It is becoming increasingly evident that, unlike the 797 known extrasolar planetary systems, the Sun’s array of planets is exquisitely fine-tuned for the existence of advanced life. Recent studies of Jupiter and Saturn add substantially to the accumulating evidence for why, in spite of the probable existence of billions of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, our solar system may be alone in manifesting all the attributes for sustaining advanced life.
Measurements of features from 1,050 exoplanets, plus dozens of extrasolar asteroid and comet belts, have yielded increasing evidence for the uniqueness of the solar system’s characteristics that make advanced life possible on Earth. These feature measurements have enabled theoreticians to develop detailed formation models that, in turn, reveal how exquisitely designed our solar system planets are for making possible the existence of advanced life on Earth.
In 2011, I wrote a six-article series entitled “The Remarkable Design of the Solar System’s Turbulent Youth.” In part five, I discuss the “jumping Jupiter” effect that explains the current orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune while solving other astronomy problems, such as why Mars is not many times more massive than it is, why additional planets do not exist between Mars and Jupiter, and why the inner part of the Main Belt of asteroids (between Mars and Jupiter) is severely depleted. For reasons discussed in my series, all four phenomena are crucial for advanced life on Earth.
In the jumping Jupiter scenario, either Uranus or Neptune experienced a close encounter with Saturn and was, consequently, scattered inward. That inward migration resulted in the traveling gas giant experiencing a close encounter with Jupiter wherein it was strongly scattered outward. And this second close encounter led to a rapid increase in the separation between Jupiter and Saturn’s orbits.1
For the jumping Jupiter scenario to explain the four critical features of the solar system it must be designed to an exceptionally fine-tuned degree—so exceptional as to imply the miraculous intervention of the Creator God of the Bible. In a recent journal article, two astronomers addressed the question of whether a less complicated and fine-tuned developmental history of the solar system could explain how the configuration of the planets came about.2 They investigated the effects of planetesimal-driven migrations on the formation of the inner planets and the possible 1:2 orbital resonances that orbital excitations of Jupiter and Saturn might generate.
Using the most sophisticated computer simulations available, the two astronomers discovered that for a few of their trial runs they could produce analogs of both Venus and Earth—duplicating both their masses and orbits. However, none of their runs could explain both Mars’ small mass and the low values of Mars’ inclination and eccentricityor the absence of planets between Mars and Jupiter. The two astronomers concluded that a scenario at least as complex and fine-tuned as the jumping Jupiter phenomenon indeed appears necessary.
In another recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal, the team that proposed and worked out the jumping Jupiter scenario (aka the Nice model) published a paperdemonstrating that the scenario explains several more extraordinary solar system features, namely the relatively high orbital inclinations, the wide distribution in orbital inclinations, and the population asymmetry in Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.3 These Trojan asteroids share Jupiter’s orbit, occupying the two Lagrangian points of stability (see figure) that are located 60° ahead and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
Figure: Jupiter’s Lagrange Points (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Newtonian mechanics predicts five special Lagrange points in the vicinity of two orbiting masses where a third, smaller mass or several much smaller masses can orbit at a fixed point from the larger masses. At both L4 and L5 along Jupiter’s orbit a total of 5,921 asteroids have been discovered,4 which add up to a little more than ten percent of all the asteroids in the Main Belt.
The jumping Jupiter phenomenon explains fine details in the size and structure of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which substantially enhances the credibility of the phenomenon in particular and the Nice model in general. The quantity and degree of fine-tuning evidences so far revealed in the features of the solar system shouts of extreme care and meticulous design. It helps explain why none of the extrasolar planetary systems comes close to mirroring the solar system. It shows how much the Creator invested into the early development of the solar system for the specific benefit of Earth’s advanced life and for humans and their civilization in particular. The conclusion that the Creator is expressing an extremely high value, love, and purpose for humans seems unavoidable.
- Alessandro Morbidelli et al., “Evidence from the Asteroid Belt for a Violent Past Evolution of Jupiter’s Orbit,” Astronomical Journal 140 (November 2010): 1391–401.
- Patryk Sofia Lykawka and Takashi Ito, “Terrestrial Planet Formation during the Migration and Resonance Crossings of the Giant Planets,” Astrophysical Journal 773 (August 10, 2013): 65.
- David Nesvorný, David Vokrouhlický, and Alessandro Morbidelli, “Capture of Trojans by Jumping Jupiter,” Astrophysical Journal 768 (May 1, 2013): id. 45.
- “List of Jupiter Trojans,” The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center, last updated November 19, 2013, https://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/lists/JupiterTrojans.html.