Wind the cosmic clock back a few billion years and our Solar System looked much different than it does today. About 4.5 billion years ago, the young Sun shone much like it does now, though it was a little smaller. Instead of being surrounded by planets, it was ensconced in a swirling disk of gas and dust. That disk is called a protoplanetary disk and it’s where the planets eventually formed.
There was a conspicuous gap in the early Solar System’s protoplanetary disk, between where Mars and Jupiter are now, and where the modern-day asteroid belt sits. What exactly caused the gap is a mystery, but astronomers think it’s a sign of the processes that governed planet formation.
Continue reading “The Early Solar System Had a Gap Where the Asteroid Belt is Today”
A mega-comet – potentially the largest ever discovered – is heading from the Oort Cloud towards our direction. Estimated to be 100–200 kilometers across, the unusual celestial wanderer will make its closest approach to the Sun in 2031. However, the closest it will come to Earth is to the orbit of Saturn.
Continue reading “The Biggest Comet Ever Seen Will get as Close as Saturn in 2031”
A huge team of astronomers have combined forces to use the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) to provide the sharpest view ever of 42 of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter.
Fittingly, the collection of images was released on the 42nd anniversary of the publication of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. In the book, the number 42 is the answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” These 42 images represent some of the sharpest views ever of these objects — which might contribute to answering these ultimate questions!
Plus, there’s a great poster of the asteroids, too:
Continue reading “Images of 42 of the Biggest Asteroids in the Solar System”
The Great Red Spot of Jupiter – the largest storm in the solar system – has been raging for centuries. Over the past 100 years however, the cyclone has been dwindling, but recent observations with Hubble show that the wind speeds may be picking up again. Is this just temporary, or will the storm return to its former glory?
Continue reading “Wind Speeds in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are Picking up”
Our conventional models of planet formation may have to be updated, according to a pair of new papers.
Accretion is the keyword in current planet formation theory. The idea is that the planets formed out of the solar nebula, the material left over after the Sun formed. They did this through accretion, where small particles accumulate into more massive objects. These massive boulder-sized objects, called planetesimals, continued to merge together into larger entities, sometimes through collisions. Eventually, through repeated mergers and collisions, the inner Solar System was populated by four rocky planets.
But the new research suggests that the collisions played out much differently than thought and that objects collided with each other several times, in a series of hit and runs, before merging. This research fills some stubborn holes in our current understanding.
Continue reading “The Early Solar System was Messier and More Violent Than Previously Believed”
Now that we know that interstellar objects (ISOs) visit our Solar System, scientists are keen to understand them better. How could they be captured? If they’re captured, what happens to them? How many of them might be in our Solar System?
One team of researchers is trying to find answers.
Continue reading “What Happens to Interstellar Objects Captured by the Solar System?”
One of the best innovations Lego has had in the last decade is leveraging the power of the internet to help choose what kits to create. Innovative designers can buy piece parts, make their own masterpieces, carefully document how to recreate them, and then lobby Lego to release them at a kit. One of the more creative recent projects is a Clockwork Solar System designed by Chris Orchard and Brent Waller, and it is absolutely stunning.
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The Moon’s pitted surface tells a tale of repeated impacts over a long period of time. While Earth’s active geology erases most evidence of impacts, the Moon has no mechanism that can do the same. So there it sits, stark evidence of an impact-rich past.
The visible record of lunar cratering is used to understand Earth’s formation and history since periods of frequent impacts would affect both bodies similarly. But something’s wrong in our understanding of the Moon’s history. Impact crater dating, asteroid dynamics, lunar samples, impact basin-forming simulations, and lunar evolution modelling all suggest there’s some missing evidence from the Moon’s earliest impacts.
New research says that there were even more large, basin-forming impacts than we think. Scientists think that some of those impacts left crater imprints that are nearly invisible.
Continue reading “The Moon was Pummeled Even Harder by Asteroids Than it Looks”
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?”
Summertime means it’s time to play ball! But what would it be like to play ball on various locations across our Solar System? Planetary scientist Dr. James O’Donoghue has put together a fun animation of how quickly an object falls on to the surfaces of places like the Sun, Earth, Ceres, Jupiter, the Moon, and Pluto.
Continue reading “Fantastic Visualization Shows What Would Happen if you Dropped a Ball Across the Solar System”