Tag Archives: planetary formation

Jupiter exoplanet around baby star

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have discovered a Jupiter-class exoplanet orbiting a very young star, something their models of planetary formation told them shouldn’t happen.

“For decades, conventional wisdom held that large Jupiter-mass planets take a minimum of 10 million years to form,” said Christopher Johns-Krull, the lead author of a new study about the planet, CI Tau b, that will be published in The Astrophysical Journal. “That’s been called into question over the past decade, and many new ideas have been offered, but the bottom line is that we need to identify a number of newly formed planets around young stars if we hope to fully understand planet formation.”

CI Tau b is at least eight times larger than Jupiter and orbits a 2 million-year-old star about 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

In other words, a planet that, according to the present models for planetary formation, supposedly needs 10 million years to form is orbiting a star only 2 million years old. In other words, the models are wrong. We simply don’t know enough yet about planetary formation to create any reliable models.

An iron rain fell on Earth early in its formation

New research attempting to explain why the Earth but not the Moon has so much iron splattered through its mantle has found that iron can be more easily vaporized during impacts than previously thought, and thus rained down on the planet during the early asteroid bombardment.

Principal investigator Kraus said, “Because planetary scientists always thought it was difficult to vaporize iron, they never thought of vaporization as an important process during the formation of the Earth and its core. But with our experiments, we showed that it’s very easy to impact-vaporize iron.” He continued, “This changes the way we think of planet formation, in that instead of core formation occurring by iron sinking down to the growing Earth’s core in large blobs (technically called diapirs), that iron was vaporized, spread out in a plume over the surface of the Earth and rained out as small droplets. The small iron droplets mixed easily with the mantle, which changes our interpretation of the geochemical data we use to date the timing of Earth’s core formation.”

The Moon’s gravity in turn wasn’t sufficient to pull its own iron vapor down. Thus, it does not have much iron in its mantle.

How the Earth gave the Moon a lemon shape

Scientists have found that the Earth’s gravity combined with the Moon’s rotation forced the satellite to become “lemon-shaped.”

As the Moon solidified, its rotation caused it to elongate along its polar axis. But because the length of the Moon’s rotation was the same as its orbit, with one hemisphere always facing the Earth, the tidal force of the Earth’s gravity then pulled at the center, distorting the Moon’s shape so that one hemisphere bulged Earthward.

This theory is not new, but these new calculations are more robust, lending greater weight to it.

The early bombardment of the Earth

Using computer models based on the Moon’s crater record, scientists have developed a simulation of the great early bombardment of the Earth around 4 billion years ago.

The model suggests that the biggest asteroids to hit Earth would have been as large as 3,000 kilometres across. Between one and four would have been 1,000 kilometres wide or larger, it predicts, with a total of three to seven exceeding 500 kilometres in width. The most recent of these would have hit around 4.2–4.3 billion years ago.

In comparison with Earth’s mass, the amount of rock hitting the planet would have been tiny. But it would have had an enormous effect on Earth’s surface, says Marchi. A 10-kilometre-wide asteroid was enough to kill the dinosaurs, and studies4 show that one 500 kilometres across would vaporize all of the planet’s oceans. “At 1,000 kilometres, the effects would be so wide the planet would probably be completely resurfaced with material from the mantle,” he says.

More here, including animated gifs showing this bombardment unfold.