Quote: John A. Eddy

The Shrinking Sun

A Creationist sent me this quote:

'There is no evidence based solely on solar observation,' Eddy stated, 'that the sun is 4.5-5 x 109 years old. I suspect,' he said, 'that the sun is 4.5 billion years old. However, given some new and unexpected results to the contrary, and some time for frantic recalculation and theoretical readjustment, I suspect that we could live with Bishop Ussher's value for the age of the earth and sun. I don't think we have much in the way of observational evidence in astronomy to conflict with that.'

John A. Eddy, Ph.D. (Astrogeophysics) (Solar Astronomer at the High Altitude Observatory at Boulder, Colorado). Quote in
Institute for Creation Research, BTG No. 6a, 1989

This quote was used as part of an ICR argument that the Sun's diameter is shrinking by about 10 miles per year, and has been for at least a century. The argument concludes that the Earth cannot be billions of years old, or even millions.

These web pages do not contain disclaimers, and searches of their web site for words such as "Eddy" or "shrinking" did not turn up any disclaimers. However, the quote is seriously out of date.

First, Eddy's paper was in fact never published. He and his co-author published an abstract [1] in 1979, but it quickly became clear that their data was wrong. A 1980 paper [2] pointed out that the data had been gathered across 90 years by 7 different astronomers, and they used several slightly different methods. When you correct for these differences, there is no shrinkage.

Second, all of the data available in 1979 is now obsolete. Ultra-precise astronomical measurements were made in the 1980's and 1990's with new high-tech equipment. For example, the Solar Disk Sextant project used balloons to carry special telescopes to 120,000 feet, above most of the Earth's atmosphere. The shrinkage implied by Eddy's data is totally ruled out by the new data.

This is not just a case of scientists being "uniformitarian" and wanting the Sun to be unchanging. In fact, scientists recently discovered that the Sun has cyclic activity. Aside from the sunspot cycle, there are (for instance) 87 year and 210 year cycles.


[1] Secular decrease in the solar diameter, 1863-1953, Eddy and Boornazian, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 11:437 (1979)

[2] The constancy of the solar diameter over the past 250 years, Parkinson, Morrison and Stephenson, Nature 288,548 (1980)

The Solar FAQ

Stellar Interiors: Physical Principles, Structure, and Evolution, Hanswen and Kawaler, Springer-Verlag, 1994

Last modified: 25 June 2006

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