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Meteorites show that the early solar system could have been more chaotic than previously thought


The investigation contemplated the analysis of 18 samples.

An international group of researchers revealed that the early solar system could be more chaotic than previously thought, after analyzing a series of fragments that hit the Earth, reports the Zurich Polytechnic School (ETH, for its acronym in German).

According to Allison Hunt, a researcher at ETH and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, previous research has shown “that asteroids in the solar system have remained relatively unchanged since its formation, billions of years ago”, so “they are an archive in which conditions of the primitive solar system are preserved”.

In order to find out what kind of information stored inside these rocks of extraterrestrial origin, scientists carried out the obtaining of samples of 18 iron meteorites, which are thought to have once formed part of the metallic cores of asteroids. Subsequently, they proceeded to dissolve the samples to isolate elements such as palladium, silver and platinum, in order to examine them thoroughly.

Using a mass spectrometer, it was possible to measure the amount of the different isotopes that contained these elements. According to the researchers, these metallic nuclei were heated by the effect of the radioactive decay of the isotopes during the first million years of the solar system.

After measuring the number of silver isotopes that were found inside the iron meteorites, it was possible to specify that, due to the collisions with other bodies, the cores of the asteroids cooled rapidly, since the rocky mantle that protected them was broken, causing that their cores were exposed to the cold of space.

The collisions were the cause of the instability of the solar system

“And to our surprise, all the asteroid cores we examined had been exposed almost simultaneously, in a period from 7.8 to 11.7 million years after the formation of the solar system “, said Hunt, who added that “it seems that everything was collapsing at that moment”, since that these collisions, which were almost simultaneous, indicated that it was due to a phase of instability in the solar system.

The scientists wanted to know the causes that caused these collisions, so they combined their results with computer simulations of the solar system’s development. ETH cosmochemistry professor Maria Shönbächler commented that “the theory that best explained this early energetic phase of the solar system indicated that it was mainly caused by the dissipation of the so-called ‘solar nebula'”, since “it is the rest of the gas left over from the cosmic cloud from which the Sun was born”.

“For a few million years, it still orbited around the young Sun until it was pulled by solar winds and radiation,” Schönbächler said. After the nebula disappeared, the lack of gas entrainment caused the asteroids to speed up and collide with each other. “Ultimately, this can help us better understand how our own planets were born, but it also gives us information about others outside our solar system”, concluded.

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