"As far as distant stars and galaxies are concerned, there is no evidence either in science or Scripture, that any of them have planets."
- Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Bier Book House, 1984) p. 244
No evidence? Then try some less "distant" stars! As early as l984 (the year Morris' book was published) astronomers discovered that:
"Beta Pictoris wee one of several nearby stars embedded in clouds of dust-clouds that look very much like planetary systems in the act of formation. Furthermore, if it was simply a uniformly distributed disk of dust, then looking edge on through such a disk should block out most of Beta Pictoris' light. Since we can clearly see the star, the inner parts of the disk probably do not contain much dust-which is exactly what one would expect if the material had already condensed into planets."
- M. Mitchell Waldrop, "First Sightings," Science 85, June, 1985
A NEW SOLAR SYSTEM?
FIRST VISUAL EVIDENCE of a stellar disk outside our own solar system was recorded in April 1984 by astronomers at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Beta Pictoris, a star about twice the size of the sun in the constellation Pictor, is seen within a huge, disk-shaped cloud of matter that may or may not contain planet-size objects. A black dot at the junction of supporting filaments eclipses the star, preventing light from flooding the image and enabling the disk to be seen. Though infrared sensing has detected a cloud of matter around the young star Vega, this may prove to be the first telescope image of an evolving solar system, only 50 light years away.
And with the aid of the Hubble telescope, rings of matter have been detected circling about half of a hundred stars examined in the nearby Orion nebula! These stars are relatively young and the size of our own Sun or smaller. (See cover articles in Science News, Astronomy and Sky and Telescope between 1994 and 1995.) There is also strong evidence that planets have been discovered circling a Pulsar star.
And, early in October, 1995, two Swiss astronomers said that they had discovered a planet about the size of Jupiter in the constellation Pegasus. The planet, named 51 Pegasus, is 40 light-years from Earth. (See Science News, "Finding Planets Around Ordinary Stars," Vol. 148, Oct. 21, 1995, p. 260.) The discovery of earth-sized planets still awaits finer detection devices, but the probability keeps increasing with each new discovery that earth-sized planets are out there, circling stars other than our own.
E. T. BABINSKI