The solar system we live in is not the only one that exists. Over the last several years, astronomers have discovered over 130 planets orbiting stars other than the sun. You might expect that very little could be known about planets so far away, and you would be right. Nevertheless, astronomers have been able to coax a few details about these worlds from the meagre data available, and it turns out that these extrasolar planets, as they are called, are a serious challenge to evolutionary ideas.
According to the accepted evolutionary theory, planets form by accretion. That is, bits of dust orbiting young stars collide and stick together to form clumps of dust. These stick together, or accrete, to form larger objects, until eventually a planet is formed. But there is a problem with this idea.
Scientists have discovered a planet in the globular cluster M4. (A globular cluster is a very tight, spherical grouping of hundred of thousands of stars.) The problem is that, according to the accretion model, grains of dust are needed to form planets. But globular clusters, like M4, are made primarily of hydrogen and helium, and are practically a dust-free environment. For this reason, most evolutionists had not expected to find any planets in globular clusters.
Evolutionists generally believe that globular clusters are very old, around 12 billion years. According to their evolutionary scenario, there would not have been much dust in the universe when these clusters formed, which is why, they believe, they are still so dust-poor today. Thus, one might say that this planet is too ‘old’ for evolutionary ideas.
Another extrasolar planet has posed just the opposite problem. Astronomers found a gap in the disk of dust and gas around the star CoKu Tau 4. This gap, the astronomers say, was most likely cleared out by a planet orbiting within the disk. There are other ideas that could explain the gap, but they do not fit the data as well.
Secular astronomers estimate the age of the star CoKu Tau 4 to be ‘only’ one million years. The planet had to form after the star, according to evolutionary theories, so it should be even younger. The problem is that it would take about four million years for such a planet to form by accretaion. If the planet observations are accurate, then this planet is apparently too ‘young’ for evolutionary ideas - by the dating methods that evolutionists themselves use. Astronomer Dan M. Watson said that this planet ‘really causes problems for the standard model of planetary formation.’
Some evolutionary scientists have recognized that the accretion model does indeed have very serious problems, but they are not giving up on a naturalistic explanation.
Extrasolar planet researcher Alan P. Boss has suggested a different way for planets to form. The gas in the disk of matter around a young star becomes unstable, according to this theory, and a clump contracts due to gravity, eventually forming a gas giant. This way, planets condense directly from the gas, and can therefore form much more quickly. Boss’s scenario also does not need dust grains, so it does not have the problems discussed above.
But extrasolar planets do not conform to Boss’s theory, either. If this theory were correct, planets should be able to form either with or without dust grains. But it turns out that extrasolar planets are found mostly in environments that are dust-rich.
This observation contradicts Boss’s theory, which says dust has almost nothing to do with planets. On the other hand, the observation that planets are occasionally found in dust-poor places is a problem for the accretion model, which says that dust has everything to do with the origin of planets.
The other solar systems that have been discovered are not like ours, nor would they be very hospitable to life. In most cases, there are gas giants, sometimes much larger than Jupiter, in eccentric or oblong orbits. If a planet like Earth were in one of these solar systems, these eccentric giants would destabilize its orbit. Their gravity might even fling it out of the system completely - not a good thing for living organisms that might inhabit that planet! Only about a third of the known solar systems could have a planet like Earth in a stable orbit.
Astronomers have also discovered recently that the star Tau Ceti has a disk of debris orbiting it. They inferred that there are 10 times as many small objects such as comets and asteroids orbiting this star as there are in our solar system. There may or may not be any planets orbiting Tau Ceti, but if there were, they would be continually bombarded by impacts from these comets and asteroids. Such an environment would be very destructive to any supposed evolution of life.
Astronomers already knew that habitable planets were not easy to form. But extrasolar planet discoveries are showing astronomers even more ways in which a world could be unsuitable for life.
As more is learned about the universe, more problems appear for evolutionary ideas. These discoveries about extrasolar planets also suggest that our solar system, and especially planet Earth within it, is a very special place in the universe - evidence that fits beautifully with Creation as God has revealed in the Bible.
The information on this page has been obtained from Creation Ministries International, a non-denominational ministry.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2013. Last updated August, 2017.
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