6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
I have written a few posts about the firmament or the dome or the raqia which YHWH placed above the earth as described in Genesis1 v 6-8 and these can be revisited in my articles: 3. The Firmament, the Garden and the Rainbow, Third Painting (July 6, 2017) and in the August 2017 posts based on the firmament (posts: 6-6e). However, further to these posts, I have been recently looking at what the scientific community have written about something tangible that they have observed to be around the earth. What they have been discussing is the Van Allen Belts.
The Van Allen Belts were discovered in 1958 when the scientist James Van Allen working at the University of Iowa undertook tests on radiation using the first launched satellite Explorer 1 followed by other tests made through other satellites. The observation he made was that: ‘Earth is surrounded by giant donut-shaped swaths of magnetically trapped, highly energetic charged particles.’₁ More research has been carried out since 1958 and Van Allen probes have been busily working on gathering data on the belts; the most recent probe was still active in August 2017 despite being launched in 2012 with an expected life of two years. ‘Data gathered by the probes also showed that the radiation belts shield Earth from high-energy particles. “The barrier for the ultrafast electrons is a remarkable feature of the belts,” study lead author Dan Baker, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, said in a statement.’₁ So we can gather from this statement that the Van Allen Belts are a protective layer which keeps the earth safe – I guess a bit like the firmament…
Further the scientists explain: ‘The radiation belts are not the only particle structures surrounding Earth. A giant cloud of relatively cool, charged particles called the plasmasphere fills the outermost region of Earth’s atmosphere, beginning at about 600 miles up and extending partially into the outer Van Allen belt. The particles at the outer boundary of the plasmasphere cause particles in the outer radiation belt to scatter, removing them from the belt.’₂
But most interestingly for me is the following comment which seems to indicate that spacecraft moving through the belts with humans on board might be in a dangerous predicament: ‘The Van Allen Probes are specially radiation-hardened to withstand the intense environment of the belts. Some spacecraft, however, are more vulnerable — especially when a solar storm hits. At worst, spacecraft can short out due to an electrical overload…Radiation, of course, also poses a human risk. Astronauts are subject to lifetime radiation limits from their time in space, to reduce any risk of cancer. Since only a few dozen people have spent six months or longer in space, however, it will take decades to understand the long-term effects of radiation on humans.’₁
In November 2015, NASA put out a promotional video about the problems which will need to be solved before Orion astronauts can be sent out on space missions. Most notably, it was stated by scientist Kelly Smith that “as we get further away from earth we’ll pass through the Van Allen Belts, an area of dangerous radiation. Radiation like this could harm the guidance systems, on board computers or other electronics on Orion. Naturally we have to pass through this danger zone twice – once up and once back. But Orion has protection. Shielding will be put to the test as the vehicle cuts through the radiation. Sensors aboard will record radiation levels for scientist to study. We must solve these challenges before we send people through this region of space.”₃ This is very interesting as it would appear that the Van Allen Belts are more than just protective force for the earth but that they also form some kind of barrier which makes it difficult for humans to pass through. This still reminds me of YHWH’s firmament and that the Van Allen Belts could be the firmament.
As a final thought I ask: does YHWH want us to break through His firmament? I ask this because I am reminded of another occasion in the Bible when men decided to disobey YHWH and I will leave you with this to ponder.
‘The people of the earth had become skilled in construction and decided to build a city with a tower that would reach to heaven. By building the tower, they wanted to make a name for themselves and also prevent the people from being scattered:
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4,ESV)
God came to see their city and the tower they were building. He perceived their intentions, and in his infinite wisdom, he knew this “stairway to heaven” would only lead the people away from God.
The goal of the people was not to glorify God and lift up his name but to build a name for themselves.
In Genesis 9:1, God told humankind: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” God wanted people to spread out and fill the whole earth. By building the tower, the people were ignoring God’s clear instructions.’₄