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Wandering Jupiter could have swept inner solar system clean

On its way out, infant planet left only enough debris for four small planets, simulation suggests

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7:00am, March 15, 2016
Jupiter

GREEDY GIANT  Jupiter, seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image, might have once robbed the inner solar system of planet-building material

A wandering baby Jupiter could help explain why there are no planets closer to the sun than Mercury and why the innermost planet is so tiny, a new study suggests.

Jupiter’s core might have formed close to the sun and then meandered through the rocky planet construction zone. As the infant Jupiter moved, it would have absorbed some planet-building material while kicking out the rest. This would have starved the inner planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars — of raw materials, keeping them small and preventing any other planets from forming close to the sun, say planetary scientist Sean Raymond and colleagues online March 5 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“When I first came up with it, I thought it was ridiculous,” says Raymond, of the Laboratory of Astrophysics of Bordeaux in Floirac, France. “This model is kind of crazy, but it holds up.”

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