A tremendous cloud of water vapor envelops a quasar in distant space, according to new reports. Where did the water come from? A straightforward understanding of the biblical account of creation provides a possible answer and suggests that this may be the first of more such discoveries.
Genesis 1:6 says that on Day Two of the creation week, "God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Thus, according to the testimony of the only One who was there at the time, a great gulf or "firmament" divided one body of water from another. Genesis 1:8 states that "God called the firmament Heaven."
Surely, the waters "under the firmament" were those comprising earth's oceans and hydrosphere, but what about the waters "above the firmament"? One hypothesis held that it was atmospheric water vapor that collapsed during the Flood of Noah's day when "the windows of heaven were opened."1 But physicist D. Russell Humphreys proposed in his landmark 1994 book Starlight and Time that waters above the firmament instead referred to a tremendously huge sphere of water, the remnants of which exist today outside all the stars in a bounded and expanded universe.2
Of course, this proposition is not very palatable to those who prefer to believe that the universe does not have any edge at all, but evidence has mounted in favor of a universal boundary.3 Also, Psalm 148:3-4 appears to clarify the placement of these waters above the firmament:
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. (emphasis added)
Perhaps the waters spoken of in Genesis 1:6 are these "waters that be above the heavens," presumably located "above" the stars.4 Is there any water near the edge of the universe that would illustrate this possibility?
Actually, yes. Two teams of astronomers have found "the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected."5 Light emitted by a very distant and extraordinarily powerful quasar, or supermassive black hole, is altered in a specific way as it passes through the surrounding water vapor, and this enabled astronomers to detect the quasar-associated water.
This water was not found outside the stars, but associated with a quasar, so it is probably not direct evidence of any Psalm 148:4 "above the heavens" waters. However, it is a billion light-years farther away than the previous distance record for detected water, and less than two billion light-years from the outermost edge. And at 140 trillion times the volume of water on earth, this discovery may portend future water discoveries.
Space.com reported, "Scientists think water vapor was present even in the early universe. So finding this old cloud of the stuff doesn't come as a shock."6 But many creation scientists would not be at all surprised to find water that far out—and even farther—on the basis of a straightforward examination of what the Bible suggests is the structure of the universe.7
In fact, the Pioneer anomaly, an unexplained slowing of the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft on their way out of the solar system, is already well-explained by the overwhelming mass of a proposed sphere of water above the heavens.2 More water, perhaps as vapor or ice, may be either directly or indirectly detected in the future, and may be discovered even farther away.
- Genesis 7:11-12.
- Humphreys, D. R. 1994. Starlight and Time. Green River, AR: Master Books, 35, 59.
- Humphreys, D. R. 2002. The Battle for the Cosmic Center. Acts & Facts. 31 (8).
- Humphreys, D. R. 2007. Creation Cosmologies Solve Spacecraft Mystery. Acts & Facts. 36 (10): 10.
- Clavin, W. and A. Buis. Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water. Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release, July 22, 2011, reporting on research published in Bradford, C. M. et al. 2011. The Water Vapor Spectrum of APM 08279+5255 : X-Ray Heating and Infrared Pumping over Hundreds of Parsecs. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, arXiv:1106.4301v2 and Lis, D.C. et al. 2011. Discovery of Water Vapor in the High-Redshift Quasar APM 08279+5255 at Z=3.91. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, arXiv:1106.4784v1.
- Astronomers Find Largest, Oldest Mass of Water in Universe. Space.com. Posted on space.com July 22, 2011, accessed July 26, 2011.
- In addition to Psalm 148:3-4, Genesis 1 notes the intricate role that water played in the earliest moments of the creation week, and 2 Peter 3 states that these watery beginnings, as well as the historicity of the global deluge of Genesis 7-8, will be willfully ignored by scoffers.
Image credit: NASA/ESA
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on August 3, 2011.