Saturday, March 2, 2013

Order-keeper Jupiter

The recent meteor explosion over Russia has triggered more inquiries than usual concerning the hazards of living in our Solar System. There are countless multitudes of objects whirling through our Solar System apart from the familiar planets. Uncounted millions of meteoroids and asteroids larger than the Russian object inhabit our region of the Milky Way Galaxy. Many tiny objects strike each year adding thousands of tons of meteor dust to Earth’s mass. Asteroids and meteoroids are closely associated with the orbit of giant planet Jupiter which marshals the movement of these extra-planetary bodies.

Jupiter has .001 times the mass of the sun. Next to our life-giving sun, no Solar System object is more important for past or present life on earth. When the Solar System formed 4.5 billion years ago, the planet Jupiter was “assigned” a unique role in organizing the developing planetary system. Its structure and the eventual hospitable conditions on our planetary home owe much to the gas giant Jupiter. Its beauty and its fourth-ranking brightness in our sky, behind the Sun, Moon, and planet Venus, serve to remind us of its importance in terms of our survival.

Based on knowledge that our Solar System is absolutely unique with its assemblage of four small inner terrestrial planets and four larger outer gas giant planets, the evolution of our Solar System was a divinely ordained process. Other planetary systems in our galaxy have been observed and many more are developing as the eons of time pass. Many stars in the Milky Way Galaxy possess one or more planets. Theories of star and planet formation posit that great, diffuse clouds of cosmic dust condense under their own gravitational attraction, spinning more rapidly as condensation proceeds. A flat disc of material forms around a central star and accretion eventually occurs, forming planets. This event sequence in our home planetary system has been generally deduced. Our system formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago. Some of the most interesting scenarios occurred between 4.1 and 3.8 bya.

Jupiter, and to a lesser degree Saturn, were responsible for a dramatic rearrangement of the developing solar system about 3.9 billion years ago. Rocky and icy bodies were flung inward toward the entire retinue of inner, developing planets. The event was termed the “late heavy bombardment.” Pictures of a heavily crated moon and information gathered from the Moon by visiting Apollo astronauts from 1969-1972 attest to the ancient bombardment. No atmospheric and geologic events were ever present to erase the ancient impact features on the Moon as have evidences of impacts on Earth. Jupiter has supervised the reigning in of “errant” solar system impactors since that time. At present we encounter very rare strikes of asteroids such as the Russian meteor of February 2013. Jupiter has become an “order keeper.”

One theory concerns the ability of Jupiter to “take a punch” in boxing parlance. The famously publicized 1994 comet strike on Jupiter joins with the July 19, 2009 asteroid impact which left behind a sizable dark bruise on the planet’s face. From 2009 to 2012 there have been four additional Jupiter impact events observed. Science writers have made reference to Jupiter’s “vacuum cleaner” role in protecting Earth from potential harmful impacts of meteoroids and asteroids.

Both Jupiter and Saturn possess unusually regular orbits. Astrophysicist Jacques Lasker in 1994 determined that if the outer planets were less regular in their orbital characteristics, the inner planets would be orbitally chaotic. Planet Earth would suffer from climatic instability as a result. Hundreds of factors affect the welfare of life on our planet. Climate stability, however, is one factor without which life on earth could not exist to sustain our existing seven billion souls.

There are hundreds of other parameters known concerning a planet’s capacity to support life. Naturalists ascribe the finely tuned adherence of our planet to each of these parameters, along with many other finely tuned physical constants governing the operation of physical matter to a fortuitous cosmic accident of chance. The existence of thousands of separate evidences of divine design in our universe, from the micro cosmos to the macro cosmos presents a powerful case for the hand of the Creator. From the moment the time dimensions of this universe were put in place to the present instant of cosmic existence, we observe a world of incredible wonder. The feeling of certainty of the existence of divine design is difficult to dismiss as an illusion.