The early solar system was an especially violent place. The terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) likely formed by suffering countless collisions between planetesimals. But the material left over from all those collisions should have remained in orbit around the sun, where it would’ve eventually found itself in the asteroid belt. But the belt contains no such record of that process.Continue reading “There Should be More Material Left Over From Bombardment Eras. Maybe the Sun Blew it all Away?”
New research shows that other sunlike stars in our galaxy aren’t so kind to their planets. Up to a quarter of them may consume planets before they even establish a solar system. That consumption leaves behind a distinct chemical fingerprint in the stars, which can help researchers understand how common planetary systems are…and how often they get destroyed.Continue reading “Many Sunlike Stars Gobbled up Some of Their Planets”
One of the less appreciated aspects of George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars was that he predicted the existence of planets in binary star systems years before we saw even the first exoplanet. Now a team from the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics have found how exactly those planets can form without being torn apart by their accompanying suns.Continue reading “This is how you get Tatooines. Binary Star Planet Formation”
Planetary formation theory has been undergoing a lot of changes recently, with an ever expanding litany of events that can potentially impact it. Everything from gravity to magnetic fields seems to impact this complex process. Now scientists want to add another confounding factor – massive solar flares thousands of times more powerful than the most powerful we have ever observed from the Sun.Continue reading “The Sun is Mellow Yellow Today. Billions of Years Ago? Not So Much”
Magnetic fields are great for lots of things – directing explorers, levitating trains, and containing nuclear fusion reactions are just an example of what these invisible forces can do. Now we can ascribe another feature to magnetic fields – they can give planets a rocky core.Continue reading “Does Mercury Have a big Iron Core Because it’s so Close to the Sun’s Magnetic Field?”
Planet formation is notoriously difficult to study. Not only does the process take millions of years, making it impossible to observe in real time, there are myriad factors that play into it, making it difficult to distinguish cause and effect. What we do know is that planets form from features known as protoplanetary disks, which are made up of gas and dust surrounding young stars. And now a team using ALMA have found a star system that has a protoplanetary disk and enough variability to help them nail down some details of how exactly the process of planet formation works.Continue reading “Astronomers see an Accretion Disk Where Planets are About to Form”
In all of scientific modeling, the models attempting to replicate planetary and solar system formation are some of the most complicated. They are also notoriously difficult to develop. Normally they center around one of two formative ideas: planets are shaped primarily by gravity or planets are shaped primarily by magnetism. Now a new theoretical model has been developed by a team at the University of Zurich (UZH) that uses math from both methodologies to inform the most complete model yet of planetary formation.Continue reading “Magnetic Fields Help Shape the Formation of New Planets”
200 light-years away from Earth, there’s a K-type main-sequence star named TOI (TESS Object of Interest) 178. When Adrian Leleu, an astrophysicist at the Center for Space and Habitability of the University of Bern, observed it, it appeared to have two planets orbiting it at roughly the same distance. But that turned out to be incorrect. In fact, six exoplanets orbit the smallish star.
And five of those six are locked into an unexpected orbital configuration.Continue reading “Exoplanetary System Found With 6 Worlds in Orbital Resonance”
It seems unlikely that an ocean could persist on a world that never gets closer than 30 astronomical units from the Sun. But that’s the case with Pluto. Evidence shows that it has a sub-surface ocean between 100 to 180 km thick, at the boundary between the core and the mantle. Other Kuiper Belt Objects may be similar.
But time might be running out for these buried oceans, which will one day turn to ice.Continue reading “Pluto and Other Kuiper Belt Objects Started Out With Water Oceans, and Have Been Slowly Freezing Solid for Billions of Years”
Astronomy is advancing to the point where we can see planets forming around young stars. This was an unthinkable development only a few years ago. In fact, it was only two years ago that astronomers captured the first image of a newly-forming planet.
Now there are more and more studies into how planets form, including a new one with fifteen images of planet-forming disks around young stars.Continue reading “More Pictures of Planet-Forming Disks Around Young Stars”