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Chapter 2 Planets from Dust: Unraveling the Birth of Solar Systems - Pg. 16

chapter 2 Planets from dust Unraveling the Birth of Solar Systems Since there is no way to go back in time and see how our own solar system formed, astronomers have to find clues to its origin by other means. Detailed observations of stellar nurseries reveal the characteristics of young suns and their surroundings, including disks of gas and dust that presumably turn into planetary systems. So- phisticated computer simulations, based on our under- standing of physical laws, can follow the collapse, under the influence of gravity, of a gas cloud into a star. Ex- periments with dust balls show how tiny grains stick together to make bigger clumps in disks girdling young stars. Other evidence comes from the solar system it- self--the ordering of planetary orbits and the makeup of comets and meteorites. By pulling together all these clues, astronomers are now able to decipher many of the critical stages in the birth of stars and their planetary retinues. cosmic cradles The constellation Orion the Hunter is easy to spot in the winter evening sky. Slightly below the three stars