In a recent blog (How Our Solar System’s Birth Was Optimally Orchestrated) I explained how the size of the star cluster in which the solar system was born was a crucial factor in whether the solar system could possibly host advanced life. But a star cluster’s size is not the only feature that must fall within a specific narrow range. Recent discoveries confirm that a star cluster’s structure and dynamics also play an essential role in that cluster’s possibility of forming a planetary system that eventually will be capable of sustaining advanced life and advanced civilization.
Advanced life and civilization is possible on Earth only because our planet possesses precise quantities of all 92 natural elements in the periodic table. Each of these elements is present in Earth’s crust in the just-right abundance, neither too much nor too little, so that advanced life is possible. Remarkably, the abundance of each of Earth’s elements (other than magnesium and iron) relative to the average for bodies in the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG) is highly anomalous. (For details, see Improbable Planet.1) This difference reflects a stunning orchestration of events: the injection of just-right elements from nearby massive stars into the newly forming solar system and then the ejection of the solar system from its birthplace, a huge star cluster, at the just-right time to a just-right location in the MWG.
Structure of the Solar System’s Birth Cluster
Astronomers observe that star formation occurs in giant molecular clouds of gas and dust. For spiral galaxies such as the MWG, nearly all these clouds are found along the galaxy’s spiral arms. Astronomers further note that giant molecular clouds possess a filamentary structure. Observations indicate that Sun-like stars form along dense cylindrical filaments within giant clouds of gas and dust.2 High-mass stars form in the extremely dense hubs where multiple filaments meet and connect within a small volume.3 Only such hubs provide sufficient mass and density to allow for the formation of stars more massive than ten times the Sun’s mass. These ultra-massive stars are the “factories” in which most of the advanced-life-essential elements are produced and from which they are exported.
According to a recent issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of ten astronomers led by Doris Arzoumanian determined that our solar system formed along a dense filament radiating outward from one of these hub-filament regions.4 In this precise location, the young solar system could be enriched with the array of elements needed for advanced life.
Here, the young solar system acquired multiple heavy elements ejected from core-collapse supernova eruptions and also from the winds of Wolf-Rayet stars within its birth cluster. Arzoumanian and her colleagues additionally determined that the solar system’s birth filament benefitted from design characteristics that shielded the early system from the destructive effects of nearby stars.
Specifically, the research team showed that only because the Sun’s birth filament possessed a line mass of 90 solar masses per cubic parsec (3 solar masses per cubic light-year) and a density of 105 particles per cubic centimeter could the emerging solar system have been adequately enriched by supernova ejecta without being destroyed by supernova shock waves. Arzoumanian’s group also cited the work of a team led by astrophysicist Fred Adams.5 Adams and his colleagues demonstrated that the solar system’s birth filament must have had the just-right features to shield the young solar system from the destructive far-ultraviolet radiation coming from OB stars in its birth cluster. This shielding ensured that the Sun’s system of planets would be preserved.
Our young solar system received its essential elements for advanced life from three distinct sources: first, from the background level of elements in the solar system’s birth cluster; second, from high-energy cosmic rays (emanating from early nearby supernova eruptions) that transformed certain elemental isotopes into different elemental isotopes; third, from direct injection by nearby stars more than twenty times the Sun’s mass, namely core-collapse supernovae and Wolf-Rayet stars.
Arzoumanian and her colleagues conclude their paper with a call for the development of a more detailed and precise model showing how the young solar system received its advanced-life-essential elements, a model that could be achieved through dedicated magnetohydrodynamical numerical simulations and high-sensitivity, high-precision observations of filamentary streamers in giant molecular clouds.
Ejection of the Solar System from Its Birth Cluster
If the solar system had remained in its birth cluster for more than several million years, radiation and gravitational disturbances from nearby stars would have eliminated the possibility of future advanced life on any of its planets. Instead, the solar system was ejected from its birth cluster before such disasters could occur. Just as importantly, it was strongly ejected, sent out to roughly double its original distance from the center of the MWG (see figure).
Figure: Solar System’s Ejection from Its Birth Cluster to Its Present Position
Credit: Milky Way Galaxy constructed image: JPL-Caltech, R. Hurt; diagram: Hugh Ross
For such a strong ejection from its birth cluster, the solar system must have experienced a gravitational slingshot generated by multiple nearby massive stars. The positions and orientations of these massive stars must have been precisely fine-tuned. It had to be strong enough to achieve the appropriate ejection distance and yet not so strong as to disrupt the Sun’s planetary system or pummel the planets with particles and radiation that would have eroded their atmospheres and hydrospheres.
For the sake of future advanced life in the solar system, our solar system had to be gravitationally braked to settle exactly where it did—just inside the MWG’s corotation distance. Only at this distance would the solar system experience the least frequent crossings of the MWG spiral arms, crossings that would have drastically interfered with the possibility for advanced life.6 To have been gravitationally braked at this just-right distance from the MWG’s center, the solar system must have encountered a set of stars of the just-right masses, positions, and orientations.
The convergence of all these factors so crucial to the solar system’s acquiring the just-right enrichment of elements in just-right abundances at the just-right times and for the system’s timely ejection from its birth cluster at the just-right time and arrival to the best possible location in the MWG for the survival of advanced life strongly implies supernatural, super-intelligent, and super-skillful handiwork. Thanks to the work of Arzoumanian’s team, the argument for the existence and operation of the God of the Bible has gained substance and strength. Once again, we see a demonstration of this biblical principle: the more we learn about the realm of nature, the more evidence we uncover for a personal, purposeful, all-powerful Creator.
- Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016), 166–168.
- Jaime E. Pineda et al., “From Bubbles and Filaments to Cores and Disks: Gas Gathering and Growth of Structure Leading to the Formations of Stellar Systems,” arXiv:2205.03935v3 (March 23, 2023).
- M. S. N. Kumar et al., “Unifying Low- and High-Mass Star Formation through Density-Amplified Hubs of Filaments. The Highest Mass Stars (>100 MSun) Form Only in Hubs,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 642 (October 2020), id. A87, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/202038232; M. S. N. Kumar et al., “Filament Coalescence and Hub Structure in Mon R2. Implications for Massive Star and Cluster Formation,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 658 (February 2022), id. A114, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/202140363.
- Doris Arzoumanian et al., “Insights on the Sun Birth Environment in the Context of Star Cluster Formation in Hub-Filament Systems,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 947, no. 2 (April 20, 2023): id. L29, doi:10.3847/2041-8213/acc849.
- Fred C. Adams et al., “Photoevaporation of Circumstellar Disks Due to External Far-Ultraviolet Radiation in Stellar Aggregates,” Astrophysical Journal 611, no. 1 (August 10, 2004): 360–379, doi:10.1086/421989.
- Hugh Ross, Designed to the Core (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2022), 109–111.