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Grant Helps UCF Researchers Uncover Early Planetary Formation

Inside UCF's Physical Sciences building, researchers are crafting an experiment to find out how planets form in the earliest stages. Photo: UCF

An experiment looking at the very beginnings of planetary formation is getting a ride on a sub-orbital rocket funded by NASA.

In the early stages of planetary formation, there’s no gravity. So how do particles stick together? That’s what researcher Julie Brisset hopes to find out.

She’s sending a whole bunch of particles on a sub-orbital rocket. As the experiment falls, it experiences micro-gravity.

From there, she can see how different particles behave and “see if dust particles will stick at certain velocities and grow into certain structures in order to understand better the first stages of planetary formations,” said Brisset.

Scientists think that tiny particles colliding are the earliest stages of planetary formations.

“These dust grains somehow grow into so-called planetesimals that then grow into planets. And this first stage does not involve any gravity because the particles are too small. It involves surface forces. That’s what we’re looking into,” explains Brisset.

She’s working with a team at UCF to develop a CubeSat, which is a small orbiting experiment, to continue the investigation of early planetary formation.

The sub-orbital experiment will fly next year, thanks to $92,000 thousand dollars from NASA.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »