In DepthPlanetary Science

Meteorite divide points to solar system chaos

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Science  30 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6383, pp. 1451
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6383.1451

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The solar system of today was in turmoil in its first several million years, theorists believe, with giant planets sowing chaos as they strayed far from their current orbits. But corroborating evidence has been thin—until now. Scientists have found a new window into the early dynamics: a curious chemical divide in the dozens of species of meteorites. The picture has emerged over several years, but in work presented last week at the 2018 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, a group of German geochemists reported clinching evidence. Those distinct chemistries imply distinct origin stories for asteroids: One group formed from grist that began near the current location of the asteroid belt. The others coalesced beyond a proto-Jupiter, near where Saturn orbits today. The discovery opens the way to investigations of the solar system's earliest days, and could even set back the clock on the system's age.