Origin and evolution of planetary systems
Until recently the only planetary system we could study was our own Solar System. Now astronomers have found the signatures of a number of other such systems.
Although the planets themselves are difficult to image directly, the high resolution of the JWST will make it possible to see how other planetary systems form and in this way enable us to piece together a picture of how other solar systems evolve.
Our own Solar System is made up of many different kinds of material, including a varied collection of dust and small bodies. The inventory ranges from zodiacal dust, a few thousandths of a millimetre in size in the inner Solar System, to a flattened disc of icy planetesimals, tens to hundreds of kilometres in size, forming the so-called Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt in the outer reaches of the Solar System. These larger objects orbit out beyond Neptune and are thought to be left over from the formation of the Solar System about 4.5 billion years ago.