Saturday, August 06, 2005

Welcome, 2003 UB313

How many planets are there in our solar system?

Until recently, if you had answered "Nine" you would have been correct. But that number is now wrong--a tenth planet has been discovered!

This planet, called "2003 UB 313" is about twice as far from the sun as Pluto is, and is slightly larger. The new planet seems to have a similar composition to that of Pluto, but also has some rather interesting characteristics. For one thing, it's plane of orbit is tilted 44 degrees to that of the other planets. It's orbit is also highly elliptical, and takes 557 earth-years to complete.

It is interesting to note the rather heavy evolutionary emphasis in the secular reports about the new planet. For one thing, there is a rather strong debate going on about whether the new astronomical body should be considered a true planet, or only a large "Kuiper Belt Object" (KBO). According to one astrophysicist, "The Kuiper belt is a hypothetical massive flattened disc of billions of icy planetesimals supposedly left over from the formation of the solar system." Note that it is only hypothetical. Yet nowhere in the three articles I read (from Sky and Telescope, Astronomy Magazine, and does it give any hint of the Kuiper Belt being only hypothetical. Rather, it is regarded as fact, despite the fact that the objects they have discovered differ considerably from what such a belt would contain, according to the first source above.

Also, the article from Sky and Telescope almost automatically assumes that the planet's orbit was not as tilted originally, calling upon "an encounter with some massive object " "at some point in its history" to explain the tilt. Interestingly enough, such a tilt would raise questions for the standard evolutionary explanations of solar system formation, were it indeed original. The same kind of impact is drafted in the article from Astronomy Magazine for explaining the unusual tilt of the axes of Uranus and Neptune.

Such imaginary and highly problematic explanations for our observations of the heavens would not be needed were we to just take God at his word when He said that He created the heavenly bodies on Day 4 of Creation week.

It is exciting to think of the new discoveries that are being made in astronomy today. Truly indeed, "the heavens declare the glory of God."

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