Segments in this Video

Introduction: How the Solar System was Made (01:02)


Our unique solar system is made of gas and dust. Evidence of its beginnings is present in the planets.

Time Zero (06:10)

Approximately 4.6 billion years ago, something triggered the gravitational collapse of a cold, giant dust column, and began the process of forming the solar system. Composition and position of the sun and planets reveal the irreversible process. Orion is an example of star formation; constant rotation compacts and flattens cosmic materials.

One Hundred Thousand and One Million Years (05:07)

A protostar emerges in the collapsing solar nebula and consumes much of the disk's gas and dust; the sun's mass accounts for 99.8% of the system's total. The remaining matter forges planets; temperature distinguishes their composition. Accretion collisions hold microscopic particles by frictional, mechanical processes.

Two Million Years (03:06)

The solar nebula is a thick rotating disk of hydrogen gas embedded with solids; outside the Snow Line, ices of methane, ammonia and water accompany rock particles. Continual collisions collect matter by mechanical methods until large enough for gravity to assume the formation of planetesimals.

Three and Ten Million Years (06:22)

The planetesimals collide and fuse, building protoplanets; one collides with a growing Jupiter. Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus sweep paths through the solar cloud disk; a process is currently studied by observing younger solar systems. At 10 million years from time zero, Jupiter and Saturn collect the remaining solar disk gases.

Fifty Million Years (06:29)

The sun reaches a critical threshold of heat and pressure; its core becomes a nuclear fusion reactor that will burn for 10 billion years. Planets of the inner solar system continue to grow; protoplanets in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter are rare. Long distances between matter in the Kuiper belt prevent the formation of planets.

Seventy-Five to Eighty Million Years (02:35)

Earth is planet sized, sharing an orbit with Theia until they collide, creating a ring of debris, which will later form the moon.

Five Hundred Million Years (03:33)

The erratic orbits of the outer planets fling matter from the asteroid and Kuiper belts in varying directions. Jupiter slingshots material outside the system, causing it to drop to a lower orbit.

Seven Hundred Million Years (03:56)

Jupiter and Saturn reach resonance, creating gravity pumps and chaos. Uranus and Neptune switch orbits, and the Late Heavy Bombardment pummels the inner planets. The onslaught of asteroids is likely the source of Earth's water.

Four Point Six Billion Years (04:48)

Meteorite studies reveal radioactive elements that serve as atomic clocks. Asteroids such as Vesta provide insight into the formation of the solar system. The Juno probe will determine core and formation of Jupiter; the Keplar mission locates planets around other stars.

Credits: How the Solar System was Made (00:29)

Credits: How the Solar System was Made

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How the Solar System was Made

Part of the Series : The Universe
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At 4.6 billion years old, the Solar System is our solid, secure home in the Universe. But how did it come to be? In this episode we trace the system's birth from a thin cloud of dust and gas.

Length: 45 minutes

Item#: BVL160950

Copyright date: ©2011

Closed Captioned

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