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Friday, 24 June 2011

Structure

Structure

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]

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