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They sound like some sort of mandatory nutritional supplement added to food, but they're actually chunks of mineral studding the interiors of space rocks — and they could help scientists pinpoint when the solar system began to form.
Those pockets of rocks are called calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions, or CAIs, and scientists have studied microscopically small ones in a stunningly pristine meteorite in order to peer back into the early days of our planet and everything around it. The findings represent additional evidence that it didn't take long for solids to stick together and settle out of the cloud of hot debris surrounding our sun, the very first step toward forming asteroids and planets.
Time - Scale - Coagulation - Age - System
"The time scale for coagulation is really short compared to the age of the solar system," Ming-Chang Liu, a cosmochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of the new research, told Space.com. "It's a very efficient process."
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Cosmochemistry - Ratios - Stages - Timeline - Carbon
Cosmochemistry uses precise chemical ratios to pick apart different stages of that timeline — think carbon dating, but more complicated. "It's trying to figure out the chronology of events that happened while planets are forming, while asteroids are forming," Maitrayee Bose, a cosmochemist at Arizona State University who has studied the same meteorite, told Space.com.
"Once we know this is a chain of events, we can model how our solar system may have formed," Bose said. "We can then take our solar system as one system we know well and then apply it to exoplanets if necessary."
Hand - Information - Scientists - System - Formation
On the other hand, some of the information scientists have about solar system formation has come from searching for exoplanets. A particularly notable example is the case of a star called HL Tau; scientists were able to see gaps in the debris ring surrounding the star, signs that big chunks...
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