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Hitchhikers Guide to the Solar System

W. Ian Ridley

Because the universe was evolving for 10-20 billion years prior to the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago, the galactic cloud fragment that collapsed to form the proto-solar system contained chemical elements from countless stars that acted as nuclear element factories as they were born, matured, and died, sometimes involving supernovae explosions. Various processes were involved in the formation of the proto-sun and the early solar nebula. Planetismals, subsequently accreted from the chemically and physically complex material of this nebula, formed the planets. The main purpose of this presentation is to conduct a brief tour through the solar system, from the sun outward, using as a guide the spectacular photos, as well as other types of information, col ected during the 2 decades of American and Russian exploration of space. The inner, terrestrial planets that are dominated by silicate minerals differ from the outer, giant planets composed principally of gases and liquids that may surround small silicate cores. Finally, I shall return to Earth via the Moon in order to briefly review what has been learned of our own satellite from the Apollo program. Space is the next great resource for mankind. Geologists will play a crucial role in evaluating the resource potential of the other planets and their satellites, just as they have on Earth. It is a sobering thought that less than 60 years after the Wright Brothers first flew, you and I witnessed a man walking on the Moon. Our children and grandchildren may well see a man walk on the surface f Mars. It is none too soon to imagine mankind benefiting from the environment of space, and from the materials of the diverse bodies that make up the solar system.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.