The solar system is comprised of our Sun and the retinue of celestial objects gravitationally bound to it. Traditionally, it is said to consist of the Sun, nine planets and their 158 currently known moons; however, a large number of other objects, including asteroids, meteoroids, planetoids, comets, and interplanetary dust, orbit the Sun as well.
Although the term "solar system" is frequently applied to other star systems and the planetary systems which may comprise them, it should strictly refer to our system specifically: the word "solar" is derived from the Sun's Latin name, Sol (and the term sometimes appears as Solar System). When talking about another stellar system (or planetary system), including the star(s) and bodies associated with them through gravity, it is usual to shorten it to "the <name> system" (e.g. "the Alpha Centauri system" or "the 51 Pegasi system").
- 1 Structure and layout of the solar system
- 2 Origin and evolution of the solar system
- 3 Regions of the solar system
- 4 Age of the solar system
- 5 Galactic orbit of the solar system
- 6 Planetary system formation
- 7 Discovery of the solar system
- 8 Exploration of the solar system
- 9 Attributes of major planets
- 10 Attributes of the largest minor planets
- 11 Other facts
- 12 The solar system in small scales
- 13 The solar system in astrology
- 14 See also
- 15 External links
Structure and layout of the solar system
The Sun (astronomical symbol ☉) is a spectral class G2 star that contains 99.86% of the system's known mass. Its two largest orbiting bodies, Jupiter and Saturn, account for 91% of the remainder (The Oort Cloud could hold a substantial percentage as well, but as yet its existence is unconfirmed).
In broad terms, the charted regions of our solar system consist of the Sun, eight bodies in relatively unique orbits (commonly called planets or major planets) and two belts of smaller objects (which can be called minor planets, planetoids, meteoroids, planetesimals or, in the case of Pluto, planets). Objects in orbit round the Sun all lie within the same shallow plane, called the ecliptic, and all orbit in the same direction. Many are in turn orbited by moons, and the largest are encircled by planetary rings of dust and other particles.
The major planets are, in order, Mercury (☿), Venus (♀), Earth (♁), Mars (♂), Jupiter (♃), Saturn (♄), Uranus (♅/10px), Neptune (♆), and Pluto (♇), though Pluto's status has been thrown into question by the discovery of Template:Mpl (see below). Eight of the nine planets are named after or derived from gods and goddesses from Greco-Roman mythology; Earth, a Germanic word, is known in many Romance languages as Terra, the Roman goddess of the Earth.
Distances within the solar system are measured most often in astronomical units, or AU. 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or roughly 150 million kilometers. Pluto is roughly 38 AU from the Sun, while Jupiter lies at roughly 5.2 AU. For very large distances within the solar system, such as regions beyond Pluto or the orbital circumferences of planets, the terameter (Tm, one milliard kilometers) is sometimes used.
Despite the fact that many diagrams (like the image at the top of this article), for practicality's sake, represent the solar system as having each orbit the same distance apart, in actuality the orbits are largely arranged geometrically, that is, each is roughly double the distance from the Sun as the one before it. Venus’s distance from the Sun is roughly double that of Mercury, Earth’s distance is roughly double that of Venus, Mars’s double that of Earth and so on. This relationship is roughly expressed in the Titius-Bode law, a mathematical formula for predicting the semi-major axes of planets in AU. In its simplest form, it is written
This law is only a rough guide, and doesn't fit all of the planets (Neptune is far closer than predicted, though Pluto lies at Neptune's predicted orbit). As of now, there is no scientific explanation for why this law "works," and many claim it is merely a coincidence.
Origin and evolution of the solar system
The current hypothesis of solar system formation is the nebular hypothesis, first proposed in 1755 by Immanuel Kant. It states the solar system was formed from a gaseous cloud called the solar nebula. It had a diameter of 100 AU and was 2-3 times the mass of the Sun. Over time, the nebula began to collapse, possiby due to disturbance by a nearby supernova. This explosion sent shock waves into space, which squeezed the nebula, pushing more and more matter inward until gravitational forces overcame its internal gas pressure and it also began to collapse. As the nebula collapsed, it decreased in size, which in turn caused it to spin faster to conserve angular momentum. And as the competing forces associated with gravity, gas pressure, magnetic fields, and rotation acted on it, the contracting nebula began to flatten into a spinning pancake shape with a bulge at the center.
When the nebula further condensed, a protostar was formed in the middle. This system was heated by the friction of the rocks colliding into each other. Lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium evaporated out of the centre and migrated to the edges of the disc, thus concentrating the heavier elements to form dust and rocks in the centre. These heavier elements clumped together to form planetesimals and protoplanets. In the outer regions of this solar nebula, ice and volatile gases were able to survive, and as a result, the inner planets are rocky and the outer planets were massive enough to capture large amounts of lighter gases, such as hydrogen and helium.
After 100 million years, the pressures and densities of hydrogen in the centre of the collapsed nebula became great enough for the protosun to sustain thermonuclear fusion reactions. As a result of this, hydrogen was converted to helium, and a great amount of heat was released.
4×1H → 4He + neutrinos + photons
During that time, the protostar turned into the Sun and the protoplanets and planetesimals were transformed into planets. All of the planets formed in a relatively short time of a few million years.
Regions of the solar system
According to their location, the objects in the solar system are divided into three zones: Zone I or the inner solar system, including terrestrial planets and the Main belt of asteroids; Zone II, including the giant planets, their satellites and the centaurs, and Zone III, or the outer solar system, comprises the area of the Trans-Neptunian objects including the Kuiper Belt, the Oort cloud, and the vast region in between.
The environment in which the solar system resides is called the interplanetary medium. The Sun radiates a continuous stream of charged particles, a plasma known as solar wind, which forms a very tenuous “atmosphere” (the heliosphere), permeating the interplanetary medium in all directions for at least ten billion (10Template:E) miles (16 Tm or 16Template:E km) into space. Small quantities of dust are also present in the interplanetary medium and are responsible for the phenomenon of zodiacal light. Some of the dust is likely interstellar dust from outside the solar system.
The inner planets
The four inner or terrestrial planets are characterised by their dense, rocky makeup. They formed in the hotter regions close to the Sun, where lighter and more volatile materials evaporated, leaving only those with high melting points, such as silicates, which form the planets' solid crusts and semi-liquid mantles, and iron, which forms their cores. All have impact craters and many possess tectonic surface features, such as rift valleys and volcanoes. The four inner planets are:
- Mercury (0.39 AU from the Sun): The closest planet to the Sun is also the smallest and most atypical of the inner planets, having no atmosphere and, to date, no observed geological activity save that produced by impacts. Its relatively large iron core suggests that it was once a much larger world whose outer mantle was sheared off in early formation by the Sun’s gravity.
- Venus (0.72 AU): The first truly terrestrial planet, Venus, like the Earth, possesses a thick silicate mantle around an iron core, as well as a substantial atmosphere and evidence of one-time internal geological activity, such as volcanoes. It is much drier than Earth, and its atmosphere is 90 times as dense as Earth’s, however, and composed overwhelmingly of carbon dioxide with traces of sulfuric acid.
- Earth/Moon (1 AU): The largest of the inner planets, Earth is also the only one to demonstrate unequivocal evidence of ongoing geological activity. Its liquid hydrosphere, unique among the terrestrials, is probably the reason why Earth is also the only planet where multi-plate tectonics has been observed, since water acts as a lubricant for subduction. Its atmosphere is radically different from the other terrestrials, having been altered by the presence of life to contain 21 percent free oxygen. Its satellite, the Moon, is sometimes considered a terrestrial planet in a co-orbit with its partner, since its orbit around the Sun never actually loops back on itself when observed from above. The Moon possesses many of the features in common with other terrestrial planets, though it lacks an iron core.
- Mars (1.5 AU): Smaller than the Earth or Venus, Mars possesses a tenuous atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Its surface, peppered with vast volcanoes and rift valleys such as Valles Marineris, shows that it was once geologically active and recent evidence suggests it may have continued to be so until very recently. Mars possesses two tiny moons thought to be captured asteroids.
The asteroid belt
Asteroids are objects smaller than planets that mostly occupy the orbit between Mars and Jupiter, between 2.3 and 3.3 AU from the Sun, and are composed in significant part of non-volatile minerals. The main belt contains tens of thousands (possibly millions) over 1 km across, though they can be as small as dust. Despite their large numbers, the total mass of the main asteroid belt is unlikely to be more than a thousandth that of the Earth. Asteroids with a diameter of less than 50 m are called meteoroids. The largest asteroid, Ceres, has a diameter of roughly 1000 km; large enough to be spherical, which would make it a planet by some definitions of the word. The asteroids are thought to be the remnants of a small terrestrial planet that failed to coalesce due to the gravitational interference of Jupiter. They are subdivided into asteroid groups and families based on their specific orbital characteristics. Asteroid moons are asteroids that orbit larger asteroids. They are not as clearly distinguished as planetary moons, sometimes being almost as large as their partners.
The inner solar system is dusted with rogue asteroids, many of which cross the orbits of the inner planets.
The outer planets
The four outer planets, or gas giants, (sometimes called Jovian planets) are so large they collectively make up 99 percent of the mass known to orbit the Sun. Their large sizes and distance from the Sun meant they could hold on to much of the hydrogen and helium too light for the smaller and hotter terrestrial planets to retain.
- Jupiter (5.2 AU), at 318 Earth masses, is 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets put together. Its composition of largely hydrogen and helium is not very different from that of the Sun. Three of its 63 satellites, Ganymede, Io and Europa, share elements in common with the terrestrial planets, such as volcanism and internal heating. Jupiter has a faint, smoky ring.
- Saturn (9.5 AU), famous for its extensive ring system, shares many qualities in common with Jupiter, including its atmospheric composition, though it is far less massive, being only 95 Earth masses. Two of its 49 moons, Titan and Enceladus, show signs of geological activity, though they are largely made of ice. Titan is the only satellite in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere.
- Uranus (19.6 AU) and Neptune (30 AU), while having many characteristics in common with the other gas giants, are nonetheless more similar to each other than they are to Jupiter or Saturn. They are both substantially smaller, being only 14 and 17 Earth masses, respectively. Their atmospheres contain a smaller percentage of hydrogen and helium, and a higher percentage of “ices”, such as water, ammonia and methane. For this reason some astronomers suggested that they belong in their own category, “Uranian planets,” or “ice giants.” Both planets possess dark, insubstantial ring systems. Neptune’s largest moon Triton is geologically active.
Centaurs are icy comet-like bodies that have less-eccentric orbits so that they remain in the region between Jupiter and Neptune. The first centaur to be discovered, 2060 Chiron, has been called a comet since it has been shown to develop a tail, or coma, just as comets do when they approach the sun.
The trans-Neptunian region
The Kuiper belt
This region's first formation, which actually begins inside the orbit of Neptune, is the Kuiper belt, a great ring of debris, similar to the asteroid belt but composed mainly of ice and far greater in extent, which lies between 30 to 50 AU from the Sun. This region is thought to be the place of origin for short-period comets, such as Halley's comet. Though there are estimated to be over 70,000 Kuiper belt objects with a diameter greater than 100 km, the total mass of the Kuiper belt is relatively low, perhaps equalling or just exceeding the mass of the Earth. Many Kuiper belt objects have orbits that take them outside the plane of the ecliptic.
- Pluto, the solar system's smallest planet, is considered to be part of the Kuiper Belt population. Like others in the belt, it has a relatively eccentric orbit inclined 17 degrees to the ecliptic and ranging from 29.7 AU from the Sun at perihelion to 49.5 AU at aphelion. It has a large moon (the largest in the solar system relative to its own size), called Charon, and, new observations suggest, two other, much smaller moons. A member of the traditional nine planets, Pluto's tiny mass (less than 1% of Earth's) and diameter have called this status into question.
Kuiper belt objects with Pluto-like orbits are called Plutinos. Other Kuiper belt objects have resonant orbits and are grouped accordingly. The remaining Kuiper belt objects, in more "classical" orbits, are classified as Cubewanos.
The Kuiper Belt has a very sharply defined edge. At around 49 AU, a sharp dropoff occurs in the number of objects observed. This dropoff is known as the "Kuiper Cliff", and as yet its cause is unknown. Some speculate that something must exist beyond the belt large enough to sweep up the remaining debris, perhaps as large as Earth or Mars. This view is still controversial, however.
The scattered disc
Overlapping the Kuiper belt but extending much further outwards is the scattered disc. Scattered disc objects are believed to have been originally native to the Kuiper belt, but were ejected into erratic orbits in the outer fringes.
One particular scattered disc object, originally found in 2003 but confirmed two years later by Mike Brown, has renewed the old debate about what constitutes a planet since, though its size is not yet known, it is almost certainly larger than Pluto. It currently has no name, but has been given the provisional designation Template:Mpl, and has been nicknamed "Xena" by its discoverers, after the television character. It has many similarities with Pluto: its orbit is highly eccentric, with a perihelion of 38.2 AU (roughly Pluto's distance from the Sun) and an aphelion of 97.6 AU, and is steeply inclined to the ecliptic plane, indeed, at 44 degrees, more so than any known object in the solar system. Like Pluto, it is believed to consist largely of rock and ice, and has a moon. Whether it and the largest Kuiper belt objects should be considered planets or whether instead Pluto should be reclassified as a minor planet has not yet been resolved.
A new region?
Sedna, the newly discovered Pluto-like object with a gigantic, highly elliptical 10,500-year orbit that takes it from about 76 to 928 AU, has too distant a perihelion to be a scattered member of the Kuiper Belt and could be the first in an entirely new population. Template:Mpl is also believed to be a member of this population.
Comets are composed largely of volatile ices and have highly eccentric orbits, generally having a perihelion within the orbit of the inner planets and an aphelion far beyond Pluto. Short-period comets exist with apoapses closer than this, however, and old comets that have had most of their volatiles driven out by solar warming are often categorized as asteroids. Long period comets have orbits lasting thousands of years. Some comets with hyperbolic orbits may originate outside the solar system.
The point at which the solar system ends and interstellar space begins is not precisely defined, since its outer boundaries are delineated by two separate forces: the solar wind and the Sun's gravity.
The heliosphere expands outward in a great bubble to about 95 AU, or three times the orbit of Pluto. The edge of this bubble is known as the termination shock; the point at which the solar wind collides with the opposing winds of the interstellar medium. Here the wind slows, condenses and becomes more turbulent, forming a great oval structure known as the heliosheath that looks and behaves very much like a comet's tail; extending outward for a further 40 AU at its stellar-windward side, but tailing many times that distance in the opposite direction. The outer boundary of the sheath, the heliopause, is the point at which the solar wind finally terminates, and one enters the environment of interstellar space. Beyond the heliopause, at around 230 AU, lies the bow shock, a plasma "wake" left by the Sun as it travels through the Milky Way.
But even at this point, we could not be said to have left the solar system, for the Sun's gravity will still hold sway even up to the Oort cloud, the great mass of icy objects, currently hypothetical, believed to be the source for all long-period comets and to surround our solar system like a shell from 50,000 to 100,000 AU beyond the Sun, or almost halfway to the next star system. The vast majority of our solar system, therefore, is completely unknown.
Age of the solar system
Scientists estimate that the solar system is 4.6 billion years old. To calculate this figure, they examine an unstable element, which is subject to radioactive decay. By observing how much this element has decayed, they can calculate how old this element is. The oldest rocks on earth are approximately 3.9 billion years old, however it is hard to find these rocks as the earth has been thoroughly resurfaced. To estimate the age of the solar system, scientists must find rocks from space, such as meteorites – which are formed during the early condensation of the solar nebula. The oldest meteorite was found to have an age of 4.6 billion years, hence the solar system must be around 4.6 billion years old.
Galactic orbit of the solar system
The solar system is part of the Milky Way galaxy, a spiral galaxy with a diameter of about 100,000 light years containing approximately 200 billion stars, of which our Sun is rather large and bright. (The vast majority of stars are red dwarfs; our Sun is placed near the middle of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, but stars larger and hotter than it are rare, whereas stars dimmer and cooler than it are very common, although we can observe only those few other red dwarfs that are very near our Sun in space).
Estimates place the solar system at between 25,000 and 28,000 light years from the galactic center. Its speed is about 220 kilometres per second, and it completes one revolution every 226 million years. At the galactic location of the solar system, the escape velocity with regard to the gravity of the Milky Way is about 1000 km/s.
The solar system appears to have a very unusual orbit. It is both extremely close to being circular, and at nearly the exact distance at which the orbital speed matches the speed of the compression waves that form the spiral arms. The solar system appears to have remained between spiral arms for most of the existence of life on Earth. The radiation from supernovae in spiral arms could theoretically sterilize planetary surfaces, preventing the formation of large animal life on land. By remaining out of the spiral arms, Earth may be unusually free to form large animal life on its surface.
Planetary system formation
For many years, our solar system had the only planetary system known, and so theories of planetary formation only had to explain one system to be plausible. The discovery in recent years of many extrasolar planets has uncovered systems very different to our own, and theories have had to be revised accordingly.
Exoplanets have not been seen by astronomers yet, however we know they exist because of the gravitational tug the planets induce on the star, and hence making the star ‘wobble’. Astronomers can calculate how massive the planets are by observing how much the star wobbles. Exoplanets can also be observed more directly by their occultation of the stars' discs, which dims them slightly.
In October, 1995, astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the discovery of a massive planet orbiting 51 Pegasi – a Sun-like star in the constellation Pegasus. This planet is about half as massive as Jupiter, and had an orbital period of 4.2 Earth days, due to its closeness to the star (0.05 AU). Since then, over 160 more planets have been identified.
Many extrasolar planetary systems contain such a “hot Jupiter”: a planet comparable to or larger than Jupiter orbiting very close to the parent star, perhaps orbiting it in a matter of days. It has been hypothesised that while the giant planets in these systems formed in the same place as the gas giants in our system did, some sort of migration took place which resulted in the giant planet spiralling in towards the parent star. Any terrestrial planets which had previously existed would presumably either be destroyed or ejected from the system.
There has also been some photographic evidence to suggest that regions in the Orion Nebula, which is 1500 light years from Earth, have solar systems forming.
Discovery of the solar system
The planets out to Saturn were known to ancient astronomers, who observed the wandering of these objects against the apparently fixed pattern of stars. Venus and Mercury were each identified as single objects despite the difficulty of connecting "evening" and "morning stars". It was also identified that the two non-pointlike objects, the sun and the Moon, moved across the same fixed background. However knowledge of the nature of these celestial drifters was entirely speculative and largely incorrect.
The nature and structure of the solar system were long misperceived, for at least two reasons:
- The Earth was considered stationary, and the motion of objects in the sky was therefore taken at face value: the sun was thought to orbit the Earth, for example (This conception of the universe, in which the Earth is at the center, is called the Geocentric model; geos means "Earth" in Greek).
- Many solar system objects and phenomena cannot be perceived at all without technical aid.
Over the last several hundred years, conceptual and technological advances have helped us understand the solar system much better.
The first and most fundamental of the conceptual advances was the Copernican Revolution, which proposed that the planets orbit the sun—models of the solar system with the sun in the center are called heliocentric (helios meaning "Sun" in Greek). Despite the name, the most striking (and then-controversial) Copernican realization was not that the sun was central but that the Earth was peripheral, orbital: planets had been considered merely points in the sky, but if the Earth itself was a planet, perhaps the other planets were, like Earth, huge solid spheres.
Philosophically, there were a number of objections to heliocentrism:
- If the Earth is moving, what force keeps the air from flying off into space?
- The Earth is made of heavy rock. Heavy rock moves down. Down in a sphere means the centre. The planets are ephemeral and light, so they are above. How can Earth be a planet?
- If the Earth is mobile, then why do we not observe parallax in the stars (the stars appearing to shift in relation to further objects due to the change in position)?
The subsequent invention of the telescope gave the principal technological advance on discovering the solar system, with Galileo's improved version of the telescope rapidly giving benefit in terms of discovering satellites of other planets, especially Jupiter's four major satellites. This showed that all objects in the universe did not orbit the Earth. However, perhaps Galileo's most important discovery was that the planet Venus has phases like the Moon, proving that it must orbit the Sun.
Exploration of the solar system
Since the start of the space age, a great deal of exploration has been performed by unmanned space missions that have been organized and executed by various space agencies. The first probe to land on another solar system body was the Soviet Union's Luna 2 probe, which impacted on the Moon in 1959. Since then, increasingly distant planets have been reached, with probes landing on Venus in 1965, Mars in 1976, the asteroid 433 Eros in 2001, and Saturn's moon Titan in 2005. Spacecraft have also made close approaches to other planets: Mariner 10 passed Mercury in 1973.
The first probe to explore the outer planets was Pioneer 10, which flew by Jupiter in 1973. Pioneer 11 was the first to visit Saturn, in 1979. The Voyager probes performed a grand tour of the outer planets following their launch in 1977, with both probes passing Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980–1981. Voyager 2 then went on to make close approaches to Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. The Voyager probes are now far beyond Pluto's orbit, and astronomers anticipate that they will encounter the heliopause which defines the outer edge of the solar system in the next few years.
Pluto remains the only planet not having been visited by a man-made spacecraft, though that will change with the launching of New Horizons by NASA in January 2006. It is scheduled to fly by Pluto in July 2015 and then make an extensive study of as many Kuiper Belt objects as it can.
Through these unmanned missions, we have been able to get close-up photographs of most of the planets and, in the case of landers, perform tests of their soils and atmospheres. Manned exploration, meanwhile, has only taken human beings as far as the Moon, in the Apollo program. The last manned landing on the Moon took place in 1972, but the recent discovery of ice in deep craters in the polar regions of the Moon has prompted speculation that mankind may return to the Moon in the next decade or so. Manned missions to Mars have been eagerly anticipated by generations of space enthusiasts, and it was hoped that the first manned interplanetary flights would take place in the 1980s, after the successful Apollo program. Europe (ESA and EU) now plans manned Lunar and Mars missions as part of Aurora Exploration Programme endorsed in 2001. United States followed with similar programme called Vision for Space Exploration in 2004.
Attributes of major planets
<timeline> ImageSize = width:200 height:640 PlotArea = width:140 height:600 left:50 bottom:20 AlignBars = justify
Period = from:0 till:7500 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:1000 start:0 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:500 start:0
width:15 color:blue align:left shift:(15,-5) from:46 till:70 text:"Mercury" from:107 till:109 align:right shift:(-15,-5) text:"Venus" from:147 till:152 shift:(15,0) text:"Earth" from:207 till:249 align:right shift:(-15,0) text:"Mars" from:314 till:494 shift:(15,5) color:yellow text:"Asteroid~ belt" from:741 till:816 text:"Jupiter" from:1347 till:1507 text:"Saturn" from:2735 till:3004 text:"Uranus" from:4425 till:7375 color:brightgreen text:"Pluto" from:4456 till:4537 text:"Neptune"
All attributes below are measured relative to the Earth:
| Orbital period
Of the other objects, Ganymede has the largest mass (0.02).
Note: Although Template:Mpl is a minor planet, it is being considered as possibly being a major planet (the tenth in the solar system).
See Planet (Table) for a more comprehensive table.
Attributes of the largest minor planets
The largest minor planets are smoothly rounded, like planets, because their gravity overcomes material strength that keeps smaller bodies in non-spherical shapes. Before the discovery of 2060 Chiron and the trans-Neptunian objects, the term "minor planet" was a synonym for asteroid, but many people now prefer to restrict the use of "asteroid" to refer to rocky bodies of the inner solar system. Most trans-Neptunian objects are icy, like comets, although those we can detect at that distance are much larger than comets.
Several asteroids, in the strict sense, are large enough to be spherical. The largest known trans-Neptunian objects are much larger than the large asteroids. (Natural satellites of major planets also range smoothly from small non-spherical objects to large spherical ones, and the largest are larger than 1 Ceres, the largest asteroid).
All attributes below are measured relative to the Earth:
|Minor planet|| Equatorial
|Mass|| Orbital radius
| Orbital period
|1 Ceres||0.075||0.000 158||2.767||4.603||0.3781|
|90482 Orcus||0.066 - 0.148||0.000 10 - 0.001 17||39.47||248||?|
|28978 Ixion||~0.083||0.000 10 - 0.000 21||39.49||248||?|
|20000 Varuna||0.066 - 0.097||0.000 05 - 0.000 33||43.129||283||0.132 or 0.264|
|50000 Quaoar||0.078 - 0.106||0.000 17 - 0.000 44||43.376||285||?|
|90377 Sedna||0.093 - 0.141||0.000 14 - 0.001 02||502.040||11500||20|
It has been suggested that the Sun may be part of a binary star system, with a distant companion named Nemesis. Nemesis was proposed to explain some timing regularities of the great extinctions of life on Earth. The hypothesis says that Nemesis creates periodical perturbations in the Oort cloud of comets surrounding the solar system, causing a "comet shower". Some of them hit Earth, causing destruction of life. This hypothesis is no longer taken seriously by most scientists, mostly because infrared surveys failed to spot any such object, which should have been very conspicuous at those wavelengths.
The solar system in small scales
- Main article: Solar system model
Scaling down the size of the solar system makes it easier for students to grasp the relative distances. The enormous ratio of interplanetary distances to planetary diameters makes constructing a scale model of the solar system a challenging task. (For example, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is almost 12,000 times the diameter of the Earth.) Several places have built such models.
The solar system in astrology
- Astronomical symbols
- Definition of planet
- Geological features of the Solar System
- Laws of Kepler
- Category:Lists of Solar system objects
- Minor planet
- Numerical model of solar system
- Origin of life
- Planetary system
- Planetary nomenclature
- Solar system by size
- Stellar system
- Table of planetary attributes
- Timeline of solar system astronomy
- Titius-Bode law
- Zodiacal light
- NASA's Solar System Exploration site
- NASA's Solar System Simulator
- NASA/JPL Solar System main page
- Astronomical Enigma Mathematical Order in the orbits of the solar system.
- Celestia Free 3D realtime space-simulation (OpenGL)
- The Nine Planets Comprehensive solar system site by Bill Arnett
- Planetary data
- Stars and Habitable Planets
- Solar System An interactive planets animation (145 zoom steps and time effects)
- Timeline of solar system exploration
- An Atlas of the Universe
- mirror matter planets and other mirror objects in the solar system?
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