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Meteorite magnetism in the early solar system
The young solar system contained a disc of gas and dust within which planet formation occurred. The disc eventually dissipated after the Sun ignited and the planets formed, but exactly when that happened has been difficult to determine. Wang et al. measured tiny magnetic fields preserved in angrites, an ancient type of meteorite. They interpret a drop in magnetic field strength about 4 million years after the solar system formed as a sign that the gas had cleared—along with the magnetic field that it carried. The results will enhance our understanding of planet formation, both in our solar system and around other Sun-like stars.
Science, this issue p. 623
A key stage in planet formation is the evolution of a gaseous and magnetized solar nebula. However, the lifetime of the nebular magnetic field and nebula are poorly constrained. We present paleomagnetic analyses of volcanic angrites demonstrating that they formed in a near-zero magnetic field (<0.6 microtesla) at 4563.5 ± 0.1 million years ago, ~3.8 million years after solar system formation. This indicates that the solar nebula field, and likely the nebular gas, had dispersed by this time. This sets the time scale for formation of the gas giants and planet migration. Furthermore, it supports formation of chondrules after 4563.5 million years ago by non-nebular processes like planetesimal collisions. The core dynamo on the angrite parent body did not initiate until about 4 to 11 million years after solar system formation.