Our Solar System started as a donut shape, say scientists.

By Oliver Townsend Jun 30, 2024
Scientists suggest our Solar System was shaped like donut in the beginning.jpegOrginal image from: https://www.wionews.com/science/scientists-suggest-our-solar-system-was-shaped-like-donut-in-the-beginning-736475

Scientists have recently proposed a groundbreaking theory that suggests our Solar System initially had a donut-like shape rather than the flat disk we recognize today. This discovery emerged from a comprehensive study of iron meteorites originating from the outer regions of our Solar System. The implications of this finding are profound, shedding light on the process of planetary system formation and the sequence in which these systems evolve.

Planetary System Formation

The formation of planetary systems typically begins in a molecular cloud consisting of gas and dust drifting through space. As a portion of this cloud becomes sufficiently dense, it collapses under its own gravity and starts to spin, forming the core of a nascent star. The surrounding material accumulates into a rotating disk that feeds into the growing protostar. Within this disk, smaller clumps develop, eventually evolving into protoplanetary seeds that either mature into full-sized planets or remain as smaller celestial bodies like asteroids.

Observations of other stars have revealed the presence of disks with gaps created by planets consuming dust as they orbit. A team led by planetary scientist Bidong Zhang of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the composition of asteroids in the outer Solar System indicates a toroidal cloud of material rather than concentric rings in a flat disk during the early stages of the Solar System’s formation.

Composition of Iron Meteorites

The iron meteorites that have journeyed to Earth from the outer Solar System are found to be enriched in refractory metals such as platinum and iridium. These metals can only form in extremely hot environments near a developing star. These meteorites, originating from the outer regions of our Solar System, likely formed close to the Sun and then moved outward as the protoplanetary disk expanded.

Scientific models suggest that these iron objects could not have crossed gaps in a protoplanetary disk. Instead, calculations indicate that migration would have been more feasible if the protoplanetary structure had a toroidal shape. This configuration would have directed metal-rich objects towards the outer edges of the evolving Solar System.

Implications of the Research

As the disk of the Solar System cooled and planets began to take shape, gaps in the disk would have hindered rocks from migrating back towards the Sun, acting as an effective barrier. The presence of Jupiter likely played a crucial role in trapping iridium and platinum metals in the outer disk, preventing them from falling into the Sun. These metals were subsequently integrated into asteroids that formed in the outer disk, explaining why meteorites from this region exhibit higher iridium and platinum content compared to their counterparts from the inner disk.

The research findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offering valuable insights into the early formation of our Solar System and the unique characteristics that shaped its evolution.

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