How young is this planet? Mercury problem boils over, reported in Messenger Mission News and ScienceShots 16 June 2011, and ABC News in Science 20 June 2011 and ScienceDaily 23 June 2011.

Data and images sent from the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury are “forcing scientists to rethink how the planet closest to the Sun formed and what has happened to it over the past four billion years”.

It seems Mercury has ten times more sulphur than found in Earth’s or the moon’s surface rocks, and as much or more potassium. These are relatively light elements and should have boiled out of hot molten rocks. According to the current theories, Mercury formed from the hottest part of the solar nebula (mass of hot dust) that formed the solar system. Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution, the research leader of the project commented: “Elements like that are usually lost in space,” says Solomon. “The fact that we see sulphur from the surface points strongly that we had sulphur gases coming out. All of our simple ideas … a hot planet, easily depleted of volatiles … are not turning out to be the simple story we thought.”

Another intriguing find is clusters of irregular pits varying in size from a few metres to several kilometres. Brett Denevi of Johns Hopkins University, another member of the research team, explained: “The etched appearance of these landforms is unlike anything we’ve seen before on Mercury or the Moon. We are still debating their origin, but they appear to have a relatively young age and may suggest a more abundant than expected volatile component in Mercury’s crust”.

Meanwhile other scientists have been analysing samples of the solar wind (particles flowing out of the sun) brought back to earth by a space craft named Genesis. They found unexpected differences in the oxygen and nitrogen composition of earth and inner planets compared with the sun. Kevin McKeegan, one of the researchers explained: “We found that Earth, the moon, as well as Martian and other meteorites which are samples of asteroids, have a lower concentration of the O-16 than does the sun”. He went on to say: “The implication is that we did not form out of the same solar nebula materials that created the sun – just how and why remains to be discovered”.

Bernard Marty, another of the research team commented: “These findings show that all solar system objects including the terrestrial planets, meteorites and comets are anomalous compared to the initial composition of the nebula from which the solar system formed. Understanding the cause of such heterogeneity will impact our view on the formation of the solar system”.

Mercury Messenger, ABC, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Can we be so bold as to suggest that the reason the sulphur on Mercury has not all boiled away is that it hasn’t been there for billions of years. This finding, along with the structures that appear to have a relatively young age is no problem if you take the Bible’s account of creation seriously. So let us further suggest it is time for planetary scientists to rethink how the planets were formed, and they should start by taking note of the record left by the Creator during Earth’s original Genesis (Gen 1-2).

Over the last few decades space probes and telescopes have enabled us to closely examine the solar system. The more we study the sun, moon, planets and other objects making up the solar system the more variation we find, making it harder to fit the planets into the theory that they all evolved from one swirling mass of hot dust. It really is consistent with the data to believe they were made as individual objects, designed to be an active part of a functioning system. Genesis tells us the sun, moon and stars were made separately from the earth and were placed in the sky to serve the Earth and its inhabitants. They were never a mass of hot dust, and they were fully formed and functioning when they were made on the first and fourth days of creation.

Evidence News 8 August 2011

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