Portal:Mars/Selected article/April 2009

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An artist's concept of the solar nebula, from which the planets formed.

The formation and evolution of the Solar System is estimated to have begun 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the centre, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disc out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed.

This widely accepted model, known as the nebular hypothesis, was first developed in the 18th century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Its subsequent development has interwoven a variety of scientific disciplines including astronomy, physics, geology, and planetary science. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s and the discovery of extrasolar planets in the 1990s, the models have been both challenged and refined to account for new observations.

The Solar System has evolved considerably since its initial formation. Many moons have formed from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while other moons are believed to have been bodies captured by their planets or, as in the case of the Earth's Moon, to have resulted from giant collisions. Collisions between bodies have occurred continually up to the present day and have been central to the evolution of the solar system. The positions of the planets often shifted, and planets have switched places. This planetary migration now is believed to have been responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.

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