The planets are young: 3
Published: 28 August 2019 (GMT+10)
We continue our response to the 2019 BBC-TV series The Planets, presented by Professor Brian Cox. In this article, we are considering the third episode,1 The Godfather – Jupiter.
Jupiter is the largest of the planets in our solar system, and the fifth out from the Sun. Prof. Cox tells the evolutionary story for the origin of this planet and what it does in the solar system. We present the biblical creation account and we invite readers to judge which best fits the available evidence.
Cox suggests that Jupiter has “had a profound effect” on questions such as:
“Why is the Earth the way it is?
Why is there life on Earth?
Why do we exist at all?”
Then he gives viewers some factual information about Jupiter. It is “a gas giant, a swirling ball of hydrogen and helium, so large you could fit 1,300 Earths inside. It’s about 2½ times the mass of all the other planets, moons, and asteroids in the solar system combined. And therefore it has a strong gravitational pull, and this means that Jupiter exerts an influence across the entire solar system that’s second only to [that of] the sun.”
This is all correct. And to extend Cox’ point that Jupiter’s influence is second to the sun, it is a hugely distant second. The sun is about 1,000 times more massive than Jupiter, and is so large that over 900 Jupiters could fit inside.
Birth of Jupiter
Cox then moves from facts to his evolutionary story. He says:
“Before the solar system even existed, nearly five billion years ago, a distant exploding star sent a shock wave across the galaxy, causing the cloud of gas and dust to collapse as the sun began to form. After 50 million years [he doesn’t say how this was measured], the sun’s nuclear furnace ignited, the light of its first dawn revealing Jupiter, the solar system’s first world. A planet born so early, it swept up most of the material left over from the formation of the sun.”
But this tale is total surmise. To produce a planet as big as Jupiter, a lot of raw materials are needed, and the evolutionary model cannot supply them. Contrary to repeated claims by evolutionists, the secular model cannot make large planetesimals out of gas and dust, because if any rocks did begin growing in space, the gas through which they were travelling would act as a brake, slowing their orbital speed and causing them to spiral into the sun—not grow into Jupiter (or any other planet).
Moreover, the amount of the gases argon, krypton and xenon in Jupiter is about three times more than that predicted by evolutionary models. The only place where these gases could have accumulated is beyond the orbit of Neptune, about 5 billion kilometres beyond where Jupiter is today. Could Jupiter have formed way out there and then moved inward to its present position? No, there’s not enough material there, so far from the sun, to form a planet as large as Jupiter. And if planetesimals containing these gases did form out there and move inwards towards the sun, they would have lost whatever quantities of these gases they contained, as they warmed up.2
A much better explanation, and one that avoids these problems, is that Jupiter was formed by God and recently, as Genesis Chapter 1:14–19 claims. Note that the Hebrew word for ‘stars’ (כּוֹכָבִֽים kôkāḇîm) is broader than the modern meaning, and includes meteors (‘shooting stars’) and planets (formerly ‘wandering stars’). For more information, see
- Jupiter: King of the planets and testament to our creator
- Solar system origin: Nebular hypothesis
- Solar system formation by accretion has no observational evidence
Our solar system ‘not typical’
Cox next reminds viewers that in our solar system the four rocky planets are close to the sun, and the four gas giants are further out. And he says that this arrangement is not typical of the rest of our galaxy: “Our sun is just one of around 300 billion stars in our galaxy, and almost every one of those stars is home to its own system of planets.”
Not so! According to the NASA Exoplanet Archive, as of 1 August 2019, there were 4,031 confirmed exoplanets, plus 2454 further potentials, which altogether is a minuscule two millionths of a percent of the total number of stars, not ‘almost every one’!
Cox: “In most other systems … closer to the star, we see super-Earths … thought to have thick toxic atmospheres, making them completely inhospitable to life. So why is our solar system the way it is?”
He suggests that “Around 4.5 billion years ago Jupiter’s orbit began to change, triggering a period of unprecedented violence, which completely transformed the face of the young solar system. And [he says] we know this because the marauding planet left a trail of destruction in its wake.”
Cox’s evidence, Ceres
Cox’s first evidence for his claims about Jupiter and its age is the fact that in size, Ceres (the largest body in the asteroid belt) is only a dwarf planet. He says: “4.5 billion years ago, Ceres was well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged world. … As Jupiter circled the young sun, it started to clear a path through the gas and dust that shrouded the early solar system … scattering the material from which Ceres would otherwise have grown. … When Jupiter passed through, it scattered 99.9% of the material away and Ceres’ fate was sealed.”
What are the facts about Ceres?
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft discovered that Ceres is geologically active, with mud being ejected from its interior in large quantities. Such a small body (1.29 % of the mass of Earth’s moon) should have cooled down and lost all volcanic activity eons ago if it were 4.5 billion years old, as Cox claims.
In fact, Ceres’ volcanic activity is totally consistent with a young age. And so Ceres is strong evidence for the Bible’s claim that it was created by God recently, as per Genesis 1:14–19. It is certainly not evidence for an age of billions of years. See
- Ceres surprises, Creation 41(3):45, 2019.
- Cosmic catastrophes
Cox’s evidence, Io
Cox’s second evidence is Jupiter’s closest major moon, Io. Its surface is covered with hundreds of active volcanoes and lakes of molten lava … created by Io’s proximity to Jupiter. Cox compares the source of Io’s volcanism to Earth’s, which, he says “is powered by the residual heat down below the surface … left over from the Earth’s formation four-and-a-half-billion years ago.”
He says that on Io it is different. “Io is a much smaller world, and so it didn’t retain much residual heat. So there the volcanoes are powered by a different process, known as tidal heating.” This term arises from the fact that Io is attracted gravitationally to both Jupiter and to Jupiter’s second major moon, Europa.
Cox: “The next moon out, Europa, goes round Jupiter precisely once for every two orbits of Io, which means that every second orbit, Io and Europa fall into alignment. It’s what’s known as orbital resonance. Now, that means that the gravitational forces on Io are constantly shifting and changing, and that stretches and squashes the moon, and heats it up— by friction … and that is the origin of Io’s volcanoes. This process raises the temperature of Io’s interior, which would otherwise be frozen solid, to more than 1000º Celsius.”
What are the facts about Io?
Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. One scientist, writing in the journal Science, calculated that if Io had been erupting over the assumed billions of years, at only 10% of its current rate, it would have erupted its entire mass 40 times over by now.3 A record outburst on Io, on 22 February 2001, was the largest ever seen in the solar system. Another ‘super-burst’ was in March 2003, and another in 2006 measured 7.7 trillion watts!4
However, tidal heating is not enough to produce all this. A Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release in June 2012 said that the pattern of heat in Io “disposes of the generally accepted model of internal heating”. And in 2013, a NASA press release stated that the volcanic vents are “significantly displaced” by 30–60º from where the tidal heating models say they should be.5
It is incongruous to think that Io has been erupting at anything like this level of activity for billions of years. Rather, the best explanation of all the evidence about Io is that Io has been gradually cooling from even greater activity at its creation by God, some 6,000 years ago, as per the biblical time frame. Among many evidences for this time frame within the solar system, Io is surely one of the most spectacular. See The violent volcanoes of Io.
Many other moons of Jupiter indicate young age
The moons of Jupiter differ considerably from each other and many, including the majority of the smaller ones, exhibit evidences of a young age,
Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system. Evolutionary models predicted it could not have a magnetic field, but space probes found that it did have one. But how could it have retained this for billions of years as per the long-age evolutionary model?
Callisto is covered with craters or other signs of bombardment, more than any other moon in the solar system. The evolutionary model of its formation is from slow accretion of dust around Jupiter after the latter’s formation. However, as mentioned above under ‘Birth of Jupiter’, this model does not ‘work’.
Smaller moons. Jupiter has some 79 small moons, and NASA lists over 50, i.e. the majority, as having retrograde orbits. This means they orbit Jupiter in the opposite direction to which Jupiter and the other Jupiter moons rotate. This is another huge problem for the nebular hypothesis, and involves special pleading by evolutionists, such as that these moons were captured by Jupiter from solar orbits. However, for a space probe to go into orbit around a planet requires that it approach the planet at the right angle and speed to prevent it either hitting the planet or being flung away from it. The notion that every single one of Jupiter’s 50 retrograde moons would have been travelling at the right angle and the correct velocity to go into orbit around Jupiter and thus avoid hitting it or being slingshotted away into space, is a massive assumption.
Influence of Saturn on Jupiter?
Cox next introduces Saturn as the rescuer of Earth from non-existence because of Jupiter. He tells viewers:
“Four-and-a-half billion years ago, Jupiter was migrating inwards towards the inner solar system, approaching the region where Mars and Earth were forming. Back then, the area where Mars and Earth orbit today was densely packed with gas and rock. But as Jupiter approached, it wrought havoc, scattering the rocky material in all directions. … Had Jupiter continued to move inwards, it would have had a similar effect on the Earth, meaning the world we inhabit might never have formed. But just as it looked as if Jupiter would sweep everything away, … a less massive planet, Saturn, formed further out. … Saturn got into a resonance with Jupiter, it went once in orbit around the Sun for every two orbits of Jupiter … and that has the effect, through a series of very complicated gravitational interactions, of slowing and stopping the in-fall and eventually causing the two planets to move back out again. … Saturn caused Jupiter to retreat, leaving behind just enough material from which the inner planets would form, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and our home, Earth.”
But what the orbital velocities of Jupiter and Saturn were, allegedly 4.5 billion years ago, is sheer conjecture by Cox. There are always assumptions when scientists rely on natural processes alone without allowing for the Creator God of the Bible. From a Christian perspective, God made the special arrangements of the planets to suit His purposes, so that the solar system would be a stable neighbourhood for us to reside in. He also apparently created heavenly bodies in such a way as to defy naturalistic explanations. From Genesis 1:14–19, we conclude that God created Earth, Jupiter and Saturn in their present orbits around the sun, about 6,000 years ago. For more on this aspect, see Planets and migrating theories.
Did Jupiter cause comets to water the Earth?
Cox next advances the intriguing conjecture that Jupiter caused comets to water the Earth:
“The young Earth formed in an arid region of the solar system. There was very little water that close to the sun, but as the Earth was forming, Jupiter was already tacking back outwards again into the outer solar system through the region that we now call the asteroid belt, a region populated by many icy, water-rich comets and asteroids, and they were scattered back inwards again, bringing water back into the solar system.”
Cox presumably has the asteroid belt as the source of his comets, because this is much closer to Jupiter than the two modern evolutionary sources of comets, namely the Kuiper Belt, located beyond Neptune, and the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical source even further away, extending as far as three light-years from the sun. Comets are all relatively small, e.g. comet Hale-Bopp, seen in 1997, at about 40 km wide, is one of the largest, and, as they lose water and dust in their tails every time they orbit the sun, they could not possibly be billions of years old. See
- Comets and the age of the solar system
- Comets—portents of doom or indicators of youth?
- More problems for the Oort comet cloud
Dinosaur footprints, what story do they tell?
Near the end of this episode, Cox shows viewers a view of the U.S. Colorado Plateau, now over a kilometre in altitude, and says: "Two hundred million years ago, this was at sea level. It was an ancient lake and … there are literally thousands of dinosaur footprints. … I find this absolutely remarkable. … What happened here is, probably a herd of them came lumbering across this lake bed, and then, perhaps that same afternoon, predators came, maybe following the herd. … So you see a whole story played out here, frozen in time.”
We find it remarkable also, but for different reasons, and according to a different historical story. All the footprints are indeed going in the same direction, as if all the dinosaurs are fleeing, but what were they fleeing from? We suggest it was not from predators, but from a flood of water. What flood? Noah’s Flood, described in the Bible in Genesis Chapters 6–9.
Another reason is that footprints normally don’t last long. Try this yourself: leave footprints outside anywhere you like, and see how long they last. Noah’s worldwide flood provided the sediment needed for rapid cementation of the footprints in the Colorado mud before they were worn away, and so preserved them—not for the 200 million years needed by Cox’s explanation, but for about 4,500 years, as indicated by the Genesis record in God’s Word, the Bible.
The Flood explains another curious phenomenon. For many different animal groups, not just dinosaurs, fossil footprints are found in rocks ‘dated’ millions of years earlier than fossils of animals that could have made them. It is strange that animals could have lived millions of years after they made tracks. A better explanation is that there is hardly any time between the tracks and animals—not millions of years. But the Flood would explain this: first, it would bury the tracks made by fleeing animals, then it would overwhelm the animals themselves on higher ground. See
- Dancing dinosaurs
- The Fossils, from a review of Is Genesis History?
- Startling evidence for Noah’s flood
What real purpose does Jupiter serve?
Cox concludes his view of Jupiter with the statement: “Without Jupiter we wouldn’t be here … because for objects heading towards the Earth from the far reaches of the solar system, Jupiter’s gravitational field acts as a shield.”
He illustrates this by what happened to comet Shoemaker-Levy-9. This comet was captured into orbit around Jupiter, and in July 1992 the tidal forces of Jupiter’s immense gravity broke the comet into about 20 discernable fragments, plus smaller debris. The fragments, strung out in nearly a straight line, smashed into Jupiter’s atmosphere at intervals of seven to eight hours over six days. This did not produce craters on Jupiter, because the planet does not have a solid surface. Instead, the fragments plunged deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere, creating massive fireballs and plumes thousands of kilometers high. These remained visible—some for weeks, some for months, before all eventually dissipated.
Yes, Jupiter does indeed act as a shield to Earth, but not fortuitously. Jupiter was created by God to protect Earth and us citizens of Earth from multiple impacts by astronomical objects such as that described above.
Viewers may wonder why Cox refers to Jupiter as ‘The Godfather’ in his title of this episode, and it seems he uses the term not in the ‘responsible role’ sense, but in the ‘gangster’ sense. [The Godfather is a 1972 U.S. movie about gangster violence, mayhem, and murder by the Mafia.] For example, he variously describes Jupiter as “a marauding planet”, that “left a trail of destruction in its wake”, with “unprecedented violence”, in a “reign of terror” and “havoc”, etc. Is he perhaps suggesting to any Christians who believe God created Jupiter that God created a monstrous villain?
Jupiter has no such fictional identity, according to the biblical creationist account of Jupiter. God created Jupiter in its present size, and hence with its present extreme gravity, in its present place in the solar system, as a benevolent guardian to protect Earth and us citizens who live here from the ravages of frequent massive meteor attack.
Planet Jupiter protects planet Earth from stray comets, asteroids, and other space debris, which might otherwise impact us to our very great detriment. Thus, from what it is, where it is, and what it does, Jupiter gives to discerning observers massive evidence of having been designed. It is thus an undeniable testimony to the great Designer of our solar system, the Creator God of the Bible, who not only created the cosmos (as per Genesis 1:14–19), but also created us—in His image (Genesis 1:26–27).
At the beginning of his TV episode, Cox posed three questions, which we transcribed at the beginning of this article. His atheistic evolutionary answer to each one was ‘Because of the profound effect of Jupiter’. So here are our Christian biblical answers to the same questions:
- Why is the Earth the way it is?
Because that’s the way God created it, and where He created it, some 6,000 years ago, as per Genesis Chapter 1—for a special purpose, i.e. to be inhabited.
- Why is there life on Earth?
Because God chose to create all living creatures “according to their kinds” (Genesis 1:20–25), and “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26–28)
- Why do we exist at all?
Because God created us to live in a right relationship with Himself, which we do by repenting of our sins, confessing of our sins to God, and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord of our life. (Romans 10:9)
References and notes
- For others, see Related Articles. Return to text.
- Psarris, S., What You Aren’t Being Told About Astronomy, Vol. 1 Our Created Solar System (DVD) Return to text.
- McEwan, A.S., Active volcanism on Io, Science 297 (5590):2220–21, 27 September 27, 2002. Return to text.
- Coppedge, D., The violent volcanoes of Io, Creation 35(4):54–55, 2013. Return to text.
- Neal-Jones, N., and Steigerwald, B., Scientists to Io, your volcanoes are in the wrong place, NASA.gov, 4 April 2013. Return to text.