The Solar System: Structural Overview, Origins and Evolution

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
May 8, 2024
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The Solar System: Structural Overview, Origins and Evolution
Artist impression of solar system formation. IMAGE CREDIT: GEMINI OBSERVATORY/AURA/LYNETTE COOK.

Understanding the origin and long-term evolution of the Solar System is a fundamental goal of planetary science and astrophysics.

This chapter describes our current understanding of the key processes that shaped our planetary system, informed by empirical data such as meteorite measurements, observations of planet-forming disks around other stars, and exoplanets, and nourished by theoretical modeling and laboratory experiments.

The processes at play range in size from microns to gas giants, and mostly took place within the gaseous planet-forming disk through the growth of mountain-sized planetesimals and Moon- to Mars-sized planetary embryos.

A fundamental shift in our understanding came when it was realized (thanks to advances in exoplanet science) that the giant planets’ orbits likely underwent large radial shifts during their early evolution, through gas- or planetesimal-driven migration and dynamical instability.

The characteristics of the rocky planets (including Earth) were forged during this early dynamic phase. Our Solar System is currently middle-aged, and we can use astrophysical tools to forecast its demise in the distant future.

Sean N. Raymond

Comments: Preprint of a chapter for the ‘Encyclopedia of Astrophysics’ (Editor-in-Chief Ilya Mandel, Section Editor Dimitri Veras) to be published by Elsevier as a Reference Module
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:2404.14982 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2404.14982v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sean Raymond
[v1] Tue, 23 Apr 2024 12:37:15 UTC (2,225 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻