What did the solar system look like before all the planets migrated?

Early planetary migration in the solar system has long been established, and there are innumerable theories put forward to explain where the planets were coming from. Principles such as the Grand Tac Hypothesis show a Nice model of how important migration is to the current state of our solar system. Now, a team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has come up with a new way of trying to understand planetary migration patterns: looking at meteorite compositions.

The researchers, led by postdoc Jan Render, had three major realizations. First, that almost all meteorites that have fallen on Earth originate from the asteroid belt. Second, that the asteroid belt is formed by material sweeping above the solar system. And third, and perhaps most importantly, they could analyze isotopic signatures in meteorites to help determine a determined asteroid in the solar system.

The UT video described the forces that prevented the asteroid belt from becoming a planet.

With that knowledge, they can then eject other asteroids of the same type. The asteroid belt has about 100 different types of asteroids with different isotopic signatures. The team used a technique to measure the nucleosynthetic isotope signals of several samples of basaltic achondroites, a type of stony meteorite.

They were looking for concentrations of neodymium (ND) and zirconium (ZR), which lacked some type of pressure content. This meant that understanding the amount of ND and ZR in a specific type of asteroid would allow them to understand where that type of asteroid was formed in the pre-Sun solar system.

Examples of basaltic meteorites from the moon.
Credit: NASA / JSC and R. Korotev

Tying their terrestrial results back to the asteroids in the asteroid belt, and then to other models of how different parts of the asteroid belt ended up where they were, and which planet they were closest to, the researchers were allowed to create a complete map Granted. Early solar system with a model of how each planet moved to its current state.

More data is yet to be collected regarding the migration of these planets. Using meteorites, which have actually landed on Earth, is a novel, and hopefully inspiring, way to best utilize all available data. There may be more insights into the core of the solar system that are hidden away.

learn more:
LLNL: Putting the pieces back together – rebuilding the original architecture of the solar system
Science Mag: The catastrophe from giant planets happened early in the history of our solar system
UT: Did Jupiter enter a greenhouse greenhouse?

Lead Image Credit: NASA

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