On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, NASA released the first close images of Pluto recently taken by the New Horizons space probe. What the photos revealed was a shock to conventional uniformitarian scientists who believe in a 4.5-billion-year-old solar system. Over the past half century, planetary scientists have become accustomed to finding many impact craters on the surfaces of bodies in the solar system. However, from the preliminary photos of Pluto’s surface, these scientists have found far fewer craters than they expected. Earlier wide-field views of half of Pluto’s surface seem to indicate a few craters, but the first close-up region examined appeared to have no craters.
Craters appear to be the results of collisions with smaller bodies. Most scientists think that the solar system formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, so they interpret craters in terms of their accumulation during that time. Supposedly, many of the impacts were from leftover material that did not form into planets. If true, then the rate at which craters formed was much greater in the early solar system than it is today. Some surfaces, such as Earth’s and Jupiter’s satellite Io, have relatively few craters. Planetary scientists explain this by geological processes that remove or cover craters. On Earth, the main geological processes responsible for this are believed to be the sedimentation and igneous activity accompanying plate tectonics, and weathering and erosion. On Io, the principle mechanism of crater removal is volcanism—Io has many active volcanoes that change the surface regularly. Some surfaces of solar system bodies, such as Earth’s moon, have regions of high crater density and regions of low crater density. This is explained by volcanism that affected parts of them, such as on our moon, and not others.
Planetary scientists use crater density to judge the relative ages of various surfaces and regions. The lunar maria (pronounced MAR-ee-uh) appear to be volcanic plains and have far fewer craters on them than on the heavily cratered lunar highlands. Presumably, the volcanism and related processes that formed the lunar maria covered over many of the craters originally there. Hence, the maria are younger than the lunar highlands.
Similarly, the craterless surface of Io is very young, as evidenced by the ongoing volcanism that we have witnessed occurring on its surface. Europa, another large satellite of Jupiter, only has a few craters, suggesting that its surface has been reworked, though not as recently as Io’s. The two other large satellites of Jupiter, Ganymede and Callisto, have increasing crater densities, suggesting still older surfaces, but surfaces that have been reworked to some degree. The densities of craters on the surfaces of these four large satellites of Jupiter increase with distance from the planet, as do the inferred ages of their surfaces. This disparity is explained in terms of tidal flexing of Jupiter’s strong gravity that heats those satellites’ interiors to permit volcanic activity. The tidal heating decreases with distance from Jupiter.
With the exception of Io, every surface on solar system bodies that we had examined, planets, their satellites, asteroids, and even comets, appear to have impact craters, suggesting to most planetary scientists that they all have great age. This is why the lack of craters on Pluto is such a shock. Being far from the sun, Pluto ought to be very cold and hence not have experienced recent volcanism. Any primordial heat would have long ago dissipated, if the solar system were 4.5 billion years old. The density of Pluto is very small, 2.0 gm/cc, which is consistent with a roughly half-and-half rock/ice composition. This density will not allow for long-lived radioactive elements, which allegedly are the source of Earth’s internal heat to provide for the continuous geological activity during Earth’s supposed 4.5-billion-year history. Nor is Pluto near any other large bodies that could raise tides within Pluto to heat its interior and thus drive surface geological activity as supposedly is the case with Jupiter’s large satellites. Hence, there ought not to be any significant geological activity sufficient to remove craters on Pluto’s surface.
Compounding this problem for a 4.5-billion-year age for the solar system is the fact that Pluto is located in a particularly crowded part of the solar system. Pluto orbits the sun in a region with many other large objects that are too small to be planets and are also orbiting the sun. Presumably, thus far we have found only the larger members of this second asteroid belt, the first belt being mainly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. We would expect that for each of these bodies in this second asteroid belt there would be many more much smaller bodies. Therefore, Pluto ought to be undergoing impacts today at a higher rate than most other objects in other portions of the solar system.
Planetary scientists who are committed to belief in a 4.5-billion-year-old solar system are at a complete loss to explain the lack of craters on Pluto. But the situation is even bleaker for them. Pluto has a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere. This nitrogen is leaking away from Pluto’s atmosphere, so it must be continually replaced. One can claim that the unknown mechanism driving the geological activity on Pluto also is bringing nitrogen from Pluto’s interior to the surface where it is outgassed. But Pluto is a small body, and it has only a finite amount of nitrogen. It is possible that after billions of years that all of its nitrogen should have been depleted long ago.
There are mountains on Pluto’s surface that are 11,000 ft (3,300 m) high. The rock/ice composition of Pluto probably could support such a tall structure with Pluto’s modest gravity if Pluto’s interior is very cold. However, if Pluto is as warm and geologically active as inferred, then the rock/ice structure of Pluto could not support such mountains for long. Therefore, these mountains must be very young. All of these considerations demonstrate that Pluto is a very young object, far younger than the 4.5 billion years that most scientists assume.
Charon, Pluto’s largest satellite, offered stunning news too. Charon appears to have a few craters, but far fewer than expected. Its surface also is gashed by a large chasm, suggesting recent or ongoing geological activity. This, too, was unexpected in a solar system that is 4.5 billion years old.
We may yet find a few craters on Pluto’s surface, but those would be inconsequential to the conclusions that we can draw. It is very clear that Pluto is young, far younger than the billions of years generally assumed. While this is unexpected and hence unexplainable for evolutionists, this is something that we might expect if the universe is only thousands of years old as the Bible indicates. The preliminary results from the New Horizons space probe are good news indeed for the recent creation model.
Dr. Danny Faulkner, Answers in Genesis 27 Comments
[7/26/2015 4:24:36 AM]
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