By Mondo Gonzales
By the time you read this article in February, our observatory should be fully installed. We had been waiting for our pier to be installed. That has occurred and the mount has been connected to the pier with the main large telescope attached. Exciting times! We are in the process of attaching the 6” refractor to the motorized magnetically driven mount also. I can’t wait to show some pictures of the final setup inside the observatory! In the meantime, I have been losing sleep taking images with our portable mount and refractor. The skies over central Oklahoma do not disappoint! Here is an image of the Triangulum galaxy taken over 4 different nights. I simply turn the camera on and wait while it soaks up the photons. This image is a total of 12.5 hours exposure time. When we look at an image like this, I hope you are amazed at the majesty and power of God. This galaxy is huge and can be seen in the sky next to another gigantic galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy. We will be imaging that one soon.
One of our goals when starting this project was simply to do scientific research with high quality equipment. Jesus said there would be much deception in the last days (Matt 24:24) and obtaining truth would become very difficult. With the availability of the internet and specifically “You Tube,” there has been a resurgence of belief in the idea that the earth is flat. Many have asked us why we would engage in this topic as it is not related to the gospel or prophecy. We think it relates to both, but in different ways. As I just mentioned, deception will be rampant in the last days. Not only did Jesus predict this, but so did Paul (2 Thess 2:10-11). In addition, John mentions that one of the roles of Satan in the end times would be deception (Rev 12:9; 20:3). Prophetically speaking we would expect that truth about most things would become blurred so that it will be hard to discern truth versus error.
When it comes to the gospel, there are those who are unsaved and scientifically minded who are unable or unwilling to accept the gospel because they have come to believe that the Bible teaches a flat earth. Therefore, for them, the Bible is seen as untrustworthy, antiquated, and foolish. With the increased exposure of those promoting a flat earth, I believe these well-intentioned individuals are inadvertently maligning the truthful and scientific accuracy of the Biblical text which certainly correlates with what we observe in the natural world. Therefore, our goal is to gather data which shows the extensive nature of God’s expansive universe which shows that the flat earth idea is not biblical, nor does it match what we actually see and can measure.
Since we announced our Psalm 19 Project intentions, I have received at least a half of a dozen books, videos, or other materials by those wanting me to be informed about what the flat earth model accurately teaches. I appreciate this as I do not want to misrepresent anyone. The hard part is to recognize that there is no uniform doctrine of flat earth views. There is definitely some consensus in some areas, but when objecting to certain positions, it is easy for a flat earth proponent to deflect and say, “that point is not essential to flat earth teaching.”
Now, a few important comments need to be said up front. I have dear friends who are believers in Jesus and that salvation can only be found through Him. Yet they have come to believe that the Bible does indeed teach a flat earth. Their motives in promoting a flat earth are based on their conviction that this concept is biblical and scientifically verifiable. They believe that Satan has deceived humanity into believing that the earth is a globe. Therefore, those who are unsaved but believe in a spherical shaped earth are unable to accept the Bible as true. By extension, because these unbelievers accept a globe earth, they are unable to accept the biblical gospel. Do you see the interesting conundrum? You have godly people on both sides who have solid convictions and both desire to share the gospel and truth with others.
This is where I will have to say that my approach to the topic will be to agree to disagree agreeably. I have no desire to fight with, speak evil of, nor be condescending to my fellow believers. Also, we know that Satan loves to divide God’s people and to try and get us to fight amongst ourselves. In all discussions, we need to be guided by love, respect, and kindness with those that we disagree with on these minor issues. The most important agreement is that Jesus is Lord and Savior and as 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us, we should seek to defend the faith, but with gentleness and respect.
At the same time, I do disagree and will seek to share many of the reasons why. Often, you read from flat earth proponents that NASA is a liar and deceiver and all the pictures that they put forth are computer generated and cannot be believed. One of my goals has always been to state up front that I have no desire to defend NASA. This is why our intention has been to gather our own images and data and to make our own conclusions. Sadly, some have unlovingly accused us of fabricating our images because it does not fit within their paradigm. What can we do at this point? It would seem that these accusers are not open minded if they are going to cast aspersions on our research right at the beginning. We must allow the data to help us come to a conclusion and to avoid a preconceived bias.
For example, many flat earthers make the accusation that EVERYTHING that NASA puts out is a lie. They do no believe that the Hubble space telescope is real. Everything that Hubble claims to have imaged is nothing more than CGI (computer generated imagery). These are bold claims. One of the efforts we are doing is looking at an image that NASA produces and then I go out and point our telescope at the same coordinates in the sky. For example, compare these two images. The first one is of the Orion Nebula from Hubble.
The image below is our image from our 6″ refractor. They are clearly the same target object. No doubt that the Hubble image has far more resolution, but that telescope was a $1 billion. Ours was definitely not that! Our image was not CGI in any way at all. It was made with a one shot color camera and can be reproduced by any amateur astrophotographer. So, right out the gate, the claims that everything NASA produces is nothing, but CGI is false. Sadly, the flat earth community are unwilling to see the evidence in front of them that there is space and God has filled His heavens with billions of these objects.
There are two main fundamental disagreements that I have generally with the doctrine of the flat earth. First, it has to do with properly understanding the Bible. My background for the last 30 years is in biblical interpretation (formally known as hermeneutics). Not only did I learn this in college and seminary, but week by week for 20 years teaching the Bible in a variety of contexts. When people do not interpret the Bible according to recognized hermeneutics, all sorts of erroneous conclusions can be made. Many of these interpretations fall into what are officially called exegetical fallacies. Professor D.A. Carson wrote an excellent book called Exegetical Fallacies and there are way too many committed by those in the flat earth camp to address fully in this article. Two of the most obvious when interacting with flat earth thinking is forcing an overly literal interpretation on passages that are clearly in the genre of being poetic. The other is the taking of idioms and forcing them to be literal. Danny Faulkner covers these in chapter 10 of his book, Falling Flat: A Refutation of Flat Earth Claims.
Dr. Faulkner is an astronomer with advanced understanding in not just physics, but practical examples and research showing the sphericity of the earth. Another helpful article which you can internet search is by an astronomer named Dr. Jason Lisle entitled, “Debunking Flat-earth claims.” He has first-hand interactions with those believing in the flat earth and answers their objections with much actual evidence. Let me say this also. I appreciate those people who ask honest questions after seeing a video on the internet. It is good to ask questions, but it is also good to get real data and facts through actual experimentation. Too often, flat earth proponents spend most of their time being critical of pictures, organizations, and their opponents without actually producing their own data or research. If the flat earth is encircled entirely by the continent of Antarctica, then it would be fairly easy for the entire flat earth movement to raise money and to fly down there to this mountainous wall and film it. There should be no issues with documenting the edge of the earth and photographing the “firmament dome” which rises from the base of the earth up to the top. For those that might not be able to imagine what a flat earth proponent proposes, think of a snow globe with a hardened dome around a circular flat bottom. Why not just document this and end the entire discussion?
The other commonality I notice is that there seems to be a tendency by those in the flat earth movement to not have advanced understanding or technical experience in the nature of physics or astronomy. I heard one of the leaders of the flat earth movement say publicly that those who have master’s degrees or above in the physical sciences are hard to convince of the flat earth because they have been the most indoctrinated. This is not a legitimate argument and commits the logical fallacy of bulverism. This should not be the way to have a real discussion in seeking to get the facts. Everyone is capable of bias and presupposition, but could it be that those who have masters degrees and above in the physical sciences simply recognize through personal empirical investigation that there are just simply too many proofs and evidences of a spherical earth to entertain a flat earth?
In my own personal experience of being outside observing the heavens on a consistent basis and photographing God’s wonders, that the predictability of the motions of the stars, planets, moon and sun simply cannot match a flat earth model. Let me give you an example. Today’s astronomy software and motorized mounts for telescope equipment are all designed within a framework of a spherical earth and an expansively large universe. Now, it is one thing to simply see this on a computer screen, but every night I am out photographing the heavens, the computer directs the telescope to go to a certain place at a certain exact second and the object appears in the eyepiece. This is extremely advanced technology which can be tested and demonstrated in its accuracy, repeatedly, every night. There is very little, if any, original research and predictable (and testable) scientific investigation being done by the flat earth groups.
It is hard to get a straight answer about the actual distance and location that the millions (if not billions) of stars, nebulae, clusters, galaxies, etc. that amateur and professional astronomers are observing, photographing, and analyzing every night. One answer I heard from a major influencer in the flat earth movement is that these are simply light projections on the hard “firmament” about 7200 miles up. He likened it to a planetarium show. For him, these are not real, but projections of light. He wasn’t sure who was doing it or whether it was from outside the hard dome or not. He was asked, “What about the differences between the constellations in the northern and southern hemispheres?” He responded that these were different projection systems. This is not proof, but pure speculation and not even an argument which can be tested. This is where I again simply agree to disagree agreeably. That type of response is unable to be tested or confirmed.
Yet I can go out each night and take pictures of some of the images I have included in this article. I can confirm distances from within a heliocentric spherical solar system model. I can consult Kepler or Newtonian laws of physics (with formulas and parallax) to make predictions and then point my telescope to confirm. One example is using the first-year college astronomy equation called the small-angle formula. This recognizes the relationship between angular size, linear size and distance of an object. One evening, I was observing both Saturn and Jupiter. I could see quite clearly the difference in apparent sizes of each planet in my telescope eyepiece at a specific magnification. I calculated the angular size based on the generally understood distance and linear size of these planets using this formula. What I observed in my telescope eyepiece confirmed this formula as being perfectly accurate. It also helped to confirm the distances and sizes of each planet. I waited about a month and did it again when each planet was approaching what is called “opposition.” This is when a planet is completely opposite the sun in relation to the earth’s location. I used the formula again and was able to visually confirm in my eyepiece that both planets had a significantly larger angular size. This also occurs when the planets’ orbits bring them closer to the earth. This is easily confirmed by anyone taking the time. It is personal experiments like these which continue to reveal to me that the flat earth model is in error. It is unable to produce its own predictable set of laws of physics which match observable and testable reality.
Let me address the issue of NASA again which will illustrate the second disagreement I have with those proposing a flat earth. Are there bible believing Christians who do scientific research and work for NASA? Of course. These are solid Christians who are trained scientists and researchers who are using their interests and calling to explore God’s creation. Are all people who work for NASA deceiving liars? Certainly not. At the same time, we recognize that NASA does not promote a biblical world view that boldly acknowledges God as the Creator. They are officially secular and atheistic, and I certainly would disagree with their cosmological viewpoints. However, to say that just because NASA gets it wrong in these areas, they lie about everything is committing the fallacy of overgeneralization. In addition, when reading the flat earth material, other fallacies of guilt by association, red herring, and the slippery slope are common. Sadly, there is often a tone of arrogance and condescension that if you believe the earth is a globe you are a foolish ignoramus buying into the Satanic lie and/or are knowingly disregarding the authority of the Bible.
Another interesting comment that is repeated constantly is that NASA has admitted that they use computers to enhance astronomical images. Therefore, “they are all fake. NASA admits this.” This is the fallacy of special pleading. Is it true that NASA uses computers to process images? Of course, but let’s make a distinction. NASA openly admits to creating artistic renditions of astronomical objects based on their models. These are 100% fake and they are meant to be fake. They are artistic drawings of what the data modeling could show. They are not saying this is 100% fact with the intent to deceive. It is a possible interpretation of certain experiments.
We see this all the time in archaeology. An archaeologist excavates some ruins, let’s say of a Greek temple. All of the stone pieces are no longer available, but in order to give the tourist a view of what it could have looked like based on the few parts available, they create an artistic rendering at the tourist site and put it on a sign. Is this a lie? Is this meant to deceive? Not at all. It is meant to give a visualization of a possible picture of what the Greek temple might have looked like in its original form. The same is true of some of NASAs artistic drawings. The flat earther would have you believe that because NASA or other space agencies show you a few pictures where in the caption it reads, “artistic rendering” that this means that ALL of the NASA photos are artistic fabrications. This is a red herring fallacy. It is not good logical thinking. I do not know the flat earther’s motive, but the end result is distraction and draws attention away from the main facts.
However, there are other images taken by the Hubble telescope or the new James Webb telescope that are processed images. These are not artistic renderings created from nothing. Does NASA process telescope images? Of course. So do I. The image you saw above of the Triangulum galaxy was processed by me in an astrophotography program called Pix Insight. It is very sophisticated and takes the data that I get from the telescope and camera and allows me to remove or diminish items such as noise, gradients, background interference, imbalance, over exposure, etc. I did not create the galaxy. I simply took the data that was already there and removed the technological interference which occurs in all digital cameras to allow the beautiful image to come to the surface. I added no color, no stars, no gas, etc. I did not create the image, but simply helped what was there to be seen.
Let me reiterate what I introduced above. When people say that ALL of the Hubble Images are fake, this is simply not true. How do I know? As I said above, I can point our telescope to the exact same spot in the sky and duplicate the image on my own which is exactly what we have done and will continue to do. If you internet search a picture of the Triangulum galaxy by Hubble, you will see that it looks very similar to ours. There will always be minor differences especially since Hubble has a six-foot mirror and ours is only a 6” refractor lens. Plus, Hubble is in low earth orbit and does not have to deal with the atmosphere like we do. Nevertheless, they clearly are the same galaxy if someone is willing to compare.
We get constant emails from those that believe in the flat earth. Would you believe that 90% of the time when I ask them if they have actually gone out and looked through a telescope, the answer is negative? This is not research and I strongly encourage everyone caught up in the deception of the flat earth thinking to do their own research. It is often the case that a flat earth proponent will seek to persuade you through a video or a picture they believe has been fabricated, but when this has happened with me and I tried to show them our own pictures, they claim our pictures are computer generated and must be fake. This is a double standard. My reply is: “Let’s not allow any videos or pictures by either side of the argument, but let’s go look through the telescope in person and judge for ourselves.”
Let me give you an example. This is an image taken by an Astro photographer friend of the planet Jupiter with an 11” Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope manufactured by Celestron. Anyone has access to buy one of these and do their own research. There are two items to notice in this image which can be verified by anyone who is truly interested in facts. The first is that you can see one of Jupiter’s moons in the image. Over a period of several nights, you can actually watch and photograph this Jupiter moon orbiting behind and in front of Jupiter. The moon is orbiting the planet. Jupiter has four main large moons, and this can be observed with all of them. The second important part of the image to point out is that it is obvious you can see the “Great Red Spot” of Jupiter. What most people might not realize is that Jupiter (as a spherical planet) does one full rotation in under 10 hours. What this means is that in the winter when there are 10+ hours of darkness, you can watch the red spot move across the surface of Jupiter as the planet rotates. You can take pictures and watch it disappear on the right and reappear on the left. Why? Because Jupiter is a planet that is a globe which has spherical moons orbiting around it also. This is not made up. This is a fact.
Below is an image that I recently took of the moon. This is a raw image with no photo processing of any kind. If you look closely to the top left, you can see the 3-dimensional hills and craters of the moon showing it to be a spherical globe also. This is true of the moon, Jupiter, all the other planets, the Sun and by reasonable deduction, the earth also.
In upcoming magazines, we will be addressing some of the biblical language as it relates to the firmament (raqia in Hebrew). There is so much confusion concerning this topic. The typical thought in the flat earth paradigm is that the firmament is a hard surface approximately 7200 miles above a flat earth. Therefore, for flat earth proponents, there is no outer space and all the images you might see of galaxies, nebula, globular clusters are fake. If they are true, they are simply projections of light on the hard dome. This takes away from the majesty of God’s creation.
God created millions of other objects that are now available for us to image through advanced equipment. The ability to give God glory for His handiwork only grows more as the technology becomes more advanced and cheaper to acquire. Let’s reexamine image we took of the Orion Nebula which I posted above. This is only a two-hour exposure which was processed by my Astro photographer friend, Micah Nowack (countryastronomer.com). The colors in this diffuse nebula are stunning. God created it for our benefit. Similar to a sunset with its rich diversity of colors.
When I look at this image, I am humbled. Even more because I connect with the Psalmist who wrote, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9). Sadly, many who proclaim a flat earth consider all these to be fake or refuse to look through a telescope. We should not be fearful of truth when this truth reveals to us the power and majesty of God’s handiwork. This is why God has provided resources for the Psalm 19 Project through a few separate donors. He wants us to help humanity and especially His children to recognize His magnificence and to acknowledge Him as Creator (Rom 1:18-22) without being dependent on Hubble, James Webb, etc. The goal is to point people to the saving message of Jesus Christ and His wisdom, power and love as Creator (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2).
Articles in the Psalm 19 Project series:
Part 1- What is the Psalm 19 Project
Part 2- Addressing Flat Earth Claims
Part 3- What is the Expanse/Firmament (Raqia)?