Solar System

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Solar System is the Sun and all the objects that travel around it. The Sun is orbited by planets, asteroids, comets and other things.

Planets and dwarf planets of the Solar System. Compared with each other, the sizes are correct, but the distances are not

The Solar System is about 4.568 billion years old.[1] The Sun formed by gravity in a large molecular cloud. It is mainly hydrogen, which it converts into helium through nuclear fusion. The planets are in a flattened orbiting disk. This disk was partly left over from the cloud that formed the Sun, plus other material as the Sun moved through space. Eventually, the gas and dust of the disk came together into planets. It is thought that almost all stars and their planets form this way.

The Sun is a star. It makes up 99.9% of the Solar System's mass.[2] This means that it has strong gravity. The other objects are pulled into orbit around the Sun. The Sun is mostly made out of hydrogen, and some helium and higher elements. All heavier elements, called metals in astronomy, account for less than 2% of the Sun's mass. Oxygen is about 1% of the Sun's mass. Iron (0.2%) is the most plentiful of the other elements.[3]

There are eight planets in the Solar System. From closest to farthest from the Sun, they are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The first four planets are called terrestrial planets. They are mostly made of rock and metal, and they are mostly solid. The last four planets are called gas giants. This is because they are much larger than other planets and are mostly made of gas.

Six of the planets, and the six largest dwarf planets, are orbited by moons. There are more than 200 moons in the Solar System. Mercury and Venus have no moons, and Jupiter and Saturn have the largest number of moons. The largest moon is Ganymede which is a moon of Jupiter. Titan is one of Saturn’s moons. It is the only moon in the Solar System to have an atmosphere, which is mainly composed of nitrogen.

The Solar System also contains other things. There are asteroid belts, mostly between Mars and Jupiter. Further out than Neptune, there is the Kuiper belt and the scattered disc. These areas have dwarf planets, including Pluto, Makemake, Haumea, Ceres and Eris. There are thousands of very small objects in these areas. There are also comets, centaurs, and interplanetary dust.

In Ancient Greece, Aristarchus of Samos proposed the heliocentric model of the Solar System, where the Sun, is at the center of the known universe. He is sometimes known as the "Greek Copernicus".[4]

Evolution of the Solar System[change | change source]

The formation and evolution of the Solar System began 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud.[5]

Most of the collapsing mass collected in the centre, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disk of loose dust, out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other Solar System bodies formed.

This model, known as the nebular hypothesis, was developed in the 18th (1700s) century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. It has been adjusted by scientific disciplines such as astronomy, physics, geology, and planetary science. As our knowledge of space has grown, the models have been changed to account for the new observations.

The Solar System has evolved considerably since its initial formation. Some moons have formed from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while other moons are believed to have formed and were later captured by their planets. Others, such as the Earth's Moon, may be the result of giant collisions.

Many collisions between bodies have occurred, and have been important to the evolution of the Solar System. In the early stages, the positions of the planets sometimes shifted, and planets have switched places.[6][7] This planetary migration is thought to have been responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.

Grand tack hypothesis[change | change source]

Astronomers now think that the order of the planets was not always as it is today. Knowing what we know today, we can see the Solar System is strange. Most other planetary system we are able to study have their largest planet closer to their star. In the Solar System it is not. Also we have noticed other oddities in the Solar System. Mars is smaller than it ought to be, and the asteroid belt has been disturbed.

So, astronomers have put forward the grand tack hypothesis. In it Jupiter was earlier closer to the Sun, and (for some unknown reason) moved out to its present position.

Orbits of the planets[change | change source]

The Earth's orbit around the Sun is nearly a perfect circle, but in a very slightly oval shaped orbit, an elliptical orbit. The other planets in the Solar System also orbit the Sun in slightly elliptical orbits. Mercury has a more elliptical orbit than the others, and there is obviously some explanation for this. Some of the smaller objects orbit the Sun in very eccentric orbits. The planets all orbit the Sun in the same direction.[8]: 4–5 

A full account of the planetary motion needs an account of the n-body problem, which is not treated on this wiki. A page can be found on En wiki.

Discovery and exploration[change | change source]

For thousands of years, people had no need for a name for the "Solar System". They thought the Earth stayed still at the center of everything (geocentrism). The Greek philosopher Aristarchus of Samos suggested that there was a special order in the sky.[9] Nicolaus Copernicus was the first to develop a mathematical system that described what we now call the "Solar System". This was called a "new system of the world". In the 17th century, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton began to understand physics more clearly. People began to accept the idea that the Earth is a planet that moves around the Sun, and that the planets are worlds, and that all worlds are governed by the same same physical laws. More recently, telescopes and space probes sometimes let us see details directly. All inner planets have surface features. The gas giants (as the name suggests) have surfaces whose make-up is gradually being discovered.

The eight planets[change | change source]

Planetary distances, not to scale

In their order from the Sun:

  1. Mercury
  2. Venus
  3. Earth
  4. Mars
  5. Jupiter
  6. Saturn
  7. Uranus
  8. Neptune

The planets are the biggest objects that go around the Sun. It took people many years of using telescopes to find the objects that were farthest away. New planets might still be found, and more small objects are found every year. Most of the planets have moons that orbit around them just as the planets orbit the Sun. There are at least 200 of these moons in the Solar System.

Dwarf planets[change | change source]

Pluto was discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh and was declared the 9th planet of the Solar System in 1930.

This all changed on August 24, 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided on the correct definition for the word "planet" for the first time. By this definition, Pluto was not a planet anymore due to its irregular orbit and size. It became a "dwarf planet" along with Eris and many others.

Eris was 27% more massive than Pluto. After this, Pluto was put on the list of minor planets and was downgraded in 2006.[10] Instead they defined a new category of dwarf planet, into which Pluto did fit, along with some others. These small planets are sometimes called plutinos.

Structure[change | change source]

There are a few main parts of the Solar System. Here they are in order from the Sun, with the planets numbered, and the dwarf planets marked with the letters a to e.

Inner solar system[change | change source]

The inner planets. From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars

The first four planets closest to the Sun are called the inner planets. They are small and dense terrestrial planets, with solid surfaces. They are made up of mostly rock and metal with a distinct internal structure and a similar size. Three also have an atmosphere. The study of the four planets gives information about geology outside the Earth.

Outer solar system[change | change source]

The outer planets: From left to right: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune

Trans-Neptune region[change | change source]

Oort Cloud[change | change source]

The Oort cloud is separate from the trans-Neptune region, and much farther out. It contains the long-period comets.

Ecliptic plane[change | change source]

The plane of the ecliptic is defined by the Earth's orbit around the Sun. All of the planets orbit the Sun roughly around this same orbital plane. The farther away from this plane a planet orbits, the more inclined is its orbit to the ecliptic. If you could look at the Solar System "edge on" then all the planets would be orbiting more or less in the plane of the ecliptic.

References[change | change source]

  1. Connelly, James N.; et al. (2012). "The absolute chronology and thermal processing of solids in the Solar protoplanetary disk". Science. 338 (6107): 651–655. Bibcode:2012Sci...338..651C. doi:10.1126/science.1226919. PMID 23118187. S2CID 21965292.
  2. More precisely, 99.86 of its known mass. The total mass of the bodies in the Oort cloud is not known. Jupiter and Saturn account for 90% of the remaining 0.14%.
  3. Hansen, C.J.; Kawaler, S.A.; Trimble, V. (2004). Stellar interiors: physical principles, structure, and evolution (2nd ed.). Springer. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-387-20089-7.
  4. Draper J.W. 1874. History of the conflict between religion and science. New York: D. Appleton 1874, p172–173. ISBN 978-1-59102-533-7
  5. Bouvier, Audrey; Wadhwa, Meenakshi (2010), "The age of the Solar System redefined by the oldest Pb–Pb age of a meteoritic inclusion.", Nature Geoscience, 3 (9): 637–641, Bibcode:2010NatGe...3..637B, doi:10.1038/ngeo941
    Date based on oldest inclusions found to date in meteorites, thought to be among the first solid material to form in the collapsing solar nebula.
  6. R. Gomes H.F.; et al. (2005). "Origin of the cataclysmic Late Heavy Bombardment period of the terrestrial planets" (PDF). Nature. 435 (7041): 466–469. Bibcode:2005Natur.435..466G. doi:10.1038/nature03676. PMID 15917802. S2CID 4398337.
  7. A. Morbidelli J.; et al. (2000). "Source regions and timescales for the delivery of water to the Earth". Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 35 (6): 1309–1320. Bibcode:2000M&PS...35.1309M. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2000.tb01518.x. ISSN 1086-9379. S2CID 129817341.
  8. Chambers, John; Mitton, Jacqueline (2014). From dust to life : the origin and evolution of our solar system. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-14522-8. OCLC 859181634.
  9. WC Rufus (1923). "The astronomical system of Copernicus". Popular Astronomy. 31: 510. Bibcode:1923PA.....31..510R. Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  10. "IAU 2006 General Assembly: Result of the IAU Resolution votes". IAU. Retrieved 2018-09-04.

More reading[change | change source]

  • Lang, Kenneth R. (2011). The Cambridge Guide to the Solar System (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521198578.
  • Iggulden, Hal; Iggulden, Conn (2007). "The Solar System (a quick reference guide)". The Dangerous Book for Boys. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 217–224. ISBN 978-0061243585.
  • Thierry Montmerle; Jean-Charles Augereau; Marc Chaussidon 2006. Solar System formation and early evolution: the first 100 million years. Earth, Moon, and Planets. Springer. 98 (1–4): 39–95. Bibcode:2006EM&P...98...39M. doi:10.1007/s11038-006-9087-5. S2CID 120504344.

Other websites[change | change source]