Reasons to Believe

The Remarkable Design of the Solar System’s Turbulent Youth, Part 5

Everyone knows our teenage years can be turbulent—yet they also shape us and equip us for adulthood. Likewise, the solar system’s youth, wild as it was, prepared the way for advanced life, particularly humanity, to exist on Earth. This TNRTB series is devoted to exploring the different stages of the solar system’s youth.

  • Part 1: The solar system’s exquisitely fine-tuned birthing experience
  • Part 2: The 50 million years following the birth, particularly (1) the configuration of the solar system’s gas giant planets; and (2) the collision event that both formed the Moon and helped prepare Earth for the future support of human beings.
  • Part 3: The 1:2 orbital resonance event between Jupiter and Saturn
  • Part 4: The subsequent Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), 700 million years after the solar system planets formed, transformed the architecture of the entire solar system and reconfigured the physical features of Earth’s interior, surface, and atmosphere.

Here, in part 5, I will describe the recently discovered “jumping Jupiter” phenomenon that took place during the gas giants’ migration. I will also demonstrate how young-earth creationism fails to account for several important solar system features.

Jumping Jupiter 

All solar system models demonstrate that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune began migrating immediately after the dissipation of the Sun’s primordial nebular disk, more than 650 million years before the LHB and many millions of years before the Moon-forming event. Angular momentum transfers between the gas giants and the scattered planetesimals remaining after the nebular disk’s dissipation caused the migrations.

A planetary science research team in Nice, France recently uncovered flaws in the standard gas giant migration models. These models disallow the formation of the solar system’s terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) as they are presently configured.1 In particular, these standard models predict that Mars should be many times more massive than it actually is. On top of this, these models cannot predict the present-day distributions and characteristics of the solar system’s asteroid belts.

Fortunately, the Nice team found a resolution to both problems through a phenomenon they labeled as “jumping Jupiter.” In their scenario, either Uranus or Neptune experienced a close encounter with Saturn and was, consequently, scattered inward. That inward migration resulted in Uranus (or Neptune) experiencing a close encounter with Jupiter wherein Uranus (or Neptune) was strongly scattered outward. And this second close encounter led to a rapid increase in the separation between Jupiter’s and Saturn’s orbits.2

The Nice team demonstrated that adding the jumping Jupiter scenario to the design details discussed in parts 1–3 explains explains not only the current planet configurations but also those of the solar system’s asteroid belts.3 In a very elegant manner, the jumping Jupiter phenomenon generated resonances that swept through most of the Main Belt but depleted only the inner part of the belt.4 Together with the Jupiter-Saturn resonance event, the jumping Jupiter scenario explains why the Main Belt does not extend all the way to the orbit of Mars (the missing E-Belt).5

Comets and Young-Earth Creationism   

Young-earth creationists like to point out that the solar system’s reserve of short-period comets would be exhausted in much less than a billion years. To support their rebuttal, however, they must deny the existence of all or nearly all Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs). Yet astronomers have already established the existence of more than a thousand KBOs, thus making the young-earth creationists’ denial difficult to sustain, to say the least. Additionally, astronomers have determined that at least 70,000 smaller KBOs must accompany the 1,000+ large object already detected. However, a young-earth creation scientist I recently debated claimed that astronomers are wrong in this determination.

However, limiting the Kuiper Belt to little more than a thousand objects presents several major problems.

  1. Those few objects are woefully inadequate to explain how Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune could have ever achieved their present orbital characteristics.
  2. Such a limitation also is incapable of explaining the present-day configuration of the Main Belt.
  3. It is becoming increasingly evident that large debris disks are ubiquitous around young solar-type stars seen throughout the nearby regions of the Milky Way Galaxy.6 One astronomy research team has even directly imaged a Kuiper Belt orbiting a mature solar-type star.7

With every passing month (sometimes only a week or a few days), astronomers discover yet one more KBOs and yet one more large debris disk orbiting a young solar-type star. Likewise, with every passing month, the Nice model for the early history of the solar system is more securely established. Surely, it is time for young-earth creationists to abandon their claim that a solar system several billion years old cannot explain the abundance of short-period comets presently observed.

Next week, I’ll close out this article series showing how the design details of the solar system’s youth establish that a supernatural, super-intelligent Creator was intimately involved in ensuring that the solar system and Earth in particular had the just-right history to prepare them to sustain human beings and human civilization.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Subjects: Astronomy and the Bible, 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.

  1. K. J. Walsh and A. Morbidelli, “The Effect of an Early Planetesimal-Driven Migration of the Giant Planets on Terrestrial Planet Formation,” Astronomy and Astrophysics 526 (February 2011): id. A126.
  2. Alessandro Morbidelli et al., “Evidence from the Asteroid Belt for a Violent Past Evolution of Jupiter’s Orbit,” Astronomical Journal 140 (November 2010): 1391–401.
  3. Walsh and Morbidelli, “Early Planetsimal-Driven Migration,” id. A126; Morbidelli et al., “Evidence from the Asteroid Belt,” 1391–401; Alessandro Morbidelli et al., “Asteroid Belt Constraints on Giant Planet Evolution,” American Astronomical Society Meeting (September 2009), DPS meeting #41: #55.03; R. Brasser et al., “Constructing the Secular Architecture of the Solar System. II. The Terrestrial Planets,” Astronomy and Astrophysics 507 (November 2009): 1053–65; M. Brož et al., “Did the Hilda Collisional Family Form during the Late Heavy Bombardment?” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (April 2011), online early: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18587.x.
  4. Alessandro Morbidelli et al., “Asteroid Belt Constraints on Giant Planet Evolution,” American Astronomical Society Meeting (September 2009), DPS meeting #41: #55.03.
  5. Morbidelli et al., “Asteroid Belt Constraints,” #55.03; W. F. Bottke et al., “The E-Belt: A Possible Missing Link in the Late Heavy Bombardment,” 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held March 1–5, 2010 in The Woodlands, Texas. LPI Contribution No. 1533: 1269.
  6. C. Eiroa et al., “Cold DUst Around NEarby Stars (DUNES). First Results. A Resolved Exo-Kuiper Belt around the Solar-Like Star ζ2 Ret,” Astronomy and Astrophysics 518 (July 2010): id. L131.
  7. Ibid.