Antarctica Yields Relics of a Dwarf Planet from Creation of Solar System
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March 01, 2010

Antarctica Yields Relics of a Dwarf Planet from Creation of Solar System


Rearidge

Rocks can be many things: they were probably our earliest weapons, they've been ballast on our journeys of exploration, even modern-art pieces.  But a pair recovered from Antarctica may be the grandest application yet - tombstones for an entire world.  Lunar and Planetary Institute researcher Allain Treiman believes that them to be pieces of a destroyed dwarf planet, relics from the creation of the solar system.

It's relevant to questions so important that most adults don't think to ask them - why are there only eight planets?  Or nine, or however many there are now?  Why are they where they are?  Because of all the objects that formed during the birth of the solar system, the ones we see are the ones that survived.  It's likely that many small proto-planets formed as the stellar dusts condensed into larger bodies - some collided and merged, some may have been pinballed out of the system by the varying gravitational fields, and it seems that some got smashed to bits in the confusion.  The existence of the asteroid belt supports such planetary pile-ups - but we can look at these antarctic rocks much closer.

Mineral analysis of the fragments reveals a large concentration of feldspar - large enough to have needed a planet to create it.  You might not think of rocks as hot and runny (unless you're the Human Torch), but when you gather enough of anything together the pressure and heat provided by gravity will melt it.  Materials of different densities float to different heights (just like oil in water), and as the system cools these differentiated layers are frozen in.  If you hang around for a while you have a hard shell around a layered liquid core, like our own Earth, and eventually the entire system solidifies, like the Moon.  If you lose a fight with another extremely solid body you get blown to pieces - but each of those pieces still shows evidence of the layer-cake structure.

It'll take more than a royal cavalry regiment to put this proto-planetary Humpty Dumpty together again.  It's thought that many of the pieces could be in the asteroid belt between and Jupiter, while others may have impacted on other planets or even been burned up in the Sun.  Spectral analysis of asteroids may confirm this hypothesis, but it seems clear that the early solar system was a dangerous place - and we have one more "We were lucky there" coincidence to thank for life as we know it.

Posted by Luke McKinney.

Related Galaxy posts:

Antarctica's "Relic Landscape" Preserved for Milllions of Years Yields Secrets of Earth's Interior
World's Oldest Living Microbes May Cast Light on Aging & Life on Mars
Ancient Antarctic Microbes Revived in Lab

Antarctica -Mapping The White Continent

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Rocks recovered from Antarctica

Comments

Hey! Welcome back, Luke! Looking forward to new posts. It's nice to have a bit of humour and sarcasm now and then in our science news!

Arabia after the global change is complete.

Interesting! ... who would have thought that there are remnants of a proto planet here on earth!

"... ... relics from the creation of the solar system."

Personally, I would put it as "... relics from the formation of the solar system."

Nice! We indeed need to explore our own planet more if we want to know more about "space" that is outside of it.

Antarctica is always very big deal for scientists.

Imagine the kind of row it would have created if it were gold instead of feldspar?

For a moment there I thought I read allspark.

Antarctica is really very big deal for scientists.

is really very big deal

I suppose you could think of the earth as a sort of cast iron radiator with its solid iron rich hard outer shell with a hot liquid core.

Great article, awesome!

it is nice blog regarding to kerala tour packages....

Arrive Cochin Airport & drive to Munnar. which is called as "Nature Lover's Paradise" and is at 1800mts above the sea level. Check into hotel. Afternoon visit to Rajamalai Sanctuary. Overnight at Munnar.

Great article.

great article, keep it up!!

Hey Luke!Welcome back, looking forward for more of your good article! :)

nice article Luke, never thought Antarctic's rock structure can be so close to other planet's rock structure!!

I liked the paragraph about Mineral analysis! sounds interesting.

Very nice article. Very well written!! I completely agree that we being common people don't ask any questions like you mentioned "why are they here", "What's the reason". We generally stick and remain happy with our lives.
This article is actually inspiring!!
Good job!!


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