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Friday, 24 June 2011

An Introduction..

An Introduction...
In ouro slar system, nine planets circle around our Sun. The Sun sits in the middle while the planets travel in circular paths (called orbits) ahese round it. Tnine planets travel in the same direction (counter- clockwise looking down from the Sun's north pole). The picture on the right shows the different paths and positions of each planet (not to scale).

The solar system is made up of two parts:
  The inner solar system contains Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. These four planets are closest to the Sun.
  The outer solar system contains Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
  The inner planets are separated from the outer planets by the Asteroid Belt.

Click on the rocket to find out more about our nine planets!



The immediate galactic neighbourhood of the Solar System is known as the Local Interstellar Cloud or Local Fluff, an area of denser cloud in an otherwise sparse region known as the Local Bubble, an hourglass-shaped cavity in the interstellar medium roughly 300 light years across. The bubble is suffused with high-temperature plasma that suggests it is the product of several recent supernovae.[99]
There are relatively few stars within ten light years (95 trillion km) of the Sun. The closest is the triple star system Alpha Centauri, which is about 4.4 light years away. Alpha Centauri A and B are a closely tied pair of Sun-like stars, while the small red dwarf Alpha Centauri C (also known as Proxima Centauri) orbits the pair at a distance of 0.2 light years. The stars next closest to the Sun are the red dwarfs Barnard's Star (at 5.9 light years), Wolf 359 (7.8 light years) and Lalande 21185 (8.3 light years). The largest star within ten light years is Sirius, a bright main sequence star roughly twice the Sun's mass and orbited by a white dwarf called Sirius B. It lies 8.6 light years away. The remaining systems within ten light years are the binary red dwarf system Luyten 726-8 (8.7 light years) and the solitary red dwarf Ross 154 (9.7 light years).[100] Our closest solitary sun-like star is Tau Ceti, which lies 11.9 light years away. It has roughly 80 percent the Sun's mass, but only 60 percent its luminosity.[101] The closest known extrasolar planet to the Sun lies around the star Epsilon Eridani, a star slightly dimmer and redder than the Sun, which lies 10.5 light years away. Its one confirmed planet, Epsilon Eridani b, is roughly 1.5 times Jupiter's mass and orbits its star every 6.9 years.[102]
A series of five star maps that show from left to right our location in the Solar System, in the Sun's neighborhood of stars, in the local area of the Milky Way galaxy, in the Local Group of galaxies, and in the Supercluster of galaxies
A diagram of our location in the Local Supercluster. (See also Earth's location in the Universe.)

Formation and evolution

Projected timeline of the Sun's life.

Outer Solar System

Outer Solar System

The outer region of the Solar System is home to the gas giants and their large moons. Many short period comets, including the centaurs, also orbit in this region. Due to their greater distance from the Sun, the solid objects in the outer Solar System contain a higher proportion of volatiles such as water, ammonia and methane, than the rocky denizens of the inner Solar System, as the colder temperatures allow these compounds to remain solid.

Outer planets

From top to bottom: Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter (not to scale)
The four outer planets, or gas giants (sometimes called Jovian planets), collectively make up 99 percent of the mass known to orbit the Sun.[c] Jupiter and Saturn are each many tens of times the mass of the Earth and consist overwhelmingly of hydrogen and helium; Uranus and Neptune are far less massive (<20 Earth masses) and possess more ices in their makeup. For these reasons, some astronomers suggest they belong in their own category, “ice giants.”[54] All four gas giants have rings, although only Saturn's ring system is easily observed from Earth. The term outer planet should not be confused with superior planet, which designates planets outside Earth's orbit and thus includes both the outer planets and Mars.


Jupiter (5.2 AU), at 318 Earth masses, is 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets put together. It is composed largely of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter's strong internal heat creates a number of semi-permanent features in its atmosphere, such as cloud bands and the Great Red Spot.
Jupiter has 63 known satellites. The four largest, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa, show similarities to the terrestrial planets, such as volcanism and internal heating.[55] Ganymede, the largest satellite in the Solar System, is larger than Mercury.


Saturn (9.5 AU), distinguished by its extensive ring system, has several similarities to Jupiter, such as its atmospheric composition and magnetosphere. Although Saturn has 60% of Jupiter's volume, it is less than a third as massive, at 95 Earth masses, making it the least dense planet in the Solar System. The rings of Saturn are made up of small ice and rock particles.
Saturn has 62 confirmed satellites; two of which, Titan and Enceladus, show signs of geological activity, though they are largely made of ice.[56] Titan, the second largest moon in the Solar System, is larger than Mercury and the only satellite in the Solar System with a substantial atmosphere.


Uranus (19.6 AU), at 14 Earth masses, is the lightest of the outer planets. Uniquely among the planets, it orbits the Sun on its side; its axial tilt is over ninety degrees to the ecliptic. It has a much colder core than the other gas giants, and radiates very little heat into space.[57]
Uranus has 27 known satellites, the largest ones being Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel and Miranda.


Neptune (30 AU), though slightly smaller than Uranus, is more massive (equivalent to 17 Earths) and therefore more dense. It radiates more internal heat, but not as much as Jupiter or Saturn.[58]
Neptune has 13 known satellites. The largest, Triton, is geologically active, with geysers of liquid nitrogen.[59] Triton is the only large satellite with a retrograde orbit. Neptune is accompanied in its orbit by a number of minor planets, termed Neptune Trojans, that are in 1:1 resonance with it.


Comet Hale-Bopp
Comets are small Solar System bodies,[e] typically only a few kilometres across, composed largely of volatile ices. They have highly eccentric orbits, generally a perihelion within the orbits of the inner planets and an aphelion far beyond Pluto. When a comet enters the inner Solar System, its proximity to the Sun causes its icy surface to sublimate and ionise, creating a coma: a long tail of gas and dust often visible to the naked eye.
Short-period comets have orbits lasting less than two hundred years. Long-period comets have orbits lasting thousands of years. Short-period comets are believed to originate in the Kuiper belt, while long-period comets, such as Hale-Bopp, are believed to originate in the Oort cloud. Many comet groups, such as the Kreutz Sungrazers, formed from the breakup of a single parent.[60] Some comets with hyperbolic orbits may originate outside the Solar System, but determining their precise orbits is difficult.[61] Old comets that have had most of their volatiles driven out by solar warming are often categorised as asteroids.[62]


The centaurs are icy comet-like bodies with a semi-major axis greater than Jupiter's (5.5 AU) and less than Neptune's (30 AU). The largest known centaur, 10199 Chariklo, has a diameter of about 250 km.[63] The first centaur discovered, 2060 Chiron, has also been classified as comet (95P) since it develops a coma just as comets do when they approach the Sun.

Asteroid belt

Asteroid belt

Image of the main asteroid belt and the Trojan asteroids
Asteroids are mostly small Solar System bodies[e] composed mainly of refractory rocky and metallic minerals.[44]
The main asteroid belt occupies the orbit between Mars and Jupiter, between 2.3 and 3.3 AU from the Sun. It is thought to be remnants from the Solar System's formation that failed to coalesce because of the gravitational interference of Jupiter.[45]
Asteroids range in size from hundreds of kilometres across to microscopic. All asteroids save the largest, Ceres, are classified as small Solar System bodies, but some asteroids such as Vesta and Hygiea may be reclassed as dwarf planets if they are shown to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium.[46]
The asteroid belt contains tens of thousands, possibly millions, of objects over one kilometre in diameter.[47] Despite this, the total mass of the main belt is unlikely to be more than a thousandth of that of the Earth.[48] The main belt is very sparsely populated; spacecraft routinely pass through without incident. Asteroids with diameters between 10 and 10−4 m are called meteoroids.[49]

Inner Solar System

Inner Solar System

The inner Solar System is the traditional name for the region comprising the terrestrial planets and asteroids.[31] Composed mainly of silicates and metals, the objects of the inner Solar System are relatively close to the Sun; the radius of this entire region is shorter than the distance between Jupiter and Saturn.

Inner planets

The inner planets. From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars (sizes to scale, interplanetary distances not)
The four inner or terrestrial planets have dense, rocky compositions, few or no moons, and no ring systems. They are composed largely of refractory minerals, such as the silicates, which form their crusts and mantles, and metals such as iron and nickel, which form their cores. Three of the four inner planets (Venus, Earth and Mars) have atmospheres substantial enough to generate weather; all have impact craters and tectonic surface features such as rift valleys and volcanoes. The term inner planet should not be confused with inferior planet, which designates those planets that are closer to the Sun than Earth is (i.e. Mercury and Venus).


Mercury (0.4 AU from the Sun) is the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet in the Solar System (0.055 Earth masses). Mercury has no natural satellites, and its only known geological features besides impact craters are lobed ridges or rupes, probably produced by a period of contraction early in its history.[32] Mercury's almost negligible atmosphere consists of atoms blasted off its surface by the solar wind.[33] Its relatively large iron core and thin mantle have not yet been adequately explained. Hypotheses include that its outer layers were stripped off by a giant impact, and that it was prevented from fully accreting by the young Sun's energy.[34][35]


Venus (0.7 AU from the Sun) is close in size to Earth (0.815 Earth masses), and, like Earth, has a thick silicate mantle around an iron core, a substantial atmosphere and evidence of internal geological activity. However, it is much drier than Earth and its atmosphere is ninety times as dense. Venus has no natural satellites. It is the hottest planet, with surface temperatures over 400 °C, most likely due to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.[36] No definitive evidence of current geological activity has been detected on Venus, but it has no magnetic field that would prevent depletion of its substantial atmosphere, which suggests that its atmosphere is regularly replenished by volcanic eruptions.[37]


Earth (1 AU from the Sun) is the largest and densest of the inner planets, the only one known to have current geological activity, and is the only place in the universe where life is known to exist.[38] Its liquid hydrosphere is unique among the terrestrial planets, and it is also the only planet where plate tectonics has been observed. Earth's atmosphere is radically different from those of the other planets, having been altered by the presence of life to contain 21% free oxygen.[39] It has one natural satellite, the Moon, the only large satellite of a terrestrial planet in the Solar System.


Mars (1.5 AU from the Sun) is smaller than Earth and Venus (0.107 Earth masses). It possesses an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide with a surface pressure of 6.1 millibars (roughly 0.6 percent that of the Earth's).[40] Its surface, peppered with vast volcanoes such as Olympus Mons and rift valleys such as Valles Marineris, shows geological activity that may have persisted until as recently as 2 million years ago.[41] Its red colour comes from iron oxide (rust) in its soil.[42] Mars has two tiny natural satellites (Deimos and Phobos) thought to be captured asteroids.[43]



The orbits of the bodies in the Solar System to scale (clockwise from top left)
The principal component of the Solar System is the Sun, a main sequence G2 star that contains 99.86 percent of the system's known mass and dominates it gravitationally.[3] The Sun's four largest orbiting bodies, the gas giants, account for 99 percent of the remaining mass, with Jupiter and Saturn together comprising more than 90 percent.[c]
Most large objects in orbit around the Sun lie near the plane of Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic. The planets are very close to the ecliptic while comets and Kuiper belt objects are frequently at significantly greater angles to it.[4][5] All the planets and most other objects orbit the Sun in the same direction that the Sun is rotating (counter-clockwise, as viewed from above the Sun's north pole). For exceptions, see retrograde motion.
The overall structure of the charted regions of the Solar System consists of the Sun, four relatively small inner planets surrounded by a belt of rocky asteroids, and four gas giants surrounded by the outer Kuiper belt of icy objects. Astronomers sometimes informally divide this structure into separate regions. The inner Solar System includes the four terrestrial planets and the main asteroid belt. The outer Solar System is beyond the asteroids, including the four gas giant planets.[6] Since the discovery of the Kuiper belt, the outermost parts of the Solar System are considered a distinct region consisting of the objects beyond Neptune.[7]

Solar System

Solar System

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Planets and dwarf planets of the Solar System. Sizes are to scale, but relative distances from the Sun are not.
The Solar System[a] consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects bound to it by gravity, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. Of the many objects that orbit the Sun, most of the mass is contained within eight relatively solitary planets[e] whose orbits are almost circular and lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic plane. The four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, also called the terrestrial planets, are primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets, the gas giants, are substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are composed largely of ices, such as water, ammonia and methane, and are often referred to separately as "ice giants".
The Solar System is also home to two regions populated by smaller objects. The asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is similar to the terrestrial planets as it is composed mainly of rock and metal. Beyond Neptune's orbit lie trans-Neptunian objects composed mostly of ices such as water, ammonia and methane. Within these two regions, five individual objects, Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris, are recognized to be large enough to have been rounded by their own gravity, and are thus termed dwarf planets.[e] In addition to thousands of small bodies[e] in those two regions, various other small body populations, such as comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust, freely travel between regions.