Surprising Twist Reveals How Our Solar System First Formed

First Posted: Aug 19, 2015 09:04 AM EDT

There may be a surprising twist on how our solar system formed. Scientists have found that if our solar system began forming after a shock wave from a supernova, the wall of pressure formed smacked into a cloud of dust and gas, causing it to collapse and being to create a protostar. Yet the solar system wouldn't have continued developing were it not for the constant turn of a disk of dust and gas.

In this latest study, the researchers used advanced 2-D and 3-D modelling to explore this shock wave theory that would up in cloud collapse.

An important part of the research was the distribution of certain products of the explosion, called short-lived radioisotopes. Isotopes are versions of elements that contain the same number of protons, but different number of neutrons. Specific isotopes were formed during the supernova's explosion and distributed throughout the region that would eventually become our solar system, before the isotopes had a chance to undergo radioactive decay.

So what did the researchers find with the new models? The models reveal that this shock injection could have been responsible not only for the distribution of the isotopes now found in primitive meteorites, but also for the spin of our solar system. The shock fingers are essentially what allowed the disk of gas and dust to form around the sun instead of collapsing into it.

"This was a complete surprise to me," said Alan Boss, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The very fact that a rotating disk formed around our proto-sun may have been a result of the spin induced by this shock front. Without spin, the cloud disappears into the proto-sun. With spin, a disk suitable for planet formation is created."

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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