Radiohalos—Solving the Mystery of the Missing Bullets

Part Three

Granite rocks exhibit mysterious black spheres, known as radiohalos. The only reasonable explanation for their origin is a recent, worldwide Flood. Indeed, the unique conditions required to form such spheres show us that radioactive decay—and granite formation—was extremely rapid in the past.

The only reasonable explanation for their origin is a recent, worldwide Flood. Indeed, the unique conditions required to form such spheres show us that radioactive decay—and granite formation—was extremely rapid in the past.

Part two of this series explained why old-earth geologists are baffled by evidence of radioactive damage from polonium in certain kinds of granite crystals, called biotite. These damaged areas, called radiohalos, look like dark “halos.” To the evolutionist, their existence is a mystery.

Why the mystery? The source of these halos, polonium, is an unstable, radioactive element that does not survive long in nature (only milliseconds, in some cases). It appears only briefly during the decay of another element, uranium. But no uranium source is found at the center of these polonium radiohalos! Where did the polonium come from?

The cataclysmic, worldwide Flood provides the answer. Uranium-238 is found a short distance away from the polonium radiohalos. Hot water seeping through the granite during the Flood could easily explain how products of the uranium’s decay could be transported to the site of the polonium radiohalos.

As will be explained in this article, this whole process must have occurred rapidly. Otherwise, not enough polonium would be produced to form each radiohalo, which requires hundreds of millions of polonium atoms in a short amount of time.

The rapid formation of radiohalos has astounding implications for earth history and physics.

The rapid formation of polonium radiohalos has astounding implications for earth history and physics. It means that radioactive decay must have occurred at a much faster rate in the recent past, and it also means that the earth’s granites must have formed under catastrophic conditions (e.g., at Creation and again during the world-wide Flood).

Accelerated Radioactive Decay

Two basic kinds of radiohalos are found in biotite: some come from uranium and others come from polonium. Something very unusual must have taken place for both kinds of radiohalos to appear together.

According to standard estimates, uranium must eject at least 500 million alpha particles to form a single dark radiohalo.1 At their current very slow rate of radioactive decay, parent uranium-238 atoms would need nearly 100 million years to produce that many alpha particles. So each uranium radiohalo would require 100 million years to form.

In contrast, the polonium radiohalos had to form very, very quickly. While the reasons are complex (see previous article), basically the only way to transport polonium is as its precursor, a radioactive gas called radon. But this presents a huge problem. The only reasonable way to transport the radon is hot water, water so hot that it would destroy any polonium halos that formed! That makes the polonium radiohalos “a very tiny mystery” for long-age geologists.2

This means that all the radon had to be transported first, while things were hot, and then the polonium halos had to form later, after things got “cooler.” But since both radon and polonium have short half-lives, the entire process had to occur in days. Radon-222 has a half-life (decay rate) of only 3.8 days, and polonium-218 and polonium-214 have half-lives of 3.1 minutes and 164 microseconds, respectively. At least 500 million radon atoms had to be produced, be transported, decay, and then be deposited as polonium. This would require 100 million years’ worth of decay in just a few days.

Expressed another way, rare conditions were required to form the polonium radiohalos, and those conditions had to remain in place for more than 100 million years. The hot waters would have to keep seeping into and through the biotite flakes for more than 100 million years at current rates of uranium decay, and this had to happen in granites all over the globe (Figure 1). Such a scenario is impossible.

The only viable alternative is that all the needed polonium was available very quickly, before it could decay away. That is, it had to be transported to the various points within the biotite flakes within hours, or days at the very most (Figure 1).3

Figure 1: Two Essential Conditions to Form Polonium Radiohalos

In granites all over the earth’s surface, we find polonium-210 radiohalos near uranium-238 sources at the centers of uranium radiohalos. Two rare conditions were required to form these polonium radiohalos. First, a constant flow of hot water within forming granites had to rapidly transport millions of decaying atoms from the uranium to the sites of the polonium radiohalos. Second, molten granite magma, where the radiohalos formed, had to crystallize and cool quickly—in a matter of days. Only a global, cataclysmic Flood could explain these unique conditions.

Forming Radiohalos

(a) The uranium-238 in the zircon crystal generated the uranium-238 radiohalo. Water flowing past the crystal carried along decaying radon and polonium atoms between the same biotite sheets to a nearby location, where a polonium-210 radiohalo developed. Nothing remains at the center of this radiohalo, however, because whatever was there has been dissolved away.

Constantly Flowing Hot Water

(b) The crystallizing granite magma included zircon crystals containing radioactive uranium-238 atoms that emitted alpha-particles. The cooling residual magma then released hot water, which flowed through the minerals. The hot water dissolved any products of the uranium decay (radon and polonium atoms) and then carried them a slight distance away. These radioactive products also emitted alpha-particles.

Falling Temperatures

(c) To dissolve and transport radon gas requires high temperatures, but such high temperatures would remove any evidence of alpha-particle decay. (In essence, the minerals were so hot the tracks left by alpha decay were erased.)

(d) The hot, mineral-rich water also carried sulfur atoms, which lodged in the mineral’s cleavages. As temperatures dropped near 150°C (302°F), the polonium in the hot water combined with the sulfur and was removed from the water flow. The uranium in the zircon continued to decay and replenish the supply of radon and polonium to the hot flowing water.

(e) Once the temperature dropped below 150°C (302°F), the alpha particles started to leave trails, discoloring the mineral. As the polonium decayed to lead, more polonium flowed in. Both uranium and polonium radiohalos formed at the same time.

(f) Once the granite cooled completely, the hot water flow ceased, leaving behind the polonium radiohalos we find in granites today.

The implications are astounding. At least 500 million uranium-238 atoms had to alpha decay within a few hours or days. The equivalent of “100 million years” of uranium-238 decay had to occur within hours!

Thus, the decay rate of uranium had to be nearly a billion times faster in the past than it is today! And if uranium decayed at such an accelerated rate, then other radioactive elements, which are even less stable, must have also decayed much faster.

Yet long-age dating methods assume that the radioactive decay rates have never changed. The very existence of the polonium radiohalos is evidence that the radioactive rates were accelerated in the past. This means that dates for rocks of billions of years must be questioned, as the rocks are in fact only thousands of years old. This means that all the rocks we know of—meteorites, rocks brought back from the moon, and the “oldest” rocks on the earth—are in fact only thousands of years old. This gives us good scientific reasons to believe that the earth, the moon, and all the objects of the solar system are only thousands of years old.

The Rapid Origin of Granites

The rapid formation of polonium radiohalos has another astounding implication for earth history.

The granite masses that contain the radiohalos are typically cubic miles in size and originally formed under ground from molten magmas at temperatures between 650°C and 705°C (1200–1300°F). It is usually claimed that they thus take millions of years to crystallize and cool.4 Since radiohalos can survive only at and below 150°C (302°F), based on observed evidence,5 the radiohalos had to be generated very late in the granite formation process (Figure 2). By this time, though, most of the polonium would have decayed away. Any polonium halos that might have formed would be destroyed by the heat.

Figure 2: The Right Conditions Lasted Only 6–10 Days

This diagram shows the only possible timescale that could produce radiohalos from cooling granite magma. The magma must first be hot enough to produce water and transport the radon and polonium, but then it must be cool enough for the decaying polonium to leave behind radiohalos. The only way to explain these radiohalos is if the granites were deposited and cooled in less than two weeks . . . during a global Flood!

Forming Radiohalos

So unless the granites cooled quickly, no polonium radiohalos could be present. Thus, the existence of the polonium radiohalos implies that granites crystallized and cooled within just six to ten days, not millions of years!

Uranium and polonium radiohalos found together in the same biotite flakes thus provide startling evidence of past catastrophic geological processes acting on a young earth. During Day Three of Creation Week (about six thousand years ago) and again during the year-long Genesis Flood (about 4,300 years ago) sediments were eroded and deposited catastrophically on a global scale.6 Rapid earth movements pushed up mountains and melting of rocks formed granite bodies quickly.7 Inside these granites, super-fast radioactive decay generated uranium and polonium radiohalos rapidly.

Though the radiohalos are so microscopic they could easily be overlooked, their abundance in granites all around the world cannot be ignored. They are exciting confirmation that the earth and its rocks are not millions and billions of years old as usually claimed. Instead, they are only thousands of years old, as God’s Word plainly declares in His eyewitness account of the earth’s history.

Dr. Andrew Snelling holds a PhD in geology from the University of Sydney and has worked as a consultant research geologist in both Australia and America. Author of numerous scientific articles, Dr. Snelling is now director of research at Answers in Genesis.

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Radiohalos Excerpt

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  1. R. V. Gentry, Creation’s Tiny Mystery (Knoxville, Tennessee: Earth Science Associates, 1988), p. 19.
  2. Dr. G. Brent Dalrymple (then Deputy Director of the U.S. Geological Survey and more recently at the Berkeley Geochronology Center at the University of California Berkeley) dismissed the polonium radiohalos as “a very tiny mystery” while in the witness stand at the 1981 Arkansas “Creation Trial,” as reported by R. V. Gentry, Creation’s Tiny Mystery (Knoxville, Tennessee: Earth Science Associates, 1988), p. 122.
  3. A. A. Snelling, “Radiohalos in Granites: Evidence for Accelerated Nuclear Decay,” in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, L. Vardiman, A. A. Snelling, and E.F. Chaffin, eds. (El Cajon, California: Institute for Creation Research and Chino Valley, Arizona: Creation Research Society, 2005), pp. 101–207.
  4. W. S. Pitcher, The Nature and Origin of Granite (London: Blackie Academic & Professional, 1993).
  5. R. Laney and A. W. Laughlin, “Natural Annealing of the Pleochroic Haloes in Biotite Samples from Deep Drill Holes, Fenton Hill, New Mexico,” Geophysical Research Letters 8, no. 5 (1981): 501–504.
  6. A. A. Snelling, “Thirty Miles of Dirt in a Day,” Answers 3, no. 4 (2008): 28–30; A. A. Snelling, “Transcontinental Rock Layers,” Answers 3, no. 3 (2008): 80–83.
  7. A. A. Snelling, “Catastrophic Granite Formation: Rapid Melting of Source Rocks, and Rapid Magma Intrusion and Cooling,” Answers Research Journal 1 (2008): 11–25.


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