The Solar System--New Discoveries Produce New Mysteries | The Institute for Creation Research

The Solar System--New Discoveries Produce New Mysteries

This article originally appeared in the June 1974 Acts & Facts. Please note that new discoveries in this area may have been made since that time.

The results of recent space exploration have served to compound the mysteries of the solar system, rather than providing data predicted on the basis of evolutionary theories. Present theories on how planets were formed may have to be junked as the result of data on Mercury transmitted by Mariner 10. Earlier, Pioneer 10 cruised past Jupiter, photographing the most massive planet in the solar system (318 times as massive as the earth) in detail hitherto unobservable, and finding that its largest satellite, Io, has an atmosphere. Until then, Titan, the largest of Saturn's nine satellites, was believed to be the only moon in the solar system to have an atmosphere. Furthermore, the latest data on the atmosphere of Titan add new problems for those who believe the age of the solar system to be billions of years.

Up to the present time, many theories on the origin of the universe and of the solar system have been proposed. All such theories suffer from apparently insurmountable difficulties.1 No theory on the origin of the solar system has been able to explain the fact that although the sun has 99-6/7% of the mass of the solar system, it possesses only 2% of its angular momentum. Thus, the planets, which contain only 1/7% of the mass of the solar system, are revolving around the sun at such high speeds, while the sun is revolving so slowly, that the planets possess 98% of the angular momentum of the solar system. Yet the sun and planets supposedly were formed from the same dust and gas cloud, and thus some highly efficient mechanism would be required for transferring angular momentum from the central part of the nebula to the periphery. No plausible mechanism has yet been proposed.

If the solar system condensed out of a huge flattened disk of dust and gas, the motions of the sun, the planets, and all bodies within the solar system should exhibit a very high degree of regularity in their motions. Evolutionists are quick to point out that all nine planets move around the sun in the same direction in nearly circular orbits which lie in almost the same plane, but they neglect to emphasize other serious departures from regularity. Uranus is remarkable. Even though it rotates around the sun in the same direction as the other planets in an orbit inclined less than a degree (46') from the ecliptic (the plane of the earth's orbit around the sun), the axis of rotation of Uranus is nearly in the plane of its orbit. Thus, the inclination of the equator of Uranus to the plane of its orbit is 98°, and its axial rotation is retrograde. The five moons or satellites of Uranus move exactly in the equatorial plane of the planet and they revolve in the same direction as the planet rotates. Their motion, with respect to the remainder of the solar system, is, therefore, also retrograde. Thus the direction of the axial rotation of Uranus and the motion of its satellites is opposite to that predicted on the basis of an evolutionary origin.

Saturn has nine satellites. The motion of the outermost, Phoebe, is retrograde, moving in a direction opposite to the other eight moons and opposite to that predicted, of course, from an evolutionary origin. Jupiter has twelve satellites. The five inner moons revolve around their planet in orbits only slightly inclined to the planet's equator at distances from about 110,000 miles for the innermost to about 640,000 miles for the outermost. Then there is a group of three moons whose orbits are inclined to the planet's equator by almost 30° at distances of about 7 million miles from Jupiter. These three moons also revolve around the planet in the predicted direction. The four outer moons, however, move around the planet in retrograde motion, or opposite to that of the other eight satellites, at distances from about 12 to 13 million miles from the planet.

Neptune has two satellites. Nereid, a small moon, moves around Neptune in the predicted direction, but Triton, one of the larger satellites in the solar system with a mass almost twice that of the earth's moon, moves in a retrograde orbit.

Thus, of the 31 planetary satellites in the solar system (in addition to those mentioned above, the earth, of course, has one and Mars has two), eleven exhibit retrograde orbits. It has already been mentioned that Uranus has a retrograde axial rotation. Venus rotates very slowly, one rotation requiring about 240 earth days. Goldstein and Carpenter2 have found that this planet may also possess a retrograde axial rotation. These exceptions to motions predicted on the basis of an evolutionary origin of the solar systems cannot be brushed aside as minor exceptions, but speak of a created universe rather than a universe produced merely by matter in motion.

Analysis of the reams of data produced by Mariner 10 as it flew past Venus on February 5 and Mercury on March 29 is still proceeding, of course, but one of the most startling findings that has come out of the space program has already been revealed (startling to evolutionists, that is).3 The data from Mariner 10 revealed that Mercury has a lightweight crust. Since the density of Mercury is 4.5 - 5.0 g/cc (the density of the earth is 5.5), it must have a heavy core. Mercury, just like the earth, then, is differentiated into a light crust and a heavy core. According to all previous theories on the evolution of the solar system, planets were formed from a uniform cloud of some kind. Differentiation, during which lighterweight material aggregates and floats to the surface and heavy material sinks to the core, would require the planet to reach a molten state. Such a molten state would erase all primordial surface features. Scientists who have examined photographs of Mercury believe, however, that they are looking at the essentially undisturbed primordial surface features of Mercury, that no change has taken place in these surface features since Mercury was formed. In other words, even though Mercury is differentiated into a light crust and a heavy core, it is in the original created state. How then, did it become differentiated? The creationist has a direct and simple answer, of course, but the evolutionist must somehow reconcile data that appear to be irreconcilable.

Another unexpected feature of Mercury is its possession of a magnetic field. About 20 minutes before the spacecraft reached its closest approach to Mercury (about 466 miles), magnetometers revealed clear signs of a bow shock, a shock front formed by the solar wind ricocheting off the planet's enveloping magnetic field. This magnetic field is very weak (about one-hundredth as strong as the magnetic field of the earth) but it poses another problem for evolutionary cosmogonists: its source. One of the most popular theories on the source of the earth's magnetic field is the self-generating dynamo theory. Such a theory requires that the planet have a relatively high speed of rotation. Mercury, however, rotates very slowly, revolving once in 88 earth days. Therefore, the self-generating dynamo theory won't work for Mercury. Some new theory must be hatched to account for Mercury's magnetic field.

These results indirectly support the contention of Dr. Thomas Barnes that the self-generating dynamo theory of the magnetic field of the earth is not only unnecessary, but impossible.4 There are so many problems with the self-generating dynamo theory that it is completely implausible. Even though it has now been shown that Mercury has a magnetic field, all agree it could not have a self-generating dynamo. If Mercury can have a magnetic field without such a dynamo, why not the earth? Barnes has shown that in the absence of such a dynamo the earth's magnetic field must be generated by the flow of an electric current. Since the earth's magnetic field is decaying, extrapolation back into the past more than about 10,000 years predicts a current flow so vast that the earth's structure could not survive the heat produced. Thus, the earth cannot be much older than 10,000 years.4

Since Kuiper's discovery5 of methane in the spectrum of Titan, a large satellite of Saturn, it has been realized that Titan must have an atmosphere. The presence of hydrogen-rich molecules (methane is CH4) on such a compact body is surprising because it would indicate an evolution contrary to that of the oxidized atmospheres of the compact terrestrial planets.6 Now Trafton has discovered the presence of hydrogen in Titan's atmosphere,6 and, because the gravity of tiny Titan isn't strong enough to hold hydrogen, the lightest of all elements, this hydrogen must be flying away from this moon at a tremendous rate.

Earlier, Allen and Murdock7 discovered a brightness temperature for Titan of 125°K (0° Kelvin is absolute zero and 270° Kelvin is 0° centigrade). This is significantly higher than the equilibrium temperature which corresponds to its rate of rotation and other features (about 87°K). The fact that Titan exhibits a surface temperature in excess of that predicted strongly suggests a greenhouse effect.8 In other words, Titan must have an atmosphere capable of absorbing and retaining solar radiation.

The hydrogen in Titan's atmosphere could not be a remnant of its original atmosphere if one assumes an age for the solar system of billions of years. Because of Titan's small size and consequent low escape velocity, any original atmosphere would have rapidly been lost from the new-born satellite.6 Even the earth is believed by some scientists to have lost its original atmosphere.5,9 Where is all this hydrogen coming from that supposedly has been pouring forth from this satellite for billions of years? Some means must be proposed for converting Titan into a huge hydrogen generator.

Trafton6 and Sagan8 have proposed that outgassing from Titan's interior is the most reasonable solution to the problem. But how can there be volcanism on a body which has a surface temperature almost 200° below the freezing point of water? Sagan8 accepts the suggestion of Lewis10 that the low density of Titan and its probable content of radioactive materials imply an interior composition of a molten slush of methane, ammonia, and water, not many tens of kilometers below the surface. Heat released by radioactive decay is supposed to keep the slush warm enough to cause gasses containing methane, water, and ammonia to pour through fissures on the satellite's surface. Ultraviolet light of the sun would then photochemically breakdown these gasses to produce hydrogen as one of the products.

According to the calculations used, the highest outgassing rate estimated, even if constant over 5 billion years, would correspond to only about 105 g/cm2, or a few kilometers of equivalent ice outgassed.8 Of course, it can be surmised that the assumptions made in these calculations were such as to prevent things getting out of hand. One is still faced with the problem of the origin of a body with an interior containing methane, ammonia, and water.

Kuiper had constructed a hypothetical composition for Titan, based on its density, of a water-ice, silicate-metal combination. Now it is being proposed that Titan may be some kind of an icy mud ball. It is proposed that Titan has a rocky core surrounded by a deep layer of liquid water, ammonia, and methane. This is topped by a frozen surface composed of these three compounds.

It has been theorized that the earth lost all of the gasses associated with the material from which it accreted during the accretion process.9 The mass of the earth and its gravitational attraction was too small to retain such gasses as methane, ammonia, and water. It supposedly started life with no atmosphere, but an atmosphere was soon generated by volcanic outgassing of gasses that were originally combined with silicates and other material which made up the rocks.

Now if an accreting planet the size of the earth was not massive enough to retain such constituents as ammonia, methane, and water, how could a body as small as Titan, with only about 0.0235 the mass of the earth, retain such huge quantities? Why didn't Titan end up merely as an orbiting rock pile?

It is always possible, of course, to invent new mechanisms through secondary and tertiary assumptions to salvage the basic theory, even though the assumptions are unproven and inherently unprovable. Many such mechanisms cannot stand a searching inquiry, however, since they cannot be reconciled with established physical theories. It is predicted that as more and more is learned about our solar system, the more incompatible this knowledge will become with evolutionary theories concerning its origin. The words of the Psalmist ring even stronger today than 3500 years ago when written: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).


  1. For an excellent review of cosmogonical theories see The Origin of the Solar System by John Whitcomb, Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., Philadelphia (1964).
  2. R. M. Goldstein and R. L. Carpenter, Science, Vol. 139, p. 910 (1963).
  3. Science News, Vol. 105, p. 220 (1974).
  4. T. G. Barnes, Origin and Destiny of the Earth’s Magnetic Field, Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, Calif. (1973).
  5. G. P. Kuiper, The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 100, p. 378 (1944).
  6. L. Trafton, The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 175, p. 285 (1972).
  7. D. A. Allen and T. L. Murdock, Icarus, Vol. 14, p. 1 (1971).
  8. C. Sagan, Icarus, Vol. 18, p. 649 (1973).
  9. P. H. Abelson, Proceedings National Academy of Science, Vol. 55, p. 1365 (1966).
10. J. S. Lewis, Icarus, Vol. 15, p. 174 (1971).
11. G. P. Kuiper, The Atmospheres of the Earth and Planets, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1952, p. 340.

* Biochemist. Dr. Duane T. Gish is widely known as one of the most effective speakers and writers in the creationist movement today. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from U.C.L.A. in 1949 and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1953. He served on the research staff at Berkeley and at Cornell University and spent many years as research biochemist for The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Creation Research Society and has written many papers on creationism, as well as two ICR books: Evolution? The Fossils Say NO! and Speculations and Experiments on the Origin of Life: A Critique. Dr. Gish is Professor of Natural Science at Christian Heritage College and Associate Director of the Institute for Creation Research.

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