A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away! Our solar system was formed in less than 200,000 years – nearly half the time humans have been walking the Earth, study reveals
- The solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago from a dense gas cloud’s collapse
- Studying isotopes in ancient meteorites, scientists tracked its gestation
- They had expected the timeframe to be significantly longer
- Humans have been on Earth for approximately 300,000 years
Our solar system is vast but it formed very quickly, according to a new study.
By analyzing billion-year-old isotopes on meteorites, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have determined the Sun and the rest of our star system was created in less than 200,000 years.
For comparison, homo sapiens have been walking the Earth for at least 300,000 years.
Researchers had expected the timeframe for the solar system’s development be closer to one to two million years, judging by the development of other star systems.
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Artist’s conception of the dust and gas surrounding a newly formed planetary system. Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory believe the Sun and the rest of our solar system were created in less than 200,000 years.
‘Previously, the timeframe of formation was not really known for our solar system,’ said LLNL cosmochemist Greg Brennecka, lead author of a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.
‘This work shows that this collapse, which led to the formation of the solar system, happened very quickly, in less than 200,000 years.’
Our solar system was formed about 4.5 billion years ago from the collapse of a dense cloud of interstellar gas and dust.
Astrophysicists theorize the collapse was caused by the shockwave from an exploding supernova.
The team dated molybdenum isotopes found in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, including Allende, the largest carbonaceous chondrite found on Earth, which landed in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1969. These meteorites are rich in calcium-aluminum–rich inclusions, the oldest known solids in our solar system
Given our star system’s age, the speed of its development is the equivalent of a pregnancy that lasts half a day, rather than nine months.
‘This was a rapid process,’ Brennecka said.
His team dated molybdenum isotopes found in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, including Allende, the largest carbonaceous chondrite found on Earth, which landed in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1969.
These meteorites are rich in calcium-aluminum–rich inclusions, the oldest known solids in our solar system.
Scientists at the laboratory analyzed molybdenum isotopes in the inclusions, and determined they formed over a period of about 40,000 to 200,000 years.
That means our solar system had to have been formed in that time frame, as well.
Our solar system continues to reveal new facets of itself: It may have even been home to an ‘extra’ planet located between Saturn and Uranus.
Researchers running simulations on how the solar system developed believe a mysterious planet changed the relationship of Saturn (seen here) and Uranus before being ‘knocked out’ of orbit
According to a recent report in the journal Icarus, this rogue globe was kicked out of orbit, but its presence led to the planetary lineup we know today.
The configuration of planets in our system is highly atypical, and scientists have long sought to explain how it came to be.
Researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science ran thousands of models of how the orbit of the solar system’s planets evolved.
Their conclusion is that the orbits of the ‘ice giant’ planets, Uranus and Neptune, were influenced by the gravitational pull of a mysterious missing planet — an ice giant that once lay between Saturn and Uranus.