In DepthSpace Science

Planetary turmoil unleashed during Solar System infancy

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Science  24 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6476, pp. 350-351
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6476.350

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Summary

For several decades, planetary scientists have believed that, sometime after the Solar System's formation, resonant tugs between the giant planets threw their orbits out of kilter. The gravity of the errant giants blasted Pluto and its many icy neighbors into the far-out Kuiper belt, creating the system known today. Until recently, scientists believed the most likely timing for this instability occurred 3.95 billion years ago, lining up with a cataclysmic assault on the Moon inferred from lunar samples. In recent years, reinterpretations of this lunar evidence have freed scientists to explore whether this instability happened earlier, and now many believe that the instability occurred within the Solar System's first 100 million years, or even its first 10 million. The latter could explain many quirks of the system, including the survival of the rocky planets and Mars's small size.

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