April 2, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Binary Asteroid “Formidable Challenge to Theory”

Two asteroids found orbiting each other in the asteroid belt are found to be mere rubble piles.  They are composed of rocks loosely held together by gravity, says an article on Science Daily.  French astronomers measured the rotation of the pair and their density with better accuracy, and modeled how the pair might have split up and regrouped after a collision two and a half million years ago.  Another scientist says we should not be too hasty:

“Despite this intensive study, the origin of this unique doublet still remains a mystery,” said team member Pascal Descamps, an astronomer at the Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calculs des Éphémérides (IMCCE) of the Observatoire de Paris.  “The formation of such a large double system is an improbable event and represents a formidable challenge to theory.  It is possible that a parent body was spun up so much that it broke apart, but this seems very hard to do for asteroids in the main belt, unlike, for example, near-Earth asteroids.”

The article did not address how such a loose collection of debris could remain in orbit for that long.

This commentary does not claim that creationists would have a better answer to this mystery, or that a plausible natural explanation could not be found with further study.  It does raise the issue, however, of dating.  It seems highly implausible in a system of careening impactors that such a delicate balance of two loose objects could be maintained for so long.  If this were the only case, it might be excused as an exception, but binary asteroids are common (see 05/04/2002).  This is but one of many problems that come with assuming billions of years (see 06/05/2003 commentary).  It’s not acceptable to play fast and loose on a date.

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Categories: Solar System

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