of electrical discharges in lightning can heat the air briefly hotter than the surface of the sun. When they hit soil, they can create globs of melted glass called fulgurites. Some people live in more lightning-prone areas than others, but almost everyone has stood in awe of lightning displays. Not just beautiful or terrifying, lightning also serves a purpose. It’s one of several powers (along with some bacteria at room temperature) that can burst the triple bonds of atmospheric nitrogen, “fixing” it so that plants can absorb it for making proteins and other essential biomolecules. Monsoon season is coming to southern states, promising great shows for photographers who specialize in capturing the awesome glory of the storm, using devices fast enough to trigger the shutter at the first detection of a bolt.
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? (God to Job, in Job 38:35).
Volcanoes: Many volcanoes are known around the world. Some are only known by their cones and lava flows, but a large number have been witnessed in action. When they erupt at night, they can look fascinating or terrifying, larger than any staged fireworks show. Lightning often accompanies the clouds of glowing cinders ejected miles into the sky, adding to the spectacle. From a safe distance, volcanoes are truly awesome. A rare persistent “lava lake” was discovered in the South Pacific from satellite data, Phys.org reports—only the 8th one known in the world out of some 1500 land-based volcanoes. The BBC News says that no one has ever climbed Mt. Michael before because of its remoteness and steepness. Plumes of smoke were known drifting from the top, but only satellite data could tell what was going on inside the crater.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works,
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke! (Psalm 104:31-32)
Meteors: Can you imagine a fireworks display from horizon to horizon, coming from miles high in the atmosphere? That’s what some meteor storms can do. Residents of the United States were terrified at the Leonid meteor storm of 1833. They thought the world was coming to an end! But actually, the lights were caused by small pieces of rock, usually pea-size or smaller, when the Earth passed through a cloud of dust left by a comet. Stray meteors appear almost every dark-sky night. On certain nights throughout the year, meteor showers from comet trails produce more meteors than usual, about one per minute or sometimes more. Rarely, meteor storms like the Leonids of 1833 or 1966 produce spectacular displays of hundreds per second. The particles hit Earth’s atmosphere at 140,000 miles per hour, causing so much friction that the air glows as the particles heat up to temperatures almost as high as the sun’s surface.
Perhaps you have seen a “bolide” or extra-large meteor several times in your life. Some of these leave trails, and some are so big they can be witnessed in the daytime. Occasionally they explode in the air. There’s no real limit on how large an impactor can be, but the larger the impactor, the more rare they are. For a meteor to land on the surface (which happens often), they have to have enough mass left after surface layers burn off. Then they are called meteorites. Some have left huge scars on the Earth’s surface. Those must have been seen across the world!
His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
His brightness was like the light;
rays flashed from his hand;
and there he veiled his power. (Habakkuk 3:3b-4)
Auroras: The northern or southern lights are one of the most beautiful light shows on the planet. And they are not unique to Earth; the gas giants all have their own shows, driven by high-energy particles impacting atmospheres along field lines of their magnetic fields. This short film by Illustra Media, “Heavenly Fire,” containing some of the most dazzling aurora footage ever taken, explains how the aurora is generated by the sun and Earth’s magnetic field. (Source: TheJohn1010Project.com)
Comets: Large, bright comets fascinated the ancients, and terrorized many of them who imagined them to be bad omens. Since Newton, though, educated folks knew they were glowing bodies traveling on Keplerian orbits around the sun beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. In the space age, several comets have been visited. Rosetta even landed on one. Scientists know much more about them now, but not everything. Comet hunters enjoy finding new ones. The two-dozen fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fascinated many amateur astronomers with the large scars they left on Jupiter in 1994. And it’s a good thing that the Tunguska event of 1908 (probably a comet) exploded in the atmosphere over a remote part of Siberia. It flattened forests for 770 square miles!
Solar flares and prominences: As we move up in size, stars become even greater examples of God’s fireworks. Solar prominences erupt from the surface of our sun as high as ten Earth diameters, and flares are sudden, very bright eruptions of white plasma bursting out from the sun, sending charged particles across the solar system. Without the protection of our atmosphere and magnetic field, we would be fried by those “fireworks.” The surfaces of many exoplanets, lacking those protections, are certainly sterilized by flares and stellar eruptions.
Stars. As awesome as our sun is, it is a tiny dot compared to the largest stars. Go through this awesome sequence of stars to see how big they can get!
And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
Supernovas: Certain stars over a critical mass cannot sustain their cores over gravity. Once the fuel is used up, they collapse and rebound into a supernova, blasting out bright spheres of glowing matter over many light-years. See a new Hubble Telescope photo of “stunning fireworks of supermassive star” Eta Carina, which has exploded several times, and “will likely die in a supernova explosion, according to NASA.”. Some supernovas (technically, supernovae) are caused by mergers, or by accretion of material from a binary star orbiting a white dwarf. Those events are many orders of magnitude bigger and brighter than the “salutes” (white flash-bangs) included in many human fireworks shows. Supernovas can easily outshine their whole host galaxies for a few days or weeks!
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96)
Quasars and blazars: Extremely bright phenomena at cosmological distances have been discovered over the last few decades. Quasars are relatively compact “radio sources” (sometimes bright as well in visible light) that are brighter and more energetic than entire galaxies. Then there are very quick, fantastically energetic phenomena called “fast radio bursts” that emit extreme energies for fractions of a second (28 Feb 2017). Astronomers are still trying to figure those out. A new one was reported by Nature this week. Our human fireworks displays are zilch compared to those!
Is it any wonder that David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God” in Psalm 19:1? Now you know the truth of that statement more than David did!
We hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July, remembering the freedom that blesses our citizens because of the Founding Fathers’ commitment to the truth of creation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Jefferson wrote on their behalf, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Let us never forget the fireworks emerging from rifles and cannons, many aimed at our soldiers, occasioned by the necessity to defend those rights for two-and-a-half centuries.