The Afterlife of the Solar System

It is common knowledge that about five billion years from now, the Sun will use up its hydrogen fuel in its core, swell up into a red giant, destroy the inner planets, and collapse into a white dwarf. Most people assume that will be the end of the story, but perhaps not….

Six billion years from now, the remains of the Solar System passes through a nebula and the Sun’s gravity begins to pull gas onto it. Soon, the Sun acquires so much mass that it collapses further into a neutron star. Meanwhile, the planet Jupiter also gains mass from the surrounding gas. Eventually, Jupiter becomes massive enough to ignite thermonuclear reactions in its core, becoming a star. It even acquires a new planet, which I’ll call Euphoria, that is nearly as massive as Earth once was. The gravitational dance of the Sun and Jupiter causes the planets beyond Jupiter to be tossed out into interstellar space.

Ten billion years from now, Euphoria has intelligent life forms living on it, including astronomers. With Earth long since destroyed, there will be no traces of us left for them to know about. It will be as it we had never existed, and from their point of view, the Solar System as it was would probably be only a wild speculation, much like this essay.

Was our Solar System Intelligently Designed?

The concepts of “young-Earth” Creationism and Intelligent Design, which may seem halfway plausible in the field of biology, completely fall apart when attempts are made to apply them to the field of planetary astronomy. The very structure of the Solar System casts doubt upon the notion that an Intelligent Designer created it only a few thousand years ago.

  1. The orbits of the planets do not exist as circles, but as ellipses. In ancient times until the 17th Century, most astronomers insisted that the planets moved in circles because circles were held to be “perfect”.
  2. The surfaces of most solid bodies in the Solar System are battered with craters, indicating a violent and chaotic process of formation.
  3. As the recent controversy over the (dwarf) planet of Pluto showed, it is almost impossible to consistently categorize the various bodies of the Solar System.  Several moons of the gas giant planets, for example, are bigger than Mercury.
  4. The space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter are filled with thousands of rocky masses known as asteroids. They serve no practical purpose and even pose a serious threat to life on Earth. The extinction of the dinosaurs, for example, is thought to have occured due to the impact of an asteriod 65 million years ago. Many asteriods even have orbits that take them dangerously close to Earth.
  5. The Earth’s rotation period (the basis of our “day”), the moon’s revolution period (the basis of our “month”), and the Earth’s revolution period (the basis of our “year”) do not match up precisely, making the formulation of calendars a very complicated business.
  6. There is no consistency to the rotational period of the planets. Earth and Mars have 24 hour days, but a day on Jupiter is less than 10 hours long, while a “day” on Venus is 243 times longer than that of Earth. In addition, Venus rotates BACKWARDS!
  7. Venus itself is a planet so hostile to life that astronomers, including the late Carl Sagan, have compared it to the Judeo-Christian vision of Hell.
  8. Far beyond the orbit of Neptune, there exist millions of tiny comets, some of which are drawn close to the Sun, resulting in a spectacular display as its ices sublime, producing the comet’s “tail”. But these comets could also collide with Earth, posing another threat to life on that planet.
  9. All four gas giant planets have rings, but there is no consistent pattern to them. 
  10. Most of the planets have an axal tilt, but Uranus and Pluto are turned more than 90 degrees from the vertical.

If I were an Intelligent Designer, would I have made the Solar System only a few thousand years ago in such a chaotic way as to fool scientists into thinking that it had formed billions of years ago of entirely naturalistic forces?

Certainly not!