A twist on planetary origins

January 15, 2015 2:02 AM

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Meteors that have crashed to Earth have long been regarded as relics of the early solar system. These craggy chunks of metal and rock are studded with chondrules—tiny, glassy, spherical grains that were once molten droplets. Scientists have thought that chondrules represent early kernels of terrestrial planets: As the solar system started to coalesce, these molten droplets collided with bits of gas and dust to form larger planetary precursors.

However, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Purdue Univ. have now found that chondrules may have played less of a fundamental role. Based on computer simulations, the group concludes that chondrules were not building blocks, but rather byproducts of a violent and messy pl...

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