What exactly does it take to make a solar system? According to astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a proto-planetary disk made up of celestial gas and dust, comprised of the mass of about 20 Jupiters, is needed for a solar system to form.
They're testing this theory by studying a nebula to prove it, and the theory that solar systems form after about 5 million years of radiation emission to do so.
The proto-planetary disk, otherwise known as a minimum mass solar nebula (MMSN), can be used on a density-to-age ratio basis—the smaller the mass, the older the disk. And how is the MMSN determined? From the infrared rays and radiation that the nebula discharges.
Using a submillimeter camera based out of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, the scientists charted the size of a 2- to 3 million-year-old star cluster named IC348, located in the Perseus stellar nursery, a molecular cloud about one thousand light years from Earth.
What the scientists discovered was startling: evidence of about 13 disks were found within the cloud, each around 1.5 to 16 Jupiters in size—none of them as big as the minimum MMSN needed to create a solar system. They also determined that less than 1 percent of stars have a MMSN disk; with these facts combined, this means that the chances of a solar system as large and extensive as ours are exceedingly rare.
Check out this video on proto-planetary disks below, courtesy of NASA.