Planet's Reverse Orbit a New Twist in Old Evolutionary Story | The Institute for Creation Research
Planet's Reverse Orbit a New Twist in Old Evolutionary Story

The Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) project has discovered a planet that orbits backward, against the rotational direction of its star. Methodological naturalists think collisions or near-collisions are the causes of unusual cosmic phenomena like this. But this reverse-orbit observation adds to a growing list of astronomical features that should not exist if collisions and other random physical processes are all that could have caused them.1

The planet was named WASP-17, the seventeenth planet identified by WASP astronomers at the Geneva Observatory. They were looking for faint, periodic “blinks” that occur when planets or planet-like object pass in front of stars when they discovered that this planet was orbiting the “wrong” way. The vast majority of planets and satellites, including all of those in the solar system, orbit in the same direction that their stars rotate. They could think of no better explanation than that “a near-collision may have created the retrograde orbit.”2

Not only is the likelihood of this happening remarkably slim, but it conflicts with the anti-supernaturalistic, but popular, conception of planetary origins known as the “nebular hypothesis.” This proposes that planets formed spontaneously from spinning dust rings, which clumped and condensed near to newly formed stars. The resulting planets ought to therefore continue orbiting in the same direction as that of the rotating dust and debris around the stars.

But WASP-17 doesn’t.

Assuming for a moment that the nebular hypothesis is true, how exactly could a mere near-collision have reversed WASP-17’s direction? At approximately 159 earth masses, the planet would have required a tremendous outside force to slow its orbit and then reverse it, all without tearing the planet apart or bumping it from the vicinity of its neighboring star. Such a feat would have required septillions of Newtons of force, applied carefully enough to keep the planet from being destroyed. The chances of a flyby mass of some kind having performed this powerful, yet precise, operation are vanishingly small.

MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager told Space.com, “There's always theory, but there's nothing like an observation to really prove it.” But when it comes to the nebular hypothesis theory, there’s actually nothing like an observation of a phenomenon like WASP-17’s reverse orbit to really disprove it.3

References

  1. Thomas, B. Can Cosmic Collisions Create? ICR News. Posted on icr.org February 20, 2009, accessed September 11, 2009.
  2. Bryner, J. and R. R. Britt. Newfound Planet Orbits Backward. Space.com Science. Posted on space.com August 12, 2009, accessed September 11, 2009.
  3. Coppedge, D. 2008. Nebulous Hypotheses. Acts & Facts. 37 (2): 15.

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on September 18, 2009.

The Latest
NEWS
Inside May 2021 Acts & Facts
How should Christians respond when authorities are in conflict with God’s Word? Can we trust scientific measurements and reports about fossil...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Volcanoes
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
Tributes of Honor and Remembrance
At the end of a long day, a boss I had early in my career would often tell me, “No more today, Henry. My brain is full.” I found his comments...

APOLOGETICS
Guided by Lynx to Appreciate Christ
Not all tour guides in Alaska are human. Amazing animals of Alaska can guide us into learning creation truth. In fact, such animals should direct us—like...

ACTS & FACTS
Zion National Park: Evidence of Deep Water Sand Waves
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D.* It was like driving into another world when we emerged from Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel right at dawn....

ACTS & FACTS
Is the Bible Evidence for Creation?
Have you ever had a skeptic tell you to keep the Bible out of it when discussing origins? Skeptics claim we Christians argue in a circle, that we are...

ACTS & FACTS
Vertebrate Origins on the Ropes…Again
In 1859, the Western world was turned upside down by the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or...

ACTS & FACTS
The Fossils Still Say No: Enigma of the Carboniferous Explosion
Many creationists and evolutionists alike are familiar with the initial huge explosion of complex marine life buried in the Cambrian rock layers at...

RESEARCH
Archaeopteryx by the Numbers
Sometimes scientists get a chance to collaborate. This happened last year when a fellow creation-based researcher invited me to contribute comments...

ACTS & FACTS
Refusing to Live by Lies
Perhaps my parents were naïve. They raised me to respect my teachers, the government, and other authorities, and to believe these entities acted...