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Ring-like structure in early solar system proposed to explain the inner rocky planets

Illustration of inner solar system (stock image). | Credit: (c) JohanSwanepoel / stock.adobe.com
inner solar system (artist)/Johan Swanepoel, Adobe Stock

The solar system’s division between rocky planets like Earth and Mars and
gas giants, an important factor in the way our solar system is fine-tuned for life on Earth. But how are they kept apart?

One team of researchers doesn’t think Jupiter has been doing all the heavy lifting.

The duo suggests that the early solar system was partitioned into at least two regions by a ring-like structure that formed a disk around the young sun. This disk might have held major implications for the evolution of planets and asteroids, and even the history of life on Earth.

“The most likely explanation for that compositional difference is that it emerged from an intrinsic structure of this disk of gas and dust,” Mojzsis said.

Mojzsis noted that the Great Divide, a term that he and Brasser coined, does not look like much today. It is a relatively empty stretch of space that sits near Jupiter, just beyond what astronomers call the asteroid belt.

But you can still detect its presence throughout the solar system. Move sunward from that line, and most planets and asteroids tend to carry relatively low abundances of organic molecules. Go the other direction toward Jupiter and beyond, however, and a different picture emerges: Almost everything in this distant part of the solar system is made up of materials that are rich in carbon.

This dichotomy “was really a surprise when it was first found,” Mojzsis said.

University of Colorado at Boulder, “How the solar system got its ‘Great Divide,’ and why it matters for life on Earth” at ScienceDaily

They have found evidence for such rings in other solar systems. Interesting thought.

Paper. (paywall)

See also: What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter? (fine-tuning)


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