New research suggests Earth formed much earlier than previously thought

Earth and other planets in the solar system have been around longer than expected, according to new research on jagged asteroids in distant star systems.

A study published today in the journal natural astronomy examines some of the oldest stars in the universe and suggests that stars and planets grow together. It was thought that planets did not form until a star had reached its maximum size.

The Sun was formed 4.6 billion years ago from a cloud of gas surrounded by planets.

“We have a pretty good idea of ​​how planets form, but an open question is when they form,” said Dr Amy Bonsor of the University of Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and first author of the study. “Does planet formation start early, when the parent star is still growing, or millions of years later?”

Researchers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array of radio telescopes in Chile to study the atmospheres of white dwarfs – the remnants of Sun-like stars after their life cycles have ended – in search of “planetsimals” – the building blocks of planets. “Some white dwarfs are amazing laboratories because their thin atmospheres almost look like celestial graveyards,” Bonsor said.

The white dwarfs studied are special cases because their atmosphere is polluted by heavy elements such as magnesium, iron and calcium, which – say the authors – must have been left there by asteroids left by the formation of the planets which are are then crushed on the white dwarfs and melted. in their atmospheres.

The process by which iron flows to the core while lighter elements float to the surface is what caused the Earth to have an iron-rich core, according to the article.

Planet formation is generally thought to begin in a disk of hydrogen, helium, and particles of ice and dust orbiting a young star. As the dust particles combine, planetesimals emerge and grow larger over time to become asteroids or planets.

This study suggests that planetesimals form almost immediately. “If these asteroids were melted by something that only exists for a very short time at the dawn of the planetary system, the planet-forming process must start very quickly,” Bonsor said. “Our study complements a growing consensus in the field that the formation of planets began early, with the first bodies forming at the same time as the star.”

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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