In 2003, Donald Pettit, a nasa astronaut, sprinkled some salt into a ziplock bag for an experiment. Pettit was living on the International Space Station, about 200 miles above Earth. The station was just a few years old then, and astronauts were keen to see how stuff reacted in microgravity.
Pettit gave the bag a good shake. When he stopped, the salt crystals were suspended like tiny flakes in a snow globe. Then there was movement. The particles began bumping into each other. They stuck to each other, forming small chunks, which then collided with other chunks. Within seconds, the crystals had coalesced into one big clump. When Pettit shook the bag again, the clump refused to break apart.
With a plastic bag and some salt, Pettit had created a tiny model of planet formation.
Read the full report here.
(Photo: ESO/A. MÜLLET ET AL, via The Atlantic)