Theory Of The Formation Of The Solar System

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Theory of the Formation of the Solar System

Theory Of The Formation Of The Solar System

The formation and evolution of the Solar System is estimated to have begun 4.55 to 4.56 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the centre, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disk out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed. This widely accepted model, known as the nebular hypothesis, was first developed in the 18th century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Its subsequent development has interwoven a variety of scientific disciplines including astronomy, physics, geology, and planetary science. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s and the discovery of extrasolar planets in the 1990s, the models have been both challenged and refined to account for new observations.

The Solar System has evolved considerably since its initial formation. Many moons have formed from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while other moons are believed to have formed independently and later been captured by their planets. Still others, as the Earth's Moon, may be the result of giant collisions. Collisions between bodies have occurred continually up to the present day and have been central to the evolution of the solar system. The positions of the planets often shifted, and planets have switched places. This planetary migration now is believed to have been responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.

In roughly 5 billion years, the Sun will cool and expand outward to many times its current diameter (becoming a red giant), before casting off its outer layers as a planetary nebula, and leaving behind a stellar corpse known as a white dwarf. In the far distant future, the gravity of passing stars gradually will whittle away at the Sun's retinue of planets. Some planets will be destroyed, others ejected into interstellar space. Ultimately, over the course of trillions of years, it is likely that the Sun will be left alone with no bodies in orbit around it.

The nebular hypothesis maintains that the Solar System formed from the gravitational collapse of a fragment of a giant molecular cloud. The cloud itself had a size of about 20 pc, while the fragments were roughly 1 pc (several light-years) across. The further collapse of the fragments led to the formation of dense core 0.01-0.1 pc (2,000-20,000 AU) in size.[note 1] One of these collapsing fragments (known as the pre-solar nebula) would form what became the Solar System. The composition of this region with a mass just over that of the Sun was about the same as that of the Sun today, with hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of lithium produced by Big Bang nucleosynthesis, forming about 98% of its mass. The remaining 2% of the mass consisted of heavier elements that were created by nucleosynthesis in earlier generations of ...
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