CHRIS BUTLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CHRIS BUTLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Planetary formation. Computer artwork of numerous small rocky bodies (planetessimals) accreting to form planets (upper right and lower left) in the early Solar System. The Sun is at centre. 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 planets, 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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