A new study led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) challenges previous theories about our solar system formation. New evidence shows that meteorites are in fact byproducts of planet formation, rather than the primordial building blocks.
MIT scientists analyzed the chondrules within meteors and did a computer simulation of early solar system formation to learn which were first formed: the chondrules or the ancient planets called protoplanets. Chondrules are spherical grains resulting from molten material that has eventually cooled.
Past theories said that chondrules in meteors were the germs of early Earth-like planets formation. The idea was that at the beginning of solar systems, when everything was chaotic and full of gas and dust, the chondrules collided as molten droplets with this primordial material to form larger objects, the protoplanets. The same theory explained how Earth formed billions of years ago.
However, MIT researchers say that this story isn’t exactly accurate. Their computer simulations revealed that chondrules were a result of early planetary formation, not its cause.
Researchers found that protoplanets, moon-sized embryos of the Earth-like planets, existed well before chondrules. The computer simulation showed that these protoplanets collided into each other with such violence (2.5 kilometers per second/1.97 mils per second) that a fraction of their material melted at incredibly high temperatures and got instantly ejected into space where it would cool down at a rate of 10 to 1,000 kelvins per hour. The particles resulted from the process were the chondrules, which in turn attached onto each other or other larger bodies and formed meteorites.
This tells us that meteorites aren’t actually representative of the material that formed planets — they’re these smaller fractions of material that are the byproduct of planet formation. But it also tells us the early solar system was more violent than we expected: You had these massive sprays of molten material getting ejected out from these really big impacts. It’s an extreme process,”
said Brandon Johnson, co-author of the study and MIT scientist at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
The new study was published this week in the journal Nature.
The findings showing that meteorites didn’t form our solar system may be a great deception for some. However, it is not the first time a theory about planetary formation gets invalidated.
Earlier December, E.S.A’s Rosetta mission revealed that comets did not bring water to Earth as previously thought. Rosetta space probe took water samples from comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko, performed some tests, and showed the world that the Deuterium – Hydrogen Ratio in 67P comet’s water was 3 times higher than D/H ration of our oceans.
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