Stellar Dust Disk Vanishes in 3 Years
According to widely accepted theory, planets evolve from orbiting dust disks surrounding stars. If so, planets trying to form in the dust around one young star didn’t have much time. The disk evaporated within 3 years.
In “Astronomy: Warm dust makes a fast getaway” on Nature News, Margaret Moerchen summarized a paper by Melin et al., in Nature (“Rapid disappearance of a warm, dusty circumstellar disk,” 487 05 July 2012, pp. 74–76, doi:10.1038/nature11210) that is pretty shocking: “A rapid drop in infrared emission from a Sun-like star could indicate that a drastic event has cleared a circumstellar disk of dusty debris — the material from which planets form.”
Describing the “generally accepted” planetesimal hypothesis, Moerchen bluffed that “We know that such processes were involved in forming the architecture of the Solar System, as well as that of the ever-increasing number of planetary systems being discovered around stars other than the Sun,” but then confessed that “the precise timescales and conditions required for the formation of planets in the disks are still under investigation,” to put it mildly: there’s at least 4 to 6 orders of magnitude difference between expectations and observations here. “Notably, even for some disks in which the amount of dust present is considered likely to be transient and evolving rapidly, significant changes in that amount are expected to take at least thousands of years,” she said. Another put it into the millions.
None of the believers in the consensus planetesimal hypothesis expected to witness such a rapid change: reduction of infrared emission by a factor of 30 in 3 years, caused by, the astronomers believe, “a correspondingly drastic depletion of the dust disk” in short order. With characteristic understatement, Moerchen added, “the system in question is remarkable for the speed with which its surrounding material seems to have disappeared.” Where did it go? Why now? According to current theory, the star is 10 million years old. Why would it shed its dust disk right at the epoch when astronomers have the tools to watch it?
Nature News wouldn’t leave an embarrassing problem like this unresolved, would it? Moerchen offered some suggestions, but alas, confessed, “However, these hypotheses… can be excluded…” Then she offered the authors’ favored two solutions, but added, “However, both models have unresolved issues.” A couple of other solutions were put forth unenthusiastically, because they are catastrophic: the runaway accretion model, and the collisional cascade model, “in which gravitationally bound dust grains experience successive cratering or wholly destructive collisions that eventually yield grains small enough to be blown out of the system” – i.e., complete pulverization to smithereens. That’s hardly conducive to planet formation, which is what the planetesimal hypothesis purports to explain.
Moerchen ended with the best positive spin she could muster, commenting that “the extremely rapid changes in this dusty system are certain to provoke further discussion of planetary-system evolution.” Indeed, the authors themselves confessed in their abstract, “Such a phase of rapid ejecta evolution has not been previously predicted or observed, and no currently available physical model satisfactorily explains the observations.” Her final paragraph is a model of theory-rescuing rhetoric in the face of evidential disaster:
The disappearance of the excess infrared radiation from TYC 8241 2652 1 in less than two years is incredibly fast by our current understanding, and the impact of this is difficult to predict. The dust-clearing models proposed by Melis et al. could be refined to bring them more into line with conventional theory. And theories that have been developed for other stars and that were adapted to TYC 8241 2652 1 could be redeveloped. However, perhaps the most exciting possibility is that the brightness drop represents a stage of terrestrial-planet formation that occurs so quickly that we have not been lucky enough to glimpse it until now.
How did the popular press report this anomaly? PhysOrg led off with the banal evolutionary formula, “New study sheds new light on planet formation.” The press release from University of Georgia featured home boy Inseok Song standing proudly by his telescope while the university’s spin machine turned the anomaly into a victory for evolution theory: “A study published in the July 5 edition of the journal Nature is challenging scientists’ understanding of planet formation, suggesting that planets might form much faster than previously thought or, alternatively, that stars harboring planets could be far more numerous.” Yes, that’s right: instead of millions of years, planets might form in a few! Think of the possibilities that “new light” allows: rapidly forming planets could now be much more common! The press release author seemed to take liberties with Song’s more humble interpretation of the unexpected finding:
“The most commonly accepted time scale for the removal of this much dust is in the hundreds of thousands of years, sometimes millions,” said study co-author Inseok Song, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “What we saw was far more rapid and has never been observed or even predicted. It tells us that we have a lot more to learn about planet formation.“
There were even appeals to magic. “Now you see it, now you don’t,” quipped lead author Carl Melin of UC San Diego, describing the classic magician’s line. “Only in this case we’re talking about enough dust to fill an inner solar system, and it really is gone.” (See before-and-after artwork in the PhysOrg coverage). Ben Zuckerman of UCLA added his own analogy: “”It’s as if you took a conventional picture of the planet Saturn today and then came back two years later and found that its rings had disappeared.”
Readers of the headline and not the fine print in the innards of the press release might miss this confession: “The researchers explored several different explanations for how such a large quantity of dust could disappear so rapidly, and each of their explanations challenges conventional thinking about planet formation… Like many important discoveries, the scientists’ finding raises more questions than it answers.” Song added that each one of the “uncomfortable” proposals to explain the phenomenon “has non-traditional implications.” Any answers are in the future: “my hope that this line of research can bring us closer to a true understanding of how planets form.”
Here’s a non-traditional proposal that was actually traditional before secular evolutionists reclassified it as non-traditional: stars and planets were created, and because of the laws of thermodynamics, they are breaking up, not building up. Unfortunately, Song’s chosen “line of research” will never take him there, because that route has been ruled out of bounds by a certain minority of human beings with a lot of power.
Well, isn’t this a fine situation we find science in today. We have “conventional thinking” that is dead wrong, findings that raise more questions than answers (as with “many important discoveries”), and non-traditional proposals that make people “uncomfortable”. Since when was comfort a requirement of truth? As they say, the truth hurts.
Suppose you had left your house to the care of a steward, and returned to find all your possessions gone. Would you laugh if he gave you a sheepish grin and said, “Now you see it, now you don’t”? After pressing him for answers, would you be satisfied if he tossed out some possibilities, but said each of them has “unresolved issues”? Suppose he said he had developed an answer, but could redevelop it. Suppose he tried to cheer you up by saying that the unexpected disappearance was “sure to provoke further discussion.” Suppose he tried to impress you with the “exciting possibility” that the spontaneous disappearance of the material was so quick, we were never lucky enough to glimpse it until now! No; if you were too gracious to fire him on the spot, you would certainly demand a credible answer and give him a time limit to produce it.
We entrust our scientists with the job of explaining the natural world. (Remember the big difference between scientific discovery and scientific explanation; it is noble to make these observations, but ignoble to maintain a false theory in the face of contradictory evidence by invoking ad hoc rescue devices that refuse to consider non-paradigmatic solutions, such as design). In any other line of business, a colossal failure of expectations of this magnitude would be grounds for dismissal. Honor would require the failing steward to step up to the plate and say, “I was wrong; I failed; I will resign.” These losers, including their publicists, should at least forgo any taxpayer dollars designated for their failed analysis until and unless they demonstrate return on investment to those paying for their services. They can continue to observe and report findings, but if they want to engage in speculative theorizing with no obligation to get the world right, let them start a Flat Disk Society and do it on their own time and their own dime.