• The Solar System

    What is the solar system?

    The solar system is made up of the sun as its primary focus and all of the planets that orbit it due to the pull of its gravity.  It is scientifically understood that the solar system was formed when a giant molecular cloud collapsed about 4.6 billion years ago.

    There are eight planets that rotate in orbit around the sun making up the solar system: Mercury, Mars, Venus, Earth, Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, and Uranus.  Depending on whom you ask Pluto is also the ninth planet but technically it is now considered a dwarf planet and is thus not one of the major planets or our solar system.

    Interestingly enough, scientists theorize that there are an unlimited amount of solar systems that exist throughout the universe, but for purposes of common reference the phrase ‘solar system’ is understood to mean the system the earth is part of.

    There are two belts of small bodies that are also housed by the solar system, the Kuiper belt which is composed of ices and the asteroid belt which as it sounds is mostly made of rock and water.  The Kuiper belt lies outside of the orbit of Neptune and the asteroid belt lies between Mars and Jupiter.

    There are also many small bodies that are contained within the solar system such as centaurs, dust, comets, plasma, and solar winds.  Each of these objects fly freely within the solar system and can be isolated or attached to the planets that lie within the solar system.

    Six of the planets including the earth have natural satellites or ‘moons’ that rotate and orbit around the planets.  The outer planets that are located past Mars are mostly gas planets and have rings made of dust that rotates around them.

    It was not until Galileo that the idea of the solar system began to gain acceptance on the Earth as many people thought that the Earth was the centre of the universe and that everything else rotated around it.  Since ancient times the invention of satellites and rocket ships have helped scientists gain a better understanding of the solar system.

    Like the Earth, most of the planets that are found in the solar system have their own secondary systems with moons, rings, or objects that rotate due to the gravitational pull of the planets.

    The solar system is generally split into three categories, planets, dwarf planets, and smaller solar system bodies such as asteroids.

    The sun is the brightest star in the Solar System and is able to heat not only Earth but many of the other planets as well until you reach to the far distant planets.

    The end of the solar system is not officially defined, although it is understood that the end of the solar system is found when the suns gravitational pull stops.  This area is estimated to be about two light years away from the sun.  It also can be classified as the area where solar winds stop.