An ancient meteorite revealed a lot of information to scientists who previously were unsure of the role that magnetic fields played in creating the solar system.
Scientists have wondered for years, what, if any role magnetic fields had on the solar system we live within today. They knew with relative certainty that there had to have been a connection, and some role, but the depth of that connection was shaky at best. Now though, scientists have far-better understanding of the role these magnetic fields play in the development of the solar system as a whole, and planets individually.
Scientists looked at the Semarkona meteorite, which only weighed a pound-and-a-half, but crashed and was located in India 74 years ago. To understand the rock though, they needed additional context. The history of the solar system works out to the sun forming 4.6 billion years ago, and a subsequent cloud, or rotating disk of gas and dust that surrounded it. The disks are the important part of the equation. “Magnetic fields can introduce viscosity into the disk, essentially making the gas in it more sticky,” according to the lead study author of the piece revealing the findings, Roger Fu. Fu went on to point out that “This means gas of differing orbits interacts more strongly with each other, and more gas falls toward the star.”
The scientists noted that studying this particular meteorite was smart because it was what they classified as “primitive” and that a lot could be learned from it due to the lack of time it existed. What they found was that the meteorite was comprised of many chondrules, or small round pellets. These round pellets are formed through extremely hot, molten droplets, hitting and quickly cooling on the surface of the object. In turn, providing space with an object to grow, and continue gaining mass.
However, the scientists wanted to use these small pellets to determine the strength of the magnetic field in which they were created. However, that was no easy task. “It’s a really difficult measurement that was very cleanly performed – it stands out as a real tour de force,” he said. The discovery of the magnetic fields in these tiny particles though was a major find for the science community as a whole. In talking about the discovery, astronomer Meredith Hughes of Wesleyan University in Connecticut noted that this “tells us that magnetic fields were large enough to be important in the accretion process that helped form the solar system,” validating previous notions.
This paves the way for more research on the very subject though, and even gives scientists a better starting place to look at the future, and where they could potentially go in terms of further research to get better answers about the birth, and growth of our solar system.