Stellar shock waves shaped our solar system

The research indicates that these shock waves would have caused the planets to form at different times.
By | Published: September 27, 2012 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Solar shockwaves would have produced protoplanetary rings at different times, meaning the planets did not form simultaneously. // Credit: ESO
The early years of our solar system were a turbulent time, and questions remain about its development. Tagir Abdylmyanov from Kazan State Power Engineering University in Russia has been researching shock waves emitted from our young Sun and has discovered that these would have caused the planets in our solar system to form at different times.

Abdylmyanov has modeled the movements of particles in fluids and gases in the gas cloud from which our Sun accreted. His work suggests the new-born Sun emitted a series of shock waves that rippled out into the remaining material. This created a series of debris rings around the Sun that accreted over millions of years into planets.

The research indicates that the first series of shock waves during short but very rapid changes in solar activity would have created the protoplanetary rings for Uranus, Neptune, and dwarf planet Pluto. Jupiter, Saturn, and the asteroid belt would have come next during a series of less powerful shock waves. Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars would have formed last when the Sun was far calmer. This means that our planet is one of the youngest in the solar system.

“The planets formed in intervals, not altogether as was previously thought,” Abdylmyanov said. “It is difficult to say exactly how much time would have separated these groups, but the protoplanetary rings for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto would have likely formed close to the Sun’s birth. Three million years later and we would see the debris ring destined to form Saturn. Half a million years after this, we would see something similar but for Jupiter. The asteroid belt would have begun to form about a million years after that, and another half a million years on we would see the very early stages of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”

Abdylmyanov hopes that this research will help us understand the development of planets around distant stars. “Studying the brightness of stars that are in the process of forming could give indications as to the intensity of stellar shock waves. In this way, we may be able to predict the location of planets around far-flung stars millions of years before they have formed.”