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Solar System Origin

July 19, 2007

A listener asks: How was the solar system formed?


How the solar system came to be. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Aira Mape emailed from the Philippines to ask how the solar system was formed.

DAVID HELFAND (Columbia University):
Well, if I knew the answer to that, I guess I’d be famous.

That’s astronomer David Helfand of Columbia University. He says 10 years ago, scientists thought they had it all figured out.

And then this little problem came along in that we discovered other solar systems orbiting other stars and every single one of them is very different from our solar system. So clearly our ideas need some revision.

For example, they thought gas giants like Jupiter had to orbit far from the star, but in other solar systems they’re close in. Helfand says they’re working to explain this new reality, but it will be a while before their theories are confirmed. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.