We are a multidisciplinary research center for cosmochemistry, astrophysics and astronomy funded by the Danish National Research Foundation and located at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

Our aim is to explore the origin and evolution of planetary systems from a dynamic perspective by integrating high-precision isotope studies of meteorites with stellar evolution theory, astrophysical models and astronomical observations. We hope to understand the circumstances that allowed for the formation of the terrestrial planets in our solar system, including the preservation of water worlds like Earth, where life has been thriving for nearly 4 billion years.

As far as we know, our solar system is unique. It could, in principle, be the only planetary system in the Universe to harbor life.

As such, attempting to reconstruct its history has been one of the most fundamental pursuits in the natural sciences.

But the breadth of expertise required to develop a unified model of solar system formation is typically not available within any individual field of Universe science. And to assess the uniqueness of our existence, we must fully understand the formation and earliest evolution of the solar system: from collapse of the protosolar molecular cloud core through condensation and evolution of primitive solids and, ultimately, formation of terrestrial planets. This can only be achieved by establishing a multidisciplinary research environment nurturing synergistic interactions between the fields cosmochemistry, astrophysics and astronomy. This is the concept we propose with the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.

From Stardust to Planets

Our solar system formed ~4.57 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a molecular cloud core comprising interstellar gas and dust. The collapsing molecular cloud core evolved to form the young Sun surrounded by a protoplanetary disk, from which meteorites and planets originated. Although this collapse was originally viewed as tranquil, the discovery in meteorites of traces of now extinct short-lived radioisotopes exclusively produced during a supernova explosion indicate that our Sun formed in a dynamic environment proximal to dying massive stars.

Our solar system formed in a dynamic environment proximal to dying massive stars.

These stars modify their local environment by imparting both energy and freshly-synthesized elements, including short-lived radioisotopes. Thus, the nature of the astrophysical environment where our solar system formed may be one of the most important factors that determined its evolutionary path.

Our goal is to untangle the dynamics between the astrophysical environment, the formation of the solar protoplanetary disk, and the evolution of the earliest solids that ultimately formed asteroids and terrestrial planets.

To accomplish this, we identify four major research themes:

  1. Understanding the solar system's nucleosynthetic diversity
  2. Astrophysical setting of solar system formation
  3. Formation and temporal evolution of the protoplanetary disk
  4. Origin and evolution of asteroids and terrestrial planets

The Center for Star and Planet Formation is highly multidisciplinary, engaging partners from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, the Niels Bohr Institute and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Centre’s headquarters are located at the Natural History Museum of Denmark under leadership of Prof. Martin Bizzarro