The Chaotic Genesis of Planets [Slideshow]

Long viewed as a stately procession to a foregone conclusion, planetary formation turns out to be startlingly chaotic

Don Dixon

More on this Topic

Editor's Note: This slideshow is a supplement to the Feature "The Chaotic Genesis of Planets" from the May 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Barely a decade ago scientists who study how planets form had to base their theory on a single example—our solar system. Now they have dozens of mature systems and dozens more in birth throes. No two are alike.

The basic idea behind the leading theory of planetary formation—tiny grains stick together and swoop up gas—conceals many levels of intricacy. A chaotic interplay among competing mechanisms leads to a huge diversity of outcomes.

View Slideshow

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article