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How the solar system got its 'Great Divide,' and why it matters for life on Earth

Baku, January 14, AZERTAC 

Scientists, including those from the University of Colorado Boulder, have finally scaled the solar system's equivalent of the Rocky Mountain range, according to ScienceDaily.

In a study published in Nature Astronomy, researchers from the United States and Japan unveil the possible origins of our cosmic neighborhood's "Great Divide." This well-known schism may have separated the solar system just after the sun first formed.

The phenomenon is a bit like how the Rocky Mountains divide North America into east and west. On the one side are "terrestrial" planet, such as Earth and Mars. They are made up of fundamentally different types of materials than the more distant "jovians," such as Jupiter and Saturn.

"The question is: How do you create this compositional dichotomy?" said lead author Ramon Brasser, a researcher at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. "How do you ensure that material from the inner and outer solar system didn't mix from very early on in its history?"

Brasser and coauthor Stephen Mojzsis, a professor in CU Boulder's Department of Geological Sciences, think they have the answer, and it may just shed new light on how life originated on Earth.

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.

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