Signs in the sun, moon, and stars: Jupiter!

In Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse, when Jesus sat down with the Apostles and told them about the signs marking the end of the world, one of them was:

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, Luke 21:25

The Greek word for ‘sign’ used in Luke is miracle. Probe Ministries describes it this way: “Miracles are those acts that only God can perform; usually superseding natural laws. Baker’s Dictionary of the Bible defines a miracle as “an event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God.” It goes on to add that a miracle occurs to show that the power behind it is not limited to the laws of matter or mind as it interrupts fixed natural laws. So the term supernatural applies quite accurately. It’s very interesting that a common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated “sign.” A miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself; the same way we follow signs to find a museum or an airport.”

Recently there have been some interesting signs in the universe. Whether they qualify as miracles or signs according to the biblical definition, I leave up to you to decide. What interests me, though, is that many of these things happening have either never occurred before, or are things scientists are at a loss to explain.

Solar Scientists Agree That the Sun’s Recent Behavior Is Odd
In very rough terms, the sun’s activity ebbs and flows in an 11-year cycle, with flares, coronal mass ejections and other energetic phenomena peaking at what is called solar maximum and bottoming out at solar minimum. Sunspots, markers of magnetic activity on the sun’s surface, provide a visual proxy to mark the cycle’s evolution, appearing in droves at maximum and all but disappearing at minimum. But the behavior of our host star lately is not as predictable as all that—the most recent solar minimum was surprisingly deep and long, finally bottoming out around late 2008 or so. “I think we’re almost in violent agreement that this is an interesting minimum,” said David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “My main impression of all this is I’m gratified to see that we all agree that this is an interesting minimum,” Hill said. “What’s not so gratifying is we have no clue why any of these effects are happening.”

Jupiter’s belt is gone
In the small hours of the morning, even before the sun is up, a bright star is rising. This is Jupiter. If you look closely, you’ll see white stripes and dark bands the color of L.A. smog. Usually, two enormous belts flank the equator like rust-colored tire tracks. But now something is different. One of the belts is missing. And no one really knows why.

Another object strikes Jupiter
Amateur astronomers observing Jupiter have witnessed an impact with the giant planet’s atmosphere. Both Anthony Wesley of Australia and Christopher Go of the Philippines saw a flash of light as an object struck Jupiter at 20:31 UT on June 3, 2010. Both observers have video of the event. There are a number of interesting coincidences about this new impact on Jupiter. Only last year, on July 20, 2009, Jupiter was struck by an object that proceeded to produce a large bruise in the planet’s atmosphere.

Jupiter hit by another impactor Thursday; video inside
Detailed analyses of last year’s impact on Jupiter by an asteroid wasreleased by NASAon Thursday. By coincidence, Jupiter was impacted yet again on the same day by an unknown object. This time, the impact was caught on live video.

‘Zombie satellite’ threatens other craft A satellite “goes rogue” and inexplicably begins stealing other communications signals
Don’t be alarmed. High above your heads, a zombie satellite is on the loose. OK, actually, it won’t really be a bother to us earthlings. Or at least to most of us. (More on that later.) But the rogue communications satellite is wreaking havoc in Earth’s orbit and does threaten to interfere with signals coming from other satellites. Here’s the backstory… The communications satellite named Galaxy 15 lost contact with ground control after a solar flare probably fried its brain. As a story from the Christian Science Monitor reports, attempts from Earth to contact the satellite have been unsuccessful. But instead of just dying and drifting off, the satellite has continued to orbit the Earth, even though it refuses to receive instructions from its owner, Intelsat.
For the science nerds out there: The satellite is still on, with its “C-band telecommunications payload still functioning even as it has left its assigned orbital slot of 133 degrees west longitude 36,000 kilometers over the equator.” Translation: Not good. What’s confounding scientists is that even though the satellite is toast, it continues to operate at full power, but with nobody telling it what to do. Why on earth we should care: The “zombiesat” (as its known in space talk) could steal a working sat signal, and interrupt programming for its customers.

Just about the only sign we have not seen is a sign on the moon.