In the past ten years, scientists have reported finding planets orbiting distant stars. Accompanying the discoveries of extra-solar planets are the claims of an increased likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe.
The majority of these planets have been substantially larger than our Earth. At first, the increased size of these planets didn’t seem to be of concern to those on the trail of alien life forms. That is until now.
A recent report in New Scientist has cast doubt on whether or not many of these extra-solar planets are suitable for life. Guillaume Morard and his team from the Institute of Mineralogy and Physics of Condensed Matter in Paris are claiming that the cores of the planets that are 3 to 10 times larger than the Earth are most likely composed of solid iron, instead of molten iron. They ran simulations of the conditions of these super-earths which indicated that the internal pressure on the planet’s cores would be too great to allow the iron cores to be molten.
A planet with a solid iron core would not have a magnetic field like the earth does. Magnetic fields protect the planet from many harmful forms of radiation that are emitted by the planet’s sun. In the case of our Earth, the magnetic field also deflects most of the effects of solar flares. Without this deflection, solar flares would shower the earth with enough radiation to erode away our atmosphere and wipe out life as we know it. Morard went on to say that even if the extra-solar planets existed in the habitable zone around their sun, that life would have difficulty evolving because of the missing protective effects of a magnetic field.
Not everyone agrees with Morard and his colleagues. Vlada Stamankovic of the Berlin based German Aerospace Center said that they just don’t know enough to say whether or not these super-earths would have molten iron cores and magnetic fields or not.
Virtually all of the extra-solar planets discovered so far have been the result of indirect observation. While these observations may in fact be valid scientific methods for the detection of extra-solar planets, the real facts are that we don’t know that much about them.
What we do know about these planets from distant galaxies casts doubt on their ability to harbor life forms. Most of them are gas giants as large as or larger than Jupiter and they orbit too close to their sun for life to exist. Now those that are only a few times larger than the earth may not have the protective magnetic field either.
Additionally, most of the extra-solar planets discovered so far actually go against the evolutionary model. The accepted model of planet formation predicts that other solar systems would somewhat follow the same formation as our own solar system with the smaller planets orbiting closest to the sun and the larger planets orbiting further away. Yet the indirect observations so far have indicated that most of the extra-solar planets discovered so far are quite large and orbit very near to their suns in exact contradiction to the evolutionary predictions.
From a biblical perspective, we would expect God to have created a variety of different types of solar systems and plants throughout His universe. Differences like a large planet orbiting a binary star system – a solar system with two stars that orbit each other and then have planets orbiting around them.
I often wonder if God has a sense of humor because so often when evolutionary astronomers discover something new, it goes against their models and they end up having to revise their theories of how the solar systems, galaxies and the universe formed.
When you look up to the heavens and gaze upon all the stars and planets, do see the handiwork of God or just the results of some freak unexplainable event? The Psalmist sure knew what he saw as wrote the following words:
When I behold thine heavens, even the works of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, (Psalm 8:3)
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6)