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B. ORIGINS OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM hero

Origins of the solar system

Origins of the solar system

  • Exhibition Text

    • Meteorites contain the oldest material in the Solar System and reveal clues to the formation of our Sun and planets.

      The blue-white fireball streaked across the dark skies above northern Mexico shortly after one o'clock in the morning on February 8, 1969. Residents of the Mexican town of Pueblito de Allende watched with astonishment as the glowing object approached and, with a tremendous blast, exploded into thousands of pieces that rained down across the region.

      Although no one suspected it at the time, the Allende fall would revolutionize the science of meteorites. Suddenly, scientists had two tons of a previously rare type of meteorite available for study. Allende and meteorites like it contain the oldest known material formed in the solar system-and provide clues to how our solar system evolved into the Sun, planets, asteroids and comets we know today.

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Astronomy

      Subtopic: Planets

      Keywords: Astrogeology, Astrophysics, Meteorites--Mexico, Solar System--Origin

      Audience: General

In This Section

B.2. CHONDRULES min

Chondrules

When our solar system began to take shape some 4.6 billion years ago, the Sun and planets as we know them today did not exist.

B.3. CAIS min.jpg

CAIs

A solar system such as our own begins when a massive gas and dust cloud collapses on itself and starts to spin. 

B.4. MATRIX min

Matrix

The void of outer space is not so empty after all: the galaxies are awash in tiny mineral crystals, known commonly as dust grains.

B.5. PARENT BODIES min

Parent bodies

In just a few thousand years, the solar system evolved from a collection of small particles sticking together to an assortment of larger bodies known as planetesimals—precursors of the planets.

B.6. SOLAR SYSTEM min

Solar system

The early solar nebula was a turbulent mixture of the chemical elements, including hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, iron and silicon.

B.7. PLANETESIMALS min

Planetesimals

The small particles drifting in orbit around the developing Sun were initially no bigger than grains of sand.

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