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Marisa Calistro

PHYS 1040
How a Star is Born; Including the Whole Package

When you think of astronomy and how much we know about astronomy today, what do

you know about our understanding of our universe and what may be beyond our universe? This

was the question I posed to my parents. My conversation about astronomy with them was to gain

insight about what they understood about how our solar system, including our planet Earth, came

to be and how weve survived space. During the conversation, I brought my class notes and a

few quotes from websites to ensure the information that I was providing was relevant and

correct. I also made sure that I had my laptop with me so if there was a question that came up

that neither of us were not sure of, we could search for the information online to go further not

only their information, but my own information about astronomy.

I talked with my parents, both who are over the age of 50, and asked them my thesis

question. My step dad said he watches the news lately and as soon as I brought up astronomy, he

asked me about the newly found planets found in TRAPPIST-1. We looked into it more and

talked how they were in the zone from that sun that can provide a habitable zone for these

planets where they can be very similar to Earth. This was a perfect tie in for me to ask if they

knew how those planets more than likely formed, let alone if they knew how our planets formed.

Neither of my parents knew, but took a jab at the question. Chunks of the Sun came off when

the world was still new and created our planets, my mom said. I told my mom, Well, the only

planets that have an actual surface are the inner planets; the planets closest to the Sun. So that

would mean only Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the only surface planets, also known as

terrestrial planets. My mom, stumped, looked towards my step-dad.

I know that it does have to do with the Suns initial formation and the dust cloud, right?

He said. I nodded and flipped through my notes to make sure I had the right information ready.
Marisa Calistro
PHYS 1040
I stated that our planets formed through accretion. When our nebula formed into the disc-

shaped cloud of gas and dust, when our star, our Sun, was forming, planets were being born too.

Gravity then acts upon the gas cloud and it begins to collapse in on itself. The Conservation of

Angular Momentum, an objects radius in a circle based on the mass, velocity, or speed, turned

our cloud into a smaller, tighter rotation. Eventually, it will rotate faster and faster. Would the

cloud collapse in on itself again? My mom questioned. Nope. The cloud of gas is spiraling so

fast based on the angular momentum, it prevents it collapsing again during the rotation.

Continuing on, I said that the materials begin to condense together as they collide during the

rotation. These formations were the beginnings of our terrestrial planets out of the heavier

elements.

Alright, so youve got this spiraling disc, our star is born, and planets are being created.

Now, do you think that its pretty cool nearer the center of the disc, or do you think its

warmer? I asked both of them. Hotter. Acts like a fan? My step-dad chimed in. Yes. Not

that it works like a fan necessarily, but it is hotter closer to the center and colder temperatures on

the outer solar system. Most of the outer solar system is made from ice, and formed our Jovian

planets, or our gaseous planets. Our Jovian planets attracted the lighter elements found further

out in our solar system. They accrete so much, they are known better to be our gas giants. I

understand. So our planets were just made from the stars leftovers, my step-dad observed.

Basically, but, our planet's didnt take all the star stuff. I went on to say our solar wind blew

out the remaining gas into interstellar space, our terrestrial and Jovian planets remaining due to

the gravitational pull of our sun because our newly formed planets now had a mass to be held

onto. Anything that was left behind from the blow of the solar wind formed our asteroids that

we see.
Marisa Calistro
PHYS 1040
My mom asked what solar wind was, to which I informed her that it was the flow of

charged particles from the sun, which still affects our solar system today. This is a constant wind

that blows, changing constantly as the suns activity changes through an 11-year cycle. If the

material carried by the solar wind reached a planets surface, its radiation would do severe

damage to any life that might exist. (Affecting Earth, Space.com) Luckily, Earth has a magnetic

field that shields us from this direct radiation, redirecting it around the planet. Yet, not every

planet has the oh-so-wonderful magnetic field and takes the full brunt of the solar wind. We are

still slightly puzzled what exactly causes magnetic fields around planets, but we know Earths

magnetic field is caused by ...flow of liquid iron generates electric currents, which in turn

produce magnetic fields. Charged metals passing through these fields go on to create electric

currents of their own, and so the cycle continues. This self-sustaining loop is known as the

geodynamo. (Physics.org) Both of my parents seemed to understand, but my mom piped up the

question that if we have this type of center, what about those Jovian planets? I did state that

Jupiter has the largest magnetic field, but we are unsure what causes their magnetic fields

because weve come to understand that they do not have a core like Earth.

Sounds a lot like being in the right spot at the right time. My mom then said. I agreed.

Earth is lucky to provide life given our spot in this zone called the Goldilocks zone, having

just the right elements for life, Earth being a still geologically active planet, and our planet

having a magnetic field to protect us. I went back to TRAPPIST-1, stating they may have the

right star stuff to provide life, either to form on its own or for us to possibly one day go to Earths

sisters and to make a new habitat elsewhere in the Universe! I thanked my parents for letting me

talk for an hour about astronomy, and they thanked me too for teaching them things they never

knew about. Earth has just the right star stuff, and it can be found in the sky, in Earth, and in us.
Marisa Calistro
PHYS 1040
To see how far well take our star stuff is a thing for the near-future as we take a step closer and

closer every day to understand our solar system, and our Universe.

Sources
Marisa Calistro
PHYS 1040
1. Planets and How They Formed, Space Book, Las Cumbres Observatory,

https://lco.global/spacebook/planets-and-how-they-formed/

2. The Essential Cosmic Perspective, by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit,

published July 2004

3. What is Solar Wind?, by Nola Taylor Redd, Space.com, August 1, 2013,

http://www.space.com/22215-solar-wind.html

4. What causes the Earths magnetic field?, physics.org.,

http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=64