What is the Sun composed of? Are the Earth and planets made of the same materials? The Genesis mission sent a spacecraft to collect material from the Sun, called solar wind, to find answers to these questions, to enrich our understanding of the birth and evolution of the planets and all the bodies in our solar system.

Scientists believe our solar system formed about 4.5 billion years ago from a solar nebula made of gasses, dust and ice. As time passed, most of the material was pulled together by gravity to form the Sun and other celestial bodies as we know them today. Nearly all of the original solar nebula exists today as the Sun, which has more than 99% of the solar system’s mass.

The Sun’s outer layers are thought to be composed of nearly the same distribution of elements and isotopes that made up the solar nebula. The Sun continuously ejects its outer layers as solar wind. By capturing and analyzing the solar wind, scientists can compare its composition with that of other bodies and develop an understanding how the solar nebula developed into a planetary system.