Today NASA showed the world proof of something they long suspected: ice on Mercury, and lots of it. But the Mercury ice find reminds us of an old and vexing riddle: how did the ice get there?
The Mercury ice question
Reports on the Mercury ice find came from the Associated Press and in The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo! News, and TechRadar. All say the same thing: NASA’s MESSENGER rocket probe used reflected laser light and gamma rays to look closely at the surface of Mercury. They concentrated on the poles, because if ice did lie on Mercury, it could lie nowhere else on Mercury. (The poles are always in shadow, hence are almost as cold as space itself. Mercury has no atmosphere. So everything is either hellishly hot or bone-chilling cold, depending only on whether it is in sunlight or shadow.) No one can deny what those laser and gamma studies show: Mercury has ice on it, enough to bury all of Washington, DC.
The buried layer must be nearly pure water ice. The upper layer contains less than 25 wt.% water-equivalent hydrogen. The total mass of water at Mercury’s poles is inferred to be 2 × 1016 to 1018 g and is consistent with delivery by comets or volatile-rich asteroids.
That’s anywhere from twenty quadrillion to two quintillion grams, Enough, says project scientist David Lawrence, writing in Science, to bury Washington, DC in ice to a depth of two and a half miles.
But how did the Mercury ice get to Mercury? That any ice should still sit on Mercury amazes most people. (After all, the ground on Mercury gets as hot as molten lead in the daytime!) But scientists have known at least since 1991 that Mercury’s poles are so bright on radar that something reflective, like ice, must sit on them. Now NASA knows: the Mercury ice is real. But they still don’t know how it got to Mercury.
An incomplete answer
The MESSENGER project scientists have an answer: comets, asteroids, or both, carried the ice to Mercury. Every scientist knows that comets are dirty snowballs. Many asteroids have at least as much ice as rock.
That answer is certainly the best. But it is incomplete. Not too many comets fall to Mercury today. Nor do many asteroids get inside the orbit of Earth. (Though at least one asteroid, Cruithne, orbits the sun in tandem with Earth and often passes very close.)
The MESSENGER team has an even more interesting, and almost vexing, finding. The Mercury ice likely holds organic matter. Dark patches in the ice could only be organic. But no scientist ever thought Mercury was hospitable to life. In fact, Mercury is the last place (other than the sun) where anyone would expect to find anything living, or anything that once lived.
The complete answer
So what evidence must we explain? Here it is:
- The Mercury ice
- A vast amount of it
- Organic material in the Mercury ice, that did not form on Mercury.
So: several comets, and maybe some water-rich asteroids too, fell onto Mercury’s north and south poles. And those comets and asteroids held organic matter. This begs another question: where did objects like these come from?
For that we have two competing explanations:
Panspermia (from the Greek pas, pasa, pan all, every, etc., and sperma a seed) means “seeding everywhere.” According to the panspermia theory, comets and asteroids, or at least a significant portion of them, hold the stuff of life along with their water. Some of these fell to earth, and we are the by-product. Maybe some of the rest fell to Mercury (and the Moon, and Mars).
But this begs the question of where the stuff of life came from, and how it could cross space, subject to cold and radiation, and still “seed” the Earth. Indeed, most evolutionists don’t believe this. They believe in abiogenesis, the notion that life arose from non-life. But abiogenesis could not possibly explain the organic layer on the Mercury ice. (The primordial soup would be far too cold.)
The Hydroplate Theory
The Hydroplate Theory is Walt Brown’s theory of the Global Flood. According to it, half of today’s ocean water lay deep underground—very deep. Ten miles deep. About 4400 years ago, the ten-mile-thick crust cracked open and let all that water out. It came out with enough force to throw vast amounts of water, rock and mud – one percent of the total weight of the Earth – into space. That water, rock and mud persist as comets, asteroids, and meteoroids.
Brown explains how comets formed in the micro-gravity of space. (Even a hand-sized rock, far enough away from any planet or moon, can become an orbital primary and make other, lighter-weight objects fall into it.) He also shows that such comets would fly off from earth in all directions. That’s why comets today have orbits going off in all directions. And Brown defies anyone to explain the Mercury ice (or the lunar or Martian ice, either) by any other theory of where comets came from. (Brown also knew about the Mercury ice twenty years ago, when NASA first suggested it.)
And the organic matter? Anything from germs to shrubs, that the escaping water, rock and mud carried with it. In fact, Lawrence, in the Science paper, says the ice melted when it crashed, then re-froze, with the dark organic layer on top. According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, it could do nothing else.
Brown confirmed today that the Mercury ice confirms his theory. That means the Mercury ice confirms creation, not abiogenesis or panspermia, as the origin of life.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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