Researchers supported in part by NASA Astrobiology have developed a new model that provides information about how the architecture of our solar system came about. The study indicates that before the planets of our system formed, the Sun was surrounded by bands of gas and dust similar to the rings of Saturn. These rings would have played a role in the formation of the planets, and could help explain why the Earth is the size it is today.

When viewing sun-like stars beyond our solar system, astronomers have noticed that about 30% are orbited by massive, rocky planets dubbed ‘super-Earths.’ The newly developed model provides insight into why our solar system does not host one of these common types of planets.

The study, “Planetesimal rings as the cause of the Solar System’s planetary architecture,” was published in the journal Nature Astronomy, and was supported in part by NASA Astrobiology through NASA’s Emerging Worlds Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Click here to read a press release concerning this research.