New study casts doubt on meteorites as planetary “building blocks.”
While most cosmologists agree that the “big bang” is responsible for the birth of the universe, and that meteorites along with large clouds of dust and gas are responsible for the birth of the planets; a new study is suggesting the latter may soon come under more scrutiny.
A new study recently published in the journal Nature, has researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Purdue University questioning if meteorites might not be the byproducts of planetary formation rather than the building blocks of the planets themselves.
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What are chondrules?
To understand why scientists believe that meteors were necessary to form the planets, you need to look to the surface of the meteors and their chondrules. These glass-like molten droplets were believed to coalesce with the gas and dust around them essentially drawing the dust and gas towards them. However the researchers in the new study, following a series of computer simulations, are suggesting that the chondrules were not responsible for collisions with dust and gas but the result of larger protoplanetary bodies violently colliding with each other.
“This tells us that meteorites aren’t actually representative of the material that formed planets – they’re these smaller fractions of material that are the byproduct of planet formation,” wrote Brandon Johnson of MIT’s Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences department. “But it also tells us the early solar system was more violent than we expected: You had these massive sprays of molten material getting ejected out from these really big impacts. It’s an extreme process.”
Meteorites as planets’ core ingredients: The simulations
“Understanding the origin of chondrules is like looking through the keyhole of a door; while we can’t see all that is happening behind the door, it gives us a clear view of one part of the room and a glimpse into the very beginnings of our solar system,” said Purdue University’s Jay Melosh, who was involved in the research.
The simulations involved programing theoretical collisions of protoplanetary bodies between objects the size of an asteroid and the moon. Following the simulations, the researchers found that moon size bodies formed sooner than chondrules on meteors created by the explosion. As a result of the simulations, the researchers postulate that chondrules couldn’t be as important in the formation of planets as previously thought.