Saturnian eclipse

By Phil Plait | December 16, 2007 8:30 pm

Do you read other peoples’ astronomy blogs? You should. You find all kinds of fun stuff that way… and you can also wind up with more ammo against creationists. Bear with me here.

For example, Tom’s Astronomy Blog has a post on Saturn’s moon Epimetheus. A new picture from Cassini was just released showing the moon’s shadow on Saturn’s cloud tops, and it’s very cool:

But then Tom noticed something interesting that I missed: the shadow is fairly sharp. When I read what he wrote, right away that triggered an instinct in my brain that I should check the apparent size of Epimetheus compared to the Sun as seen from Saturn. If the moon were much smaller than the Sun as seen from the cloud tops of Saturn, the shadow would be indistinct, because the moon wouldn’t block enough of the Sun’s disk to make an obvious shadow (I should note that the slight elongation of the shadow is probably due to the geometry of the positions of the moon, Sun, and Saturn’s disk; if this is near the edge of the disk of the planet the shadow would get stretched out).

In other words, to see such a sharp shadow, the size of Epimetheus as seen from Saturn’s cloud tops must be similar to or larger than the apparent size of the Sun. Well, that math isn’t hard, so let’s see.

Epimetheus is roundish, but not a sphere. Its dimensions are 117 x 116 x 106 kilometers, so it’s shaped roughly like a beachball someone is sitting on (note: these dimensions are approximate, because Epimetheus is actually pretty lumpy — but they should be accurate to a few kilometers, which will suffice).

Epimetheus has an orbit that is very circular, with a radius 151,410 km from the center of Saturn. We want the distance to the cloudtops, so subtract Saturn’s equatorial radius of 60,268 km to get a distance from the tops of the clouds to Epimetheus of 91,142 km.

An object 117 km across at a distance of 91,142 km would have an apparent size 265 arcseconds. That’s 0.07 degrees. For comparison, from the Earth the Moon is about 2000 arcseconds (0.55 degrees) across. So Epimetheus looks pretty small from Saturn, about 1/8th the size of our own Moon as seen from Earth.

But wait again! Saturn is a long way from the Sun, and so the Sun will look smaller, too. When that picture was taken, Saturn was about 1.39 billion km from the Sun. At that distance, the Sun would appear to be about 206 arcseconds across. That’s smaller than Epimetheus!

That’s why the shadow is sharp. My instinct was right. If you were floating on Saturn’s cloud tops and looking up at that moment, Epimetheus would be big enough to completely block the Sun. You’d be seeing a solar eclipse! In fact, Epimetheus is only about 30% bigger than the Sun, so it wouldn’t be that much different than a solar eclipse on Earth, where the Moon and Sun are almost the same size in the sky.

From the cloud top, you’d get an eclipse very much like you’d see on Earth. For us, the Moon can be as much as 5% bigger than the Sun in the sky if conditions are just so (we’re as far from the Sun as possible to make it look small, and the Moon is as close as possible to make it look big).

What I find irresistible about all this is that creationists love to point out that the apparent size of the Moon being roughly the same as that of the Sun makes the Earth unique in the solar system, because we are the only planet that can get total solar eclipses. We can see here that’s not true! Shocking, that creationists might be wrong about something.

Once again, we see that reality is far, far cooler than fantasy. Prettier, too.

Comments (74)

  1. Righter of Wrongs

    This blog contains a link to a creationist website wherein the following quote is found:
    “This leads to a very subtle effect that is hiding in these calculations. Note that for the planets closer to the sun, total eclipses are quite rare, while for the more distant ones, they are quite common. For instance, only the four larger (Galilean) of the 16 satellites of Jupiter produce total eclipses, all the satellites of Uranus and all but one of Neptune do.”

    Our friendly blogger states in his blog the following:
    “What I find irresistible about all this is that creationists love to point out that the apparent size of the Moon being roughly the same as that of the Sun makes the Earth unique in the solar system, because we are the only planet that can get total solar eclipses.”

    Does anyone else see a problem here? The claim made against the creationists is not supported by the link provided. In fact, just the opposite point of view is clearly expressed. Am i to believe that in the 90 minutes since this blog was published the website owners have completely retooled the page to reverse their earlier view, or is our friendly blogger too anxious to fire his cannon at creationists before he has bothered to fix his aim?

    If I am looking at this incorrectly, please correct me. Otherwise a full retraction is in order.

  2. Dan

    * A large angular size of the sun, which produces high visual resolution of features only seen during total solar eclipses
    * Optimal duration of totality of up to seven minutes that allows for maximum enjoyment
    * Frequency that makes total solar eclipses uncommonly rare, yet occur often enough to be enjoyed by many

    That’s from the CRS dreck you linked to. It just cracks me up, and the last two “conclusions” sound more like a condom ad than a testimony to any sort of research.

    You’re right, though, Phil. Reality is just a lot more interesting than any old concoction of myths and fables about some sky zombie and his magic wand.

  3. No, Phil is somewhat correct, this contradicts creationists. From the link:

    “The doubling of the number of planetary satellites in the past two decades has not undermined the prior conclusion of Whitcomb and De Young and Mendillo and Hart that the earth-moon system produces uniquely beautiful total eclipses. To the contrary, the calculations presented here demonstrate that their conclusion is more sound than ever. Additional consideration shows that overly total eclipses are not expected to be as spectacular as the ones produced by our moon. Furthermore the greatly diminished apparent size of the sun at the distances of the larger planets means that any total solar eclipse there would lack the visual effect as seen from the earth. The earth-moon system combines three aspects that enhances the beauty and wonder of total solar eclipses:”

    Notwithstanding that the reference made is not only improper and irrelevant, what they argue is that the earth/moon is “uniquely beautiful” in regards to an eclipse, which argues for design. Phil has shown that this is not true. The number of eclipses was not the point nor was the totality, but rather the unique beauty, which of course is subjective and can not be validated. Unless of course the creationists have viewed eclipses from other planets.

  4. Apparently, the “uniqueness” of the solar eclipse is the factor that convinced Guillermo Gonzalez that we live on a “privileged planet.”

  5. I stand by my claim. That site makes a whole passel of ridiculous statements, like “It is obvious that the smaller satellites of the solar system do not provide a good opportunity for total solar eclipses, because their small sizes and rapid motion combine to produce very short duration eclipses. It then becomes obvious that the only hope of producing awe-inspiring eclipses is to look to the larger satellites.”

    What difference does it make what the eclipse looks like, exactly? Is it likely that someone is floating in Saturn’s clouds right now, waiting for a solar eclipse from Epithemeus?

    The point here is that the creationist claim is that the Earth is unique in its solar eclipses (that site makes that claim). Then on that same page they move the goalposts by trying to overly narrow the parameters for an eclipse.

    Bear in mind that not all solar eclipses on Earth are perfect. Some are annular, where a ring representing 1-2% of the Sun’s disk can be seen around the Moon. How does this fit in to the creationist claim? Why didn’t God put the Moon (and the Earth, for that matter) on a circular orbit such that all eclipses were perfect?

    And the Moon moves away from the Earth by 4 cm per year. Eventually, it will be too far to cover the Sun, and all we’ll get are annular eclipses. That doesn’t sound terribly special to me either.

    So that site does say that solar eclipses are possible from outer satellites, then immediately narrows their definition. It’s typical creationist misdirection. And in the case of annular eclipses of Earth, they’re doing a scientific version of quote mining as well; ignoring evidence contradicting their premise.

  6. Philip

    Well, well, well!!
    Some people are really obsessed with creationists! To use this image and calculations as a weapon to ( for the umpteenth time) hit out at creationists is simply ridiculous. I am NOT a creationist and I accept all the evidence provided by scientists about the age of the earth and universe and the role of evolution in the development of life. I think creationists are simply stupid. BUT, I maintain that God started and planned it all notwithstanding what anyone else says.
    Maybe the Bad Astronomer will be kind enough to define his concept of what a creationist is. I am somewhat confused. Does believing in God make me a creationist? I am a retired nuclear physician and the complexities and wonders of the living body strenghtened my belief in our Creator. It is simply to marvelous to have started all by itself.

    Philip

  7. twinner

    Not that I agree or anything, but I do want to point out that, at least in Privileged Planet, his claim was that Earth was unique because the fact that the sun and moon appeared to be close in size allows us to observe the sun’s corona easily. He claims that the factors that make life possible on Earth also make conditions optimum for scientific discovery, such as our position in the galaxy. Our solar system is in between two galactic arms. If we were further in, we’d have more debris floating around that probably would’ve smashed us up by now, but we also wouldn’t be able to see as much of the Universe as we do since it’d be more dusty.

  8. Philip, your last sentence makes you a creationist.

    Not all creationists are young-earthers; some are ID’ists, some are theistic evolutionists such as your self, and some are old-earthers. The commonality is that creationists state that it is all too complex to have come out the way it did without an intelligent creative force behind it.

    Doesn’t mean you can’t still be a scientist. Here’s the bit about this article and creationists. This is what BA does for a living, and he knows enough about the subject to be able to do quick math to make a point. The creationists make a claim based on faulty reasoning and/or a misunderstanding. Phil shows why the claims are wrong.

    I learned something about eclipses from this post, so it served more than to merely tweak a few creationists.

  9. Oh please Phillip, get real for a moment will you? Just because you can’t fathom how everything started and how life evolved doesn’t mean that there is a creator; if so, please explain how the creator started, was he designed as well? I personally don’t care to split hairs as to what does and does not define a creationist; I consider any theistic belief to fall under creationism if that beliefs puts forth that some designer planned or created our world.

    No evidence in existence whatsoever points to some intelligent designer or what have you, despite such continued belief by the faithful. Unless you’ve been living in a closet, there is an attack on science by the fundies; and of course, they have their supporters with voting powers. We have presidential candidates who don’t “believe” in evolution, who court religious wingnuts, and other politicians who pray for rain. This is the 21st century, an age where we are on the threshold of quantum computing, medical advancements, genetic engineering, yet we have nonsense about sky daddy making headlines when a sports team wins some game. I am, quite frankly, sick of it. I am tired of listening to religious drabble about how some magical man made us and love us yet gives us cancer, AIDS, malaria, parasites, and all of those other goodies.

    Phil makes a stand on these issues as do others. The more of the creationist idiocy that can be posted in an online forum the better. Perhaps the next generation won’t be so naive as to accept a 2,000+ year old compilation of nonsense to be the literal truth.

  10. tacitus

    He claims that the factors that make life possible on Earth also make conditions optimum for scientific discovery, such as our position in the galaxy.

    Gonzalez’s claims show a distinct lack of imagination. Given that God is supposed to be responsible for everything in existence, right down to the very laws governing the Universe, then putting the Earth in a place where we can observe a few things about the Universe around is (including sticking the Moon in front of the Sun a few times a decade) is chicken feed.

    Even if you assume the current laws of the Universe, what about moving Andromeda a little closer so that it’s more than a teeny smudge in the night sky? How about a bright nebula or two to light the way to astronomy and the stars? I am sure there are a 1,001 things even an amateur astronomer could think of that would aid the whole process of discovery immensely.

    Then, if God can tweak the laws of the Universe a little, then why can’t we have a few more planets in our own solar system to explore? Perhaps even an Earth twin that we could have turned our minds to exploring and colonizing. How about doing something about that ridiculous speed of light limitation and the vast distances to even the nearest of our stellar neighbors? Or has God imposed a look but don’t touch, rule on mankind?

    I heard the co-author of the Privileged Planet book explaining how a transparent atmosphere has allowed us to explore the wonders of the Heavens. Well, what if our skies were forever cloudy? Perhaps the odd glimpse through a gap every few years would then be a wondrous thing (kind of like an eclipse) that would drive us to explore. Perhaps the mere speculation of what was beyond the veil of clouds would cause us to seek a way to overcome the visible barrier. Even if we never launched into space, as soon as other non-visible wavelengths were used, we would begin to explore the skies anyway.

    The point is that the Privileged Planet hypothesis is an empty one. Overall, it cannot be proved or disproved. Knock off one parameter (e.g. eclipses) and several more are ready to take its place. It is to Geocenterism as ID is to Young-Earth Creationism. It may be a sophisticated-sounding theory that appears to be a lot more impressive and scientific than the old overtly creationist stuff, but once you dig a little under the glossy veneer you will find there is no substance underneath, just a pseudoscientific mess.

  11. csrster

    Leaving out the details, I have to agree with Phil on the basic principle here. I’ve seen a total solar eclipse, and if God truly loved us he wouldn’t have rationed them out sparingly.

  12. Chip

    Philip says:
    >>>”Well, well, well!!…I am NOT a creationist …BUT, I maintain that God started and planned it all notwithstanding what anyone else says.”<<<

    (Groan – what a contradiction and a bit self-righteous to boot.)

    Chip says:
    In that case, I maintain that Marilyn Monroe is still alive, young and madly in love with me notwithstanding what anyone else says. (And my belief is as good as yours.)

    BTW – wonderful, awesome picture even in black & white. Saturn, its enormous scale, rings and its moons leave me stunned.

  13. Philip

    OK, then I am a Creationist in the widest sense of the word. But I am also a scientist and a pretty good one I dare to say. I will not burden you with a list of my publications.
    I cannot tell you who designed God or who created Him although I accept that He has been there forever. Just as the cosmos has been there forever. No cosmologist is able to describe conditions BEFORE the big ban or the physical state exactly at the onset of inflation. So, we are more or less in the same boat.
    But I do know that if I am wrong and there is no God, I will never know it once I shut my eyes for the last time. I will be dead and buried. BUT, if there is a God – and I believe this with my whole heart and soul – then I will know and so will everyone else including those who describes Him as a Zombie waving a magic wand.
    I do not ridicule atheistic scientists and respect what they do and produce but I object to people shooting sarcastic daggers at me all the time because of what I believe.

  14. Thanny

    Well, Philip, it’s not our fault that you’ve chosen beliefs that are so embarassing for you. You can’t expect us to refrain from pointing out how ridiculous your claims are, any more than a fourth grader can expect her classmates to stop saying Santa doesn’t really exist.

  15. Grand Lunar

    Excellent work, Phil. I bow down to your mathmatical powers!

    I imagine that similar situations occur for the major moons at Jupiter as well, yes?

  16. Michelle

    Wow, geeze, lots of creationist lovers today.

  17. Alan B.

    From the CRS link: “While the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon, the moon is also approximately 400 times closer to the earth, so that both objects extend nearly identical angular sizes of about 1/2 degree.” Actually the average apparent diameter of the moon is slightly smaller than the average apparent diameter of the sun which means that we get more annular eclipses than total eclipses. In other words, if the placement of the moon was designed, someone screwed up on the final specs.

  18. Well, my years of debating with creationists, trying to show them that evolution is real and that the theory is not a threat to their faith, have apparently been wasted. According to Richard Wolford, I’m a creationist, because I believe “that some designer planned or created our world.”

    My I respectfully suggest that there is a difference between believing in creation and believing in creationism?

  19. Thanny says:

    [[Well, Philip, it’s not our fault that you’ve chosen beliefs that are so embarassing for you. You can’t expect us to refrain from pointing out how ridiculous your claims are, any more than a fourth grader can expect her classmates to stop saying Santa doesn’t really exist.]]

    Stupid Atheist Trick #3: In any discussion of religion, you must make at least one reference to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or invisible unicorns.

  20. Philip

    Grand Lunar asks.

    ” Excellent work, Phil. I bow down to your mathmatical powers!

    I imagine that similar situations occur for the major moons at Jupiter as well, yes?”

    No fancy calculations needed here. Just look at some of the fantastic images by amateurs such as Mike Solway ( Iceman) which he regularly posts on Bautforum and you will notice how often the large moons of Jupiter cast similar shadows on the planet. Thus, many total solar eclipses on Ol’ Jupiter.

    Philip

  21. Nick Rudzicz

    Well, creationist debate aside, I have to thank you, Phil, for doing some of my work for me. It always blew my mind to think that the Sun-Moon-Earth size/distance ratios were as perfect as they were; that the Sun’s disc could be eclipsed but the corona remain visible seemed like the strangest bit of luck. I always wondered if any other planets might be so lucky, but never got around to the calculation. Nice to see that it’s true for at least one other planet out there!

  22. PK

    “Or has God imposed a look but don’t touch, rule on mankind?”

    He’s done it before with the tree of knowledge…

    “Stupid Atheist Trick #3: In any discussion of religion, you must make at least one reference to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or invisible unicorns.”

    That’s not a trick, it is a valid point that believers need to address. Substitute “the gods of other religions” if you like, but the question remains why you believe in god and not in Santa Claus, etc.

  23. Dr. Kent Hovind

    I must object to that image that the Bad Astronomer posted. From where I sit, (in my jail cell), it appears that this image is a work of the devil. It is the fingerprint of Satan, ol’ Beelzebub himself on the clouds of Saturn. I showed this image to my room mate, Bubba, and he concurs.

  24. Philip

    The BA wrote,

    ” What I find irresistible about all this is that creationists love to point out that the apparent size of the Moon being roughly the same as that of the Sun makes the Earth unique in the solar system, because we are the only planet that can get total solar eclipses. We can see here that’s not true! Shocking, that creationists might be wrong about something.”

    What I find mildly surprising is that Phil needed to go to all this trouble to debunk a creationist belief ( if this was indeed his purpose). Why not use, for all to see, Jupiter and its regular moon shadows as an example? If you stand in a shadow, whatever its origin, you cannot see the Sun. It is as simple as that. If you float on Jupiter’s cloud tops and a shadow of Io comes along, you have a total eclipse.
    Anyhow, I still enjoyed his calculations

    Philip

  25. 1. Hey there, Creationist Philip; please *do* bore us: what are your top five scientific publications (in peer-reviewed scientific journals)? I’m sure we’d all be enthralled with your bona fides.

    2. More importantly: Phil’s calculation instinct was triggered, my image-finding instinct was triggered. I wanted to see what a solar eclipse on earth looked like from space. Here ya go:

    http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap990830.html

    Notice how big the shadow is relative to the earth. Then go back and see how tiny the eclipse shadow is on Saturn. Gas giant, indeed!

  26. As I’ve said before and will say again:

    Saturn is cool.

    Thank you, Doctor, for showing us a beyond-totality solar eclipse on Saturn.

    I’m not going to leap on my charger this time. No matter how anyone thinks the universe came to be, it’s still a fascinating and astounding place on its own merits, especially so in that everything currently in it can be explained without resorting to supernatural causes even though we don’t understand nearly half of it and, no matter how knowledgable we get, there will always be more to learn.

  27. Daffy

    Barton, Christians believe God sent himself down to be horribly murdered in order to save His own creation from His own divine wrath.

    You’re right: comparing that the belief in Santa Claus is NOT fair; believing in Santa Claus makes FAR more sense.

  28. I was gonna say something, but Richard Wolford said it all superbly.
    We don’t need no steenkin’ sky fairies!
    – Praise Darwin –
    Richard B. Drumm

  29. tacitus

    What Phil is debunking is the creationist notion that awe inspiring eclipses are evidence of God micro-managing the design of the Universe so that the locations of the Earth, Sun and Moon were arranged specifically so that we could experience them.

    He is not debunking Christianity though, of course, there are atheist commentators who are obviously more than willing to express their own opinion on the matter.

    I am also an atheist, and believe that there are many things about Christianity that don’t make a lot of sense, but I understand that there are many (including several of my own family) who do believe and who don’t let their faith get in the way of sound science education or the execution of sound science itself.

    But I do know that if I am wrong and there is no God, I will never know it once I shut my eyes for the last time. I will be dead and buried. BUT, if there is a God – and I believe this with my whole heart and soul – then I will know and so will everyone else including those who describes Him as a Zombie waving a magic wand.

    Just another version of Pascal’s Wager. How anyone can believe in something merely because they are afraid of what might happen if they don’t is beyond me.

  30. Michelle

    You know, I think Centipede hit a nice point here.

    Saturn. Kicks. A. That eclipse thing is pretty cool, and the math behind it is pretty sweet too! It’s fun to know even I could’ve calculated that up if I actually bothered to use my maths sometimes. :P

    …But on the other end, I wouldn’t like to be on Saturn (Or remotely close to the lack of surface) to see the eclipse. I mean, did you look at the rest of the image? I wanna steer clear of that.

  31. Max Fagin

    Philip said:

    “Why not use, for all to see, Jupiter and its regular moon shadows as an example? If you stand in a shadow, whatever its origin, you cannot see the Sun. It is as simple as that. If you float on Jupiter’s cloud tops and a shadow of Io comes along, you have a total eclipse.”

    Because the ‘total eclipses’ produced on Jupiter are not really eclipses in the way that we think about them. They are more like occultations.

    On Earth (and on Saturn, apparently) a moon is at the correct distance to have nearly the same apparent diameter as the sun, producing what we think of as a total solar eclipse.

    But on Jupiter, while the sun does indeed get obscured by it’s many moons, all of them are either many times to large (and close by) to produce what we would think of as a solar eclipse, or many times to small (and far away) to produced anything more than a transit.

    Someone should check me, but I get that the following apparent diameters for the Jovian moons, as seen from Jupiter’s surface:

    Io (30′)
    Ganymede (16′)
    Europa (15′)
    Callisto (9.5′)

    And the sun (6′)

    So you can see, even though Callisto comes close, it wouldn’t be a solar eclipse like we think of them. The sun would get obscured, but I don’t think there would be the impressive coronal display.

    Almost every other Jovian moon is much smaller and much further away, but I did notice that there is one other potential candidate.

    Almath (7′)

    It’s a misshapen moon, inside the orbit of Io. It’s got the right angular diameter, but it’s so misshapen, I doubt anything like a terrestrial solar eclipse would occur.

  32. Magus

    Well, thank you for actually helping me find out the the shadow.

    And most importantly, thank you for teaching me again what really makes an eclipse, though i had learned it, in my school days.

    I didnt know that creationists had tried to say they are right because of our moon. Fools die hard.

    To say that earth-moon-sun combination is unique is to say that there is no other solar system that has a similar configuration of the star, planet and a satellite. I think i will be more convinced about the argument, if earth had a twin as well(two planets revolving around one another as well as a star.) and had a moon that gave total eclipses. Probability theory says such a scenario can exist.

    If everything was created by one entity, then it is possible to have created one planet with all the peculiar observations, but then claiming that one particular observation is peculiar implies that everything was created by one entity is obviously wrong.

  33. Interesting post. And a cool pic.

    Don’t think I really needed any more proof that some people believe crazy things though.

  34. Paul

    Well, I am NOT a creatonist by the proper definition of the word but I do believe that god created the universe – even many reputable scientists believe that.
    But I cant see how your theory on the eclipse prooves or disprooves intelligent design.
    If God could make eclipses on Earth then he could make them elsewhere.
    If the universe was an accident then there would be eclipses everywhere as well.

  35. > …But on the other end, I wouldn’t like to be on Saturn (Or remotely close to the lack of surface) to see the eclipse. I mean, did you look at the rest of the image? I wanna steer clear of that.

    Bah. That’s what having a proper atomic rocketship is for. One that can flip nature the bird and provide a steady platform for observation.

  36. A friend of mine who is a rabid Christian (I don’t hold that against her) takes the bible very literally until I point out an inconsistency and then the bible isn’t to be taken literally.

    Anyway, I was asking her how she knows there’s only one god. If there’s one, why can’t there be many?

    Her reply was that the bible says it’s so.

    My response was, ‘There could still be more than one god. It’s just that we’re out of other gods’ jurisdiction so as far as we’re concerned there is only one god.’

    I watched her brain frazzle a little and then she shook it off in what looked like a strong effort to consider anything other than what her bible says.

    Like I said, I like her but damn you’ve got be dumb to believe that there’s a god who could create this universe and still believe he’s the fragile-ego’d ass depicted in the christian bible.

    I have no idea if there’s a god, or gods, or not. I don’t believe it but what do I know? What I do know is all the major religions are profoundly wrong. They’re not even close.

  37. DrFlimmer

    @Philip:

    Don’t care about them too much. I am studying (astro-)physics right now and I believe in god in more or less the same way as you. If he exists or not – we will find that out. If we are right, then celebrate and go to paradise while the others are dropped to hell. If they are right, it doesn’t matter, I can just hope to have lived a good life (in whatever way). The good thing is: I don’t have to care if someone believes in god or not.
    Human beings will find out much, hopefully I can find something interesting, too. But there are some things we will never find out, like the “start” of the Big Bang. Maybe god did it, maybe some quantum fluctuations did it – we won’t know!
    But even this is not the reason I believe in god. It’s just a psychological support. To believe helped me, so I believe. And why not? Everything that supports is good.
    Someone mentioned that there are so many bad things in the world that could not have been sent out by a good god – well, it was the devil. Because we have good and evil in the world gives us the chance to reach paradise. Instead we would have paradise and there would be nothing to reach – if you believe in such things. If not – well, then good and evil will depend on other things.

    I guess my point is still unclear and most people will send me to hell for this ;) . I don’t care. I believe in god, you do not, I accept that, maybe you can accept that, too.
    And that some of your presidential candidates do NOT believe in science is REALLY VERY BAD!!!!

    Anyway:
    A very good entery Phil! And everytime you write about astronomy it is worth reading it!

  38. American Voyager

    It’s a shame that we have to take a cool picture like the one displayed here and turn it into a reason for heated debates or public roasting of a few extremeits. Why can’t we just enjoy it for what it is? Phil, it would have been just as easy to show us the picture, comment on how cool it was and let it go. The picture is a tribute to mankind in that we have the ability to develop a technology capable of giving it to us. It is also a tribute to the awsomeness of the universe. For the record, I believe in a creator. I do not hold to the extremist views of the people you are bashing here. They are garbage. I was not even aware that they are citing the Earth-Moon eclipses as “proof” of creation. Nor do I care. It’s a silly argument. You can’t “prove” it one way or the other so why even argue? There is one proper response to an awe inspiring eclipse: WOW!! Don’t waste time doing anything else.

  39. DrFlimmer,

    well, if some other religion is true than yours, then you have a problem too. :)

  40. has

    Righter (Writer?) of Wrongs says: “Does anyone else see a problem here? The claim made against the creationists is not supported by the link provided.”

    IANAS, but I read the CRS link just for the hell of it. The “paper” itself begins with the statement:

    It previously has been argued that the circumstances of total solar eclipses for the earth-moon system are unique in the solar system and that this suggests design.

    Spot the sneaky creationist weasel words here? Took me a few passes to notice it myself, but the key phrase here is “the circumstances of” and it’s a doozy. A more casual, innocent reading of this ambiguous wording could easily make one think that it’s claiming that solar eclipses are unique to Earth; such interpretations thereby allowing creationist two-faces to turn around and cry “gotcha”, as demonstrated here by RoW.

    However, let’s take it a bit further. Once both sides agree that solar eclipses occur elsewhere in the solar system as well, the original wording can safely be distilled down to the following statement plus assertion:

    “Our solar eclipses are different to anyone else’s, which suggests it’s designed.”

    Which, since the same can be said of everyone else’s eclipses as well, is really no different to stating:

    “X is unique; ergo X is designed”

    where X might as well be pretty much anything: solar eclipses, your own genome, snowflakes, grains of sand, oil smears that vaguely resemble a bearded bloke if you squint really hard, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    And since only the doofiest of creos will even try to argue that “God Has Too Designed Every Single Snowflake Evar!!!!!1!1!”, the only other option left – and the one subsequently employed by those particular authors – is “Yeah, but OURS are the prettiest!” which, as others have said, is completely subjective so carries no weight.

    Actually, I’m a little surprised the BA didn’t spot this one straight off the bat, given that he’s been at this game long enough to know how the creationist dissemblers like to play it. But hey, perhaps even Phil’s not 100% perfect all of the time. (Just don’t tell PZ!)

    In any case the real blame still lies firmly with the creos for deliberately creating such devious traps in the first place. An honest and conscientious author would ensure their significant statements are absolutely clear, comprehensive and not open to misinterpretation. Since this statement is clearly the opposite, that only leaves incompetence or dissemblance to choose from. (Hint: These authors don’t look incompetent to me; not at preparing creationist propaganda anyway.)

    Thus, any accidental sin of misinterpretation on the BA’s part is more than outweighed by the greater sin of deliberately and maliciously fostering such misinterpretation in the first place, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    Now go away or I shall pun your name a second time…

  41. TomR

    Yeah, I agree with American Voyager. My first impression on seeing that picture is just an overwhelming sense of the scale of gas giants…it’s easy to forget just how huge they are, and that image gave me a pleasant moment of vertigo.

    If you let your enemy determine your course of action, then you are lost.

  42. Donnie B.

    Dean Baird, that’s a great shot of the solar eclipse on Earth. And it has an interesting facet that works right into this discussion.

    You will note that the shadow is not sharp!

    This could mean one of two things: either this was an annular eclipse (I didn’t check on that), or even total eclipses are not capable of producing a sharp shadow on Earth. Since the notion of an umbra and penumbra pertain to total eclipses, I would think that the latter is the case.

    So, in fact, the existence of a sharp shadow in the BA’s image suggests that this particular eclipse is more of the “occultation” variety — i.e., that it’s not really comparable to the total solar eclipses we see here on Earth.

    This does not, of course, mean that the creationists are right, only that this is not the best counterexample to the argument that only we “priveleged” humans get “beautiful eclipses”.

  43. The shadow on Saturn’s clouds is likely not sharp, either. But we see the limitations of the resolution/distances involved.

  44. PK, in an amazing display of brain-damaged logic, writes:

    [[“Stupid Atheist Trick #3: In any discussion of religion, you must make at least one reference to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or invisible unicorns.”

    That’s not a trick, it is a valid point that believers need to address. Substitute “the gods of other religions” if you like, but the question remains why you believe in god and not in Santa Claus, etc.]]

    Gee, PK, if you believe in one scientific theory — heliocentrism, say — why don’t you believe in every scientific theory, including geocentrism and Tycho Brahe’s system? If you vote for one political party, why don’t you vote for all political parties? If you’ve married one person, why not marry all people?

    I.e., maybe there are ways of distinguishing among supernatural beings, and some might be more plausible than others. Ya think?

  45. Daffy posts:

    [[Barton, Christians believe God sent himself down to be horribly murdered in order to save His own creation from His own divine wrath.

    You’re right: comparing that the belief in Santa Claus is NOT fair; believing in Santa Claus makes FAR more sense.]]

    You know, physicists believe that an electron has properties both of a wave AND of a particle! Believing in Democritus’s hard little spherical atoms makes FAR more sense.

    And they believe that time goes at different rates as seen from different places! Believing in Galilean relativity makes FAR more sense.

    What’s real doesn’t always correspond to what’s congenial to our minds.

  46. Irishman

    “This leads to a very subtle effect that is hiding in these calculations. Note that for the planets closer to the sun, total eclipses are quite rare, while for the more distant ones, they are quite common.”

    Well, I would have to agree that for planets closer to the Sun, total eclipses are rare – they don’t even have moons, so eclipses are pretty much impossible. Oh, they weren’t just talking about Mercury and Venus?

    Philip said:
    > Some people are really obsessed with creationists! To use this image and calculations as a weapon to ( for the umpteenth time) hit out at creationists is simply ridiculous. I am NOT a creationist and I accept all the evidence provided by scientists about the age of the earth and universe and the role of evolution in the development of life. I think creationists are simply stupid. BUT, I maintain that God started and planned it all notwithstanding what anyone else says.

    So why are you getting upset? Phil didn’t say “Religious believers are stupid”, he said “Creationists are wrong.” You agree they are wrong, what’s the complaint?

    > Maybe the Bad Astronomer will be kind enough to define his concept of what a creationist is. I am somewhat confused. Does believing in God make me a creationist?

    I thought you answered your own question? No, being a Theist is different than being a Creationist.

    > I am a retired nuclear physician and the complexities and wonders of the living body strenghtened my belief in our Creator. It is simply to marvelous to have started all by itself.

    That is a personal opinion. You’re entitled to it, but don’t expect it to convince others.

    Mike Haubrich, FCD said:
    > Philip, your last sentence makes you a creationist.
    > Not all creationists are young-earthers; some are ID’ists, some are theistic evolutionists such as your self, and some are old-earthers. The commonality is that creationists state that it is all too complex to have come out the way it did without an intelligent creative force behind it.

    Respectfully, I disagree. Lumping all religious believers (i.e. theists) as Creationists robs the word of its usefulness to differentiate points of view. Creationism is a label typically used to describe the position of special creation – each species/kind/type having a unique origin, spontaneous (i.e. magical) origins, etc. Lumping theistic evolutionists in with the evolution opponents generates confusion.

    Richard Wolford said:
    > Oh please Phillip, get real for a moment will you? Just because you can’t fathom how everything started and how life evolved doesn’t mean that there is a creator; if so, please explain how the creator started, was he designed as well? I personally don’t care to split hairs as to what does and does not define a creationist; I consider any theistic belief to fall under creationism if that beliefs puts forth that some designer planned or created our world.

    Why? What value is gained by usurping the word “Creationist” to mean “Theist”?

    Chip said:
    >Philip says:
    >>>”Well, well, well!!…I am NOT a creationist …BUT, I maintain that God started and planned it all notwithstanding what anyone else says.”<< (Groan – what a contradiction and a bit self-righteous to boot.)

    No, it is not a contradiction, it is all about the meaning of each word. Creationist does not equal Theist.

    Paul said:
    > But I cant see how your theory on the eclipse prooves or disprooves intelligent design.
    If God could make eclipses on Earth then he could make them elsewhere.
    If the universe was an accident then there would be eclipses everywhere as well.

    The creationists are the ones who claim eclipses prove ID. Showing their statements about eclipses are untrue invalidate the argument. ID could still be true, but the argument being used to prove it is being shown faulty.

  47. Ty

    “What’s real doesn’t always correspond to what’s congenial to our minds.”

    Indeed. Which is why rational evaluation of evidence is the only reliable tool for determining ‘what’s real.’

    “I.e., maybe there are ways of distinguishing among supernatural beings, and some might be more plausible than others. Ya think?”

    I would love to see the rational evaluation of evidence that leads to belief in your particular supernatural being.

  48. CafeenMan posts:

    [[What I do know is all the major religions are profoundly wrong. They’re not even close.]]

    And you know this how…?

  49. Ty writes:

    [[rational evaluation of evidence is the only reliable tool for determining ‘what’s real.’]]

    Sorry, we disagree from the start. Who says that only the natural world is real? The religious question is whether something exists ASIDE FROM the empirical world. Saying that only empirical evidence counts is to prejudge the question.

    We know, from science itself, that there are some things science cannot ever tell us; that there are areas of reality permanently closed off from us no matter how good our instruments get. The obvious example is the simultaneous position and momentum of a subatomic particle — if you know one precisely, you cannot know the other. Another example would be what causes one nucleus to decay at a given time and not another. So we know from empiricism itself that empiricism does not exhaust reality.

    Once you realize that, other methods of knowing are on the table.

  50. Stark

    Barton,

    Show me the case where your god is proven to exist any more than santa, the easter bunny, thor, zeus, or (my personal favorite) loki and I’ll agree with you. Until then you make no point at all.

    Heliocentrism can be demonstrated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be the correct model of our and indeed all other solar systems. You can do the math on it if you so choose, you can do the observations to verify the math and you can even use the math to send a rover to Mars if you want. All because it is verifiable and falsifiable. This is why we don’t “believe” in Tycho’s system or geocentrism – they don’t hold up under scrutiny.

    In fact the reality that geocentrism cannot accurately predict the apparent movement of any object in the sky except the moon (and there are even issues there) demonstrates another thing nicely – namely that a theory with no supporting evidence gets tossed out on it’s ear… much like religion does for most of the posters here. Religion (any religion) has no supporting evidence whatsoever, ergo it is a flawed and innacurate belief.

    Physicists don’t believe that an electron has properties of a wave and a partical any more than they believe anyhting else. They can however prove that their ideas about the makeup and behaviour of particles fit the observed realities better than any previous theory ever has. In fact they’re theories are so good and have proven to be so accurate that we can build shockingly amazing things (like the computer you are using) using the predicitions those theories make. Of course science has managed to refine it’s understanding of the universe and make increasingly accurate predicitions of how things work (a very useful thing that) while religion hasn’t changed it’s tune in millenia. But hey, stagnation can be a good thing right?……

    You are, of course, welcome to have whatever strange beliefs you like but don’t expect that in a group of folks who base their world view on evidence to be sympathetic to them. Especially when you come off as an intolerant ass

  51. DrFlimmer

    @Tobias Malm:

    You know that you’re right, do you? But I cannot claim that my opinion is the only right and true one, far from me to do that! That’s why I can accept that people do not believe and some other people are muslim or Buddhist. Maybe god sent different religions to different parts of the world and … well… just wandered what we were doing with all that stuff ;) . That I don’t give a damn what others think and believe makes it very easy for me.
    Of course, I could also hold a speech here, why I think Christianity is one of the best ideas ever “invented” (even if you leave out “god” and that stuff), but that would leave us much too far.

    I just can emphasize what American Voyager and TomR said:
    Just look at that wonderful picture and realise how beautiful the universe (and life!) really is! We should enjoy it!

  52. Oz Engineer

    Fascinating how a simple and informative couple of calculations, combined with an image, can become a religious battlefield!

    Phil, I enjoy your site, your science and your very healthy disdain for creationists and other anti-scientists.

    However, the article’s purpose would have been better served to leave the religious angle out entirely – the image and discussion about it are enough to attract and to hold the attention of your average blog surfer….

    …which builds credibility for this site…

    … which opens the door to sensible consideration of other matters, eg education policy, politics in general or religion, creationism,… whatever!

    Phil, I think that you over-reached a little here and the result is there for all to see. A degenerating discussion of life, the universe and everything, descending to personal attacks, offense and turn-offs.

  53. Ty

    “We know, from science itself, that there are some things science cannot ever tell us; that there are areas of reality permanently closed off from us no matter how good our instruments get. The obvious example is the simultaneous position and momentum of a subatomic particle — if you know one precisely, you cannot know the other. Another example would be what causes one nucleus to decay at a given time and not another. So we know from empiricism itself that empiricism does not exhaust reality.

    Once you realize that, other methods of knowing are on the table.”

    Both an electron’s position and momentum are measurable. The fact that both can’t be accurately determined at the same time does not change the fact that both are measurable properties. Comparing these quite measurable properties of the universe to unmeasurable supernaturalism is disingenuous at best.

    And that’s the problem. These “other methods of knowing” mysteriously tend to lack any measurable properties of any kind. They propose no falsifiable hypothesis. At that point, the odds of Santa existing and any other supernatural and unfalsifiable thing existing are exactly the same.

  54. Troy

    I skimmed the previous entries so maybe it got mentioned but the creationist blurb (which was interesting to me considering the source) mentions Epimetheus but says the eclipse would be too short and the dramatic prominences not as pronounced because of the irregular size. So Phil I don’t think you made your case 100% that they are wrong, but they are. No less than the Bible says that the lights in the sky are meant to measure the seasons, but how irregular the seasons turn out to be. The year is 365.24219 days, if everything matched up as integers I suppose you might find something in that, but no there aren’t even nice perfect circles (more likely there’d be a reason it was quantized, resonance or something of that nature.)
    The creationist’s god seems to be a quirky artist that adds special effects? Doesn’t really pass the sniff test.

  55. It’s a pity such beautiful post has been filled with this non-ending discussion…

    Phil, just wanted to say that I couldn’t resist to send the link to this post by e-mail to my “Basis for Astronomy and Astrophysics” teacher (he’s an Astrophysics university professor, by the way). Perhaps he’ll show it to us in class tomorrow.

    And, Donnie B., considering that the angular size of the Sun as viewed from Saturn is much smaller than viewed from the Earth, you will note that the penumbra zone will be smaller and the umbra zone bigger when you get that away from our star. So the shadows will be sharper in eclipses there.

    http://www.salagram.net/solar-eclipse.gif

  56. Mike R.

    Judging Christianity based on young earth creationist arguments isn’t fair. The Bad Astronomer has set up an easy target to shoot down.

    We’ve got some pretty impressive scientists in the creation camp like Dr. Francis Collins (our current poster boy), the head of the human genome project. Check this out: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2006/08/07/findrelig.DTL.

    If you’re going to reject Christianity, at least consider what it’s greatest thinkers have proposed first. I’d recommend a helping of “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis to start.

    Better yet, read some of the New Testament. The book of John was written so people would believe. You can read it here: Bible Gateway.

    —–

    And ….

    I love everything to come back from Cassini. This picture just blew me away. Can you imagine how cool it would be to live out there?

  57. ohiobuckeye

    “Let there be Light/Big Bang.” What is the difference? 2 camps explaining the same conclussion.
    2 viewpoints speaking 2 different languages.
    The GENESIS account is the same as scientists account.
    The timing/days are different.
    The current observable Universe, will no doubt, become just a distant shore to the next generation’s viewing capabilities.
    I have been in awe/slackjawed by the views of Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra!
    I will become recycled “stardust” soon, but will the energy of my existance atrophy into an expanding universe. or will there be a collapse back into the “LET THERE BE LIGHT/BIG BANG?”

    Are there other bubbles on the shore where the BIG BANG floats? Is our reality, the only reality?

    I am only recycled stardust. Soon I will become recycled, once again. Creation/Chaos are the 2 dicotamies of faith and science. JMHO/FWIW

    Tim Coloton

  58. Sumbody hep me!

    Did I miss Creationist Philip’s list of his top five scientific publications? He boasted he was a published scientist and politely declined to “burden us” with a list. C’mon, Philip; burden us! Just the top five from your burdensome list. BABlogees can carry such load! Unless it be a load of BS, of course. Yikes, I think that’s what it might be.

    OK then.

  59. Ty

    Almost all of the Atheists I know are more serious bible and religion scholars than the Christians I know.

    I’ve read all of the apologists, including Lewis, and I’ve read the bible several dozen times (including John). I’ve also taken comparative religion classes at University, and studied the bible with three different Christian religions: Catholics, non-fundamentalist Protestants, and fundamentalist Protestants.

    Believe me, when I dismiss Christianity I am not dismissing a straw-man. I know exactly what I’m talking about.

  60. Philip

    Dean Beard wrote,
    “Did I miss Creationist Philip’s list of his top five scientific publications? He boasted he was a published scientist and politely declined to “burden us” with a list. C’mon, Philip; burden us! Just the top five from your burdensome list. BABlogees can carry such load! Unless it be a load of BS, of course. Yikes, I think that’s what it might be.”

    There is a famous saying, ” Do not throw your pearls in front of
    swine. It will be trampled upon”.

    Philip

  61. Pardon me for not joining the conversation, but I think it was supposed be 2 x 265″ for the angular *diameter* of the Epimetheus. Correct me if I made a mistake about this. I was just practicing my Python programming while I noticed this likely mistake. If so, then the angular diameter of the Sun on Saturn should also be doubled.

  62. Philip

    Ty wrote,

    “Almost all of the Atheists I know are more serious bible and religion scholars than the Christians I know.

    I’ve read all of the apologists, including Lewis, and I’ve read the bible several dozen times (including John). I’ve also taken comparative religion classes at University, and studied the bible with three different Christian religions: Catholics, non-fundamentalist Protestants, and fundamentalist Protestants.

    Believe me, when I dismiss Christianity I am not dismissing a straw-man. I know exactly what I’m talking about”

    At least you are in good company. The Scribes and Pharisees were also diligent scholars and knew the bible very well. They likewise rejected Jesus.

    Philip

  63. Daffy

    Barton: “You know, physicists believe that an electron has properties both of a wave AND of a particle! Believing in Democritus’s hard little spherical atoms makes FAR more sense.

    And they believe that time goes at different rates as seen from different places! Believing in Galilean relativity makes FAR more sense.

    What’s real doesn’t always correspond to what’s congenial to our minds.”

    Barton, do I even have to say this? Physicists at the least have mathematics to back up their theories. What evidence do you have that your God had himself murdered to save His creation from Himself?

  64. Philip:

    Heh. Those dirty, dirty Pharisees. Or, rather, the individual rules-lawyers amongst the Pharisees. You know, the same kinds of rules-lawyers that tend to turn people away from the Abrahamic God more than anything else.

    I know from experience it’s essentially hair-splitting so far as Christianity goes, but most non-Christians don’t really reject Jesus as a philosopher, seeing how he was mostly a harmless hippie with the occasional bout of righteous indignation (the fig tree and the moneylenders come to mind) and perhaps some Emperor Norton syndrome. What most people seem to reject, and I know I certainly do, is the Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann God so willing to kill and slaughter and maim because He loves us so very, very much. A God who is so insecure that He demands fawning, unthinking worship and should he not get it He will hit us with a very big stick for all eternity. Doubting Thomas was bad, remember, for using the three pounds of meat in his skull and saying “resurrection from the dead? Sounds unlikely. I need proof.” A God who, because some chick in a creation myth broke one (well, admittedly, the only) rule once decided to damn billions of unsaved innocent children to Hell because, let’s face it, no one’s innocent. We’re all depraved and deserving of damnation.

    Oh, and of course He’s the God of Love and not responsible for evil at all. Doesn’t even instill the instutitional confidence to say “YES! God is responsible evil, for he is the Lord of All!” Cop out, in my eyes.

    I cannot hold myself to such a dystheism. Should anyone else like to, that’s their own affair; should it make them a better person than they otherwise would be, whether it be through faith or fear, more power to them. I simply request that I be left to pave the way to one-Hell-or-another with my own good intentions, just like everyone else.

  65. Stark writes:

    [[Show me the case where your god is proven to exist any more than santa, the easter bunny, thor, zeus, or (my personal favorite) loki and I’ll agree with you. Until then you make no point at all. ]]

    Stupid Atheist Trick #3.

  66. Ty just doesn’t get it:

    [[Both an electron’s position and momentum are measurable. The fact that both can’t be accurately determined at the same time does not change the fact that both are measurable properties. Comparing these quite measurable properties of the universe to unmeasurable supernaturalism is disingenuous at best.]]

    The more measurable one is, the less measurable the other is, Ty. You can’t know both at once no matter how good your instruments get. There are aspects of reality that definitely exist, but are closed off from empirical inquiry. Dig on it a while.

  67. Ty says:

    [[Almost all of the Atheists I know are more serious bible and religion scholars than the Christians I know.]]

    This must be some strange new meaning of “serious bible and religion scholars” that I never encountered before.

    Let’s see how good a Bible scholar you are, Ty. Would you agree with the following sentences:

    1. The Bible says insects have four legs.
    2. The Bible says bats are birds.
    3. The Bible supports slavery.

  68. John Weiss

    Aside to the discussion at hand: Phil, you’ll be happy to know that we also made the same check (“Has Epimetheus’s umbra disappeared before it hits Saturn’s clouds?”) before identifying that shadow as Epimetheus’s for the CICLOPS daily release. It turns out that there are quite a few moons (most, by number) that cannot do so.

    We hadn’t thought about the Creationist implications though!

  69. Irishman

    Mike R. said:
    > Judging Christianity based on young earth creationist arguments isn’t fair. The Bad Astronomer has set up an easy target to shoot down.

    Uh, show me again where Phil targets Christianity.

    Dean Baird said:
    > Did I miss Creationist Philip’s list of his top five scientific publications?

    Irrelevant, unnecessary, and complete waste of time. Philip never claimed to have written/published Creationist science papers. He says he wrote/published science papers, and that he is a theist. He did not try to argue that his science papers are related to his religious beliefs. Ergo, they are irrelevant, as is his identity.

    Philip said:
    > At least you are in good company. The Scribes and Pharisees were also diligent scholars and knew the bible very well. They likewise rejected Jesus.

    What is that, guilt by association? Some attempt to ridicule/denigrate us non-Christians by virtue of association with other non-Christians?

    Barton Paul Levenson said:
    > Stupid Atheist Trick #3.

    Labeling it a “stupid trick” doesn’t in any way negate or refute the statement. It’s just you sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting “la la la”.

  70. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Actually, I know. Here’s a Stupid Deist Trick to change things up a bit.

    Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that at least one supernatural entity responsible in some aspect for the universe as it is today (a god) exists. Whether or not there are particularly multiple gods, a prime mover, an intercessory agent, a sort of divine spirit or spirits is left vague, for there to be something to argue about.

    Present the case that any given religion is more true than all other religions. You don’t even have to prove that it’s right, and all the others are wrong; just argue its superiority, as its potential to exist is given.

  71. Lti

    What a heated argument.

    I just thought i’d point out that the calculations Phil made had already been made by Faulkner at the link Phil provided (http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/35/astrodesign.html).

    Specifically relating to Epimetheus, Faulkner writes: “The best candidates for total eclipses are Saturn XI (0.95), Saturn XVI (l.02), and Uranus VI (1.08)”

    Where the number in parenthesis is the ratio of apparent satellite angular size/apparent sun angular size, and Saturn XI is Epimetheus. Thus as early as 1998, creationists were aware that Epimetheus came close to giving the same sort of solar eclipse as we get from earth.

    However, he goes further, describing the duration of the eclipse:
    “For Saturn XI the duration of eclipse is 19 seconds, while Saturn XVI has duration of 17 seconds. These durations are for the entire eclipses from first to fourth contacts, including the partial phases before and after any totality (or annularity). The length of totality is impossible to calculate with the current knowledge of the diameters of these two satellites, but it would likely be less than one second. Such eclipse would be almost unnoticeable, let alone enjoyable or useful for scientific study.”

    His comment about current knowledge of the diameters of the two satellites refers to their non-sphericity.

    Phil says “So that site does say that solar eclipses are possible from outer satellites, then immediately narrows their definition.”

    The site does not immediately narrow its definition. In the abstract it mentions the uniqueness of the earth-moon system, and this view is upheld throughout the article.

    Whether any conclusion based on such an argument is valid is a different matter, but i hardly find the site guilty of ‘typical creationist misdirection’

    While I agree with Phil and the majority of the posters here that the concept of ‘enjoyable, or beauty’ is entirely subjective and holds little weight in an argument for design, I thought it important for some more facts about the issue to be brought to the forward (and by forward I mean hidden deep in the depths of the comments of a blog post made a week ago)

  72. Paul Clapham

    But “Earth exceptionalism” is not limited to creationists.

    In his latest book, “Alone in the Universe — Why Our Planet is Unique”, John Gribbin throws the Earth-Moon total eclipse phenomenon into the mix. Admittedly it’s in the last chapter, the one where he abandons the statistics and starts pelting us with factoids, but still, there it is.

  73. Andrew

    hahah…. i love how the creationists highjacked this one!

    and what about that guy that says “i’m a nuclear physicist, i’ve published papers”, like it somehow makes him an authority on theism.

    If he’s so smart he should know a thing or two about fallacies too… does “appeal to authority” sound familar? what about “straw man”? “ignoratio elenchi”?

    i had to keep reading to see what came out next!

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