Planets in our Solar System May Have Formed in Fits and Starts

Solar shockwaves would have produced proto-planetary rings at different times, meaning the planets did not form simultaneously (artist concept). Credit: ESO.

Did all the planets in our Solar System form at about the same time? Conventional thinking says the components of our Solar System all formed at the same time, and formed rather quickly. But new research indicates that a series of shockwaves emitted from our very young Sun may have caused the planets to form at different times over millions of years.

“The planets formed in intervals – not altogether, as was previously thought,” said Dr. Tagir Abdylmyanov, Associate Professor from Kazan State Power Engineering University in Russia.

Abdylmyanov’s research, which models the movements of particles in fluids and gasses and in the gas cloud from which our Sun accreted, indicates that the first series of shockwaves during short but very rapid changes in solar activity would have created the proto-planetary rings for Uranus, Neptune, and dwarf planet Pluto first. Jupiter, Saturn, and the asteroid belt would have come next during a series of less powerful shockwaves. Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars would have formed last, when the Sun was far calmer. This means that our own planet is one of the youngest in the Solar System.

“It is difficult to say exactly how much time would have separated these groups,” Abdylmyanov said, “but the proto-planetary rings for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto would have likely formed very close to the Sun’s birth. 3 million years later and we would see the debris ring destined to form Saturn. Half a million years after this we would see something similar but for Jupiter. The asteroid belt would have begun to form about a million years after that, and another half a million years on we would see the very early stages of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.”

The shockwaves emitted from the new-born Sun would have rippled out material at different times, creating a series of debris rings around the Sun from which the planets formed.

Abdylmayanov hopes that this research will help us understand the development of planets around distant stars. “Studying the brightness of stars that are in the process of forming could give indications as to the intensity of stellar shockwaves. In this way we may be able to predict the location of planets around far-flung stars millions of years before they have formed.”

His work was part of the European Planetary Science Congress taking place this week in Madrid, Spain.

23 Replies to “Planets in our Solar System May Have Formed in Fits and Starts”

  1. I honestly don’t think that any crazy idea of an unknown researcher from an unknown dubious university somewhere in Russia should be introduced with “new research indicates that…” – especially if these kinds of super-bold claims do not seem to be linked in any way with factual evicence (at least none is mentioned in this article)…

    1. Ah! Excellent. Good a sceptic! […and I’m not being cynical, my friend.]

      I too think this way. Is this story based on mathematics, observation, or both mathematics and observation?

      It is best to think here, that you first formulate an idea, and then you test it in the real universe to see if it is true. As these disks can be observe in the infrared part of the spectrum, we can really test if this idea. If he is correct, he will get a ‘gold star’, if not, he will have eliminated this as a possibility (and still gets a ‘gold star’.)

      This is how science works, and this is how this kind of research is conducted. We eliminate the possibilities until we come to the best explanation based on the observations.

      (If you just learn that, science in the world would not be so misunderstood. I.e. Like the evidence for climate change, etc.)

      In this instance, you really deserve a “silver star” for your contemplative comment!

      1. Mind you: I don’t criticize the fact that someone has come up with a new idea. Even if I doubt if this idea is even physically plausible (I would like to see the peer-reviewed publication first), all reasonable well formulated scientific ideas should be put forward and discussed.
        I just don’t like to see speculative things like that introduced with “new research indicates…” – there is no real indication here, its just an idea, a proposal.

  2. @bynaus That’s why the title says MAY have formed. This isn’t cold, hard evidence. It’s a theory. And please don’t be biased towards larger universities or groups- the so called “unknown” ones sometimes make the biggest discoveries.

      1. So how does gravity have the power to collapse a rock that exploded from a giant mass to form it into a perfect circle?

      2. Well a lot of mass. Way lots of mass.
        Something like a billion times billion times million of kg would be just right.

      3. I would have thought that it was partly an answer to the question “So how does gravity have the power to collapse a rock that exploded from a giant mass to form it into a perfect circle? ”
        Can you explain how gravity have the power to collapse a rock that exploded from a giant mass to form a perfect circle?

      4. What was the rock that exploded from a giant mass?
        The original question seems loaded, and not meant to be possible to be answered. Compare that question with creationist explanations of big bang “A rotating rock exploded and then the bits and pieces collected to form stars and planets”. Although I dont know, I dont believe the question is about the article at all.

      5. Well, I think Billy needs to read about some basic concepts before asking such questions.

        – What is the difference between a circle and a sphere?
        – Are there any planetary bodies in our Solar System that are actually perfectly spherical? (Hint: no)
        – What does he mean with the “rock” that exploded? The big bang wasn’t a rock that exploded. Or does he mean that we are basically stellar remnants, that we were “formed from stardust”? But a exploding star is not a “rock”.
        – What was the Big Bang? (Hint: no explosion)

        So the question
        “So how does gravity have the power to collapse a rock that exploded from a giant mass to form it into a perfect circle?”

        would rather be:
        “What was the Big Bang?”
        “How did stars form after the Big Bang?”
        “How did our Solar System form from stelar remnants?”
        “How did (roughly) spherical planetary bodies form?”

        But Billy, until you understand the difference between your question and the more precise questions you should ask, I doubt you would understand any attempts at giving you answers.

      6. 1) The mass doesn’t ‘explode’. The material forms around the star, and forms a flat ring of particles orbiting it. The ring(s) is made by the collapsing material before and during the creation of the star.

        Once the star begins to shine, it blows away much of the gas into the surrounding space beyond the star, while the heavier particles are left behind. Gravity then scopes up these particles into bodies called planetesimals, and in turn, these gradually form together to make each of the asteroids and planets.

        This is the simplest explanation, but it is far more complicated than this.

        This new story is a modification of the general theory of planet formation, saying that the process didn’t start all at once, but happened in stages, so each of the rings come together to form planets at slightly different times. (However, a million years in nothing compared to the 4.6 billion years the planets have been around. It is almost an instant to us really, but this theory in a new idea on how this process works.)

        Hope that helps!

      7. Solar system formation is complicated.

        First a molecular cloud, a relatively cold cloud containing dust, has to form denser parts that can form a first generation of large, short lived stars. They go supernova on the order of ~ 100 million years, and the shockwaves break up and promote star formation in shells. These smaller stars are more long lived, on the order of ~ 10 billion of years.

        Our solar system formed with ~ 600 other stars in such a shell, we know this from found isotope ratios and the system size among other observations. Each system was a denser clump that could contract gravitationally. Gas flows set up a resulting random net angular momentum, so the clump collapsed into a rapidly spinning thin disk with a rapidly heating central protostar. This is similar to how a spiral galaxy forms a flat disk but can retain a bulge at the center.

        This disk promoted dust aggregation into particles, while polar jets from the protostar recirculated heavier particles to fall onto disk but removed gas. As a result the disk broke up and cleared between forming planetesimals, on the order of ~ 10 million year. Gas giants and terrestrials form differently in the end, but the beginning is a rocky core in both cases. (See Wikipedia on planet formation.)

        For terrestrials of Vesta size and up, the mass is enough to heat up and gravitationally sort material into an initially liquid core and a cooled solid crust, so called differentiation. A liquid, slowly enough rotating body for a sphere by gravitation balancing the liquid pressure, so called hydrostatic equilibrium.

        Giants with their gas atmosphere “surface” form hydrostatic balanced spheres for the same reason.

        Finally, in our case, the initial cloud with its assorted shells of stars, scattered and the stars mixed with the other Milky Way stars during ~ 20 orbits around the galaxy. In other cases the stars remain gravitationally bound and form immense globular clusters.

      8. …and assumes the object is slowly rotation. I.e. Jupiter and Saturn ain’t round. (The answer includes angular momentum, my son!)

    1. Lets let a nonscientist take a whack at explaining this in everyday terms. The simplest explaination would be that (if you ignore outside influences) gravity pulls on all parts of the planet equally and in one direction. That direction is toward the center. It is like the exact opposite of when you blow a bubble with soapy water. A bubble is round because the air pressure inside the bubble pushes out equally hard against all parts of the bubble at once.

      So the planets, and stars can be thought of as reverse bubbles with all the stuff in the middle pulling down on the outside equally at all points.

      You can read in the other responses that there is a lot more involved than that and in fact they really aren’t perfectly round at all but I believe that is more in line with what you were asking.

  3. First point : agreed.

    Second point: could you give an example or two of the “unknown” universities or groups and the “biggest” discoveries they have made please? I’m not cynical, I would just like to know.

  4. You are right that this was a bit unfair. But science reporting (as opposed to scientific literature) is always about trust: trust towards the source. And I simply don’t have much trust in this source – I have never heard of them, never read anything from them.

  5. To put some empirical teeth into the model I think this process needs to be documented around other stars. Protoplanetary disks are of course known around other stars. I am not sure about the status of research on them. However, if shockwaves can be found in them which are associated with increased gravitational clumping that might put more teeth in this model.


  6. It is a conference presentation, and suspiciously this seems to be what Abdylmyanov (a power engineering professor) is known for.

    We don’t know the formation process for the purported shockwaves, nor if this plays nice with the Nice model and other protoplanetary mainstream disk formation models.

  7. Shockwaves; Sounds like harmonics. Perhaps, there could be standing wave lengths that help to determine the formation of planetary orbits from our solo sol.

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