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The rain of snowballs

A May 28, 1997 NASA press release entitled “Polar Spacecraft Images Support Theory of Interplanetary Snowballs Spraying Earth's Upper Atmosphere” serves to confirm an observation made more than a decade ago. The press release reads as follows:

Images from NASA's Polar spacecraft provide new evidence that Earth's upper atmosphere is being sprayed by a steady stream of water-bearing objects comparable to small comets.

Using Polar's Visible Imaging System (VIS), a research team led by Dr. Louis A. Frank of the University of Iowa in Iowa City has detected objects that streak toward Earth, disintegrate at high altitudes and deposit large clouds of water vapor in the upper atmosphere. Frank's research was presented at the spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union at the Convention Center in Baltimore, MD.

The incoming objects, which Frank estimates to be the size of a small house, pose no threat to people on Earth, nor to astronauts in orbit. “They break up and are destroyed at 600 to 15,000 miles above the Earth,” Frank noted.

The Polar cameras have imaged trails of light in both ultraviolet and visible wavelengths as the objects disintegrate above the atmosphere. Using a filter that detects visible light emitted only by fragments of water molecules, Frank has shown that the objects consist primarily of water.

”The images show that we have a large population of objects in the Earth's vicinity that have not been detected before,” said Frank, who designed the VIS instrument. “We detect these objects at a rate that suggest Earth is being bombarded by five to 30 small comets per minute, or thousands per day.” Comets are known to contain frozen water and are sometimes called “dirty snowballs”.

Frank's new observations are consistent with a controversial theory he proposed in 1986 to explain the existence of dark spots, which he termed “atmospheric holes”, in images of the sunlit atmosphere of the Earth. He first detected these holes while analyzing data from an ultraviolet imager flown on NASA's Dynamics Explorer 1 spacecraft. He theorized that the holes were caused by the disintegration of small icy comets in the upper atmosphere. The water vapor they produce momentarily absorbs the ultraviolet solar radiation scattered from oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere, preventing it from reaching his camera and resulting in a dark spot on the image. These holes have diameters of 15 to 25 miles.

Images of the comets and the atmospheric holes can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:


What does it all mean? Several things chiefly. First of all, such a rain of house-sized “snowballs” signifies a young solar system. Billions of years worth of such “rain” might fill the oceans, but it makes more difficult speculations about their origin. Whence such an endless supply of snowballs? This is more spectacular than the Oort cloud, the mythical and mystical, not to mention undetected, cloud of comets which evolutionary astronomers believe supplies the solar system with comets over billions of years.

Shattered Moonlets?

In late 1995, NASA reported that the Hubble Space Telescope may have discovered a new class of objects which pass through the solar system. During a time when Saturn's rings are seen edge-on, Hubble recorded “several orbiting clumps of icy rubble that could be the remnants of recently shattered moonlets orbiting near the outer edge of Saturn's ring system.”

Saturn's rings are seen edge-on from earth every 14.5 years, twice in a Saturnian year. The Hubble photos were designed to confirm the presence of two new satellites first detected about six months earlier. Instead, three new objects were observed. All three objects should have been seen when the Voyager spacecraft flew by Saturn in 1980 and 1981. The implication is that they did not exist back then.

The three new objects are in different orbits from the two earlier (May) objects. They look like elongated arcs, very unlike a satellite. One possibility is that they are large clouds of debris produced when small satellites collide with each other or with chunks of “space debris” such as small comets. Just as a small handful of chalk dust can make a large dust cloud if tossed in the air, a shattered moonlet would be much brighter and more visible than when all of its mass is compressed into a single solid body.

The NASA press release states: “The discovery of objects in this transitional phase is not totally unexpected … because one scenario for the origin of Saturn's ring system is that it is made up of countless fragments from several pulverized moons. This idea is reinforced by the fact the new objects orbit Saturn near the narrow F ring, which is a dynamic transition zone between the main rings and the larger satellites. Moonlets in this region can be easily disrupted by Saturn's tidal pull if they are fractured by an impact, forming a cloud of debris. Eventually such a cloud would spread around the moon's orbit to form a new ring.

”The dynamics of this 'bumper car' zone are also evident in Hubble's observations of the satellite Prometheus. Although a third object seen in the May images was first suspected to be another new satellite because its location did not match the predicted position for any of the known satellites charted by Voyager, it now appears that this body is in fact Prometheus, which has slipped in its orbit by 20 degrees from the predicted position. Nicholson suggests that this may be a consequence of a ”collision” of Prometheus with the F ring, which is believed to have occurred in early 1993. The moon may have passed close enough to one of the denser, lumpy regions of the F ring to have its orbit changed.”

As with the water-rich ice-comets above, the question of age arises. It is clear that Saturn's rings cannot be billions of years old. The question is, how can they be sustained for billions of years around Saturn and not also around other planets? Furthermore, whence such an abundant supply of moonlets and comets? And is there a relationship between the “dirty snowballs” falling to earth near the poles and the “exploding” features which appear about Saturn's rings?

Another Account of Joshua's Long Day

The June-August 1997 issue of Creation has an article by one Russell Grigg about Joshua's Long Day.1 Mr. Grigg was an industrial chemist and is a staff member of the Creation Science Foundation. In his article he makes the usual claims that “The Bible uses the language of appearance and observation,” as if God can't or won't say true truth if it's the least bit inconvenient. Proof? Even the weatherman on TV reports the time of sunrise and sunset as if he really believed the sun rises and sets. Since the weatherman doesn't believe it, how much less should God believe it.

The speculation that the sunlight lasted only in Canaan, a type of optical illusion is presented uncritically, even though Mr. Grigg earlier remarked that Velikovsky had collected tales of a long day and a long night from around the world. Likewise, with Hezekiah's sign, the optical illusion is postulated, namely, that only the shadow went back on the sundial but that the sun's position in the sky did not change. This, although Isaiah 38:8 specifically says it was the sun that went back, not just the shadow. (Men who claim that only the shadow went back will only quote 2 Kings 20:11 and 2 Chronicles 32:31 and will pretend Isaiah 38:8 is not in the Bible.)

Another speculation is that the earth was perturbed by a passing planet (usually thought to be Mars) so that the sun traced out an “s”- shaped or circular path in the sky. This is difficult to do and, indeed, the earth's rotational axis would itself wobble for thousands of years afterward. Think of it this way: a baseball pitcher throws a ball which slowly rotates with its axis pointing to the batter. The batter foul-tips the ball so that it rapidly rotates with its axis pointing along a line from third to first base (at right angles to the pitcher's spin). Would you ever expect the ball to “forget” the impact of the bat and to revert back to the pitcher's spin? Of course not, the new spin will be a combination of the pitcher's slow spin and the bat's fast spin, and the ball will never recover. In other words, if such an “s”-shaped motion was ever imparted to the earth, the effects of that motion should still be here, today. Ditto for a circular wobble.

The third alternative which Grigg considers is that the earth slowed its turning so that it took 48 hours to make on rotation. The problem with this is that everyone on the earth would have experienced both a long day and a long night. Records show either a long day or a long night. But if you don't believe God when he says that “the sun stood still, and the moon stayed” (Joshua 10:13), then why believe men's historical accounts? It may seem obvious to the reader that slowing the earth's rotation and speeding it up again so that one day lasted 48 hours does not match either the Bible or historical records, but bear in mind that if one rejects the plain statements of Scripture, that is, the Word of God, that one then rejects the “way, the truth and the life.” All that one is left with then is their opposites, namely, uncertainty, falsehood, and death. As Dr. Peter Ruckman says: “If a man messes with the Book, God messes with his mind.”

Grigg mentions a Maori legend of the Maori and Polynesian ancestor, Maui, slowing the sun as it rose. Of all the long day and long night accounts, this is the only discordant one among all. The account is recorded in our book, Geocentricity, and seems to relate more to Hezekiah's sign, since Maui only held the sun long enough to give it a beating so that it promised to stop moving so quickly. Hezekiah's sign would have been around or shortly after sunrise in the environs of Peru and Chile, whence the Polynesians originate. If, as Grigg reports, the event happened shortly before sunrise in New Zealand, it would have been three hours after sunset in Israel. That is, Joshua could not have seen the sun over Gibeon for it would have been night.

Grigg concludes his article with this statement: “Those who balk at this account are almost invariably those who have already rejected 6-day creation through compromise with evolution's fictitious long ages, and have thus rejected the authority of the Bible.” Correct, but on which grounds can one say God meant it literally when he said “six days” but not literally when he said “the sun stood still?” How is that accepting ”the authority of the Bible?”

Joshua's Long Day and Coordinate Systems

According to Drs. Henry Morris and Henry Morris III (IIs anyone?), ”The scientifically correct way to specify motions, therefore, is to select an arbitrary point of assumed zero velocities and then to measure all velocities relative to that point. The proper point to use is the one which is most convenient to the observer for the purposes of his particular calculations. In the case of the movements of the heavenly bodies, normally the most suitable point is the earth's surface at the latitude and longitude of the observer, and this therefore is the most 'scientific' point to use. David (Psalm 19:6) and Joshua are more scientific than their critics in adopting such a convention for their narratives.”2
In other words, God didn't really mean it when he said in Joshua 10:13 that the sun stood still, but we can excuse him as long as he was only picking “an arbitrary point of assumed zero velocities and then to measure all velocities relative to that point.” Actually, the Doctors Morris are spouting pure nonsense. The reference point is only picked on the surface of the earth if one is measuring things on or near the surface. For astronomical events, the center of the earth is selected, rarely the surface unless one is computing the early phases of a rocket launch. Besides, the whole reason for the apologetic is still to excuse God for not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the sunrise and sunset. To the Drs. Morris it is evidently more important that God be scientific than that he be the purveyor of what the late Francis Schaeffer called ”true truth.”

Dropping Balls From the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Elsewhere in this issue, James Hanson shows that if two objects are released from a height, and fall to earth simultaneously, that the more massive object should fall to earth ever so slightly faster than the less massive object. According to legend, the first to actually try the experiment was none other than the fabled Galileo Galilei. He reportedly dropped two balls of two different materials off the leaning tower of Pisa and observed that they hit the ground at the same time.

But did Galileo actually do the experiment himself? Evidently not. Dwight van de Vate, Jr., writing in Beyond Reason,3 states: “One may well imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered — quite by accident — in the Vatican Library a manuscript containing an eyewitness description of the [”Tower” experiment], a description which unambiguously states that Galileo himself was not present when the experiment was performed. The manuscript is dated July 11, 1643, i.e., the day after the experiment was performed.” Evidently it was written by Galileo's assistant.
The experiment was indeed designed to determine if heavy objects fell faster than light ones, as Aristotle said they did. Since the two landed ”with a single sound,” it was concluded that Aristotle was wrong. Later Galileo interpreted the result as support for Copernicanism, but in that he reasoned spuriously.

But there is something suspicious about the whole story. Supposedly, the impact marks of the balls may still be seen in the basalt piazza which the report says was 5.4 meters from the base of the tower. Yet given the leaning rate of the tower, the dents should have been a 3.2 meters from the base. The report stressed a westward deviation from vertical, but it would have taken a falling time of 400 seconds to have drifted the roughly 2 meters from a height of 50 meters. The actual falling time would have been no more than 4 or 5 seconds.

There is, then, no way that the westward drift due to the daily rotation of the universe (or earth, if you must) could have been detected. Yet the report claims detection, and van de Vate even claims that the numbers work out. The only way they could work out is if the balls were rolled down a short incline upon release, perhaps to clear the walkway below the very top (see the front cover). Either the indentations in the basalt have nothing to do with the experiment, or the report is a forgery, or else the part of the report about the westward drift of the balls during their fall was made up. Neither Galileo nor his assistant, a shady character named Schmöller, would have been above falsifying an experimental result. After all, Galileo consistently claimed proofs for Copernicanism (most notably the phases of Mercury and Venus, and the paths of Jupiter's moons) where none existed. Finally, there's the possibility that the entire report about the report is a hoax. Do any of our readers know for sure?


1 Grigg, Russell, 1997. “Joshua's Long Day: Did It Really Happen — and How?” Creation, 19(3):35-37.

2 Morris, Henry, with Henry Morris III, 1996. Many Infallible Proofs: Practical and Useful Evidences for the Christian Faith, (Arizona: Master Books), p. 253.

3 G. Munévar, ed., 1991. Beyond Reason: Essays on the Philosophy of Paul Feyerabend, (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Press), pp. 449-452.

Translated from WS2000 on 11 February 2005 by ws2html.