Yash P. Aggarwal, Ph.D., J.D.
Emeritus Associate: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, NY, USA.
Ancient Hindu Texts indicate that cosmic processes are driven by two cycles: a Primary cycle possibly some 311 trillion years long that begins with the formation of the universe and ends with its dissolution and regeneration for a new cycle; and a Secondary cycle of 8.64 + 0.12 billion (Gy) years that begins with the formation of an Earth-like planet that supports life, or by extension the formation of a Solar system, its demise, and its rebirth. Using the history of the secondary cycles described in the Texts we deduce: 1) that our universe is at least, but not much older than 13.2 + 0.15 Gy, in excellent agreement with current scientific data; 2) that primeval planets formed within less than a billion years of the beginnings of the universe, in agreement with the observations of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope; and 3) show that the Texts predict the demise of the Earth in the next 4.2 Gy and describe the nature and sequence of events leading to its incineration that are remarkably similar to those inferred from current models of Solar evolution. The Secondary cycle and its history implies: 1) that our Solar System is the successor to a primeval parent that formed < 0.7 Gy after the dawn of the universe; 2) that the Solar system has the capacity to essentially replicate itself approximately every 8.64 Gy; and 3) that human life may have existed on an Earth-like planet about 8.7 Gy ago. These results and implications, covering 18 Gy from the inception of the universe to the demise of the Earth, are independent of any and all scientific theories and religious speculation concerning the origins of the universe or how stars and planets formed; nor do they rest upon any uncertain interpretations of the Texts. Therefore, the cosmic cycles of Hindu cosmology (HC) are not products of fanciful imagination of ancient Hindus, but most probably have scientific underpinnings. The cyclic universe of HC fits well with the Cyclic Model of Steinhardt and Turok (2002, 2004); and the Sun’s capacity to replicate itself/planets can be explained in terms of the Solar Nebular Model and the evolution of the Sun through the red giant phase.
The late astrophysicist Carl Sagan (1980) noted that “the Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of births and deaths. It is the only religion in which the time cycles correspond, no doubt by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long, longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.”
Despite the intriguing correspondence noted by Carl Sagan, there have been scant attempts to elicit or discover a plausible scientific basis for the cosmic cycles. This absence is all the more surprising because the cosmic time scales involved are not religious beliefs that must be accepted on faith, but appear to be deductions subject to scrutiny and to the rigors of rational analysis. Two factors may account for such an absence. First, as discussed later, untenable interpretations of segments of ancient Hindu Texts have led to erroneous assertions that the universe is trillions of years old, and thus in conflict with the prevalent scientific view. Confusion caused by such careless misrepresentations may have thwarted efforts to find a scientific basis. Second, the Hindu Texts invoke non-material elements and metaphysics, subject to uncertain interpretations, in explaining the creation of the universe. Therefore, attempts to discover scientific bases that begin with creation as a starting point immediately run into difficulties and ambiguities.
This paper overcomes these hurdles by: 1) separating the core tenets of Hindu cosmology (HC) that are beyond reproach from the more tenuous or speculative interpretations; 2) debunking the erroneous assertions that have somehow crept into the literature; 3) focusing first on those parts of the HC that deal with material processes and comparing their descriptions and any deductions drawn thereupon with scientific evidence and data; 4) evaluating the tenets of HC in the context of modern scientific theories only after the first three steps have been completed. Thus, we shall clearly separate inferences, deductions, or implications drawn from HC and their comparisons with scientific data, observations, or computations of Solar evolutionary models from subsequent discussions of scientific theories that might account for the cycles of Hindu cosmology. It is, however, not the purpose of this paper to debate/test the weaknesses and strengths of competing cosmological theories or models of planet formation; nor should the results of this paper be construed to support or oppose a particular model or hypothesis.
2. Principle Tenets of Hindu Cosmology
2.1. Sources and Methodology The tenets of HC including the creation of the universe, the destruction of the Earth, and the cyclic nature of these processes are described at times in rather great details in the Vishnu Purana (VP) and more succinctly in the Bhagvata Purana. Manusmriti, or the Institutes of Hindu Law, another post- Vedic Hindu Text, also contains details concerning the beginnings of the universe. In judging the importance and credibility of revelations contained therein we weigh them using considerations of internal consistency, consistency across multiple Texts, consistency with scientific data, their relative ages (older the better), and by giving greater weight to literal than to broad translations. Moreover, we have deliberately stayed away from allegories and popularizations of revelations into stories and have stuck to those portions of the Texts that directly speak to the events of interest.
The VP and BP are part of an ensemble of 18 post-Vedic Texts collectively denominated as Puranas, or literally “of ancient times” in Sanskrit. The Puranas are a vast literature of stories and allegory pertaining to Hindu cosmology, history, geography, and genealogies of kings (Krishnananda, 1994), and not religion per se that requires adherence or blind faith. Not all Puranas were, however, created equal or written at the same time. The VP and the BP are the finest (Krishnaananda, 1994). Of the two, VP is considered to be among the oldest dating back to the first century B.C. for its written form and many centuries older in its oral form (Wilson, 1840). Hence, we have used the VP as the primary and the BP as a secondary source, followed by the Manusmriti and other scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita when deemed necessary. Collectively these sources are referred to as Texts.
The Puranas are rather lengthy, but much of what follows is contained in the first few chapters of Books 1 & 6 of VP translated by HH Wilson (1840), the first few chapters of Canto 12 of BP translated by Swami Prabhupada (1962), and the first chapter of Manusmriti or the Institutes of Hindu Law translated by Sir William Jones (1796).
2.2. Cosmic Time Scales and Cycles Just as modern astrophysicists concocted notions of astronomical unit and light year to measure large distances, Hindu Rishis conjured up notions of divine year, Brahma’s day, or Brahma’s life to measure long spans of time. The basic unit of time in HC can be considered to be a Maha Yug (Great Age) comprising 12,000 divine years that correspond to the combined span of four unequal human ages or Yugs. A day of Brahma is equal to 1000 Maha Yugs, his night is equally long, and his life is apparently equal to 100 years of such days and nights. Each divine year is equal to 360 human or solar years. Therefore, a Maha Yug is 4.32 million years; Brahma’s day or night is 4.32 Gy, and his life span about 311 trillion years long (see, e.g. Wilson, 1840; Kak, 2010). Brahma’s day or night is also known as a Kalpa (aeon), and the two-combined together form a period of 8.64 Gy or two Kalpas. There is some uncertainty as to the length of Brahma’s life and is discussed later. Additionally, we note that if the number of days in a divine year were taken to be 365 (solar year) instead of 360 used in HC, Brahma’s day or night would be longer by 0.06 Gy and Brahma’s cycle by 0.12 Gy.
The VP describes two kinds of creations - primary and secondary - and associated dissolutions - elemental, and incidental (Wilson, 1840; Bk 1, Ch, 2; Bk 6, Ch. III). Synthesizing the descriptions contained therein with those of similar nature in the BP, one discerns two distinct cycles. The time span from the beginning of primary creation to the elemental dissolution corresponds to the life of Brahma and pertains to the creation and dissolution of the universe. This time span is apparently some 311 trillion years long and the associated cycle is denoted here as Vishnu’s cycle. Creation in HC, however, is not an event or point in time but an evolutionary process that takes time. In fact, the principle of evolution in all its aspects, whether affecting life or matter, is firmly embedded in the descriptions of the material and life processes (e.g. Wilson, 1840). Similarly, elemental dissolution is not a destructive event but a process of reversion and regeneration that begins when the universe is exhausted and the conditions required to support life cease to exist. In this reversion and regeneration the creative (forward) process reverses direction and the remaining elements fold back into the original state and are recreated; thus completing the cycle and setting the stage for a new cycle of evolution. This cycle of creation and dissolution continues unabated for eternity. Time, therefore, in HC is eternal, without a beginning and its end is not known (e.g. Wilson, 1840, Ch. II), but finite when measured for example from the beginning of the present cycle.
The time span from the beginning of the secondary creation to the completion of incidental dissolution corresponds to the day and night of Brahma and pertains to the creation and destruction of Earth and life on it and the emergence of a new Earth-like planet (earth). This time span is 8.64 + 0.12 Gy long and the associated cycle is termed here as Brahma’s cycle. During the first half of Brahma’s cycle (Brahma’s day) life evolves and flourishes on the Earth. During the second half (Brahma’s night) degradation ensues ending with the incineration of the Earth and birth of a new earth. The current Brahma’s cycle began with the formation of the Earth. And since the Earth and Sun, indeed the Solar system, are known to be essentially coeval, and since an Earth-like planet supporting life cannot exist without a Sun, it is apparent that Brahma’s cycle does not pertain solely to Earth but also to the Sun and Solar system. The Texts suggest that there is a short time lag between the onset of Vishnu’s cycle or the beginnings of the universe and the commencement of the very first Brahma’s cycle or the formation of the first Earth capable of supporting life. The exact time lag, however, is not specified, but results from the fact that evolution is a process and not an event. Brahma’s cycles continue apparently for trillions of years until the universe is exhausted and can no longer support life. The process of creation then reverses direction and dissolution begins and the universe folds back towards the stage from where it began, completing the Primary or Vishnu’s cycle (Wilson, 1840, Bk. 6, Ch. IV).
2.3. Age of the Universe and Primeval Planets The Texts do not explicitly state the age of the universe, but it can be deduced rather precisely from the history of past Kalpas described in the Texts. Note, as stated earlier, two Kalpas each 4.32 + 0.06 Gy long constitute a Brahma’s cycle and that the cycle begins with the birth of an earth. We know rather precisely from radiometric data that the oldest rock minerals on Earth are about 4.4 Gy old (Wilde, 2001) and that the oldest Solar System material is about 4.57 Gy old (Amelin, 2002). For simplicity, we shall adopt for all subsequent calculations the mean value of 4.48 + 0.1 Gy for the common age of the Earth and Sun and the beginning of the current Brahma’s cycle.
The current Kalpa that began with the formation of Earth is called Vraha in VP, BP and in BP and other Puranas. In addition, VP names a Maha or Great Kalpa called Padma that preceded Vraha (Wilson 1840; Bk. 1, Ch. III, page 15); whereas the BP identifies two Kalpas - Brahma and Padma - preceding Vraha (Prabhupada, 1962; S.B. 3.11. 34 -37). Analogizing with the fact that a Maha (Great) Yug is the sum of constituent Yugs, it appears that a Maha (Great) Kalpa is the sum of two constituent Kalpas that form a Brahma’s cycle. Therefore, Padma, the Maha or Great Kalpa, named in VP is apparently the sum of the constituent Kalpas - Brahma and Padma - mentioned in BP. About thirty additional Kalpas are named in the Linga and similar Puranas belonging to a group of Puranas considered to be the least reliable among the 18 Puranas. Wilson summarily dismisses such claims of additional Kalpas as clear sectarian embellishments, and notes that the only Kalpas usually specified in the Puranas are Vraha, the current one; Padma, the one preceding Vraha; and Brahma preceding Padma and considered by BP to be the very first one of Brahma’s life (Wilson, 1840; Foot Notes 25:9, Ch. III, page 26).
Thus, we may confidently conclude that two and only two Kalpas or one Brahma’s cycle has preceded the current one. Adding the length of time (8.64 + 0.12 Gy) for the past cycle to the time expired (4.48 + 0.1 Gy) since the beginning of the current cycle, we obtain a value of 13.12 + 0.22 / - 0.1 Gy, or about 13.2 + 0.15 Gy. As stated earlier there is a short time lag, albeit unspecified, between the beginning of the universe and the onset of first Brahma’s cycle or the formation of the first earth. Therefore, the universe is at least, but not much older than about 13.2 + 0.15 Gy; a result in excellent agreement with the age of the universe (13.7 + 0.13 Gy) deduced from WMAP (2010) data. This result implies that planets, indeed solar systems, formed within < 0.7 Gy of the birth of the universe; an implication supported by scientific observations. In a 2003 news release NASA stated: “Long before our Sun and Earth ever existed, a Jupiter-sized planet formed around a sun-like star. Now almost 13 billion years later, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has precisely measured the mass of this farthest and oldest known planet. Its very existence provides tantalizing evidence that the first planets were formed rapidly, within a billion years of the Big Bang,”
The erroneous conclusion that the universe is trillions of years old stems from the following statement in VP: “Of such days and nights is a year of Brahma composed; and a hundred such years constitute his whole life. One Pararddha, or half his existence, has expired, terminating with the Maha Kalpa called Padma “. (Wilson, 1840; Bk 1, Ch. III, page 25). This assertion implies that the Brahma’s life is some 311 trillion years, that half of his life is over and therefore the universe is some 155 trillion years old, and that thousands of Kalpas must have preceded the current one. We showed above that thousands of past Kalpas are not admissible. Also, the assertion that half of Brahma’s life has expired does not find resonance in either Manusmriti or the Bhagavad-Gita; nor is it supported in the Puranas with additional evidence or discussion. Therefore, if Brahma’s life span is indeed some 311 trillions long, then the statement that half of his life is over is not tenable; and if half of his life is indeed over then his life span cannot be some 311 trillions years, but much shorter in the vicinity of 18 Gy or roughly equal to two Brahma’s cycles. Of the two choices, the latter is rather unlikely; which leaves us with the conclusion that in HC the universe may have a life span of some 311 trillion years but half of its life is not over.
2.4. Destruction of the Earth It is generally accepted that the Sun is halfway through its life of about 10 Gy on the main sequence and that the fate of our planet Earth is closely tied to the evolution of the Sun as it becomes more luminous on its way to the red-giant phase and its final stage as a white dwarf in billions of years (e.g. Schroeder and Smith, 2008). First, we note that the length of Brahma’s cycle (8.64 + 0.12 Gy) is similar to the Sun’s life span on the main sequence. Second, since 4.48 + 0.1 Gy have already elapsed in the current cycle, we are at present about halfway through Brahma’s cycle just as the Sun is. Third, it follows that the Earth has just entered or is about to enter Brahma’s night or the destructive phase of the cycle.
The events that may affect the Earth and life on it during the second half of the current cycle are described in impressive details in VP (Wilson, 1840; Bk.6, Ch. III & IV) and are summarized in Table 1, column 1. The BP essentially describes the same set of events with minor differences. In column 2 we show for comparison the events affecting the Earth identified by Schroeder and Smith (2008) from their computations of the Sun’s evolution. Schroeder and Smith (2008) reviewed current models and their (SS Model) results are representative of the current status of scientific knowledge on the evolution of the Sun and its effect on planet Earth. They conclude that the Earth will be engulfed by the expanding Sun. A comparison of the two columns shows that the events leading to the total destruction of the Earth are essentially identical in the two predictions. In both cases we have an extinction of significant life on the Earth in a relatively near future; a complete drying up of the Earth including its oceans; a green house effect that increases Earth’s temperature setting it on fire; the turning of the Earth into a life-less molten rock or a shriveled and wrinkled remnant resembling the back of a tortoise; and the total incineration of the Earth and space around it or the engulfment of the Earth, Venus, and Mercury by the Sun. In the VP the runaway greenhouse effect (evaporation of oceans) precedes the wet-greenhouse effect (saturation of atmosphere and increased luminosity), whereas in the SS Model it is vice-versa. In VP the destruction begins with the demise of humanity caused by environmental factors that result in a prolonged drought. It is quite feasible that much before the Earth dries up and the oceans boil over, the increasing luminosity of the Sun will render the Earth virtually unusable for cultivation of large quantities of food grains causing widespread famine. Even if this prediction of an early demise of humanity does not pan out, the subsequent set of events clearly predict an extinction of all significant life on Earth as it dries up, and water - generally considered to be a necessary ingredient of life - disappears.
The major difference is that the SS Model predicts the engulfment of Earth in 7.6 Gy, whereas in the Texts it occurs within 4.2 Gy. Secondly, the SS Model predicts a small planetary nebula and a mild stellar wind, whereas the Puranas predict the formation of a huge nebula and strong winds. These differences are discussed and explained in section 5. The significance of a cosmic ocean predicted by VP, however, is not understood.
In the preceding section we laid out the principle Tenets of HC and showed: 1) that the application of these Tenets to the history of Brahma’s cycle yields an age for the universe that agrees remarkably well with that deduced from scientific data; 2) that the formation of primeval planets and solar systems within less than a billion years of the beginning of the universe predicted by HC is supported by observations of NASA’s HST; and 3) that the events leading to the destruction of the Earth in the next several billion years described in the Texts are strikingly similar to those inferred from current scientific models of Solar evolution. These concurrences, covering a time span of 18 Gy from the beginnings of the universe to the future destruction of the Earth, cannot simply be fortuitous. Therefore, the cosmic time scales and cycles so aptly noted by Carl Sagan are not an accident but apparently driven by the laws of universe, and we may confidently proceed to explore a scientific framework for HC. And hopefully in the process we may even discover new insights into the nature of cosmic processes.
But before we do so, it is worthwhile separating the implications of the foregoing results from theories concerning the beginnings of the universe or the formation of planets and stars. The characteristics of the Secondary cycle and its history imply: 1) that an Earth-like terrestrial planet capable of supporting life was part of a Solar system similar to ours that formed within 0.7 Gy of the dawn of the universe; 2) that our Solar System is the offspring of this primeval Solar system; 3) that the Solar system has a life cycle of about 8.64 + 0.12 Gy, and has the capacity to reproduce its essential constituents; and 4) that human life presumably existed on this primeval Earth, and the most likely timing of such an occurrence would be around 8.7 Gy if deduced from a comparison with the evolution of human life on planet Earth.
4. Cyclic Universe and Big Bang
As noted earlier, creation in HC is not an event but an evolutionary cyclic process. In this process a manifold universe emerges or unfolds spontaneously from a singular-self existent entity (Vishnu) that is without beginning or end. Vishnu, however, is the universal mind or spirit (Purusha) as well as primary matter (Pradhana) or nature (Wilson, 1840, Ch. II); and therein lies the difficulty of interpreting in purely physical terms this metaphysical duality of a self-existent singular entity. Nonetheless, if we are willing to set aside momentarily this difficulty and explore a bit further we may gain some insight into the creative processes of HC, the beginnings of which are described in the following paragraph. Primary matter is described as “subtle, uniform, durable, self-sustained, illimitable, undecaying, stable; devoid of sound or touch, and possessing neither color nor form. It is apparently cause and effect, mother of the world, without beginning; and that into which all that is produced is resolved; and by which all things were invested in the period subsequent to the last dissolution of the universe and prior to creation” (Wilson, 1840, Ch.II, pages 10 & 11). This unobservable primary matter, through successive transformations, created material “elements” (ether, air, water, and earth) and radiation (light and heat) endowed with one or more property of sound, touch, form, color, taste, and smell. Combining together, these “elements” formed an incipient universe in the form of a vast egg that “gradually expanded like a bubble of water. In that egg were the continents and seas and mountains, the planets and the divisions of the universe, the gods, the demons, and mankind.” (Wilson, 1840, Ch. II, pages 18,19). It is clear therefore that the creative process in HC begins with the transformation of the unobservable primary matter into observable material elements and radiation. And the following principles, gleaned from the Texts, define or drive the creative process. 1) Time is without beginning or end. 2) Space too is without a beginning and inferred to be so from the fact that in HC matter apparently never ceases to exist. 3) Primary matter is limitless. 4) Nothing is ever created or destroyed and matter simply undergoes a change of state; or matter/energy is conserved in accord with the first law of thermodynamics. 5) The durations of cosmic cycles do not vary with time.
The cyclic nature of the universe in HC is clearly at odds with an ever-expanding universe. Additionally, the standard big bang/inflationary cosmology (consensus model) postulates a singularity when the temperature and density of the incipient universe were near infinity and prior to which nothing existed (space, time, matter or energy)) and the incipient universe inflated exponentially in an infinitesimally short time (e.g. Guth, 1997; Steinhardt and Turok, 2002). In contrast, space and time in HC are without a beginning and the universe does not emerge from nothing but apparently from a limitless, pre-existing primary matter that spontaneously transforms itself to create the primordial elements and radiation of the universe. Also, the incipient universe in HC apparently had a finite volume (cosmic egg) as opposed to a singularity and hence the initial temperature and density could be very high but need not be near infinity. The best fit for the cyclic universe of HC appears to be with the Cyclic Model of Steinhardt and Turok (2002, 2004). The Cyclic Model (CM) describes the bang as a “bounce” from a pre-existing contracting phase during which matter and radiation are “created” at a large but finite temperature. In their model, as is the case in HC, time and space are without a beginning and the universe apparently expands slowly compared to the unimaginably rapid inflation required by the consensus model. After trillions of years matter, radiation and large-scale structures are all diluted away (Steinhardt and Turok, 2002, 2004), a situation akin to the exhaustion of the universe in HC in many trillions of years when conditions required to support life cease to exist. This emptying of the universe, a crucial element of CM and a condition for the reversal of the creative process in HC, apparently overcomes the difficulties historically encountered by oscillatory models in their ability to retain an identical time span from cycle to cycle (Steinhardt and Turok, 2002).
Despite these differences between the consensus and cyclic models, it is quite remarkable that the age of the universe deduced from the Hindu Texts that ascribe to a cyclic universe is indistinguishable from the age deduced from the big bang picture; an outcome that suggests that the event that occurred some 13.7 Gy ago is not model dependent, irrespective of whether it is conceived as a bang (singularity), or as a transition from a contracting to an expanding phase in CM, or as the event in HC during which primary matter transformed into material “elements” and radiation. This seminal event is therefore the inception of the current universe when matter and radiation were created irrespective of the model used.
Lastly, we offer the following observations and proposals that further cement the commonalities between the cyclic universes of HC and CM. Theoretically, the universe in CM consists of two branes separated by a microscopic gap. Observable particles (quarks, leptons, photons, neutrinos, etc) lie on one brane, and the particles on the other brane are a dark form of matter that cannot be detected in the laboratories. The particles on the two branes can interact through gravity but not by strong or weak interactions. (Steinhardt and Turok, 2004). Recalling that primary matter (Pradhana) is unobservable, and that its products (ether, air, water, earth, light, and heat) have properties perceivable by the senses, it is tempting to equate the non-observable primary matter of HC with the non-detectable dark matter of CM, and the observable products of primary matter with the particles and radiation in CM. In other words, the observable universe lies on one brane, and the unobservable dark matter or the invisible primary matter lies on the other brane, and the two interact only through gravity. The collision of the two branes is the seminal event when the universe is infused with new matter and radiation in CM (Steinhardt and Turok, 2004) as well as in HC and a new cycle of evolution begins.
5. Secondary Cycle and Replication of Solar System
Of the two cycles, the Secondary or Brahma’s cycle is better defined and has far reaching implications. As noted above this cycle does not pertain to the Earth alone but also to the Sun and that its duration (8.64 + 0.12 Gy) is similar to the Sun’s life span on the main sequence. Any scientific model that attempts to successfully explain the characteristics of this cycle and its history must account for the implied capacity of the System to essentially replicate itself every 8.64+0.1 2 Gy. There are basically two models for the formation of the Solar System, the widely accepted nebular hypothesis or the Solar Nebular Model (e.g. Woolfson, 1993) and the primordial planet model of Schild and Gibson (2010). Schild and Gibson posit that super giant primordial planets of hydrogen and helium formed soon (380,000 years) after the big bang; that these gas planets often concentrate together to form a star with residual matter seen in pre-stellar accretion disks around the youngest stars; and that these planets grow smaller through collisions until they are whittled down to the size of the planets populating our Solar system. In the nebular hypothesis, matter in gravitationally unstable giant molecular gas clouds (GMC) coalesces into denser clumps that collapse to form a star. A protoplanetary accretion disk is formed around the young star in which planets form through the coagulation of dust grains into planetesimals and runaway accretion.
While the Schild and Gibson (2010) model may explain the formation of the “first” or the primeval Sun from super giant gas planets and possibly early planets, it is difficult to imagine how this model could account for the replication of the Solar system periodically as required by the Secondary cycle. Similarly, Joseph (2009) rogue-planet model, in which the outer planets are ejected from dying solar systems during the red-giant phase of a star before supernova only to be captured by another star, cannot explain the clockwork periodicity of the Secondary cycle and the periodic formation of an Earth-like planet required by HC. Unfortunately the Texts do not contain any information on how a Solar system is formed. The Texts, however, provide insight into the likely mechanism responsible for the Sun’s capacity to replicate itself. This insight results from the comparison of events before and after the incineration of the Earth with models of solar evolution.
We showed earlier that events leading to the future incineration of the Earth described in VP are remarkably similar to those predicted by the Schroeder and Smith (2008) model. In the SS model the Sun loses 1/3 of its mass during the red-giant phase (RGB) and an additional 12% during the Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) before becoming a white dwarf. We propose that the ejected matter, rich with heavier elements manufactured by the Sun in its core and surrounding shell during RGB, seeds portions of a GMC creating a gravitational instability. Denser clumps are formed around the seeds that eventually collapse to form a protostar surrounded by a protoplanetary or an accretion disk. The disk continues to be fed with matter lost by the Sun as it passes from the RGB phase of the dying Sun towards the AGB tip, a total time span of about 130 million years (See Schroeder and Smith, 2008).
Within the disk the enriched dust grains coagulate to form planetesimals that merge or accrete to form planetary embryos and eventually a few terrestrial planets. The outer gaseous planets may form from the hydrogen-helium gas of the disk or could be the whittled down versions of the primordial gas planets of Schild and Gibson (2010) captured by the new Sun. It is noteworthy that the time taken by the dying Sun to reach the AGB tip from its rapid ascent towards the RGB tip is of the same order as the estimated time necessary (100 million years) to form the Solar system (Montmerle et. al, 2006).
Thus, the nebular hypothesis in conjunction with Sun’s loss of mass during its RGB and AGB may adequately account for the Sun’s capacity to replicate itself and attendant planets and no new model is needed. Two factors that make it possible are: 1) the Sun is apparently more massive than 95% of stars (Robles et al. 2008); and that the amount of heavier elements needed to form terrestrial planets similar to ours is but a fraction (<0.001) of the mass of heavier elements ejected by the dying Sun, even though heavier elements constitute only a few percent of the Sun’s mass; 2) that, unlike a supernova, the Sun during RGB simply sheds its outer layers and does not explode, and hence the ejected matter is probably not dispersed far and wide as in a supernova, but much more locally and not thinned out into space. The large amount of mass lost during RGB in the SS model is the reason why in their model the subsequent planetary nebula during AGB is rather small and insignificant (Table 1). In contrast, the stellar nebula in the VP (Table1) is no ordinary cloud formation. Its detailed morphology (see Wilson, 1840, Bk. 6, Ch. IV) is reminiscent of the famous descriptions (NASA, 1995) of “Elephant trunks” and “Pillars of creation” found in the Eagle Nebula (M16) - a site of star formation - than that of a symmetrical pattern expected of a planetary nebula. We suggest that the stellar nebula described in the VP is indeed a solar nebula surrounding the young star, and that the subsequent stellar winds (Table 1) that disperse the stellar nebula are the solar winds that eventually blow away the cocoon surrounding the young Sun. In the case of a planetary/ejection nebula the stellar winds would be expected to precede or be contemporaneous with the formation of the nebula, just the opposite of the sequence in VP. Thus, not only are the events preceding the destruction of the Earth in good agreement with those predicted from the evolution of the dying Sun, but the events following the destruction are also in good agreement with events expected to be associated with the formation of a new Sun. The only significant difference is that in the SS model the time span to the engulfment of the Earth is about 12 Gy whereas the Secondary cycle is 8.64 + 0.16 Gy long. This difference, although appreciable, is not fatal given the assumptions and approximations inherent in solar models and uncertainties in Sun’s life on the main sequence (known only to its first order approximation) arising from such parameters as the rate of fusion and the amount of hydrogen available.
6. Concluding Remarks
The two major results of this study, if they survive the test of time and I have no reason to believe that they would not, will have major implications. The demonstration that ancient Hindu seers may have unraveled some of the mysteries of the universe begs the question: How did they do it without the technological assets that modern science possesses? The finding that the Sun apparently replicates itself periodically is profoundly important for the understanding of cosmic processes and for the evolution of life and its distant fate. Lastly, the conclusion that the event that took place some 13.7 Gy ago marking the onset of the (current) universe was a seminal event irrespective of whether the universe is conceived to be cyclical or one that began with a bang may turn out to be equally important in reconciling conceptual differences between competing models of the universe.
Acknowledgments: I thank the two anonymous referees; their suggestions and comments helped improve the paper significantly. I thank my wife Hemu who first directed my attention to the Bhagavad-Gita, which eventually led to the personal discovery of the Hindu Texts.
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