Originally Broadcast May 3, 1997 Last Revised Dec. 8, 2001
INFINITY #11: Rings and Rocks.by Daniel H. Harris, Ph.D.
I. The Questions.
Does Earth's Moon have occasional gas releases and other evidence of ongoing volcanic activity? Are the small rocky bodies of the solar system hot inside? Are the rings of the outer planets, including Saturn, many millions of years old? This INFINITY will answer these important questions.
II. Lunar Transient Phenomena/Lunar Transient Events.
It is a little noted fact that astronomers have been watching Earth's Moon as it released wisps of gas and dust, showed night glows, even fire fountains along with other signs of vulcanism, and that these phenomena have been going on since long before the time of Galileo. Many noted observers in the 1700's, 1800's, and 1900's, have reported seeing what are now called lunar transient phenomena [LTPs]; lunar, coming from the latin word luna, for Moon; and transient, because the changes generally are visible for a few seconds to a few hours.
III. Many LTPs Reported by Noted Observers.
The earliest reports of LTPs by reputable observers [# of LTPs by each observer is in parentheses] included reports from D. Cassini(3), Sir Edmund Halley (1), J.H. Schroeter(21), Charles Messier(1), W. Herschel(6), J.E. Bode(8), F.W.M. Olbers(2), F.G.W. vonStruve(1), T.W. Webb(1), F.vonP. Gruithuisen(10), and F. Argelander (1).
Later reports of LTPs by expert observers came from J. Schmidt(3), H. Ingall(4), W.R. Birt(4), T.G.E. Elger(6), E.W.L. Tempel(4), C. Flammarion(5), W.R. Dawes(1) Sir George B. Airy(1), and H. Klein(6).
And more recently reports of LTPs by expert observers came have from E.E. Barnard(3), W.H. Pickering(9), H.P. Wilkins(14), W. Goodacre(4), W.H. Haas(9), D. Alter(4), P.A. Moore(25), V.A. Firsoff(12), N.A. Kozyrev(6), H. Spinrad(1), Z. Kopal(1), C. Tombaugh(1), and T. Cragg(3). [The # of LTPs reported by each is from Ref. 1, NASA TR R-277]
This list of LTP observers is a who's who of observational lunar astronomy for the last three centuries. There can be little doubt that these experienced and careful observers were in many cases seeing real changes on the Moon.
IV. Early Notable Reports Suggesting Lunar Vulcanism.
Outstanding among the early LTP observers was William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, an expert observer, [who was the first to make a model probing the depths of our Milky Way galaxy] who observed and reported, on six occasions between 1783 and 1790, bright spots on the unilluminated portion of the Moon [events #19, 20, 24, 25, 26 & 54, in Ref. 1], which Herschel described as looking like active volcanoes on two of those occasions [events #25 & 26, Ref. 1]. Some lunar transient phenomena [LTPs] have been so spectacular that they were visible to the naked eye. One was a bright star like point seen on the unilluminated side of the Moon from Worms, Germany, in 1540, seventy years before Galileo published his first astronomical observations. [Ref. 1, event #1]
V. Modern Visual Observations by Notable Astronomers.
Professional astronomers who have more recently noted LTPs include, Dinsmore Alter, then Director of the Griffith Obs., Los Angeles, [#246, 381, 415 & 416]; Bill Baum, Lowell Observatory [#276, 281, 302]; Thomas Cragg, then solar observer at Mt. Wilson Observatory [#308, 474, 531]; Chick Capen, noted Mars observer and NASA consultant [#336]; N.A. Kozyrev, Crimean Astrophysical Observatory [#409]; H. Spinrad, [#437]; and Z. Kopal, Pic du Midi Observatory [#442]. Also notable are the observations by James Greenacre and Edward Barr of the U.S. Geological Survey, Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, who were doing lunar mapping for the U.S. Air Force, at Lowell Observatory on, Oct. 30, 1963 [#440] and again on Nov. 28, 1963 [#444]. Their observations on the latter date were independently confirmed by Clyde Tombough, discoverer of the planet Pluto [#445]. These observers all reported that on that night they saw red glows suggesting significant vulcanism near the lunar crater Aristarchus. A careful analysis of the latter observations of apparent vulcanism was done by William H. Hartmann and Daniel H. Harris, both then at the Lunar and Planetary Lab., U. of Ariz. [Ref. 3]. Hartmann and Harris concluded that these observations seem to have be of significant volcanic events, perhaps fire fountains or fresh lava flows. [Yes, Dr. Daniel Harris, was then a graduate student in astronomy, and an experienced lunar observer, who worked on lunar research with Dr. W.K. Hartmann, who is now a noted planetary astronomer.]
VI. Modern Photographic and Spectroscopic Evidence.
Among these observations are the photos of an anomaly in the crater Alphonsus taken by Dinsmore Alter, Director of the Griffith Obs. on October 26, 1956 [#381]. Subsequent spectrum anomalies also in the crater Alphonsus suggesting the release of gas from the Moon, were seen by Soviet astronomer, N.A. Kozyrev, on Oct. 23, 1959 [#423]; and in 1961, on Nov. 26, [#433] & Nov. 28, [#434] and Dec. 3 [#435]. Kozyrev also noted near the crater Aristarchus an anomalous spectrum, on Oct. 4, 1955 [#357]. Later observations of spectrum anomalies also near Aristarchus were made by Grainger and Ring [#429, 430] and in a region E. or the lunar crater Plato [#431].
I [Dr. Daniel Harris] personally have seen a number of lunar transient events, [8 listed in Ref. 1, 3 in Ref. 2] including one, in June, 1966, with a 19 inch telescope and spectroscope, and documented by NASA [#544] [For details see The Strolling Astronomer (Journal of the Assoc. of Lunar and Planetary Observers) vol. 22, #9-10, Nov. 1970, p160-161.] These and many other credible reports of lunar vulcanism may be found in Reference 1 and in Ref. 2. During the era of lunar exploration, the Apollo era, there were a number of analyses of LTPs, see Ref. 3 to 7.
VII. What Do LTPs Tell Us About the Moon?
In none of these LTPs were there evidences of major vulcanism, only small volumes of gas [perhaps a volume of 1000 cubic meters at 1 atm. pressure] and glows, with exposed lava covering small areas [perhaps 100-1000 square meters exposed]. And the fact that these phenomena last only seconds or hours, also shows a small scale of activity. These phenomena were concentrated in a few areas. Many occurred near Aristarchus, the brightest crater on the Moon. And these phenomena were found primarily around the edges of the lunar plains, where there is other evidence of vulcanism, including lava domes, fissures, and lava flows. These associations suggest that lunar vulcanism is indeed real, but on a very small scale compared to Earth. So it appears that the Moon does indeed have significant residual vulcanism.
VIII. Pre-Apollo Models of a Cooling Moon.
Most astronomers suppose that the Earth and the Moon, are some 4.5 billions of years old. With an assumed initial chemical composition and temperature, astronomers modeled lunar cooling. Before the Apollo Moon missions conventional theory held that the Moon had cooled off billions of years ago, and should now have absolutely no vulcanism. Conventional theory in the pre-Apollo period, said the Moon is long dead, an old cold Moon.
IX. The Apollo Missions Contribution.
But during the Apollo program instruments left by the astronauts on the Moon recorded occasional moonquakes [Ref. 8, p61] unexpected for a totally dead and solid Moon. And instruments in lunar orbit measured the amount of radioactive Radon 222 being released by the Moon, a product of the decay of radioactive uranium, Radon 222 showed maxima over the lunar craters Aristarchus and Grimaldi, and over the edges of the lunar basins, just as would be expected if the Moon is releasing significant quantities of gas in vulcanism [Ref. 8, p394]. And during the Apollo missions there were even more LTP observations by experienced observers, and one event confirmed by astronauts in orbit around the Moon.
X. Post-Apollo Models of a Cooling Moon.
In the post-Apollo era scientists have been forced to at least somewhat revise their models. Current models suppose that the Moon was in a mostly molten state early in its 4.5 billion year history, [Ref. 8, p280-282], and that over time the Moon has cooled until it is now nearly all solid, to a depth of about 1000 km, there perhaps being some residual molten material deep in the Moon. The Moon has supposedly been mostly cold and nearly all solid for some billions of years. So the theory still supposes an old cold Moon.
XI. A Clear Conflict Between Cooling Models and Observations.
If the Moon were indeed solid to a depth of 1000 km [92% of volume solid], as is now supposed [Ref. 8 p261 & p282], then there would likely be no lava flows and no fire fountains, no significant vulcanism on the Moon. A solid Moon should have no significant vulcanism at all. Yet there is abundant credible evidence of just such significant vulcanism, 1) in the LTPs, [including the analysis noted above by Hartmann and Harris], 2) in the measures of moonquakes, and 3) in the Moon orbiting measures of Radon 222. So the cooling models say no vulcanism, but the observations say something different.
XII. NASA Considers the Threat of Lunar Vulcanism.
Yes, conventional theory both before and after the Apollo missions supposed a Moon with no significant vulcanism. But when it came time to send men to the Moon, NASA scientists saw lunar vulcanism as a real threat to the Apollo Moon missions. NASA scientists realized that if there were a major volcanic event anywhere on the Moon, while astronauts were in orbit around the Moon, then such an eruption could pose a major risk to the astronauts. With the weak lunar gravity and the extremely thin almost nonexistent atmosphere on the Moon, a major eruption could throw gas, dust, mineral grains, even rocks great distances. Debris might then cross the orbits of the astronauts as they circle the Moon at a speed of a little over one mile/sec (about 3700 mi/hr, or 6000 km/hr). A collision with even a sand grain at such high speed might have disastrous consequences.
A major eruption might also threaten astronauts landed on the Moon, for some rocks might be thrown far enough to come crashing down on astronauts during their explorations.
XIII. NASA Catalogues Hundreds of Lunar Transient Events!
In preparation for the Apollo missions NASA scientists verified and catalogued nearly six hundred lunar transient events, observed over the last four hundred years [Ref 1]. This was done in an effort to identify regions on the Moon where lunar activity might occur, so that ongoing observations could monitor the situation, and with the idea in mind of selecting landing zones away from those potentially active regions. In that case the threat to the astronauts could be evaluated and minimized. And this was done while seeking to identify and enlist the volunteer efforts of the then active lunar observers, both professionals and amateurs.
XIV. NASA Takes Action.
So NASA in the mid-1960's began to set up and coordinate a volunteer network of experienced lunar observers, in several funded programs. [These included Project Moon Blink and Operation LION, the Lunar International Observers Network] And the Smithsonian Institution, through its Center for Short Lived Phenomena, maintained communications with observers, kept track of ongoing observations, and prepared to evaluate the threat level to the astronauts. NASA also funded a number of symposia and meetings of observers to encourage their participation in the effort.
XV. Hundreds of Observers Watch During the Apollo Missions.
This network of volunteer observers, more than 120 observatories world wide, forty in the U.S alone, watched the Moon continuously for volcanic activity during Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12, & 13. This was a major effort aggressively promoted by NASA and widely publicized. I [Dr. Daniel Harris, then a graduate student at U. of Ariz.] was one of those observers. During most missions about twenty credible LTP events were recorded, mostly in the Aristarchus region.
During some missions weather precluded observation, but during Apollo 10, clear skies permitted Dr. Harris to make four LTP observations, including three confirmed brightenings of Aristarchus, all reported to NASA through the Smithsonian and Operation LION. During Apollo 11, astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong reported a brightening in Aristarchus during their first lunar orbit, confirming several ground based telescopic reports.
XVI. NASA Evaluates the Observations.
Thus the observations during the early Apollo missions did indeed confirm the reality of LTPs, but none of the phenomena reported during the missions were deemed dangerous enough to modify any of the Apollo missions. And although the LTPs were still thought by some to be of scientific value, lunar vulcanism was no longer considered a significant threat to the astronauts, and so NASA, at the time of Apollo 13, cut off funding for Operation LION, and the LTP observing network.
XVII. Orthodoxy Overrules Observations.
At the same time that NASA cut off funding to LION, the NASA party line on lunar vulcanism changed abruptly, making any suggestion of current lunar vulcanism taboo. The lid was on. NASA was no longer a friend of LTP observers. Some researchers who had received funding in the pre-Apollo era, suggested that existing data showed that volatile gases might be available on the Moon, either at volcanic sites or by deep drilling. These researchers had suggested that the availability of lunar volatile gases might make a lunar base viable, or that volatiles might fuel rockets based on the Moon, were told that no further funding would be forthcoming, all such work was quickly quashed.
Those of us who had volunteered our time and contributed to this serious research effort, those of us who believed in, and who had seen numerous evidences of lunar vulcanism, were amazed at how quickly and how forcefully the advocates of an old cold Moon squashed all dissent. In the conferences that surveyed the results of the Apollo missions, the old cold Moon was again and again reasserted, until everyone understood what they must say, "the Moon is old and cold and dead." This they learned to say regardless of the accumulated weight of observations. The orthodox theoretical framework of a Moon billions of years old, and long cold, became the mantra of the planetary sciences. It did not matter that the observations had confirmed lunar activity, the weight of authority and orthodoxy overruled the observations!
XVIII. But We Know Better!
Regardless of the orthodoxy imposed by NASA and the National Science Foundation, the observations have demonstrated that the Moon indeed still displays significant though minimal vulcanism, and this shows that the Moon may not be so nearly solid throughout most of its volume. There are regions of the Moon where there is significant melting at shallow depths. This is not what we would expect for a Moon billions of years old. Indeed lunar vulcanism suggest that the Moon may not be billions of years at all.
XIX. Astronomers Predict Cold Non-Magnetic Small Bodies.
Before there was space exploration, astronomers speculated about the origin, history and internal structure of the small rocky bodies of the solar system; these include our Moon, the planets Mercury and Mars, and the major moons of the Jupiter and Saturn. Astronomers supposed that the solar system formed about 4.5 billion years ago, with all the small rocky bodies molten inside. And they calculated that these bodies, even with significant internal heat supplied by radioactive decay, and/or tidal friction [for the moons of the major planets] would have cooled off inside very quickly. So all these small rocky bodies should now be cold inside.
Astronomers and geophysicists [in the 1950's and 60's and today] also supposed that the magnetic field of the Earth is a result of electric currents in molten material deep within the Earth. On this basis astronomers supposed that if a planetary body is to have a measurable magnetic field, then it must have at least some molten metallic material inside. So astronomers expected, that the small bodies of the solar system, being old and cold and solid inside, would not have significant magnetic fields.
XX. The Old Solar System Model Finally Tested.
But when spacecraft explored these bodies, astronomers were very surprised to discover that both Mercury and Mars have significant magnetic fields; particularly Mars, which for its size, has a magnetic field about 4% as strong as the Earth (see note). The significant magnetic field of Mars suggests that Mars may have a molten core, which may be telling us that Mars is not billions of years old after all. Here again predictions based on the evolutionary idea of an ancient solar system have proved false. The weak vulcanism of the Earth's Moon, and the magnetic field of Mars, both suggest that the solar system may not be billions of years old. Are there other indicators?
XXI. How Old Are the Rings of the Outer Planets?
In the 1950's before spacecraft visited the outer planets, astronomers thought that only Saturn had rings. And most astronomers then supposed that the rings of Saturn were left over from the time when the solar system formed, which they took to be some 4.5 billion years ago. We now know that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, all the giant outer planets, have ring systems. Study of these ring systems, using new giant ground based telescopes, photos by spacecraft, and stellar occultation data, show that all these ring systems are made of small independently orbiting particles, which often collide with one another. Infrared studies and occultations of stars by the rings show that most particles in the rings are an inch or smaller in size. And computer simulations show that frequent collisions between the particles, grind them into smaller and smaller sizes, producing many dust sized particles. In fact the rings of Uranus are mostly dust sized particles. And in the case of Saturn's rings, the occasional appearance of dark nearly radial bands, called spokes, which change and drift and slowly dissipate, is now understood as consequence of dust grain sized particles disturbed by changes in the electric and magnetic field of Saturn. The abundance of dust sized particles shows that the rings of all the outer planets are being ground to pieces and should disappear over time.
Even though many astronomers don't want to admit it, these ring systems are unstable and short lived. Astronomers have argued that the rings are kept in place by gravitational interactions with small shepherding moons. But there are a number of important gaps in this theory. For example, the inner edges of the three major rings of Saturn are all free to move inward. That is, the small shepherding moons of Saturn do not to stop ring particles from moving downward toward Saturn, and for the innermost ring, the particles are free to move downward until they burn up in Saturn's atmosphere. And now reluctantly, ring experts are having to admit that the ring systems are unstable, and short lived, perhaps at most a few millions years old, very young compared to the supposed many billion year age of the solar system.
XXII. How Did the Rings Form?
If the rings are indeed of recent origin then it seems likely that the ring systems were produced when gravity forces tore apart small bodies as they came too close to the major planets. This idea would very nicely explain the character of the ring systems. If indeed the ring systems are unstable and short lived, then why do all of the major outer planets have rings at this time?
Many evolutionist astronomers argue that it is too much of a coincidence to find all the major planets with ring systems at the same time. They argue that ring systems must be long lived, and must be left over from the formation of the solar system. So they argue that the coincidence of all these planets with rings proves that the rings are old. But there is another possibility.
XXIII. A Recent Planetary Collision?
If some thousands of years ago, two planet sized bodies collided out in the space beyond the orbit of Mars, and one had lots of liquid water, (like Jupiter's moon Europa) and the other was made of rock and metal, then that one collision could explain much of what we see in the solar system. That one collision would release water ice to fill the solar system, forming comets and planetary rings, and the debris cloud including many asteroid sized bodies, some made of ice and some made of rock and iron would move in orbits crossing the orbits of the planets. When those small bodies encountered the planets some of them would have been torn apart making rings, and others small bodies would have crashed into the orbiting debris, being then slowed enough to fall into orbit. 9;That one collision might explain the planetary rings systems,the peculiar tiny satellites of Mars, the backward orbiting satellites of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, and the comets (which are known to be rapidly disintegrating). And it might even explain why, at one time, Mars had water on its surface, forming rivers and lakes. 9;The ice may also have fallen on planet Earth at the time of the flood, contributing substantially to the water descending from the atmosphere. To explain much of what we see in the solar system, and perhaps trigger the flood, with one recent event seems preferable to explaining each phenomenon separately as astronomers do now.
XXIV. A Young Earth? Yes!
The Moon shows evidence of weak volcanism, the smaller rocky bodies of the solar system show signs of being molten inside, and the ring systems of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are likely unstable and young. Together these evidences show that the solar system is young, perhaps at most a few millions of years old. #9;If the solar system and the Earth are only a few million years old, then where did the many life forms on Earth come from? #9;Evolutionists tell us that evolution took many hundreds of millions of years. But if the Earth is not nearly that old, then evolution has not had enough time to do its magic. So we must conclude, therefore, that the many life forms on planet Earth were created, not evolved. And since there was a creation, there must be a creator.
XXV. Meet The Creator!
I have been blessed to have a personal and ongoing encounter with this creator. His name is Jesus and it is He who spoke the worlds into existence, just as the Bible tells us. And He cares very much for you. 9;That old belief in evolution, that many of us once held, is just one of many sins, which denied the Deity and goodness of our creator. But Jesus is ready to forgive us. I ask you to seek Him, and seek His forgiveness, and to seek His will for you today.
Click here for release to Christ.
Note: The total magnetic moment of Mercury is about 1/20,000 that of the Earth. But Mercury has a mass 0.055 that of Earth. When this factor is included, the relative strength of Mercury's magnetic field is about 1/1000 that of the Earth. The total magnetic moment of Mars is about 1/250 that of the Earth. But Mars has a mass 0.107 that of Earth. When this factor is included, the relative strength of Mars' magnetic field is about 1/27 that of the Earth.
Ref.1 NASA TR R-277, July 1968, "Chronological Catalog of Reported Lunar Events," by Barbara M. Middlehurst, Jaylee M. Burley, Patrick Moore, and Barbara L Welther, Publ. by NASA, Washington DC.
Ref.2 Smithsonian Institution Center for Short Lived Phenomena Report, "Comparative Analysis of Observations of Lunar Transient Phenomena," by Winifred S. Cameron, NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, October 1971, Pub. by Smithsonian Institution Center for Short Lived Phenomena
Ref. 3 Publications of the Lunar and Planetary Lab. [U. of Ariz.] vol, 7. part 3, #121, "Lunar Volcanic Eruptions Near Aristarchus," by W.K. Hartmann and D.H. Harris, July 26, 1968.
Ref. 4 "Apparent Lunar Activity: Historical Review," by J. Burley and B.M. Middlehurst, Proc. Nat. Acad. of Sci., vol. 55, #5, p1007-1011, May 1966.
Ref. 5 "The 1963 Aristarchus Events," by James C. Greenacre, Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., vol. 123, Article 2, p811-816.
Ref. 6 "An Analysis of Lunar Events," by Barabara M. Middlehurst, Reviews of Geophysics, vol. 5, #2, p173-189.
Ref. 7 "Lunar Transient Phenomena: Topographical Distribution," by Barbara M. Middlehurst and Patrick A. Moore, Science, vol. 155, #3761, p449-451, Jan 27, 1967.
Ref. 8 "Moon and Planets" by William K. Hartmann, Sec. Ed., Wadsworth, Belmont, CA (1983).