Understanding the concept of the planetary system helps us become insightful about the Earth we call our home and expands our knowledge about the ways of the world outside. There is a family of stars and planets aligned in the Milky Way that makes our solar system unique and beckons people to explore the details. We can’t remember all the information about space, so this is a guide to help you find out more about our solar system.
What is the Solar System?
The solar system is a great cluster of celestial bodies that are held in the palm of gravity as they orbit around the scorching Sun. The sun, which is a spherical mass of hotness and an illuminating object of light and heat, acts as the center for these bodies to move around. What surrounds the sun is a collection of smaller stellar bodies of different kinds.
The solar system, also known as the planetary system or the Copernican system, consists of the aforementioned Sun and the bodies tied to its attraction force, ranging from planets, asteroids, moons, and comets to dwarf planets. The planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and other dwarf planets like Pluto, Ceres, etc. Far beyond the solar system, there is a more extensive variety of planets than the number of stars we have in our sky.
Characteristics of the Solar System
Here are a few things you should know about our solar system:
The reason why our planetary system has a unique name is that there are many other systems in the universe that orbit an anchor star. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) established that the planets move around the sun, and so the solar system gets its name from the word ‘solar’, which is relevant to Solis, Latin for Sun.
It is believed that the solar system came to be 4.6 billion years ago due to the solar nebula, a heavy cloud of cosmic gas and dust. A supernova occurred, which is described as an explosion wave of a nearby bursting star that destroyed the cloud. A center of gravity and pressure emerged at its core and became the Sun, pulling objects towards it and shaping the solar system.
- Size & Scope
The system expands farther than the Sun and its eight orbiting planets. The Kuiper Belt, which lies beyond the orbit of Neptune, is included. There is a sparse distribution of icy objects such as Pluto. Beyond this belt, the Oort Cloud acts as a shell covering the solar system. This cloud acts as a gravitational boundary that allows the planets to return closer to the center point, the Sun.
Over 200 moons exist in the solar system, and studying these moons gives people additional clues about the history and dynamics of our planetary system. While there is one moon owned by the Earth, more than 80 moons revolve around Jupiter and Saturn, and contrastingly, none for Mercury and Venus. The asteroids around the Earth have also been discovered to have tiny moons, according to a 2017 confirmation.
NASA calls a planet a celestial body that (1) orbits around the solar system’s core, the Sun, (2) with a prominent neighborhood surrounding its orbit, and (3) holds an amount of mass that protects its self-attraction to gravity, giving it a rounded surface. Problems arise when more planets are discovered with dwarf planets (for example, Pluto) cannot pass the test. However, we will look at the planets with clear paths around the Sun.
The planet Mercury is the smallest but closest one to the Sun. Its size is slightly bigger than the moon that revolves around the Earth and ⅓ of the Earth itself. Only 0.4 astronomical units from the Sun, Mercury takes 88 complete days to orbit the Sun.
The second planet from the core of the solar system is Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love & beauty. This rocky planet has a toxic atmosphere consisting of yellow clouds made of sulfuric acid. A day spent on Venus would be 243 Earthly days.
The third from the Sun would be our blue planet, the Earth. Water takes up two-thirds of the planet and is the most remarkable due to its ability to sustain life. With more than 7.7 billion people living on it, it is abundant in gasses like oxygen and nitrogen.
The cold but red planet Mars is fourth on the list. It is known as the Red Planet because of its red color soil due to the iron oxide layer. With similar traits to Earth, mountainous regions, canyons, and storms, many people have believed it could host life forms. However, its plunging cold climate and inability to block UV rays prevent this.
Fifth is Jupiter, the biggest gas giant within our solar system, with rings too thin to see. This enormous planet holds more mass than the combined mass of all the other planets and has 80 moons revolving around it. It is extremely fast that a year on Jupiter would take up 11.8 years on Earth.
Saturn, mostly made of interstellar gas, runs sixth as a planet from the Sun. It is known for its ring system, which seems solid but very thin. It is incredibly windy on the planet, and helium makes up most of its composition, so you would not be able to stand on the planet.
Seventh in line is Uranus, an odd planet with its green and blue hue. The clouds it contains are composed of hydrogen sulfide, and the planet is believed to smell like rotten eggs. It is an ice giant with 13 rings and the first planet to be discovered via the telescope.
Neptune, last but not least, is the coldest planet in our solar system due to its sizable distance from the sun. Its width is four times as much as the Earth’s and takes up 164.8 Earth years in just one year. The temperature is about -345 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has a dense atmosphere filled with wind.