Astronomy 101

07 Formation of our solar system

Remember nebulas, those clouds of ice and gas and dust just hanging out in space? Well now you have a spoiler as to how our solar system may have formed, according to the observations and conjectures of some smart people with science degrees. Again, if you’re one type of Christian, then you may have different and definite ideas of how the solar system also came into being. Me, being a humble Christian with a love for Socrates and his willingness to acknowledge what he doesn’t know, am willing to keep my mind operating on two levels that may seem diametrically opposed to some:

  1. A level that has chosen, with big heart and small brain, to believe that there is a God behind the machinations of the universe, including our solar system

  2. A level that has chosen, with small humble brain, to believe that it is arrogant for us to assume we understand fully, completely, or even a small amount the machinations God may use in orchestrating the development of this universe, or multiversal system. Which includes the formation of our solar system. So here’s a story about people, whom I often like, and specifically about one of my favourite people, and how the formation of the solar system is explained scientifically.

In 1989, the San Francisco Giants were my favourite baseball team, and I collected baseball cards in the hope that I would stumble across a rare error one and end up a millionaire. Why was a Giants fan? That’s another story, but the long version is that I was also a San Francisco 49ers fan (that’s a football team). Why was I 49ers fan? That’s another story, but the long version is that the first Super Bowl I watched was between the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49ers and my dad was going for Joe Montana, who was the quarterback for guess which team? Yep.

That’s why I’m a 49ers fan, and the reason I became a Giants fan is because I was a 49ers fan, and the reason I was a 49ers fan is because that’s who my dad liked, so you can see this whole ripple cause-and-effect situation going on, which is exactly the point I’m trying to make: my dad is the epicenter of the reason I have the geographic loyalty to the teams I do in professional sports, and in the same way that my dad was the epicenter in that situation, and started a chain of events that led to where I am today, the way the solar system may have started is also similar.

But first, you’re probably wondering if the Giants won the World Series that year.

The answer is no, and the long version is that they were facing their cross-town rivals the Oakland Athletics, and then midway through the Series, there was a giant earthquake and it got postponed for a while, and it was super bad - and also, earthquakes have epicenters as well, which is the main point I was trying to make - and eventually when the Series started up again, the Giants got swept in four games. Got swept is sports terminology for “they lost.” Sad. But not as sad as the earthquake that killed 63 people and caused almost $6 billion in damage; the latter of which is the less important statistic.

So this nebula is hanging out in space and boom! Remember how stars have life cycles; a cycle of life implying that there is death? Well a star died. A nearby one. Think of this star as the epicenter. And what happens with a star that explodes? Same thing as what happens in an earthquake: the explosion travels out in a type of shockwave that changes everything around.

So this shockwave gets blasted out and gets the nebula rotating and getting smaller. Short version - and this is conjecture based on available evidence - is that with an assist from gravity, chunks of matter get formed out of the gas, dust, and ice and eventually things get so hot that…

...fusion starts (see above section) and our very own sun (and fave star) is born.

And the rest of the planets, moons, and various objects also get formed in the same manner. The planets closest to the sun (inner) are made of heavier elements because they were dense enough to withstand intense energy from the sun that sent lighter stuff spinning off and away. The outer planets are mostly gases.


Gravity is kind of a big deal. It’s what allows nebulas - those spinning clouds of dust, ice, gas - to pull each other together and create enough heat that eventually leads to fusion, which - duh - eventually leads to forming stars.

Basically, gravity helps stuff in space clump together. And once they’re clumped together, it helps them to stay in orbit. In orbit around where?...

...yep. The sun. But let’s get back to the peeps who first helped us understand some of these basic concepts like gravity and motion. Even when they were wrong, they helped people start to think and observe like scientists. Here we go.

next chapter - smart people >


  • For non-sports people, the Super Bowl is a football match, a super big one.

  • In football, the quarterback is  the fellow who throws the football in the hope that one of his teammates will catch it.