Mars at its closest for 60,000 years?
In August 2003 the media trumpeted the claim that Mars was at its closest to Earth in 60,000 years. Is this evidence that the planets are at least 60,000 years old?
Teardrop-shaped landforms reminiscent of those carved by floodwaters on Earth are south of the Elysium volcanoes in Mars’ Cerberus region. Were they carved by huge floods of water?
As they orbit the sun, Earth passes Mars every 780 days or so.1 Their proximity at passing varies, but the 55.65 million km of August was the closest ever recorded.
False-colour image of a portion of Mars globe showing extent of theoretical liquid sea thought to have once covered the planet.
Extrapolating backwards using today’s rates of planetary motions gives a figure of 60,000 years ago as the time when Earth and Mars would previously have been this close, if they had actually been in existence that long ago. And also if there had been no motion changes. These ‘ifs’ are unprovable assumptions, and we have a supremely reliable historical record (the Bible) indicating that the first of these assumptions is not correct—rather, Mars has only existed since Day 4 of creation (Gen 1:16) around 6,000 years ago.
At the August pass, Mars may well have been at its closest ever to Earth, but factors or past events of which we are unaware could potentially have affected their motions. Mars could conceivably have been as close (or even closer) before, though there is no way of verifying such speculations.2
In any case, there is emphatically nothing in Mars’s current motion or position which is incompatible with its being created and set in motion 6,000 years ago. The media’s constant repetition of ‘60,000 years’ is simply an assumption of long ages, not a confirmation of them.
References and notes
- Fitzsimmons, C., Mars closer to the Earth tonight, The Australian, 27 August 2003; Mars closest in 60,000 years, <www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,6941072%255E13762,00.html>, 1 October 2003.
- For the same reason, it would not be possible to determine with certainty the planets’ positions at creation by merely extrapolating their current motions back 6,000 years.