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Creation 40(1):22–23, January 2018

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How did the Solar System form?

A new analysis suggests it didn’t (naturalistically, at least).



Evolutionary astronomers allege that the solar system formed by natural processes about 4.5 billion years ago. For a very long time they have been trying to model that formation process using powerful computer simulations. New research has shown, however, that the four inner rocky planets and the asteroid belt in our solar system cannot form naturalistically at the same time.

An online news article from the journal Nature discusses this new research, stating:

“Standard planet-formation models have been unable to reconstruct the distributions of the Solar System’s small, rocky planets and asteroids in the same simulation.”1

That means no matter what the simulations are seeded with in terms of the size and mass distribution of the planetary embryos and planetesimals, the correct observed size, orbits and masses of the planets and the asteroid belt cannot be obtained from the same simulation:

Despite decades of attempts, no computational realization of standard formation theories has reproduced the mass and orbital distribution of both the terrestrial planets and the asteroids. Writing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Izidoro et al. show that this is not possible.1

Starting conditions made easy for evolution

The simulations do not even start with the gas/dust nebular cloud from which the solar system is supposed to have evolved, but start at a point where it is assumed that planet-sized bodies have already formed from accumulation of mass, thus skipping other potential problems. The ‘embryos’ present at the start of these simulations are 10 or 20 large planet-size bodies, and several thousand small planetesimals, at most a few hundred kilometres across.

Then computer simulations are run (or ‘allowed to evolve’ under standard gravitational physics) with various initial parameters in an effort to produce the solar system we observe.

As the system evolves, the strong gravitational pull that embryos receive from the giant planets and from each other deforms the embryos’ orbits, which begin to cross. A cascade of collisions follows, forming planets as the embryos merge and collect planetesimals. Leftover planetesimals become asteroids.1
Figure 1: Schematic of the inner planets and asteroid belt: actual solar system (a) and simulated inner solar systems (b & c). From ref. 1.

In the actual observed solar system, the planets Venus and Earth are comparable in mass, and orbit between the smaller planets Mercury and Mars (see Fig. 1a). But standard computer models have what is known as the ‘Mars problem’. That is, in place of Mars, another planet forms, which is comparable in size to Earth, and additional Mars-sized embryos can readily get stuck in the asteroid belt. Another way of putting it is that, according to the best models, Mars is supposed to be at least as massive as Earth, when in fact it is a bit more than a tenth of its mass—and the main asteroid belt should most likely include several objects the size of Mars, when in fact there are none.

[The] main result is that, no matter what the density profile, it is impossible both to solve the Mars problem and to build a correctly structured asteroid belt (fig. 1b, c).1

I have previously discussed the problems of star formation via the solar nebular theory.2 Creationists have also frequently written about the difficulties of solar system formation from that alleged nebular cloud without a Creator.3 This new research highlights another intractable problem for planetary formation.

Why not admit that man is deficient in his knowledge? Our all-knowing God has told us that He created the planets of the solar system, and that this was about 6,000 years ago. God said He created the ‘stars also’ (Genesis 1:16).4 He said: “ … my right hand has spread out the heavens; when I call them, they stand forth together [meaning He created them at once]” (Isaiah 48:13).

References and notes

  1. Tsiganis, K., Planetary science: How the Solar System didn’t form, Nature, News and Views, 528:202–204, 2015. Return to text.
  2. Hartnett, J. G., Stars just don’t form naturally—‘dark matter’ the ‘god of the gaps’ is needed, 1 September 2015; creation.com/stars-star-formation. Return to text.
  3. See e.g. Sarfati, J., Solar system origin: nebular hypothesis, Creation 32(3):34–35, 2010; creation.com/nebular, also Hartnett, J., A Planetary system formation: exposing naturalistic storytelling, creation.com/naturalistic-planet-formation, 14 April 2016. Return to text.
  4. The Hebrew kokab for ‘star’ means any small bright object in the sky, so also includes planets, which have a similar appearance to Earth-bound observers. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Louis C.
"Why not admit that man is deficient in his knowledge?" Because the repercussions of such an admission are scary. That would mean we are accountable to a Creator -- and man in his fallen state is incapable of reconciliation with the Creator outside of Jesus. Also, no belief in Christ is possible without the conviction by the Holy Spirit. The result being, unsaved humans are scared of the possibility of such an explanation.
Roy Anderberg R.
God said, "God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else." ..................That's my God!
Charles T.
To my great disappointment I attended a service some years ago at a new local church plant, to see the two pastors, smitten after attending an RTB presentation in the Greater Toronto area, use ideas and slides from the seminar, to show that the Bible is true! The matter at hand was the earth/moon system and how the moon allegedly had formed. This type of enormous bait-and-switch fish story is really disconcerting when used by pastors "out of the box". (Plug and Play?). "You err, because you do not know the Scriptures, or the power of God".
John Hartnett
Thank you for your comments. We do understand your frustration when church pastors blithely accept views on the interpretation of Genesis that are clearly at variance with the plain reading of the scriptures. Many of the compromises have been addressed on this website. I would particularly recommend "Refuting Compromise" which was written specially to address the compromises introduced by RTB.
Frank S.
Thank you Dr Hartnett, for keeping us up to date on the latest astronomical news. This greatly reinforces our faith in our truth-speaking, cosmos-creating God. It is amazing that this awesome Creator is also our loving heavenly Father, through his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, and indwells us by his Holy Spirit!

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