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The Solar System and Star Systems
The Human Fascination With The Solar System
Our Solar System has been a source of fascination for millenia. Ancient man gazed into the sky noticing various bodies; the Sun and moon would have been immediately obvious. So important to early culture were these celestial bodies that they became intertwined in ancient folklore, playing the part of gods. Monuments around the globe were erected using the sun and moon to measure the passage of time and seasons all important in growth and fertility cycles.
Expanding Knowledge Of The Solar System
Gradually, as humankind's knowledge and scientific expertise grew, so did their understanding of the working of our Solar System expand. Humans progressed from an egocentric view where the earth was the center of the system to a realization that the earth is but one planet of eight that orbit endlessly but predictably around the sun. A number of dwarf planets have been added to the list of large celestial bodies that have a predictable orbit around our sun. Other bodies such as asteroids and meteors have been discovered which have also been considered as part of our Solar System.
Did You Know?
The Goldilocks Zone comprises the region around a star or stars that give the right conditions for a planet to be habitable.
What Is A Solar System?
There can only be one solar system. Our central star, we call the Sun, is part of our Star System also including all the celestial bodies bound to it due to the gravitational pull of the Sun. Components Of the Solar System are as follows:
- The Sun which provides the energy requirements to sustain life on our planet and which provides the energy requirements for the atmospheric ground conditions of all other planets in our solar system.
- The four official inner planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars
- The main asteroid belt lying between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
- The four official outer planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
- The satellites or 'moons' of planets.
- A number of dwarf planets including Pluto, Orcus, Haumea, Makemake, Eris, Quaroar, Ixion, Varuna and Sedna.
- The primary asteroids including Ceres, Juno, Vesta and Pallas.
- The Centaurs (showing characteristics of both comets and asteroids) including Chiron, Pholus and Nessus. The Centaurs are unique celestial bodies classified as minor planets with unstable orbits which lie near the Kuiper Belt.
- The Kuiper Belt which is a ring of small celestial bodies orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune. It is thought that these bodies represent primitive remnants from the origins of our Solar System. This belt is also thought to be the source of short-period comets.
- Dust and gas.
- Mostly empty space.
All the planets orbit the Sun in nearly circular paths and in an anticlockwise direction (when viewed from above). The formation of our Solar System began billions of years ago. Gases and dust came together to form the planets, Sun and other celestial bodies.
Recently, astronomers have begun discovering planets in binary systems, some of them "Tatooine" worlds with two suns in their skies, like Luke Skywalker's home planet in the "Star Wars" films. — Mike Wall of Space on NBC News.com
Our Solar System Is One Of Many Star Systems
Our Solar System is one of many star systems in the known universe. In simplest terms, a star system has one or more central stars having orbital planets bound to it by the gravitational pull of the central star(s). Multiple star systems present interesting cases in that the planets must navigate the gravitational fields of two or more central stars.
Recently Discovered Star Systems
At least 4 discovered - b,c,d,e
At least two of the planets c and d - are thought to be in the Goldilocks Zone.
Kepler - 20
At least 5 planets both closer to their star than Mercury is to the Sun.
Located about 945 light years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. Their are both terrestrial and gas planets which mix freely.
Kepler 47 (a binary star system)
2 planets orbit both these stars. The outer planet has an orbit of 303 days putting it in the system's Goldilocks Zone.
This star system would have double sunsets and double sunrises just like Tatooine a fictional planet from the Star Wars franchise.
5 planets orbit the star within a fraction of the distance between Mercury and our Sun.
The 5 planets slightly larger than Earth, have orbits of 1.0, 2.1, 4.6, 7.1, and 9.5 days. and exist in resonance with each other.
Mann, Adam. Wired. Little Expoplanets Found In Tiny Solar System. December 20, 2011.
Phillips, Dr. Tony. Science @ NASA. Weird Planets. September 12, 2012
Russell, Randy. Windows To The Universe. The Solar System. July 15, 2010.
Villannueva, John Carl. Universe Today. What is a Solar System?. March 19, 2010.
Wired UKEmail Author. Wired. Tightly Packed Planets Spoteed Around Sun-Like Star. October 16, 2012.