You may not know it, but every time you sweep your floor, you’re conducting an experiment in planet formation. The growth of dust bunnies under your broom resembles in some ways the processes of agglomeration that took place in the early Solar System and eventually produced the planets. By studying ongoing planet formation in other solar systems, we can probe the murky origins of our own Solar System. Insights from a Enlightenment-era German philosopher and World War II mathematicians, bolstered by newly bloomed mechanical desert flora, are uncovering the chaos that pervaded our Solar System’s beginnings.Continue Reading
From a sandy spit in Florida, an ear-shattering rumble followed by a sky-splitting streak of light heralded the launch of NASA’s Lucy mission, a twelve-year effort to explore sky-borne fossils. The mission began its journey to visit seven asteroids, with orbits stretching from Mars to Jupiter.
Like artifacts from someone’s childhood, Lucy’s targets will help unravel the rich and complex story of the Solar System’s earliest days. But these targets promise an even deeper glimpse than before because of exactly where they orbit. These asteroids have been trapped for billions of years in a spiderweb woven from gravity, the subtle strands of which were teased apart in 1770s Prussia by the Franco-Italian heir to Newton’s legacy.Continue Reading