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Planetary formation theory in chaos


Published: 19 July 2014 (GMT+10)
Three known planets of the star HR8799 (the light from the star has been blotted out)

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Palomar Observatory

Astrophysicists, are being ‘knocked into a cocked hat’ by the results from the planet-finding Kepler space observatory. Almost a thousand new ‘exo-planets’ have been confirmed and another four thousand candidates are waiting to be assessed.

So what’s the problem? Well, the original theory of planet formation was derived to explain the only system we knew of at the time—our own. When others were being discovered astronomers expected them to be at least somewhat like our own. That hope has been dashed. The more planetary systems we find, the more our own world stands out as the exception rather than the rule. Naturalism is no great friend of novelty—it likes to see one theory explain all. Weird worlds require weird explanations, and the more the weirdness mounts up the less and less explanatory power remains in the conventional theory. They now have a “mess of models, which have grown almost as exotic and plentiful as the planets they seek to explain.”1

Kepler’s results so far show that exo-planets fall into three main categories: (i) hot Jupiters; (ii) giant planets with weird orbits; and (iii) super-Earths. Super-Earths are generally found in compact systems of two to four planets each, some of them orbiting their stars at ‘impossibly’ close distances with ‘yearly’ orbit periods ranging over 100 days down to just hours. Super-Earths orbit at least 40% of all nearby Sun-like stars, which makes them the most common type of exo-planet found. The long-period eccentric giants make up about 10% and the hot Jupiter ‘freaks’ make up less than 1%. That means about 50% of Sun-like stars have planets. Space technology will improve in the future so who knows—perhaps planets will be found around all stars!

We must leave the experts to fight over what this all means, but one thing is obvious—the original theory of planet formation, that they formed by the slow accumulation (‘accretion’) of dust particles orbiting a new star, is clearly wrong. Any honest expert could have told us that because it was already well known that the ‘accretion’ theory didn’t have a workable mechanism. The dust grains that are said to have formed the rocky planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) in the naturalistic scenario are extremely tiny and they have to stick together in some way until they grow to kilometre-sized ‘planetesimals’ when gravity then becomes strong enough to take over and build them larger.

Here is the stated rationale for a workshop on the subject in 2006: “The formation of terrestrial planets and the rocky cores of gas giant planets is one of the key questions in astrophysics. The first step in this process is the coagulation of dust: the growth from sub-micron dust particles to ever larger aggregates ultimately leading to the formation of multi-kilometer sized ‘planetesimals’. Once these planetesimals are formed, gravitational interaction starts to dominate over all other forces, and eventually leads to the formation of rocky planets. The workshop focuses on the first stage (the growth of dust to planetesimals). This stage still suffers from a large number of unsolved mysteries … Among them are the seemingly unsurmountable ‘meter-size barrier’ for the growth of particles.”2 And here is the summary statement after a workshop in 2010—under the heading “Accretion Unknowns” are the words: “How are planetesimal bodies formed?”3

Enough said. The original theory was wrong. There is no reason to expect it to improve when more planetary systems are added to the catalogue. The only thing that is in ‘a mess’ over these new discoveries is naturalism.

The truth is being revealed: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

References and notes

  1. Finkbeiner, A., Planets in chaos, Nature 511:22–24, 2014. Return to text.
  2. From Dust to Planetesimals, Workshop at Ringberg Castle, Germany, 2006. http://archive.today/aYrY, 8 July 2014. Return to text.
  3. Ormel, C.W., Overview of Planetesimal Accretion, German-Japanese Workshop, Jena, 2010.
  4. http://www.astro.uni-jena.de/~theory/DIPS/talks/ormel.pdf 8 July 2014. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Kevin R P.
I'm thinking - light heartedly - that these planets/solar systems were all place holders for the human race to use if Adam and Eve hadn't sinned. In that case, with billions of people who would have lived forever and many procreating, each new family might have "put in for" their own solar system. Once God received a request He would do a little rework of a solar system and give that family it's own world to "garden". Or, perhaps, God was going to grow the earth and universe like a balloon to accommodate all of those hypothetical people.
Don Batten
I know you are being whimsical, but as Dr Sarfati said in Answering some Ross supporters, “The purpose of reproduction was to ‘fill the earth’. We cannot presume to know what God would have done once this purpose had been fulfilled, but it’s likely that the command would have been rescinded. Actually, even in this fallen world, there are mechanisms to slow down reproduction in an overcrowded population. This has been observed in rats, for example. It comes down to what sort of God you believe in. The God who prevented the Israelites’ clothes and sandals from wearing out for 40 years in the wilderness (Deut. 29:5) could certainly have controlled overpopulation problems.”
Also, there is no evidence that any of the exoplanets are actually habitable (probably not).
Robert O.
Psalm 19:1 indeed! There is nothing more certain than that God's handiwork is ever before us.
Johan A.
It is amazing how similar the formation of planets and the first living cell is on a conceptual level - in both instances small particles just decided by themselves that it would be nice to get together and start something......

We truly serve a great God, that can allow us to search out these small things and admire His attention to detail.

Thanks for all your hard work - I enjoy the real science on this site enormously...
Keith E.
I am honestly grateful to God for your organization and it's work. My belief was strengthened by creation science and other apologetics when atheists began trying to convince me that there is no God. An article like this really knocks naturalism out the park. Praise God for creation science to have the backbone to stand up for God against a scientific landscape polluted by naturalism.
Alan S.
Excuse me while I fall about laughing. The God who makes every snowflake different under similar conditions with the same material and the same "rules" isn't stumped when it comes to the much more complex task of making planets different with a greater choice of materials and variety of conditions. He knows what he's doing, praise his holy name, and the heavens declare his glory. It seems to me that the deeper we get into unravelling the way he's made things the more complicated we find they are.
Chris M.
This is a good, simple explanation and exposé of exo-planet discoveries and their failure to to show their evolutionary origins together with the hope of life on other planets.

Well presented Alex; thank you
Stephen T.
it seems that Kepler's discovery of these new planets is causing a problem, because this does not fit into man's theories. "Super-Earths orbit at least 40% of all nearby Sun-like stars". While it seems that these planets are similar to some of the planets in our own solar system, eg hot Jupiters, none of them are the same, and none quite like our own Earth. Seems that our Earth is unique........ hmmm. But how could this happen by chance, through natural means? Almost seems like Earth was planned that way - by design - but that requires the need of a designer - or a Creator. The summary statement at the end of the 2010 workshop says it all "How are planetesimal bodies formed?" THEY DON'T KNOW!! I don't know the answer either - but I know the One that does!! I know that my LORD and Saviour is the Creator, and that He made it all.
Rather than bow the knee and submit to God as their LORD and Saviour, they are determined to TRY and prove that it all happened naturally, and their is no need of a God - and that God does not exist. When they stand before God, they will know the truth, and they will know that it was there all the time.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Gen. 1:1 "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:8

I thank God that I know my Saviour, and I praise The LORD for His Creation.
Rather than bow the knee and submit to God, and give Him credit for His Creation, they are determined to prove that there is no nhtthei

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