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Ancient Meteorite Reveals Vital Clues about the Solar System's Birth

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Ancient Meteorite Reveals Vital Clues about the Solar System’s Birth

According to new research from a team of scientists at MIT, Cambridge University, and other various institutions, the shape of the early solar system was likely determined a massively powerful magnetic fields, the likes of which has never been seen.

By analyzing a meteorite that crash-landed in India eight decades ago, researchers have discovered the first experimental evidence suggesting that our solar system’s protoplanetary disk was shaped by an intense magnetic field which propelled massive amounts of gas into the sun over the course of just a few million years.

In the study, MIT graduate student Roger Fu and colleagues from Cambridge University, Arizona State University and elsewhere studied a space rock known as a Semarkona, which fell to Earth in northern India back in 1940 and is said to be one of the most pristine relics of the early solar system.

Artist depiction of a protoplanetary disk consisting of a central star surrounded by a gas cloud permeated by magnetic fields. Objects in the foregrounds are millimeter-sized rock pellets known as chondrules, which are the subjects of this study.

Artist depiction of a protoplanetary disk consisting of a central star surrounded by a gas cloud permeated by magnetic fields. Objects in the foregrounds are millimeter-sized rock pellets known as chondrules, which are the subjects of this study.


This meteorite is classified as a chondrite and is believed part of an asteroid that broke-up due to cosmic collisions. Semarkona is probably the best preserved remnant from the birth of the solar system.

Researchers have extracted chondrules, which are small, rocky grains from the meteorite roughly a millimeter in diameter, from the Semarkona sample. Further analysis reveals the space rock remains in the original state it had the moment it was formed.

The meteorite is really primitive since it was formed some 4.5 billion years ago and not much have altered it, said Roger Fu. Its original properties are still intact and these provide clues about the formation of the solar system.

“Explaining the rapid timescale in which these disks evolve — in only a few million years — has always been a big mystery,” says Roger Fu.

The finding is significant in that it answers a longstanding question that has thus far eluded scientists. Astronomers have long wondered how 99 percent of mass in a primordial galactic disk (which is often composed of ionized gas) can create conditions for the 1 percent of mass to form planets. Astronomers have struggled to explain the conditions that allow large amounts of ionizes gas to create the initial spark for stars similar to our own sun. The latest model may prove to serve as a starting point, according to the team.

It remains unclear how the study’s finding will reshape the debate on planetary formation.

Future research could analyze meteorites from different times and places during the formation of the solar system.

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Study Source: http://goo.gl/kRljT9.



Comments


  1. David A. Hardy

    I don’t know who produced the images above, but they deserve a credit — not just ‘artist depiction’.

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