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Evolution of the Solar System
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About the Evolution of Our Solar System

The Evolution of Our Solar System results from the close collaboration of artists, scientists, programmers, image researchers, and educators at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. It originally was conceived by the late Dr. Graham Ryder as a teaching tool for the Alpha Program, which introduced space science to gifted and talented students in the Clear Creek Independent School District.

Our understanding of the evolution of our solar system changes constantly as new tools and new research expand and deepen our knowledge. The Evolution of Our Solar System represents our best understanding at present; new theories and new ideas undoubtedly will arise and replace the information presented. The Evolution of Our Solar System is drawn from multiple disciplines, and every event is the product of years of research by numerous scientists. The statements made, and the placements in time of those statements, do not always reflect the ongoing scientific debates, but rather reflect the broad consensus at this time.

The timescale used to mark geologic eons, eras, and periods is the Geologic Time Scale published by the Geological Society of America.

Copyright 2005 by the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The Evolution of Our Solar System is Lunar and Planetary Institute Contribution No. 1208. The Institute is operated by the Universities Space Research Association under Cooperative Agreement No. NCC5-679 issued through the Solar System Exploration Division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Material in this publication may be copied without restraint for library, abstract service, education, or personal research purposes; however, republication of any portion thereof, or derivation, requires written permission as well as the appropriate acknowledgment of this publication. Single print copies of the electronic poster files provided by the Lunar and Planetary Institute or their designated vendors may be made for educational display at individual institutions.

Scientific Contributions and Review

Dr. David Black, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Stephen Clifford, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Joseph Hahn, St. Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Dr. Walter Kiefer, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. John Lindsay, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Patrick McGovern, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Julie Moses, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Graham Ryder, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Paul Spudis, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Tomasz Stepinski, Lunar and Planetary Institute
Dr. Allan Treiman, Lunar and Planetary Institute

Special thanks are extended to Dr. Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Kevin Burke, Department of Geosciences at the University of Houston, for careful reviews of the content and presentation. Ms. Renée Dotson kindly reviewed the text for clarity and correctness.

Image Credits

Ms. Ronna Hurd and Ms. Leanne Woolley created the illustrations and designed the layout of artwork displayed in the Evolution of Our Solar System . Unless otherwise specified in the caption, all images are the original designs of these artists, and are the property of the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Circumstellar Disks
Hubble Space Telescope image of the Orion Nebula, courtesy of C. R. O'Dell (Rice University) and NASA.

Asteroids
Galileo Orbiter image of asteroid Ida, courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Comets
Nucleus of Comet Halley, courtesy of the European Space Agency and the Max-Planck Institute for Aeronomy.

Oldest Moon Rocks
Photographs courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center.

Oceans on Mars?
Liquid Water on Mars, painting by Michael Carroll, reprinted with permission of the artist.

Mercury Cools
Mosaic of Mariner 10 images, courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Inset: Mariner 10 image of Discovery Scarp, courtesy of NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Northwestern University. Image originally from Davies M. E., Dwornik S. E., Gault D. E., and Strom R. G. (1978) Atlas of Mercury. NASA SP-423.

Earth's Oldest Sedimentary Rocks
Image courtesy of Dr. Graham Ryder.

Planetary Impacts
Lunar Orbiter 4 image of the Mare Orientale basin, courtesy of NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Lunar Volcanism
Dark basaltic plain of Mare Imbrium. Apollo 15 Command Module Sim Bay Mapping Camera image, courtesy of NASA.

Vallas Marineris, Mars
Viking Orbiter 1 image, courtesy of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Making Oxygen
Photograph of a banded iron formation outcrop located on the Upper Peninsula, Michigan. The lens cap gives an idea of scale. Image courtesy of Sarah Hanson, Earth Science Department, Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan.

Moon Becomes Geologically Inactive
Compilation of Clementine 1 images, courtesy of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Outflow Channels on Mars
Viking Orbiter image of Ares Vallis, courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Vredefort Impact Crater, South Africa
Space shuttle image STS51I-33-56AA, courtesy of NASA.

Oldest Rocks in the Grand Canyon
Image courtesy of Dr. Graham Ryder.

Meteorites from Mars
Photograph of the Lafayette meteorite by Chip Clark, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Olympus Mons, Mars
Viking Orbiter 1 color mosaic, courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Longer Days, More Distant Moon
Clementine 1 image showing the circular, ringed Mare Orientale basin, courtesy of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Lava Flows on Venus
Computer-generated three-dimensional perspective view of the surface of Venus with Sapas Mons appearing at the center and Maat Mons located in the background on the horizon. Image produced by the Solar System Visualization project and the Magellan Science team at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory. Courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Tycho Crater
Tycho Crater appears close to the southern polar region of the Moon. The circular crater is surrounded by a bright ejecta blanket. Rays of ejecta extend across the lunar surface. Courtesy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Saturn's Rings
Voyager 2 image, courtesy of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“One Small Step . . . One Giant Leap”
Apollo 11 image AS11-40-5877, courtesy of NASA.


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