by Tom Van Flandern
The hypothesis of the explosion of a number of planets and moons of our solar system during its 4.6-billion-year history is in excellent accord with all known observational constraints, even without adjustable parameters. Many of its boldest predictions have been fulfilled. In most instances, these predictions were judged highly unlikely by the several standard models the eph would replace. And in several cases, the entire model was at risk to be falsified if the prediction failed.
The successful predictions include: (1) satellites of asteroids; (2) satellites of comets; (3) salt water in meteorites; (4) “roll marks” leading to boulders on asteroids; (5) the time and peak rate of the 1999 Leonid meteor storm; (6) explosion signatures for asteroids; (7) strongly spiked energy parameter for new comets; (8) distribution of black material on slowly rotating airless bodies; (9) splitting velocities of comets; (10) Mars is a former moon of an exploded planet.
| Titius-Bode Law of Planetary Spacing|
|Formula: distance in au|
Where It Began – the Titius-Bode Law of Planetary Spacing
In the latter half of the 18th century, when only six major planets were known, interest was attracted to the regularity of the spacing of their orbits from the Sun. The table shows the Titius-Bode law of planetary spacing, comparing actual and formula values. This in turn drew attention to the large gap between Mars and Jupiter, apparently just large enough for one additional planet. Today we know of tens of thousands of “minor planets” or asteroids with planet-like orbits at that average mean distance from the Sun.
With the discovery of the second asteroid in 1802, Olbers proposed that many more asteroids would be found because the planet that belonged at that distance must have exploded. This marked the birth of the exploded planet hypothesis. It seemed the most reasonable explanation until 1814, when Lagrange found that the highly elongated orbits of comets could also be readily explained by such a planetary explosion. That, unfortunately, challenged the prevailing theory of cometary origins of the times, the Laplacian primeval solar nebula hypothesis. Comets were supposed to be primitive bodies left over from the solar nebula in the outer solar system. This challenge incited Laplace supporters to attack the exploded planet hypothesis. Lagrange died in the same year, and support for his viewpoint died with him when no one else was willing to step into the line of fire.
Newcomb’s Objection – All Asteroids Can’t Come From One Planet
In the 1860s, Simon Newcomb suggested a test to distinguish the two theories of origin of the asteroids. If they came from an exploded planet, all of them should reach some common distance from the Sun, the distance at which the explosion occurred, somewhere along each orbit. But if asteroids came from the primeval solar nebula, then roughly circular, non-intersecting orbits ought to occur over a wide range of solar distances between Mars and Jupiter.
Newcomb applied the test and determined that several asteroids had non-intersecting orbits. He therefore concluded that the solar nebula hypothesis was the better model. Newcomb’s basic idea was a good one. But only a few dozen asteroids were known at the time, and Newcomb did not anticipate several confounding factors for this test. Because Newcomb didn’t realize how many asteroids would eventually be found, he didn’t appreciate the frequency of asteroid collisions, which tend (on average) to circularize orbits. He also did not appreciate that planetary perturbations, especially by Jupiter, can change the long-term average eccentricity (degree of circularity) of each asteroid’s orbit. Finally, Newcomb did not consider that more than one planet might have exploded, contributing additional asteroids with some different mean distance. In Newcomb’s time, no evidence existed to justify these complications.
When Newcomb’s test is redone today, the result is that an explosion origin is strongly indicated for main belt asteroids. In fact, the totality of evidence indicates two exploded parent bodies, one in the main asteroid belt at the “missing planet” location, and one near the present-day orbit of Mars. This article will review that evidence.
Where Did All the Mass Go?
Although over 10,000 asteroids have well-determined orbits, the combined mass of all other asteroids is not as great as that of the largest asteroid, Ceres. That makes the total mass of the asteroid belt only about 0.001 of the mass of the Earth. A frequently asked question is, if a major planet exploded, where is the rest of its mass?
Consider what would happen if the Earth exploded today. Surface and crustal rocks would shatter and fragment, but remain rocks. However, rocks from depths greater than about 40 km are under so much pressure at high temperature that, if suddenly released into a vacuum, such rocks would vaporize. As a consequence, over 99% of the Earth’s total mass would vaporize in an explosion, with only its low-pressure crustal and upper mantle layers surviving.
The situation worsens for a larger planet, where the interior pressures and temperatures get higher more quickly with depth. In fact, all planets in our solar system more massive than Earth (starting with Uranus at about 15 Earth masses) are gas giants with no solid surfaces, and would be expected to leave no asteroids if they exploded. Bodies smaller than Earth, such as our Moon, would leave a substantially higher percentage of their mass in asteroids. But the Moon has only about 0.01 of Earth’s mass to begin with.
In short, asteroid belts with masses of order 0.001 Earth masses are the norm when terrestrial-planet-sized bodies explode. Meteorites provide direct evidence for this scenario of rocks either surviving or being vaporized. Various chondrite meteorites (by far the most common type) show all stages of partial melting from mild to almost completely vaporized. Indeed, it is the abundant melt droplets, called “chondrules”, that give chondrite meteorites their name.
Modern Evidence for Exploded Planets
Two important lines of evidence that asteroids originated in an explosion are the explosion signatures (described later in this article), and the rms velocity among asteroids, which is as large as is allowed by the laws of dynamics for stable orbits. In other words, the asteroid belt is certainly the remnant of a larger population of bodies, many of which gravitationally escaped the solar system or collided with the Sun or planets.
Two important lines of evidence that meteoroids originated in an explosion are: (1) The most common meteorite type, chondrites, have all been partially melted by exposure to a “rapid heating event”. Other asteroids show exposure to a heavy neutron flux. Blackening and shock are also common traits. (2) The time meteoroids have been traveling in space exposed to cosmic rays is relatively short, typically millions of years. Evidence of multiple exposure-age patterns, as would happen from repeated break-ups, is generally not seen.
Comets are so strikingly similar to asteroids that no defining characteristic to distinguish one from the other has yet been devised. This is rather opposite to expectations of the solar nebula hypothesis, because comets should have been formed in the outer solar system far from the main asteroid belt. A traceback of orbits of “new” comets (that have not mixed with the planets before) indicates statistically that these probably originated at a common time and place, 3.2 Mya. But it should be noted that galactic tidal forces would eliminate comets from any bodies that exploded prior to 10 Mya, so only very recent explosions can produce comets that would remain visible today.