Used to be that scientists thought that our solar system was pretty normal, and that there were plenty just like it out there.  TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate:SG1, among many others, traded on that to create unlimited worlds to explore.

On top of that, the idea that man is special in the universe, as suggested by the Bible, was taken down a few notches by that assertion.  If there are so many systems that would support life as we know it, the idea that God created just us seems a quaint anachronism. 

Well, as it turns out, our solar system is "pretty special", according to the headline in ScienceDaily last week.  Remember the old analogy of monkey’s typing on a jillion typewriters just waiting for a Shakespeare sonnet to come out, and its parallel to evolutionist theory about random chemicals banging together to create life?  Well, time to add a few jillion barrels of monkeys to the mix.  Apparently, coming up with a solar system like ours ain’t that easy.

Prevailing theoretical models attempting to explain the formation of the solar system have assumed it to be average in every way. Now a new study by Northwestern University astronomers, using recent data from the 300 exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars, turns that view on its head.

The solar system, it turns out, is pretty special indeed. The study illustrates that if early conditions had been just slightly different, very unpleasant things could have happened — like planets being thrown into the sun or jettisoned into deep space.

So what did they find out?

Before the discovery in the early 1990s of the first planets outside the solar system, our system’s nine (now eight) planets were the only ones known to us. This limited the planetary formation models, and astronomers had no reason to think the solar system unusual.

"But we now know that these other planetary systems don’t look like the solar system at all," said Frederic A. Rasio, a theoretical astrophysicist and professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He is senior author of the Science paper.

"The shapes of the exoplanets’ orbits are elongated, not nice and circular. Planets are not where we expect them to be. Many giant planets similar to Jupiter, known as ‘hot Jupiters,’ are so close to the star they have orbits of mere days. Clearly we needed to start fresh in explaining planetary formation and this greater variety of planets we now see."

The more we find out, the more we see that we really got "lucky" (in scientific parlance) to have such a nice place to call home.

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