Strange Planets 1
Many undisputed observations contradict current theories on how the solar system evolved (a). One theory says planets formed when a star, passing near our Sun, tore matter from the Sun. More popular theories hold that the solar system formed from a cloud of swirling gas, dust, or larger particles. If the planets and their known moons evolved from the same material, they should have many similarities. After several decades of planetary exploration, this expectation is now recognized as false (b).
Figure 22: Unique Planets. This is a composite photograph (not-to-scale) of all planets in the solar system, except Pluto. They are, from top to bottom: Mercury, Venus, Earth (with the Moon to the right), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus
, and Neptune. The photos were taken by Mariner 10 (Mercury), Pioneer Venus Orbiter (Venus), Apollo 17 astronauts (Earth), Earth-based telescopes (Moon and Mars), and the two Voyager spacecraft (the four giant planets).
Each planet is unique. Similarities that would be expected if the planets had evolved from the same swirling dust cloud are seldom found. Yet most planetary studies begin by assuming that the planets evolved and are therefore similar. Typical arguments are as follows: “By studying the magnetic field (or any other feature) of Planet X, we will better understand how Earth’s magnetic field evolved.” Actually, each magnetic field is surprisingly different. “By studying Earth’s sister planet, Venus, we will see how plate tectonics shaped its surface and better understand how plate tectonics works on Earth.” It is now recognized that plate tectonics does not occur on Venus.
a. “...most every prediction by theorists about planetary formation has been wrong.” Scott Tremaine, as quoted by Richard A. Kerr, “Jupiters Like Our Own Await Planet Hunters,” Science, Vol. 295, 25 January 2002, p. 605.
“To sum up, I think that all suggested accounts of the origin of the Solar System are subject to serious objections. The conclusion in the present state of the subject would be that the system cannot exist.” Harold Jeffreys, The Earth: Its Origin, History, and Physical Constitution, 6th edition (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 387.
“But if we had a reliable theory of the origin of planets, if we knew of some mechanism consistent with the laws of physics so that we understood how planets form, then clearly we could make use of it to estimate the probability that other stars have attendant planets. However, no such theory exists yet, despite the large number of hypotheses suggested.” R. A. Lyttleton, Mysteries of the Solar System (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 4.
“A great array of observational facts must be explained by a satisfactory theory, [on the evolution of the solar system] and the theory must be consistent with the principles of dynamics and modern physics. All of the hypotheses so far presented have failed, or remain unproved, when physical theory is properly applied.” Fred L. Whipple, Earth, Moon, and Planets, 3rd edition (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968), p. 243.
“Attempts to find a plausible naturalistic explanation of the origin of the Solar System began about 350 years ago but have not yet been quantitatively successful, making this one of the oldest unsolved problems in modern science.” Stephen G. Brush, A History of Modern Planetary Physics, Vol. 3 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 91.
b. “I wish it were not so, but I’m somewhat skeptical that we’re going to learn an awful lot about Earth by looking at other planetary bodies. The more that we look at the different planets, the more each one seems to be unique.” Michael Carr, as quoted by Richard A. Kerr, “The Solar System’s New Diversity,” Science, Vol. 265, 2 September 1994, p. 1360.
“The most striking outcome of planetary exploration is the diversity of the planets.” David Stevenson, as quoted by Richard A. Kerr, Ibid.
“Stevenson and others are puzzling out how subtle differences in starting conditions such as distance from the sun, along with chance events like giant impacts early in the solar system history, can send planets down vastly different evolutionary paths.” Kerr, Ibid.
“You put together the same basic materials and get startlingl y different results. No two [planets] are alike; it’s like a zoo.” Alexander Dessler, as quoted by Richard A. Kerr, Ibid., p. 1361.
[From “In the Beginning” by Walt Brown]