September 18th, 2020
6 Facts About The Solar System
Every planet in the Solar System has some unique and special features that sets it apart from other planets, but you may be surprised when we tell you that the Solar System itself is also as unique and special! Let us explore some of the facts around the Solar System.
The solar system should be viewed as our backyard, not as some sequence of destinations that we do one at a time.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
From a hot cloud of gas and dust some 4.5 billion years ago, the Solar System was formed. With gravity pulling material into the center, the extensive pressure helped the Sun to form first, taking up to more than 99% of the Solar System. Then all the planets, dwarf planets, moons, and other bodies slowly formed next, including Earth where the only life (that we know of!) exists.
The Solar System is located in one of the outer spiral arms of our Milky Way galaxy that has a total of four spiral arms, and the whole Solar System orbits the center of the galaxy at an incredible speed - completing an orbit once every 230 million years. The location of the Solar System in the galaxy is not in itself unique, as scientists have found many other planetary systems in the Milky Way - but it sure makes for some wonderful images
The planets in our Solar System appear in lots of advertised images in a perfect alignment, all lined up one after the other. But while the images are beautiful, they’re sadly unrealistic! (Sorry if we have shattered any artistic images in your mind, but it’s just science!) Planetary alignment of all planets simply doesn’t happen, because not all planets orbit in the same ‘plane’! (i.e. they’re all going around at different angles). Some orbits are a little higher or lower than others. However planetary alignment of maybe 2 or 3 planets does happen once in a while.
Bigger than the orbit of planets
It’s easier to think that the dwarf planet Pluto lies at the rim of the Solar System, and that nothing much exists beyond it. After all, not much is said or highlighted about other bodies inhabiting the Solar System. In reality, the Solar System extends far beyond where Pluto is, it also houses the “Oort Cloud” which is a giant spherical cloud that engulfs the whole of our Solar System and is the origin home to many comets. The “Oort Cloud” extends from about 5,000 astronomical units to about 100,000 astronomical units. The single astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun which is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) – so quite far.
The science of the order
You probably either memorize the order of the planets in the Solar System by heart, or struggle to know which comes first. Maybe knowing that this order has a scientific reason behind it will help you. During the formation of planets and due to the Sun’s incredible temperature which only rocky material can withstand, the four inner planets are solid terrestrial ones, while gas and liquid material were left in the outskirts of the Solar System. Later on, these gaseous and liquid materials formed the outer four planets and dwarf planets.
No spacecraft has gone out, except...
The Solar System is the most explored area of our universe so far, with more than 300 scientific missions visiting various extraterrestrial bodies within it. But no human nor a spacecraft has ever gone out of the Solar System, except for two that crossed one of the outer boundaries of the Solar System called the termination shock (but are still not totally out yet!) These lucky two are the un-crewed missions “Voyager 1” and “Voyager 2”, belonging to NASA and both launched in 1977. Soon, three other spacecrafts will join the “Voyager” missions; they are: “Pioneer 10” and “Pioneer 11” and “New Horizons.”
Written by Cpt. Planets
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