Kepler-186f, first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a star in the habitable zone (artist's impression)
Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
A paper published a few days ago in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of researchers from the Stellar Astrophysics Centre at Aarhus University, Denmark have shown what they believe is evidence of Earth-sized planets orbiting 33 stars in the Milky Way galaxy that are about 11 billion years old. In other words, these planets were formed at least 8 billion years before Earth in a Universe that appears to have had the right conditions for creating these planetary systems right here in our own galaxy.
This evidence comes from the vast data store provided by the Kepler Space Telescope before it failed in 2013. Briefly, by analysing the light coming from a sun, the presence of orbiting planets can be seen by regular periods of dimming as the planet crosses the disk of the sun. This regular oscillation is generally considered good evidence of a planetary system.
Creationists, of course, hate this because it destroys one of their favourite apologetics - the claim that the Universe was designed in such a way as to make it ideal for creating an Earth with the ideal conditions for creating human life. The more and more of these planetary systems that are found, the less and less tenable is the argument that the solar system is unique. In fact, astrophysicists have found over 1000 stars with probable exoplanets in just this one galaxy and the more that are found, the more likely it becomes that life will have evolved on other planets. This, along with a living system being made from scratch, is the creationists' worse nightmare.
But what this discovery raises is another question creationists will struggle to answer without simple denialism. Why, if it was possible to create a solar system like ours complete with Earth and life on it, 11 billion years ago, did creationism's god wait for so long? What was their god doing for the seven or eight billion years it took it to actually get round to doing it? This doesn't even take into account what their god was supposedly doing for an infinite time before it even decided to do any creating. This question deals with what it was hanging about for so long for after it allegedly created everything it needed.
Any creationist prepared to hazard a guess about why it took their god so long to create the Sun and Earth? Was it doing a little creating elsewhere in the Universe, maybe? Was it perhaps just sitting back admiring its handiwork for eight billion years before it thought of creating humans to join in the adulation, or did it take it that long to understand what it had created and work out what it could do with it all now?
I'm sure there must be a simple explanation that doesn't involve denying the science and pretending a different reality pertains.
V. Silva Aguirre, G.R. Davies, S. Basu, J. Christensen-Dalsgaard, O. Creevey, T.S. Metcalfe, T.R. Bedding, L. Casagrande, R. Handberg, M.N. Lund, P.E. Nissen, W.J. Chaplin, D. Huber, A.M. Serenelli, D. Stello, V. Van Eylen, T.L. Campante, Y. Elsworth, R.L. Gilliland, S. Hekker, C. Karoff, S.D. Kawaler, H. Kjeldsen, M.S. Lundkvist.
Ages and fundamental properties of Kepler exoplanet host stars from asteroseismology.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2015
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