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This is a schematic showing the forming solar system.
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C. Alexander

How the Solar System may have formed from a spinning cloud

Scientists think that the solar system formed out of a spinning cloud of hydrogen and helium gas.

Because the cloud was spinning, it flattened into a frisbee shape, just like a ball of pizza dough becomes flat when a chef spins it in the air. The planets and the sun started to form after the cloud became a flat disc.

As the cloud flattened, the gaseous material inside was forced to begin changing into solid form. For a diagram showing which material condenced near Saturn, click here

These little particles of solid material were soft and sticky, and further clumped together to form larger balls of solid material whenever they touched each other, somewhat the way "silly putty" does. Eventually only a few large clumps of this material remained in the forming solar system, and they became the core of "protoplanets".


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF