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Solar system
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Solar system

A generic solar system (or planetary system) consists of at least one star and various orbiting objects (such as asteroids, comets, moonss, and planets). The term originated to describe the planetary system around Sol, the Latin name for our sun. The planet Earth is located within our solar system, which is usually called simply the Solar system; others are called planetary systems to avoid confusion. This article uses this terminology.

Table of contents
1 Solar system objects
2 Origin and evolution of planetary systems
3 Orbit of the solar system
4 Discovery and exploration of the solar system
5 The solar system and other planetary systems
6 Attributes of Major Planets
7 Other facts
8 Extension
9 See also
10 External link

Solar system objects

The wide variety of objects that exist in the solar system fall into several categories. In recent years many of these categories have been found to be less clear-cut than once thought. This encyclopedia employs the following divisions:

Origin and evolution of planetary systems

Planetary systems are generally believed to form as part of the same process which results in star formation; although, some argue that systems are formed by some kind of accidental "stellar near-collison". The more common theory argues that the objects of a planetary system developed from a solar nebula.

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 fairly typical.

Estimates place the solar system at between 25,000 and 28,000 light years from the galactic center. Its speed is about 220 kilometers per second, and it completes one revolution every 226 million years.

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.

Discovery and exploration of the solar system

Because of the geocentric perspective from which humans viewed the solar system, its nature and structure were long misperceived. The apparent motions of solar system objects as viewed from a moving Earth were believed to be their actual motions about a stationary Earth. In addition, many solar system objects and phenomena are not directly sensible by humans without technical aids. Thus both conceptual and technological advances were required in order for the solar system to be correctly understood.

The first and most fundamental of these advances was the Copernican Revolution, which adopted a heliocentric model for the motions of the planets. Indeed, the term "solar system" itself derives from this perspective. But the most important consequences of this new perception came not from the central position of the Sun, but from the orbital position of the Earth, which suggested that the Earth was itself a planet, and the planets other Earths. This was the first indication of the true nature of the planets. Also, the lack of perceptible stellar parallax despite the Earth's orbital motion indicated the extreme remoteness of the fixed stars, which prompted the speculation that they could be objects similar to the Sun, perhaps with planets of their own.

The solar system and other planetary systems

Until recently, the solar system was the only known example of a planetary system, although it was widely believed that other comparable systems did exist. A number of such systems have now been detected, although the information available about them is very limited. The technique employed involves the detection through the Doppler effect of periodic variations in the motion of parent stars which is attributed to the presence of planets. This allows the mass and orbital characteristics of the unseen planets to be determined. Unfortunately the sensitivity of these techniques currently does not permit the detection of planets of mass and orbit comparable to the Earth.

Attributes of Major Planets

All attributes below are measured relative to the Earth:

Planet Equatorial
Mass Orbital
Year Day
Mercury 0.382 0.06 0.38 0.241 58.6
Venus 0.949 0.82 0.72 0.615 -243
Earth 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00
Mars 0.53 0.11 1.52 1.88 1.03
Jupiter 11.2 318 5.20 11.86 0.414
Saturn 9.41 95 9.54 29.46 0.426
Uranus 3.98 14.6 19.22 84.01 0.718
Neptune 3.81 17.2 30.06 164.79 0.671
Pluto* 0.24 0.0017 39.5 248.5 6.5

*Soon after its discovery in 1930, Pluto was classified a planet by the International Astronomical Union. However, based on additional discoveries since that time, some astronomers have suggested reconsideration of that decision.

Other facts

The total surface area of the solar system's objects that have solid surfaces and diameter > 1km is ~ 1.7 × 109 km2. ([1])

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 regularities of the great extinctions of life on Earth. The theory says that Nemesis creates periodical perturbations in the asteroids and comets of the solar system causing a shower of large bodies and some of them hit Earth causing destruction of life, although this theory is no longer taken seriously by most scientists.


Outer boundaries, in that order, are the termination shock, the heliosheath, and the heliopause.

See also

External link

The Solar System
Sun | Mercury | Venus | Earth | Moon | Mars | Asteroids | Jupiter | Saturn | Uranus | Neptune | Pluto
(For other objects and regions, see: List of solar system objects, Astronomical objects)