Solar Nebula Theory Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Want to know how our solar system formed? In this lesson, you'll find out how scientists figured out the answer to this important question. You'll also find out what a solar nebula is and why it's important.

How Did Our Solar System Form?

Have you ever wondered how the solar system was formed? You're not alone! People have been wondering that ever since we've been on Earth. When the telescope was invented over 400 years ago, scientists began collecting information about objects in the sky. They gathered lots of information about the stars and planets. They used this information to try to explain how our solar system came to be.

Emanuel Swedenborg
swedenborg

A Swedish scientist, Emanuel Swedenborg, was the first to come up with the idea that everything in our solar system came from a solar nebula. Let's look closely at his ideas.

What Is a Solar Nebula?

Swedenborg's hypothesis was that there was a huge cloud of gas, called a nebula, around the Sun. A scientist makes a hypothesis (pronounced ''hy-PAH-thuh-sis''), which is a prediction or guess, by looking at the information that is available. Swedenborg called this cloud of gas a ''solar nebula,'' because the word ''solar'' means something having to do with the Sun.

Another scientist, Immanuel Kant, added more information that supported Swedenborg's hypothesis. Kant thought that the nebula around the Sun was moving, or slowly rotating. Because of gravity, Kant predicted that the gases would expand, or take up more space, and then collapse and flatten again. After the Sun was formed, the rest of the gases, ice particles, and space dust formed into the planets and the stars.

Were They Correct?

Many other scientists added to the solar nebula hypothesis over the next 300 years, until it was revised in the 1970s and called the solar nebula disk model. This new model was very similar to the original ideas about the solar nebula. The Sun and all the planets in our solar system originally were a huge cloud of space dust, ice particles and gases. Although scientists aren't sure what caused it, they know the cloud collapsed about 4.5 billion years ago. When this happened, the dust and gas started to gather together in some spots. This made the nebula start swirling around.

Drawing of a Solar Nebula
nebula

As the gases and dust rotated, they formed a big ball in the center of the nebula. This became our Sun, and the rest of the gas and dust became a disk around the Sun. It may have looked like a gigantic ball in the middle of a Frisbee, with everything made of hot, swirling gases!

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