Reasons to Believe

The Remarkable Design of the Solar System’s Turbulent Youth, Part 6

The solar system’s youth was a busy one—full of fine-tuned activity. In the previous five parts of this series I’ve described several of the major milestones of the solar system’s early years.

  • 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 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 ago, that transformed the architecture of the entire solar system and reconfigured the physical features of Earth’s interior, surface, and atmosphere
  • Part 5: The recently discovered “jumping Jupiter” phenomenon that took place during the gas giants’ migration

In the sixth and final article, I will discuss how these 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.

Rare Occurrences

The planetary science research team (from Nice, France) that discovered the jumping Jupiter phenomenon determined that, while dynamically possible, the probability for Jupiter to “jump” in the manner that makes the solar system’s present configuration possible is, nonetheless, relatively remote.1 In a separate research report, one member of the Nice team and several other planetary physicists calculated the probability for the occurrence of late heavy bombardment (LHB) events in extrasolar planetary systems. They constructed models of what the solar system’s asteroid-comet belts would have looked like prior to the LHB. Comparing their results with observed debris disks of different ages surrounding sun-like stars, the researchers demonstrated that LHB events around stars similar to the Sun must be rare.2

Furthermore, two Greek astronomers developed planetary system models wherein they demonstrated that orbital resonances among gas giant planets commonly generate inclination excitation in the orbits of the system’s planets.3 That is, the low-angle tilts of the planets’ orbits relative to the solar plane would be a rare outcome, a result confirmed by extrasolar planet statistics.4

Marvelously Fine-Tuned

Everything about the solar system and Earth’s history shows the hallmarks of exquisite fine-tuning. Let’s review what needed to take place in the solar system to make it friendly to advanced life.

1. The Adjustment of Earth’s Volatiles and Heavy Elements
Ridding Earth of most of its volatiles and strongly enriching it with heavy elements required (1) the placement and timing of four-different supernova eruption events; (2) the placement and timing of one or more asymptotic giant branch stars; and (3) the placement and timing of a white dwarf binary relative to the Sun and its system of emerging planets in their birthing star cluster.

2. Solar System’s Ejection from Birthing Cluster
The fine-tuned placement and timing of massive stars relative to the Sun and its emerging planets to strongly eject the Sun and planets at the just-right time into the just-right location within the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG), namely just inside the corotation distance—the MWG’s safest location for advanced life. This ejection event also reconfigured the solar system’s planetesimal disk to generate just-right migration velocities for all four gas giant planets. This paved the way for the jumping Jupiter phenomenon, the Moon-forming collision event, and the 1:2 Jupiter-Saturn orbital resonance event.5

3. The Jumping Jupiter Phenomenon
It took a highly fine-tuned and rare jumping Jupiter phenomenon to guarantee that the solar system’s terrestrial planets and Main Belt asteroids would end up with the precise masses and orbital configurations that enduring advanced life on Earth requires. It took additional fine-tuning of the jumping Jupiter phenomenon to send Jupiter on the just-right outward migration velocity to set up a just-right 1:2 orbital resonance event with Saturn at the just-right time.

4. The Moon-Forming Collision
A collider of the just-right mass struck Earth at the just-right angle, velocity, and time in the solar system’s history into a location on Earth with the just-right depth of liquid water for Earth’s core to be further enriched with iron, cobalt, nickel, uranium, and thorium and for its configuration to be restructured. The collision event generated a moon of the just-right mass and rate of recession away from Earth so as stabilize the planet’s rotation axis tilt. The Moon also lengthened Earth’s rotation period at the just-right rate and generated just-right tides so advanced life would eventually be possible on Earth. Additionally, the collision event adjusted the tilt of Earth’s rotation axis to an angle of 23.5 degrees relative to the solar system plane—the ideal tilt for the support of advanced life on virtually all Earth’s surface.

5. The Jupiter-Saturn Resonance Event
A 1:2 orbital resonance event between Jupiter and Saturn occurred at the just-right time in solar system history and the just-right distance from the Sun to produce the extremely improbable orbital characteristics of the gas giants’ final configurations. These fine-tuned configurations are needed to guarantee (1)  that Earth is adequately protected from taking too many hits from large asteroids and comets; and (2) that the gas giants’ gravitational fields and the orbital resonances among them do not disturb the features of Earth’s orbit essential to advanced life.6

It took additional fine-tuning in the Jupiter-Saturn orbital resonance event to reduce, move, and restructure both the Kuiper Belt and the Main Belt so that Earth would not be bombarded by too many asteroids and comets during the epochs of advanced life. The fine-tuning also ensured that Earth received a just-right dose from the LHB to chemically and physically restructure the planet’s inner and outer cores, mantle, and crust. This restructuring established plate tectonics and an internal dynamo at just-right power levels and with the stability to endure at those levels for 4 billion years. Without just-right plate tectonics, Earth would have never developed the surface continents and oceans that advanced life requires. Neither would it have been endowed with the strong, stable magnetic field needed to preserve the atmosphere and to protect life from deadly solar and cosmic radiation.

I argue that the research results achieved by the Nice team and other planetary science research groups reveal the extreme care and meticulous design the Creator invested into the early development of the solar system for the specific benefit of Earth’s advanced life and human beings in particular.

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. R. Brasser et al., “Constructing the Secular Architecture of the Solar System. II. The Terrestrial Planets,” i>Astronomy and Astrophysics 507 (November 2009): 1053–65.
  2. M. Booth et al., “How Common Are Extrasolar, Late Heavy Bombardments?” Pathways Toward Habitable Planets, proceedings of a workshop held September 14–18, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain, eds.Vincent Coudé du Foresto, Dawn M. Gelino, and Ignasi Ribas (San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, October 2010): 407.
  3. A.-S. Libert and K. Tsiganis, “Trapping in High-Order Orbital Resonances and Inclination Excitation in Extrasolar Systems,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 400, no. 3 (December 2009): 1373–82.
  4. Jean Schneider, The Extrasolar Planet Encyclopedia, last modified June 16, 2011, http://exoplanet.eu.
  5. Alessandro Morbidelli et al., “Dynamics of the Giant Planets of the Solar System in the Gaseous Protoplanetary Disk and Their Relationship to the Current Orbital Architecture,” Astronomical Journal 134 (November 2007): 1790–98.
  6. T. A. Michtchenko and S. Ferraz-Mello, “Resonant Structure of the Outer Solar System in the Neighborhood of the Planets,” Astronomical Journal 122 (July 2001): 474–81; K. Tsiganis et al., “Origin of the Orbital Structure of the Giant Planets of the Solar System,” Nature 435 (May 26, 2005): 459–61.