Outbursts of young Sun-like stars may change how terrestrial planets form

While the Sun is nowadays a quiet and well-balanced star, in its first few million years it might have been often out of temper, like those young low-mass stars which episodically undergo unpredictable outbursts. The prototype of one of the two classes of young erupting stars, EX Lupi, had its historically largest outburst in 2008. It brightened by a factor of 30 for six months, due to elevated accretion from the circumstellar disk on to the star. Our group observed the system during the outburst, and discovered the crystallisation of amorphous silicate grains in the inner disk by the heat of the outburst. Our mid-infrared monitoring of the freshly produced crystals revealed that their emission in the inner disk quickly dropped already within a year after the outburst. Here we report on new observations of the 10 µm silicate feature, obtained with the MIDI and VISIR instruments at Paranal Observatory, which demonstrate that within five years practically all forsterite disappeared from the inner disk. We attempt to model this process by an expanding wind that transports the crystals from the terrestrial zone to outer disk regions where comets are supposed to form. Since the eruptions of EX Lup are recurrent, we speculate that the early Sun also experienced similar brightenings, and the forming planetary system might have incorporated some of the mineralogical and chemical yields provided by the outbursts. EX Lup, as a proxy for the proto-Sun, may be a telltale object to understand the origin of molecules and minerals we routinely encounter on Earth.