Earth, neighbors weren’t the first rocky planets in the solar system | Science News


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Earth, neighbors weren’t the first rocky planets in the solar system

A wandering Jupiter helped push an early generation into the sun, new study claims

3:00pm, March 23, 2015
Illustration of Kepler 11

FIRST DRAFT  The solar system may have once hosted several large rocky planets close to the sun, like Kepler 11 (illustrated) does, before Jupiter swept them away.

Earth and its neighbors aren’t the first rocky planets to circle the sun, a new study suggests. Jupiter might have had a hand in flushing an earlier generation of rocky worlds into the sun to their doom, clearing the way for the current planets to form.

A rain of asteroids hurled into the inner solar system by a wandering Jupiter could have swept up a family of large rocky planets huddled up close to the sun, researchers report online March 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The planetary cleanse would have left behind a narrow ring of debris out of which Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars formed. Such a scenario could explain why the solar system stands out from other planet families with its lack of oversized rocky worlds hugging the sun.

“We’re not a truly one-of-a-kind solar system,” says Konstantin Batygin, a planetary scientist at Caltech, &ldquo

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