Star Formation

by Jon A. Covey, BA, MT(ASCP)
edited by Anita K. Millen, MD, MPH, MA

On a 1993 KKLA broadcast, Dr. Hugh Ross, a Ph.D. graduate of the University of Toronto and Christian astrophysicist who believes in a 15-20 billion-year-old, big-bang initiated universe, debated Dr. Duane Gish, a Christian biochemist who believes in a specially-created, young universe. When I called in with an objection to his assertions concerning star formation, Dr. Ross referred me to a book by Cox and Giuli, a massive, two-volume work on astrophysics published in 1968, implying that the information therein would refute my objections. After reading the relevant portions of their book, I found that they did not support his statements at all and did support my objections. In fact, you will see below, they strongly deny Ross' claims. Stars cannot form naturally. They must be created directly by God.

Most astronomers say that stars form from gravitationally contracting nebular gases despite the fact that star formation has never been observed. Isn't observation a requirement of the scientific method? The assertions of modern cosmology (study of the universe) are often a matter of inferences and opinion rather than fact. Ross recently claimed on another radio program that we have now directly observed star births, referring to observations of infrared emanations coming from a certain gas cloud as evidence of star formation. There are opaque clouds in space with infrared emanations coming from them, but this in no way confirms that stars are forming from the nebular material. The infrared emanations could be due to many things, e.g. a red, cool, supergiant star. {1} His claim is very questionable. Even if stars could form according to current theory, we wouldn't be able to observe it because, as Bart Bok wrote,

"When the initially cool clouds of dust and gas collapse, they heat up. They should first become visible as murky clouds with a star deep inside, and these may be observable only in the infrared....a young star would be embedded in a large envelope of dust and gas. Such a star would have a truly murky atmosphere!" {2}

What actually happens behind that murk is anyone's guess. Alan Boss spoke in these terms:

"What are the early stages in the formation of a star? What determines whether a cloud of star-forming matter will evolve into one, two or several stars? Because clouds of gas, dust and debris largely obscure all but the initial and final stages of the birth of a star, these questions have so far not been answered by direct has been impossible to date to view the cloud as it collapses through this range of densities. Consequently stars cannot be observed as they form." {3}[my emphasis]

Of course, the estimated time for a gas cloud to contract to the protostar stage, between one million and ten million years, is too long for us to observe, putting star formation outside the scope of the scientific method. {4} The problems associated with the idea that stars can form from the gravitational infalling of a massive volume of nebular gas are great. Star formation by this route is physically impossible. The fairly simple formula for Jeans' Length (Sir James Jeans) shows what is necessary for stellar formation. A gas cloud must be within a critical radius in order to collapse by gravity (Jeans' Length). Jeans' Length (JL) is equal to the Gravitational constant (G) times the mass (M) of the cloud squared, divided by two times the number of moles of gas, times the Gas Constant (R), times the Temperature (T) in kelvins (see Table below). {5} There are other ways to calculate the physical parameters for star formation, but similar problems develop. Leo Blitz says that about 99 percent of the mass of a Giant Molecular Cloud (where stars are thought to form) is molecular hydrogen, H2. {6} I used this fact to calculate the minimum number of moles (n) of hydrogen that would have formed the core of the sun and solved for T. The temperature that the sun's equivalent cloud mass would have to be in order for it to contract under the force of gravity, considering the mass of the Sun, expanding its radius to the distance of one light year, and plugging in the values for the constants. The result was 1.69 degrees K (- 456.68 degrees F. Absolute Zero, 0 degrees K = - 459.67 degrees F), one degree less than the temperature of the 2.726 degrees K cosmic background radiation, according to the latest COBE satellite measurements. {7} The universe is too hot for star formation!

Chapter 26, "Survey of Stellar Evolution," of Cox and Giuli's work was the only chapter on star formation. What they had to say confirms what I said in my original challenge to Dr. Ross. {8} On page 947, they make their first direct comment on star formation:

"The very earliest stages in the star formation process must consist of the condensation of a 'protostar' from the interstellar medium. These stages constitute one of the most poorly understood areas in the whole field of stellar evolution, and we shall simply assume that a protostar has somehow formed." [my emphasis]

Rather than explain how a star could form, Cox and Giuli frankly admitted they didn't know, yet their book served as the sum total of Dr. Ross' refutation to me. They also said that from the time they began writing their chapter on stellar formation, which was in 1966, until the time of publication in 1968, over 1000 papers on star formation had been published, yet not one of them showed any signs of overcoming the major difficulties. I am still surveying recent literature on star formation, and they have no better idea now than then. On page 958, they explain one of the biggest problems:

"One of the major difficulties in the condensation problem is that a cloud of gas and dust of stellar mass with density rho and temperature T typical of gas clouds found in the Galaxy (say rho ~ 10-22 gm/cm3, and T ~ 100 degrees K in HI (neutral hydrogen) regions) would have too weak a gravitational field to contract under its own gravity,"

which is what Jeans' Length is all about. How can a gas cloud contract in space when the physics disallows it? About ten years after Cox and Giuli wrote their masterpiece, Nobel prize winner, Hannes Alfven, in a neatly written, highly mathematical book, wrote the following:

"There is a general belief that stars are forming by gravitational collapse; in spite of vigorous efforts no one has yet found any observational indication of confirmation. Thus the 'generally accepted' theory of stellar formation may be one of a hundred unsupported dogmas which constitute a large part of present-day astrophysics." {9}

Cox and Giuli explain another problem. The spin of a cloud (its angular momentum) would increase as the gas contracted from several light years radius down to the size of a star. The spin would increase to fantastic speeds the more the cloud collapsed. You've probably watched a skater begin spinning and speed up as arms and legs are drawn into the body, this is what would happen to a gas cloud as it contracted. They say, p. 959,

"This rotational velocity would be increased to some 6 x 105 km/sec (> c! ) by the time the cloud had shrunk to stellar dimensions, if angular momentum were conserved."

The exclamatory phrase "> c"! means "greater than the speed of light!" which is about 3 x 105 km/sec. In other words, they are telling us that the notion of star formation by the gravitational collapse of a gas cloud is unrealistic. The sun is not rotating at twice the speed of light! So where did all the angular momentum go if the sun truly formed by gravitational contraction? They suggest that some of it was transferred to Jupiter and Saturn, which possess 98% of the total angular momentum of the solar system, still far, far less than the angular momentum that would have been generated during the formation of the sun. Clearly, Cox and Giuli had nothing to say that would lend credence to the idea that stars form by gravitational collapse of interstellar gas and dust. Finally, they say,

"It is obvious that real stars somehow manage to come into being; hopefully, we shall someday understand in more detail how they do so."

Think about this. They spend several pages almost apologizing for not having the slightest idea how or why stars form from interstellar gas clouds whose densities are so slight that the most powerful vacuums ever created by man are as dense as black holes by comparison. We are talking about a vacuum so complete that less than one atom can be found in one cubic centimeter. {10} If an atom were the size of a basketball, the next closest basketball would be found two-thirds of the way between here and the moon. Try mountain climbing in air that thin! The established laws of physics show that it is impossible for stars to form by gravitational collapse of interstellar gases and dust. Stars came into being because God created them along with everything else.

Astronomers like Bok, Cameron and Spitzer recognize that stars are not going to form by simple gravitational contraction, but that they require some sort of outside influence, like shock waves from the explosion of a star, to push the cloud to greater density to satisfy the requirements described by Sir Jeans and others. Cox and Giuli understood all the problems, but not wishing to credit God, or even acknowledge Him as a possible answer to the problems, they simply said that it had to happen somehow, because the stars are here!



Technical Notes. Read at your own risk!!!

Jeans' Length:
JL = (G M2) / (2nRT)
JL = 9.467 x 1015 m = Light year
G = 6.67 x 10-11 N-m2 / kg2
R = 8.314 J / mol-K
M = 1030 kg
n = 0.5 x 1033 moles H2 as found in Giant Molecular Clouds.

Astronomy professor, Donald DeYoung, said that when typical values of interstellar cloud mass M and temperature T are inserted in the formula, Jeans' Length is found to be 50-100 times smaller than the average nebular size. He says,

"The conclusion is that stars will not form spontaneously in space since the dominant outward gas force, Fp = (3nRT) / r, will not allow collapse. Instead gas clouds dissipate outward. Furthermore, this simple force comparison ignores the dispersive effects of nebular magnetism, rotation, nonsphericity and turbulence," from "The Origin of the Universe," in Design and Origins in Astronomy, 1983, p. 17.

Twenty years from now, I predict that science will have changed so drastically that Ross' position about star formation and the big bang will be totally passe. Even now there is a contest in Sky & Telescope to rename the big bang to something more palatable since "some astronomers think it conjures up the wrong type creation. Others say it's inaccurate."{11} The judges for the contest are Carl Sagan, Hugh Downs, and Timothy Ferris.

In The Beginning, Did the Earth Have Cloud Covering?

The Bible says that God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of creation. Ross says that the sun and stars, resulting from the big bang, were there from earth's day one but couldn't be seen from the earth because of cloud cover. According to him, the fourth day began when this covering was removed. This is an assumption for which there is no evidence. If this assumption is true, it means the earth was shrouded in opaque water vapor and/or other gases for millions of years until the fourth creation day/age.. I suspect that God, in His wisdom, formed the universe in the order given in Genesis because there is no way that the wisdom of men could explain it naturally. They would be forced to either acknowledge the existence of a Creator or to deny God and call His Word a lie. Without any proof it is easy to suggest that the earth was thus enshrouded, but with what was it enveloped and what is the evidence? Scientists involved in the origin of life research have made many speculations about the composition of the alleged primordial atmosphere. I hope Dave Matson is taking note since he made mention that there might have been a heavy overcast for millions of years to protect evolving biochemical molecules and other precursors for life from destructive ultraviolet radiation in the absence ozone. For sake of clarity and brevity, let's look at what Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen have to say about what would have happened to the constituents of the primordial atmosphere of earth which have been suggested by the evolutionary origin-of-life experimenters:

"Concentrations of some of the most important early atmosphere components would have been diminished by short wavelength, i.e., < 2000, ultraviolet photo dissociation. Atmospheric methane would have polymerized and fallen into the ocean as more complicated hydrocarbons, perhaps forming an oil slick 1-10m deep over the surface of the earth. If this occurred, very small concentrations of methane would predictably have remained in the atmosphere. About 99% of the atmospheric formaldehyde would have been quickly degraded to carbon monoxide and hydrogen by photolysis [destruction by light energy]. Carbon monoxide concentrations in the atmosphere would have been small, however. Carbon monoxide would have been quickly and irreversibly converted to formate in an alkaline ocean. Ammonia photolysis to nitrogen and hydrogen would have occurred very quickly, reducing its atmospheric concentration to so small a value that it could have played no important role in chemical evolution. If all the nitrogen in the contemporary atmosphere had existed in the form of ammonia in the early atmosphere it would have been degraded by ultraviolet light in 30,000 years [later revised by J.P. Ferris and D.E. Nicodem to105106 years]. If the ammonia surface mixing ratio were on the order of 10-5 as Sagan has estimated, then the atmospheric lifetime of ammonia would have been a mere 10 years. It would also have been difficult to maintain substantial levels of hydrogen sulfide in the atmosphere. Hydrogen sulfide would have been photolyzed to free sulfur and hydrogen in no more than 10,000 years. The concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the ocean would have been further attenuated by the formation of metal sulfides with their notoriously low solubilities. The same photo dissociation process would have applied to water to yield hydrogen and oxygen. Some recent studies suggest that, through ultraviolet photolysis of water vapor, atmospheric oxygen did reach an appreciable fraction of today's concentration in early earth times."{12}

Photo dissociation would have raised the oxygen content to about 1%, enough to produce an ozone layer and shield the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation, but the presence of that much oxygen would have made any spontaneous chemical evolution impossible. Matson also speculated that life might have evolved in hydrothermal vents, and "would not a relatively thin layer of sand, porous rock, a moderate layer of unclear water or some crevice provide the necessary protection?" Perhaps so, but in this case, we must bring up the problem of thermal decay in such situations. Miller and Orgel showed that chemical evolution could not occur if the ocean (or some concentrating pool or absorbing clay) were warmer that 25 degrees C (77 degrees F). All those biotic precursors would have decayed in those warm, primordial soups. Although astronomers believe that the early earth would have been cooler, let's not forget how the earth is supposed to have formed and how hot it would have been. Miller and Orgel pointed out that although 0 degrees C (32 degrees F) would have given life's origin a better chance, -21 degrees C (5.8 degrees F) would have been ideal.{13} Of course, one can speculate endlessly about what might have been and possibilities, and not come within a megaparsec of the truth. The trouble with many evolutionists, such as Matson, is that they believe their speculations are the truth or are so close to the truth that, for all practical purposes, they are the truth. I don't find such speculation the least bit convincing.

I also have trouble with someone who wants to reconcile the Bible with present day science because the scientific method hasn't the slightest ability to address origin issues. Circumstantial evidence, extrapolations, and philosophically-colored inferences about the past based on facts in the present is not science. Origins are completely outside the realm of science, so why do some scientists insist that evolution is fact when they cannot observe it? That is not science. In order for something to qualify as science, it must be observable, we must be able to perform tests, collect data, confirm or deny hypotheses made, and make predictions. The things that we do know are clear: stars cannot form from an extremely thin gas without outside help. Self-gravitational formation of stars also runs against the law of entropy. Although gravitational formation of stars is conceivable, it is not possible. It is also conceptually feasible to make a perpetual motion machine or to build the perfectly efficient machine, but entropy will not allow them.

God's Failed Promise

Finally, I have trouble with someone who denies that the Genesis Flood was a global flood. Ross and many other Christians claim that it was a local flood. They are sitting ducks for skeptics like Dave Matson and Steven Morris. When God made His rainbow covenant He said,

"Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you [that's us]; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth....Never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh."{14}

If the flood had been only a local flood, then God's promise has failed. There have been many local floods upon the earth, destroying many people and much livestock. Only if the flood had been global in extent would God's promise still hold. Later this year we will look at geology as it relates to the flood, hang in there, Dave. You won't like my explanations any more than you did the first three installments on radiometric dating, but they better explain the facts than do evolutionary ones.


1. Abell, George O., Realm of the Universe, 3rd ed., Saunders, 1984, p. 289

2. Bok, Bart J., "The Birth of Stars," Scientific American, Aug. 1972, pp.54, 59

3. Boss, Alan P., "Collapse and Formation of Stars," Scientific American, Jan 1985, p. 40

4. op cit, Bok, p. 54

5. DeYoung, Donald B. and John C. Whitcomb, "The Origin of the Universe," Design and Origins in Astronomy, George Mulfinger editor, Creation Research Society, 1983. p. 17

6. Blitz, Leo, "Giant Molecular-Cloud Complexes in the Galaxy," Scientific American, Apr. 1982, p. 86

7. Cown, Ron, "COBE: A Match Made in Heaven," Science News, 143 (1993), p. 43.

8. Cox, J.P., and R.T. Giuli, Principles of Stellar Structure: Applications to Stars, 1968.

9. Alfven, Hannes, and Gustaf Arrhenius, Evolution of the Solar System, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., 1976, p. 480.

10. Struve, Otto, "Interstellar Matter," Sky and Telescope, Jan 1956 Spitzer, Lyman, Jr., Searching Between the Stars, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1982, p. 33

11. The Daily Breeze, 6/11/93

12. Thaxton, Charles B., Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, Philosophical Library, New York, 1984, pp. 43-44.

This book is at the publisher and in the process of being reprinted. It should be available at the end of the month through the Foundation of Thought and Ethics, PO Box 830721, Richardson, TX 75083-0721. The cost will be $15.95. This book should especially be on the reading list of those who confidently think life arose by random processes over millions of years. It is well written, and even the layman could learn from it. Three chapters are available online.

13. Miller, S.L., and L.E. Orgel, The Origins of Life on the Earth, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974, p. 127

14. Genesis 9:9-11, 15

June 16, 1997. Revised July 5, 2004. From the web site of the Creation in the Crossfire: South Bay Creation Science Association, Fullerton, California. With permission. Special thanks to the author, Jon Covey (

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