From dust to pebbles: how the Solar System is born

From dust to pebbles: how the Solar System is born

Scientists are trying to figure out how cosmic dust transforms into solid spherical pebbles, which can then develop into planets.

Detailed modeling of the planetary formation demonstrates how tiny dust grains are transformed into giant planets. This study will allow you to understand where to look for new earthly worlds.

Scientists believe that the planets appear from rotating gas disks surrounding the newly formed stars (protoplanetary disks). Then the objects the size of pebbles in these disks combine to form the nuclei of potential planets. Scientists from the University of Lund (Sweden) reached the level of atomic nuclei and molecules to find out how particles of cosmic dust stick together in pebbles and then become children's planets (planetesimals). Planetary formation occurs due to the collision of these dust particles, which grow from micrometers to 10,000 km, etc.

The key to the secret of pouring dust into pebbles can be found on Earth in meteorites - pieces of asteroids, represented by the remnants of the formation of the solar system. They hide a secret. If you look inside the asteroid, you can find millimeter pebbles. But the problem is that instead of being fluffy and light, we get hardened and cooled solid spheres hit by lightning. Researchers believe that during the period of planetary formation there is a mechanism that forms positively and negatively charged particles.

Chemical composition

Discovery is part of the PLANETESYS project, which uses computer simulations to determine the physical processes that occur during planetary production — from dust to a planetary system. It contains information about the chemical composition of each pebble. Studying the chemical composition it is possible to understand exactly how the planets attract water.

Researchers still do not know how much water the planet receives? Is ground quantity normal or small? Perhaps some worlds get too much water, which is good for life, but harm civilization. It is important to understand all these nuances in order to more effectively search for potentially livable planets throughout the Universe. In addition, the analysis of the process of creating the solar system will allow us to understand how often such systems arise and how to find terrestrial types of planets.


Dr. Bertram Beach of the Max Planck Institute in Germany believes that he has guessed the recipe for how systems form earth-like planets. With a careful combination of conditions for the creation of children's planets, their chemical composition and gravitational interactions, he can try to model the conditions for creating systems with habitable planets. But to figure out the components of the recipe, you will have to work in the opposite direction after running many complex simulations with a complex supercomputer model in the PAMDORA project, which will work until 2022. In simulations, the scientist looks at how the pebbles in the vortex disks merge into planetary embryos, which then turn into fully prepared planets. Changing the various mechanisms in the work affects what types of planets the solar system will receive. The result is influenced by the size of the pebbles, the number, the location of the original planetesimals in the system, etc. To calculate important variables, hundreds of computer simulations are run that simulate tens of millions of years with chaotic encounters of several space objects at a time.

For terrestrial planets, it is important how close a child's planet is born to a host star, because the difference in temperature determines the presence of water (from a gas disk or later from asteroids and comets). Special attention is paid to super-Earths, which are 2-10 times more massive than ours, but are not present in our system.

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