EPSC 2012: Stellar Shockwaves Shaped our Solar System
September 27, 2012

Stellar Shockwaves Shaped our Solar System

Press Release Ref. PN: EPSC12/12

The early years of our Solar System were a turbulent time, and questions remain about its development. Dr Tagir Abdylmyanov, Associate Professor from Kazan State Power Engineering University, has been researching shockwaves emitted from our very young Sun, and has discovered that these would have caused the planets in our Solar System to form at different times.

Abdylmyanov has modelled the movements of particles in fluids and gases in the gas cloud from which our Sun accreted. His work suggests our new-born Sun emitted a series of shockwaves that rippled out into the remaining material. This created a series of debris rings around the Sun that accreted over millions of years into planets.

The research indicates that the first series of shockwaves during short but very rapid changes in solar activity would have created the proto-planetary rings for Uranus, Neptune, and dwarf planet Pluto. Jupiter, Saturn, and the asteroid belt would have come next during a series of less powerful shockwaves. Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars would have formed last, when the Sun was far calmer. This means that our own planet is one of the youngest in the Solar System.

“The planets formed in intervals – not altogether, as was previously thought,” Abdylmyanov explains. “It is difficult to say exactly how much time would have separated these groups, but the proto-planetary rings for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto would have likely formed very close to the Sun’s birth. 3 million years later and we would see the debris ring destined to form Saturn. Half a million years after this we would see something similar but for Jupiter. The asteroid belt would have begun to form about a million years after that, and another half a million years on we would see the very early stages of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.”

Abdylmayanov hopes that this research will help us understand the development of planets around distant stars. “Studying the brightness of stars that are in the process of forming could give indications as to the intensity of stellar shockwaves. In this way we may be able to predict the location of planets around far-flung stars millions of years before they have formed.”


Dr Abdylmyanov


Anita Heward
EPSC 2012 Press Officer
Europlanet RI
Mob: +44 7756 034243
Email: anita.heward@europlanet-eu.org

EPSC Press office (24-28 September only)
Tel: > +34 91 722 3020 (English enquiries)
Tel: +34 91 722 3021 (Spanish enquiries)
Fax: +34 91 722 3022


Artist’s impression of a baby star still surrounded by a protoplanetary disc in which planets are forming. Using ESO’s very successful HARPS spectrograph, a team of astronomers has found that Sun-like stars which host planets have destroyed their lithium much more efficiently than planet-free stars. This finding does not only shed light on the low levels of this chemical element in the Sun, solving a long-standing mystery, but also provides astronomers with a very efficient way to pick out the stars most likely to host planets. It is not clear what causes the lithium to be destroyed. The general idea is that the planets or the presence of the protoplanetary disc disturb the interior of the star, bringing the lithium deeper down into the star than usual, into regions where the temperature is so hot that it is destroyed.

Solar shockwaves would have produced proto-planetary rings at different times, meaning the planets did not form simultaneously. Credit: ESO.

Disks around young stars (also known as circumstellar or protoplanetary disks) are thought to be made up of 99% gas and 1% dust. Even that small amount of dust is enough to make the disks opaque and dark at visible wavelengths. The dark disk is seen in this image because they are silhouetted against the bright backdrop of the hot gas of the Orion nebula.



The European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) is the major European meeting on planetary science and attracts scientists from Europe and around the World. The 2012 programme includes more than 50 sessions and workshops. The EPSC has a distinctively interactive style, with a mix of talks, workshops and posters, intended to provide a stimulating environment for discussion.

This year’s meeting will take place at the IFEMA-Feria de Madrid, Spain, from Sunday 23 September to Friday 28 September 2012. EPSC 2012 is organised by Europlanet, a Research Infrastructure funded under the European Commission’s Framework 7 Programme, in association with the European Geosciences Union, with the support of the Centro de Astrobiología of Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (CAB-INTA). Details of the Congress and a full schedule of EPSC 2012 scientific sessions and events can be found at the official website: http://www.epsc2012.eu/


The Europlanet Research Infrastructure is a major (€6 million) programme co-funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission.

The Europlanet Research Infrastructure brings together the European planetary science community through a range of Networking Activities, aimed at fostering a culture of cooperation in the field of planetary sciences, Transnational Access Activities, providing European researchers with access to a range of laboratory and field site facilities tailored to the needs of planetary research, as well as on-line access to the available planetary science data, information and software tools, through the Integrated and Distributed Information Service. These programmes are underpinned by Joint Research Activities, which are developing and improving the facilities, models, software tools and services offered by Europlanet RI.

Europlanet Project website: www.europlanet-ri.eu
Europlanet Outreach website: www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach
Follow #epsc2012 @europlanetmedia on Twitter