Mercury’s magnetic field is young!


NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie InstitutionMessenger at Mercury
Figure 1. Messenger at Mercury. Magnetic field sensor is at right end of long boom.

Once again, a NASA space probe is supporting the 6,000-year biblical age of the solar system. On 14 January 2008, the Messenger spacecraft flew by the innermost planet of the solar system, Mercury. It was the first of several close encounters before Messenger finally settles into a steady orbit around Mercury in 2011.1 As it passed, it made quick measurements of Mercury’s magnetic field and transmitted them successfully back to Earth. On 4 July 2008, the Messenger team reported the magnetic results from the first flyby.2

As I mentioned on the CMI website earlier,3,4 I have been eagerly awaiting the results, because in 1984 I made scientific predictions—based on Scripture—about the magnetic fields of a number of planets, including that of Mercury.5 Spacecraft measurements6,7 have validated three of the predictions, highlighted in red in the web version of the 1984 article. The remaining prediction was:

Mercury’s decay rate is so rapid that some future probe could detect it fairly soon. In 1990 the planet’s magnetic moment should be 1.8 percent smaller than its 1975 value [measured by the Mariner 10 spacecraft].

‘Magnetic moment’ above is a measure of the strength of the source of a magnetic field. No spacecraft visited Mercury in 1990, but at the above rate, Mercury’s magnetic moment would be expected to be about 4 percent lower in 2008 than it was in 1975.8 That is a very rapid decrease for something as big as a planet’s magnetic field.

Rapid decay of Mercury’s magnetic field strength.
Figure 2. Rapid decay of Mercury’s magnetic field strength.

I got the rate of decrease by comparing my theory’s magnetic moment at creation with the 1975 value, and by using a 6,000 year age for the solar system, as the blue line in Figure 2 illustrates.

Creationist theories of planetary fields expect such a decrease because electrical resistance in a planet’s core will decrease the electrical current causing the magnetic field, just as friction slows down a flywheel. The smaller the core or greater the resistance, the faster the field will decay—and the decay is exponential (constant percent decrease per year, see further explanation). The decay rate given by the blue line implies an electrical resistivity consistent with materials science estimates and with the decay-computed resistivity of other “terrestrial” planets such as the earth.9

Spacecraft measurements
Figure 3. Spacecraft measurements of Mercury’s magnetic field strength.

Figure 3 is a close-up view of the right-hand side of Figure 2. It shows how the prediction compares with the January 2008 observations. On the left is Mercury’s magnetic moment in 1975, 4.8 (± 0.26) × 1019 Ampere square meters, according to the published analysis with the smallest error bars.10 The blue slanted lines have the same slope as the blue line in Figure 2, extrapolating the 1975 point and its error bars as a decrease into the present. The right-hand data point shows the January 2008 result, as analyzed in the same way as the 1975 result. The 2008 upper error bar overlaps the lower blue line, allowing for the possibility that the 1984 prediction is exactly correct.

There is also a possibility that the true value of the 2008 field is even lower than the prediction. My predicted four percent decrease in only 33 years would be very hard for evolutionary theories of planetary magnetic fields to explain, but a greater decrease would be even harder on the theories. That might be one reason the Messenger team seems reluctant to admit a decrease has occurred. Their paper confuses the issue by comparing different types of analysis with each other, like comparing apples with oranges. But in Figure 3, which uses a single type of analysis (comparing apples with apples), the lack of overlap of the two error bars with each other (a horizontal line at about 4.5 × 1019 A m2 can separate them) makes it statistically likely that a decrease has indeed occurred.

When Messenger makes more flybys and then goes into orbit around Mercury, we should get more accurate results. But the first results seem clear enough for us to expect good agreement with the creationist model. None of the now-verified predictions of the model could work without the biblically-specified original created material of planets and the biblically-specified age of the solar system, 6,000 years. When NASA’s space program began many decades ago, nobody expected it to vindicate Scripture so strongly.

Published: 26 August 2008


  1. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Messenger: A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study of the innermost planet, at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu, 3 July 2008. Also see NASA, Messenger mission to Mercury, at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/
    . Return to text.
  2. Anderson, B.J., et al., The structure of Mercury’s magnetic field from MESSENGER’s first flyby, Science 321:82–85, 4 July 2008. Return to text.
  3. Humphreys, D.R., Magnetic message from Mercury, 5 February 2008. Return to text.
  4. Humphreys D.R., Mercury’s magnetic message is not yet clear, 16 February 2008. Return to text.
  5. Humphreys, D.R., The creation of planetary magnetic fields, Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3):140–149, 1984. Return to text.
  6. Humphreys, D.R., Beyond Neptune: Voyager II supports creation, ICR Impact #203, May 1990. Return to text.
  7. Humphreys, D.R., Mars Global Surveyor confirms creation! Creation Matters 4(3):9, June 1999. Return to text.
  8. Humphreys, D.R., Mercury’s Messenger, Creation Matters 9(4):1,9, July/August 2004. Return to text.
  9. Humphreys, D.R., The creation of cosmic magnetic fields, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, and Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, USA, pp. 213–230, August 2008; see Figure 7 on p. 220. Hardcopy or CD copy of proceedings available from http://www.icc08.org/. Return to text.
  10. Ness, N.F., The magnetic field of Mercury, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 20:209–217, 1979. Use Ness’s more accurate result in the second-to-last paragraph of the abstract and express his error bars of (± 18) gammas in the form above. 1 gamma = 1 nanotesla = 10-5 Gauss. 1 A m2 = 1000 Gauss cm3. Return to text.

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