This One Meteorite Tells Us How Our Solar System Was Formed

How planetary systems evolved so quickly has been difficult for scientists to answer. Gravity isn’t enough to explain it.

Back in 1940, a 1.5-pound meteorite landed in northern India. Today, the same meteorite is giving scientists new insights into the formation of our solar system.

The team of scientists measured the magnetic fields trapped within the primitive meteorite. These measurements point to shock waves traveling through the dusty gas around our freshly born sun as a significant factor in the creation of our solar system.

MIT graduate student Roger Fu was lead author of the paper published last week in the journal Science. Steve Desch at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration was co-author.

“The measurements made by Fu and Weiss (also part of the team) are astounding and unprecedented,” says Desch. “Not only have they measured tiny magnetic fields thousands of times weaker than a compass feels, they have mapped the magnetic fields’ variation recorded by the meteorite, millimeter by millimeter.”

While studying the meteorite, Fu and his team looked at the preserved magnetic fields within olivine grains containing iron-bearing material. These grains had a measured magnetic field of 54 microtesla. This is similar to the Earth’s magnetic field, which can range anywhere between 24 and 65 microtesla.

What does this mean? The early solar system’s “magnetic field is strong enough to affect the motion of gas at a large-scale, in a very significant way,” according to Fu.

The magnetic fields would have been strong enough to push gas toward the sun extremely fast. This would explain how planetary systems evolve so quickly.

This discovery could also pave the way for more accurate models on how solar systems form.

You can read more about Fu’s team and their discovery here.

Image credit: MIT

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