Believe it or not

By David Catchpoole

Mercurial Mercury

1 August, 2004: NASA’s Delta II rocket with the MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) spacecraft. Blast-off was on 3 August.
(Photo HO/AFP/Getty Images)

Launched in 2004, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft has begun orbiting Mercury, and the information it’s sending back is surprising scientists.

For a start, the composition of Mercury’s surface is substantially different from that of other terrestrial planets, with at least ten times more sulfur, or brimstone, than Earth or the moon.

This has implications for evolutionary theories about planetary origins. “It’s thought that the terrestrial planets accreted from smaller bodies that were probably similar to or the same as the asteroids that give us chondritic meteorites as well as the dust that makes up comets,” said Larry Nittler, a cosmochemist involved in analysing the Mercury data. “Our work is showing that at some level, Mercury formed from a different mix of these building blocks than did the other terrestrial planets.”

A different mix of building blocks? Might that imply that someone was needed to do the ‘mixing’, and the ‘building’—just as the Bible says (Genesis 1:1, 16; Psalm 19:1; Isaiah 40:26).

The Messenger spacecraft also revealed Mercury at some point experienced “epic lava flows” which have left vast areas covered with once-molten rock. Based on the way this lava apparently eroded the underlying surface, it must have flowed rapidly, say researchers. As planetary geoscientist James Head of Brown University explained, “We can’t say if it took 2.7 days or 15 years or any exact time … , but it wasn’t hundreds of millions of years.”

However, just as on Earth, although evolutionary geoscientists are increasingly recognizing that catastrophic and rapid processes must have occurred in the past, they still believe the planets are billions of years old. And that’s despite ample evidence to the contrary.

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