Reasons to Believe

Debris Disks and Planets Show Solar System Design

Photo of Hugh RossAnalysis of objects orbiting stars has provided evidence for the supernatural design of our solar system.

Nearly every young stellar object that is in or adjacent to the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy and in the vicinity of the Sun possesses a debris disk. The relationship between debris disks and planets has intrigued astronomers for the past twenty-five years. One particularly poignant question is whether debris disks guarantee a system of stable planets. The answer directly affects the debate about the supernatural design of the solar system for the benefit of humanity.

A team of European and American astronomers undertook a statistical study that compared planet-bearing stars to non-planet-bearing stars.1 The team analyzed data from the Spitzer Space Telescope for 150 stars known to possess planets and 118 stars for which no planets have been found. They discovered that "the incidence of debris disks is marginally higher among stars with planets than among those without, and that the brightness of the average debris disk is not significantly different in the two samples."2

The team's findings imply that the presence of one or more planets orbiting a star is not a good predictor of the presence of a debris disk. Likewise, the presence of a debris disk is not a good predictor of the presence of one or more planets.

Before the publication of this analysis, many astronomers presumed that young stellar objects with debris disks are guaranteed to form planets. Now astronomers recognize that while debris disks and planetesimals almost certainly are related to one another, there is no guarantee that the planetesimals will coalesce to form planets of any notable size that will remain in stable orbits about their stars. For example, the system of planetesimals may generate so much chaos that the objects may be ground down to dust and debris. Alternately, the planetesimals may indeed form planets, but the planets are subsequently either ejected away from the reach of the star's gravity or absorbed into the star.

These research results add to the already existing evidence of the uniqueness of systems where the planets manifest orbits about their star that are stable and devoid of mean motion resonances. A planetary system like ours—which includes relatively small gas giants and small rocky planets, all orbiting stably around the Sun at just-right distances to make advanced life possible on one of the rocky planets—demands nothing less than supernatural, super-intelligent design.

  1. Ágnes Kóspál et al., "On the Relationship Between Debris Disks and Planets," Astrophysical Journal Letters 700 (August 1, 2009): L73-L77.
  2. Ágnes Kóspál et al.: L73.

Subjects: Extrasolar Planets, Solar System Design

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.