Planet formation, as we all know (and don't know), is chaotic. It is like a lorenz Attractor constructable in computational astrophysics labs. When I was working on my astronomy project at Harvard this summer, I realized that there was a way to zoom into this complex, utterly random phenomenon to get a glimpse of the precise conditions of the proto-planetary disk as it evolved into the 'solar system'.

So what is that 'way' anyway?

According to the widely lauded sequential accretion theory, planet formation occurs in steps - and is governed by simple laws of physics: gravity pulls the disk around the protostar, material clumps together and is swirled into the star, volatile material evaporates to cause pressure differentials, differentials cause the inward swirling to stop, matter gets a chance to clump together, and then turn into Jovian giants, and the process continues. Each step of formation influences the other step, and along the way leaves a trail of the larger evolutionary pattern.

That is what I propose to exploit. For several months I have been working on the problem. I think that this trail is still visible and can be scrutinized to determine the specific environment of the primordial solar system. If the technique I am about to propose now works, we will be able to firm our grip on the long drawn issue of planetary system formation and evolution.

The sequential accretion theory indicates that Jupiter was the first planet to be formed in the solar system, and that it then seeded the formation of Saturn. If this did actually  happen, then the gravitational forces of Saturn must have affected the later evolution of Jupiter itself. By mapping down the significant 'anomalies' in the Jupiter system and then analyzing them, it might be possible to pin point the conditions that caused them to occur; in other words, they can help establish the specific conditions of the proto-plantary disk at that time and the influence Jovian planets have on the entire planetary system.

Detailed study is underway. I am in the process of setting up the mathematical spreadsheets and evolutionary pathways that will help in measuring the degree of gravitational influences of Saturn on Jupiter in the early solar system. As for the 'anomalies' , I think it is way to early to purport them before the calculations and the pathways are complete.

I will try to get the paper ready by mid-December - until then it is midterms, design competitions, alumni presentations, college apps, and other mundane affairs of the earth!