But what it eventually produced was far more than pictures and measurements of distant stars. In effect, it sent us snapshots from the distant past, from what appeared to be the origin of the universe. And there we could make out the telltale sign of the Creator’s fingerprints. Someone was there. Someone was there when it all began.
Astronomers, astrophysicists, cosmologists. These are not the sort of people you see jumping up and down with excitement too often. They usually spend their time in research centers going over bits of data that seem unintelligible to the rest of us. But something made them jump in April, 1992. Something really got their attention.
Stephen Hawking called it, “The discovery of the century.”
Another scientist exclaimed, “It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life as a cosmologist.”
Another said, “They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology.”
What was all the fuss about? Information coming back from the COBE satellite provided a final, critical piece in the puzzle of the origin of the universe. What the COBE satellite really did was to prove that the universe did indeed have a beginning. It came as close to proving this as is humanly possible.
Now, let me explain why this is important, and why this shook the scientific community. Let’s say that your picture of the universe leaves no room for God. Let’s say that, for whatever reasons, you simply can’t believe that there is a personal Creator behind it all.
But what’s the starting point? There has been only one answer to that question. It may not really be an answer, but it’s the best people can do when they take God out of the picture. What they say is simply that the universe has always been there. It’s eternal. Matter has always been there. That’s the usual starting point.
When you get down to the basic question of origins, there aren’t that many alternatives. You either start with God or you start with matter. You start with a God who is eternal, outside of time, who can create the complexity around us. Or you start with matter always being there, and slowly evolving into more and more complex things.
But, if the universe hasn’t always been there, it had to have a beginning. Well, that pretty much narrows down the alternatives to one.
How did the COBE satellite fill in the picture of how it all began? How did it produce the final piece of the puzzle?
First, it measured temperatures in different parts of the universe. This provided a picture of how the universe is radiating or dissipating energy in the form of heat. It’s known as the “microwave background radiation temperature.” COBE indicated it to be very low and smooth—no big irregularities in temperature. This confirms the model of the universe beginning at one specific moment in time and radiating smoothly thereafter.
COBE also took measurements related to something called “exotic matter.” It provided information about the proportion of exotic matter to ordinary matter in the universe.
According to Dr. Hugh Ross, author of The Creator and the Cosmos, the measured proportion exactly fit the proportion you would expect—if the universe had a beginning. That’s what the COBE satellite told us. The Hubble Space Telescope also helped fill in the picture. It made measurements that confirmed this proportion of ordinary matter and exotic matter.
That’s what caused the big stir. As one Berkeley astronomer put it: “What we have found is evidence of the birth of the universe . . . It’s like looking at God.”
Recent scientific data points in the direction of a Creator God.
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Owen Bourgaize on Oct 18, 2000
I heard a scientist explaining the mystery of "black holes" in the universe. They are stars which have collapsed and so do not emit light but nevertheless are a powerful force although not visible. The scientist likened it to a dance floor, with the ladies in white dresses and the men all in ...read more
Contributed by Jeff Strite on Jan 10, 2001
Poem: He was just a little lad, and on the week’s first day, Was wandering home from Sunday School, and dawdling on the way. He scuffed his shoes into the grass; he found a caterpillar He found a fluffy milkweed pod, and blew out all the ...read more
Contributed by Rich Young on Jan 17, 2001
We should be like little Johnny. After church, Johnny tells his parents he has to go and talk to the minister right away. They agree and the pastor greets the family. "Pastor," Johnny says, "I heard you say today that our bodies came from the dust & when we die our bodies go back to ...read more
Contributed by Denn Guptill on Oct 23, 2000
Abraham Lincoln said “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could ...read more
Contributed by Brendon Bridges on Nov 2, 2000
A doctor, an architect, and a lawyer were arguing over who had the oldest profession. The doctor said, "Well the first operation was performed on Adam, so the medical profession is the oldest." "No," said the architect, "Architectural planning and design was needed to create the earth and the ...read more
Contributed by Jim Butcher on Nov 13, 2000
Examination of the spiritual implications of the charting of the human genome.