Planetary formation, artwork

Planetary formation, artwork

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Credit: RICHARD BIZLEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Planetary formation. Artwork of numerous small rocky bodies (planetessimals) accreting to form protoplanets (centre right and centre left and lower centre) in the early Solar System. The planetessimals were formed by the collision and electrostatic accretion of smaller particles. Later, as seen here, the accretion process was gravitational, with smaller bodies attracted to and impacting on larger bodies. The impact of the planetessimals heated the protoplanets, turning them molten. This is the process by which the Earth and the other inner solar system planets formed around 4.6 billion years ago.

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