I'm kind of scathing my head over this. First of all, I'm not a physicist of any kind, I'm a software developer, but I'm also a bit passionate about astronomy(usually read the news) and in my free time I'm also part of an NGO which focuses on public education. To this end I've been asked to find scientific material on the formation of the solar system for the purpose of educating adults on this topic.

What I'd like to do is create something that is easily understandable to everyone, that covers the entire formation of the solar system (from mater being created in stars to star formation regions in nebulae, planetary accretion, formation of the moon, and maybe something on the conditions for life) and that has references to accepted scientific works.

My problem is the following: I can find material that is easy to understand but it usually doesn't cite any scientific publication(I'd like to avoid is things like "scientists say..." or "a new study shows...").
I can find scientific papers, but they're usually so complex I can barely understand them or I can't understand them at all.

What I need is something in the middle that's easy to understand for someone who doesn't have an extensive physics background and that has valid references to accepted works. I'd also, like something that reflects the latest findings on this issue.

I've found Wikipedia to be fairly accurate, however we can't accept it as a credible source due to it's editing policy.

The closest thing I've found to what I'm looking for is the Big History Project. I's a nice explanation but it kind of lacks the citations I need.

Can anyone help my search? Any support would be appreciated.

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    $\begingroup$ I think what you're looking for doesn't really exist. In order to make things "easy to understand", one has to simplify so drastically that usually the real science behind it is lost. Citations to publications are then typically useless (and the readers don't care, usually...). $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Jan 12, 2016 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe one of the most important lessons about that topic is that it's far from understood, yet. We are constantly learning new things about the solar system and many aspects of its history, including the details of its formation, are still missing. That there is no grand myopic, as Danu pointed out, is part of the fact that we haven't even begun collecting the main data, yet! It will take many more robotic sample collection missions to planets, moons, asteroids and comets before we will have enough data. Keep in mind that even Earth's early geology is still research in motion! $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jan 12, 2016 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne I understand this, I'm not looking for nonexistent knowledge. And I'm definitely not looking to fund sample collecting missions to Mercury or the Kuiper belt(would be nice but I don't have that kind of money). I'm looking for what's currently known, in a format I can understand(like you would explain it to a 1st year student). $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2016 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ Did you look at lectures on Youtube? youtube.com/watch?v=9VSAVlke1sI, youtube.com/watch?v=QbFFNQA65W8 and others. I would say those have a pretty good appeal to a layman audience. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jan 12, 2016 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @memoryofadream - Would you be looking for something as detailed as a monograph-like book, or is that on the too complicated side? That is the other place I would look, as monograph reviews often have very detailed bibliographies and explanations. For instance, there is a monograph on the Evolution of the Earth and Planets (doi:10.1029/GM074). There is also one on Atmospheres in the Solar System: Comparative Aeronomy (doi:10.1029/GM130) and one on Magnetotails in the Solar System (doi:10.1002/9781118842324)... $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2016 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


I make two suggestions. 1. "Planetary and Interstellar Processes Relevant to the Origins of Life." Edited by D. C. B Whittet. This was written in 1997, so it is a little dated, but it contains about 14 chapters, written by acknowledged experts, and it contains many references. It won't do everything you want, but it is a start, and as others mentioned, probably nothing will do everything you want.

  1. At the risk of being ejected for self-promotion, "Planetary Formation and Biogenesis", an ebook from Amazon by me. This has two parts. The first is an analysis of the literature until about 2011 (so it too is dated, but less so) and is an attempt to isolate the issues. The second part is my personal theory as to how it all started. The major difference between this theory and the standard one is the standard one on planetary formation starts with a distribution of planetesimals formed in the accretion disk, and nobody has a clue how these could form. My version, because I am a chemist, is the initial accretion depends on chemistry, and that chemistry defines the solar system, and also provides the raw materials for biogenesis. The book has over 600 references.

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