There and Back Again: Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)

ISON remnantOr not, as the case may be. If you haven’t already heard Comet ISON – once hailed as a potential “comet of the century” – has almost certainly fragmented after rounding the Sun and will not be spectacularly gracing our skies over the new year, nor returning to the outer reaches of the solar system intact. In more hopeful times back in late June Brian Thomas published an article called “Ison–The Comet of the Century,” which opened:

In September 2012, a Russian and a Belarusian astronomer using the Kislovodsk Observatory co-discovered a comet heading our way. Comet Ison should become visible to Earth viewers in December 2013 after passing perilously close to the Sun during November. It may even appear brighter than the moon, triggering discussions about when and how comets formed.

Thomas, who paid no attention to what was even then a very real possibility that ISON would break up during its “perilous” perihelion approach, used the comet as a launching pad to promote the young-Earth creationist view that comets prove that the universe is young. But even before fragmenting ISON was not a particularly good poster-boy for this cause. Continue reading

The So-Called Oort Cloud

Pillars of Creation, Eagle nebularIt’s been the better part of a month since we last ventured into space on this blog, but only two days since we saw some classic denialism. Today, we get both! Brian Thomas’ Wednesday article is called Certain Stellar Features Just Don’t Exist. Can you guess which he is talking about?

Sorting fact from fiction when it comes to outer space can be tricky, especially when scientists assert that certain stellar features are real when they are not. Why should school textbook authors, or the students and teachers that rely on them to deliver accurate information, trust these scientists’ more speculative assertions when they routinely name structures that don’t exist?

Creationists, of course, never engage in outrageous speculation. Continue reading

Like Mondas, but Bigger

Today’s piece of pseudoscience from the ICR is entitled Mythical Planet Doesn’t Solve Orbit Origins, lambasting a study which attempted to model the formation of the solar system – specifically the orbital characteristics of the outer gas-giants – by hypothesising the existence of a fifth gas giant, the size of which was comparable to Neptune and Uranus, which influenced the orbits of the planets but was knocked out of the Solar System by Jupiter. As I said: like Mondas, but bigger and without the Cybermen.

An artists impression of a much larger (Jupiter sized) rogue planet, but then how would you tell? Continue reading

The Universe Was Created Recently, ish

Many clock-like processes operating in the solar system and beyond indicate that the universe is young. For example, spiral galaxies should not exist if they are billions of years old. The stars near their centers rotate around the galactic cores faster than stars at the perimeters. If a cosmology based on long ages is correct, they should have blended into disk-shaped galaxies by now.

“Spiral galaxies” aren’t in the solar system, but I’m sure I’ve already made worse mistakes. In any case, this is… odd. Unlike with the DpSU’s, there are no references in this article, so I can’t see where it’s coming from here. What makes a spiral galaxy not a disk galaxy also? If he is referring to the Galactic Bulge, this could be formed by cannibalism of other galaxies, and there are spiral galaxies without them. And the winding problem? There are answers, but the author hasn’t bothered to counter them in any way.

Comets pose a similar problem. They lose material each time they pass around the sun. Why would they still exist after vast eons?

There are thought to be billions of comets-in-waiting in the Oort cloud and in the nearer Kuiper Belt. Short period comets like Haley need not have gone round and around for all of the last few billion years.

Saturn’s rings still look new and shiny. And many planets and moons are very geologically active. Surely the energy they continually expend should have been spent long ago if they are as old as they are usually claimed to be.

The current material in Saturn’s rings is not all that old, coming from the break up of a moon. (Edit: or maybe not. Here’s a relevant blog post on the subject.). They are kept fresh by the constituent particles of ice bumping into each other and creating new, clean surfaces for light to reflect on. And I’ve already covered Io, which can be extended further. (As it happens, I’ve been alerted to the existence of a paper from nature on this subject, which very much suggests that the problem has been resolved, and not in favour of the creationists).

Instead, the more astronomers learn about the heavens, the more evidence there is that the universe is young.

Yeah, no… Try again.