Science Current Events | Science News |

'Faster-ticking clock' indicates early solar system may have evolved faster than we think

May 02, 2012
Our solar system is four and a half billion years old, but its formation may have occurred over a shorter period of time than we previously thought, says an international team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and universities and laboratories in the US and Japan.

Establishing chronologies of past events or determining ages of objects require having clocks that tick at different paces, according to how far back one looks. Nuclear clocks, used for dating, are based on the rate of decay of an atomic nucleus expressed by a half-life, the time it takes for half of a number of nuclei to decay, a property of each nuclear species.

Radiocarbon dating for example, invented in Chicago in the late 1940s and refined ever since, can date artifacts back to prehistoric times because the half-life of radiocarbon (carbon-14) is a few thousand years. The evaluation of ages of the history of earth or of the solar system requires extremely "slow-paced" chronometers consisting of nuclear clocks with much longer half-lives.

The activity of one of these clocks, known as nucleus samarium-146 (146Sm), was examined by Michael Paul, the Kalman and Malke Cooper Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the Argonne National Laboratory in the US and from two Japanese universities.

146Sm belongs to a family of nuclear species which were "live" in our sun and its solar system when they were born. Events thereafter, and within a few hundred million years, are dated by the amount of 146Sm that was left in various mineral archives until its eventual "extinction."

146Sm has become the main tool for establishing the time evolution of the solar system over its first few hundred million years. This by itself owes to a delicate geochemical property of the element samarium, a rare element in nature. It is a sensitive probe for the separation, or differentiation, of the silicate portion of earth and of other planetary bodies.

The main result of the work of the international scientists, detailed in a recent article in the journal Science, is a new determination of the half-life of 146Sm, previously adopted as 103 million years, to a much shorter value of 68 million years. The shorter half-life value, like a clock ticking faster, has the effect of shrinking the assessed chronology of events in the early solar system and in planetary differentiation into a shorter time span.

The new time scale, interestingly, is now consistent with a recent and precise dating made on a lunar rock and is in better agreement with the dating obtained with other chronometers.

The measurement of the half-life of 146Sm, performed over several years by the collaborators, involved the use of the ATLAS particle accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Related Solar System Current Events and Solar System News Articles

Asteroids found to be the moon's main 'water supply'
Water reserves found on the moon are the result of asteroids acting as "delivery vehicles" and not of falling comets as was previously thought.

Mechanism of explosions and plasma jets associated with sunspot formation revealed
Sunspots are planet-sized conglomerates of bundles of intense magnetic field lines on the surface of the Sun.

Earth-like planets around small stars likely have magnetic fields, aiding chance for life
Earth-like planets orbiting close to small stars probably have magnetic fields that protect them from stellar radiation and help maintain surface conditions that could be conducive to life, according to research from astronomers at the University of Washington.

Hot, dense material surrounds O-type star with largest magnetic field known
Observations using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed that the unusually large magnetosphere around an O-type star called NGC 1624-2 contains a raging storm of extreme stellar winds and dense plasma that gobbles up X-rays before they can escape into space.

Nearby red dwarves could reveal planet secrets: ANU media release
An accidental find of a collection of young red dwarf stars close to our solar system could give us a rare glimpse of slow-motion planet formation.

Watching an exoplanet in motion around a distant star
A team of astronomers has given us our best view yet of an exoplanet moving in its orbit around a distant star.

Rocky planets may be habitable depending on their 'air conditioning system'
The quest for potentially habitable planets is often interpreted as the search for an Earth twin. And yet, some rocky planets outside our Solar System may in fact be more promising candidates for further research.

Astronomers peer into the 'amniotic sac' of a planet-hosting star
Astronomers have successfully peered through the 'amniotic sac' of a star that is still forming to observe the innermost region of a burgeoning solar system for the first time.

Moon's crust as fractured as can be
Scientists believe that about 4 billion years ago, during a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, the moon took a severe beating, as an army of asteroids pelted its surface, carving out craters and opening deep fissures in its crust.

Underground magma ocean could explain Io's 'misplaced' volcanoes
Tides flowing in a subsurface ocean of molten rock, or magma, could explain why Jupiter's moon Io appears to have its volcanoes in the "wrong" place. New NASA research implies that oceans beneath the crusts of tidally stressed moons may be more common and last longer than expected.
More Solar System Current Events and Solar System News Articles

National Geographic Kids First Big Book of Space (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)

National Geographic Kids First Big Book of Space (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
by Catherine D. Hughes (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)

This beautiful book is the latest addition to the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series. These colorful pages will introduce young children to the wonders of space, with colorful illustrations by David Aguilar and simple text that is perfect for beginning readers or for reading aloud. The book will explain basic concepts of space, beginning with what is most familiar to kids and expanding out into universe.

Chapters include:
 • Chapter 1 focuses on the Earth, moon, and sun.
 • Chapter 2 introduces kids to the other planets in our solar system.
 • Chapter 3 explains other objects in our solar system, such as dwarf planets, comets, and asteroid belts.
 • Chapter 4 voyages even farther afield, touching on concepts such as the universe, the...

There's No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

There's No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
by Tish Rabe (Author), Aristides Ruiz (Illustrator)

Au revoir, Pluto! In this newly revised, bestselling backlist title, beginning readers and budding astronomers are launched on a wild trip to visit the now eight planets in our solar system (per the International Astronomical Union’s 2006 decision to downgrade Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet), along with the Cat in the Hat, Thing One, Thing Two, Dick, and Sally. It’s a reading adventure that’s out of this world!

Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun

Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun
by Marcus Chown (Author)

Based on the latest ebook sensation developed by Theodore Gray and his company Touch Press, this beautiful print book presents a new and fascinating way to experience the wonders of the solar system

Following the stunning success of both the print edition and the app of The Elements, Black Dog & Leventhal and Touch Press have teamed up again. Solar System is something completely new under the sun. Never before have the wonders of our solar system?all its planets, dwarf planets, the sun, moons, rocky Asteroid Belt, and icy Kuiper Belt?been so immediately accessible to readers of all ages.

Beginning with a fascinating overview and then organized by planet, in order of its distance from the sun, Solar System takes us on a trip across time and space that includes a front-row...

National Geographic Readers: Planets

National Geographic Readers: Planets
by Elizabeth Carney (Author)

This brilliantly illustrated book taps into children's natural curiosity about the vast world of space. This level two reader, written in simple language that is easy for young readers to understand, introduces children to our solar system, including all of the planets and dwarf planets, and lots of fascinating fun facts. This reader helps cultivate the explorers of tomorrow!

This high-interest, educationally vetted series of beginning readers features the magnificent images of National Geographic, accompanied by texts written by experienced, skilled children's book authors. The inside back cover of the paperback edition is an interactive feature based upon the book. Level 1 books reinforce the content of the book with a kinesthetic learning activity. In Level 2 books readers...

The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System

The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System
by Joanna Cole (Author), Bruce Degen (Author)

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Scholastic is re-releasing the ten original Magic School Bus titles in paperback. With updated scientific information, the bestselling science series ever is back!

The fieldtrip to the planetarium is foiled when the museum turns out to be closed, but Ms. Frizzle saves the day. The Magic School Bus turns into a spaceship and takes the class on a trip zooming through the atmosphere, to the Moon, and beyond! With up-to-date facts about the solar system, revised for this edition.

101 Facts... Solar System. Space Books for Kids. Amazing Facts, Photos & Video. (101 Space Facts for Kids Book 4)

101 Facts... Solar System. Space Books for Kids. Amazing Facts, Photos & Video. (101 Space Facts for Kids Book 4)
by IP Factly

IP Factly presents... "101 Facts… Solar System!"
Solar System Kids Book - Amazing facts, stunning photos plus videos telling the story of the solar system for kids.

Space books for kids - a fun and fascinating way for young readers to discover more about the planets, dwarf planets and other fascinating objects in the Solar System.
This planet book for kids mixes facts, stunning photos and even Videos to encourage and bolster independent reading.

Accompanying webpage with video clips
This book provides fact after fact for information hungry children to tell family and friends, and even has an accompanying webpage with video clips giving a visual insight into the Solar System.
The video links mean children come back again and...

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)

Presenting the latest exciting findings on space exploration and research and cutting-edge, spectacular views of the universe that technology is bringing back to Earth, all in one ultimate reference book. Authored by David A. Aguilar of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia is ideal for the family bookshelf, providing both accessible information for school reports and compelling reading on the mysteries beyond our world.

Solar System Scratch and Sketch: An Activity Book For Inquisitive Artists and Astronauts of All Ages

Solar System Scratch and Sketch: An Activity Book For Inquisitive Artists and Astronauts of All Ages
by Heather Zschock (Author)

Explore the amazing world of outer space as you scratch pictures of planets, comets, and spacecraft to reveal glittery, swirly, and even glow-in-the-dark colors beneath.
Shrink-wrapped with a wooden stylus for drawing on black-coated paper to reveal colors beneath.64 pages.Includes 20 scratch-off, 20 illustrated, 20 sketch pages.6-3/8'' wide x 8-1/2'' high; wire-o bound hardcover.Recommended for ages 6 and up.Note: This is NOT a Trace-Along title; it is best enjoyed by kids who are comfortable copying the simple drawings.Non-toxic: Potential eye irritant. Avoid inhaling particles of scratch coating. Not for children under 5 years. Meets all applicable safety standards.

The Solar System

The Solar System
by Michael A. Seeds (Author), Dana Backman (Author)

With this newly revised Eigth Edition of THE SOLAR SYSTEM, the authors' goals are to help you use astronomy to understand science--and use science to understand what we are. Fascinating, engaging, and visually vibrant, this text will help you answer two fundamental questions: What are we? And how do we know?

Solar System

Solar System
by Carole Stott (Author), David H. Hughes (Author)

Explore the wonders of our solar system—a corner of the universe that astronomers understand more fully every day. Starting at the sun, the center of it all, we move outward, planet by planet, and then beyond. From Mercury's prehistoric cataclysm to Uranus's uncommon axial tilt, the superb research and stunning images will captivate both keen stargazers and newcomers alike. The gorgeous photographs—which include newly taken photos of Mars from Curiosity along with others from recent satellites, manned spaceflights, the International Space Station, and the Hubble telescope—bring the night sky to life.

© 2015