Where Science and Faith Converge

Why Dusty Stars Make Good Planets

By Jeff Zweerink - October 14, 2009

For anyone trying to keep a house or office clean, dust bunnies are the enemy. Yet these annoyances form a crucial ally when trying to form a habitable planetary system.

When gas clouds condense some of the material in the cloud forms a disk around the rotation axis of the system. As the material in this disk interacts, friction reduces the amount of energy of the particles. Consequently the particles drift in toward the central star. In order to form planets, the material must clump together and grow before everything drifts into the star or the disk becomes too sparse. Past observations indicate that the more metal rich a star, the more likely planets can form. (Anything other than hydrogen and helium constitutes a metal, as far as astronomers are concerned.) Recent research provides a better understanding of this correlation.

The frictional drag on large dust clumps and pebbles increases as these objects form. However, if the pebbles form a slipstream, the overall drag is reduced and all the objects in the slipstream drift toward the star more slowly. Furthermore, the slipstream attracts more pebbles, which increases the gravitational bond drawing the collection into mini-planet bodies called planetesimals.

Simulations conducted by an international team of astronomers revealed that forming such slipstreams depends on the amount of metals in the cloud condensing to form a star. It turns out that the amount of metals in the Sun matches the threshold value for slipstream formation. In other words, this slipstream planet formation scenario should just barely work to form the solar system. These results support a prediction of RTB's creation model.

According to this model, God creates human beings as soon as the universe can support humanity’s existence. Additionally, He actively works to prepare the universe for this purpose. Since the big bang creation event, the metallicity of stars has steadily increased. Consequently, more and more stars will host planetary systems. However, these results indicate that our solar system formed just as the metallicity increased enough to support planet formation.

Reasons To Believe predicted that research into extrasolar planets would indicate that Earth formed as quickly as possible given the laws of physics that govern the universe. Results such as these continue to buttress the notion that a superintellect fashioned this creation in order for advanced life like humanity to exist.

  • Extrasolar Planets
  • Publications

About Reasons to Believe

RTB's mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

Donate Now

U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178
Reasons to Believe logo