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Jupiter Wrecked First Set of Planets Near Sun; Leftover Debris Created Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars

Jupiter

(Photo : NASA/JPL) This view of Jupiter was taken by Voyager 1. This image was taken through color filters and recombined to produce the color image.

Acting like an enormous wrecking ball, Jupiter apparently destroyed the first generation of smaller planets closer to the Sun before it established itself in its current orbit today during the formation of the solar system.

Researchers are now intently studying the "Grand Track" theory that explains how Jupiter and Saturn were formed. The theory also posits that Jupiter originally migrated towards the Sun up until the formation of Saturn, which reeled it back to its current location today.

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The study authors performed calculations to see if it's possible that a previous set of rocky planets were formed in the inner solar system before Jupiter veered towards them and destroyed them.

These findings will further support the theory that Jupiter knocked away those rocky planets and will explain why there's an absence of planets orbiting closer to the Sun.

Currently, other star systems have "fireball planets" that orbit around their host stars for only a few days due to their close proximity.

This theory offers insights on how our solar system is unique due to the absence of planets inside the orbit of Mercury, according to study co-author Gregory Laughlin from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In the Milky Way, solar systems usually consist of Super Earths that have really short orbital periods compared to our solar system. This makes our solar system really odd.

Scientists also believe that when Jupiter moved inwards, it ignited a set of chain reactions that destroyed other planets, asteroids and planetesimals. Laughlin said this event was similar to what occurs when space debris or satellites in Earth's lower orbit collide into each other setting off a number of other collisions.

This new study explores how Jupiter triggered a "collisional cascade" among the planets found in the inner solar system.

After this collision of the inner planets, most of the debris burned up in the Sun while the rest formed into a new generation of planets, namely Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

Scientists also revealed that giant planets like Jupiter are extremely rare, and when they do form, usually settle into orbit about the same distance as Earth's. Jupiter is now in its orbit due to Saturn's powerful gravitational forces. This allowed the inner planets, including Earth, to form.

This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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