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The Evolution of Planets: New Experiment Reveals How Galaxies are Created

First Posted: Aug 04, 2015 01:33 PM EDT

For the first time ever, physicists have directly observed how a galaxy is formed. The researchers have seen how highly charged dust-sized particles attract and capture one another to build up clusters particle by particle.

In this latest study, the researchers used a freefalling stream of particles to create a low-gravity environment. They then tracked the stream with a high-speed video camera falling along with it. This revealed how charged grains in the mutual electrostatic interactions can undergo attractive as well as repulsive trajectories similar to planetary orbits.

"This can have implications for the very earliest stages of planet formation, which is believed to start via collisions among interstellar dust grains," said Heinrich Jaeger, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Single head-on collisions typically do not dissipate enough energy to lead to sticking."

Scientists have long speculated that electrostatic interactions may help colliding particles stick together instead of flying apart. However, the researchers have now observed it in detail for the first time. This may be proof as to how planets are formed.

By tracking granular material directly, the researchers were able to see cluster growth by successful capture of individual particles via long-range electrostatic interactions.

The new findings have applications to widespread areas of biophysics, materials science, ionic solutions, the operations of batteries, the directed assembly of DNA coated nanoparticles into arrays, and more. With that said, the findings also show how planets and their systems may form with these types of interactions over time.

The findings are published in The Journal of Chemical Physics.

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