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Is our photo voltaic system a cosmic oddity? Proof from exoplanets says sure

Once we began discovering planetary methods round different stars we thought a lot of them can be like ours. We’ve now discovered lots of – and it’s thus far, so flawed



Space



1 December 2021

Duc LOng

As soon as upon a time, there was a photo voltaic system. In it lived 4 small rocky planets referred to as Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. 4 massive gassy planets lived there too: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The 4 small planets lived near the solar as a result of it was highly regarded there, and all the pieces else had been blasted away, leaving solely rocks to make planets. However additional out it was colder and there was plenty of ice round, so the planets there grew into nice massive gassy giants.

This story wasn’t initially written as a fairy story. Till comparatively just lately, it was our solidly sourced story of how our solar system formed – in fact, how any photo voltaic system would type. However prior to now decade or so, it has began to look, effectively, just a bit contrived.

As we discover massive numbers of photo voltaic methods elsewhere in our galaxy, none of them appear like ours. There are fuel big planets near their guardian stars, rocky planets bigger than Earth, compact methods with rocky worlds slotted in between fuel giants – something goes. At first, we might dismiss these unique exoplanets as oddballs, however after hundreds extra discoveries, that’s beginning to look untenable.

As an alternative, a brand new image is rising of how photo voltaic methods type in a chaos of planet constructing with no sure end result. That has made us revisit our personal photo voltaic system’s historical past, and as we do, a nagging query is turning into louder: as an alternative of being the archetypal photo voltaic system, are we truly the freak?

Issues began to look bizarre with our system within the Nineties, when the first exoplanets were discovered …

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