Portal:Solar System

The Solar System Portal

The Sun and planets of the Solar System (distances not to scale)

The Solar System is the gravitationally bound system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it. It formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant interstellar molecular cloud. The vast majority (99.86%) of the system's mass is in the Sun, with most of the remaining mass contained in the planet Jupiter. The four inner system planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—are terrestrial planets, being composed primarily of rock and metal. The four giant planets of the outer system are substantially larger and more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are gas giants, being composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the next two, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants, being composed mostly of volatile substances with relatively high melting points compared with hydrogen and helium, such as water, ammonia, and methane. All eight planets have nearly circular orbits that lie near the plane of Earth's orbit, called the ecliptic.

There are an unknown number of smaller dwarf planets and innumerable small Solar System bodies orbiting the Sun. Six of the major planets, the six largest possible dwarf planets, and many of the smaller bodies are orbited by natural satellites, commonly called "moons" after Earth's Moon. Two natural satellites, Jupiter's moon Ganymede and Saturn's moon Titan, are larger but not more massive than Mercury, the smallest terrestrial planet, and Jupiter's moon Callisto is nearly as large. Each of the giant planets and some smaller bodies are encircled by planetary rings of ice, dust and moonlets. The asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, contains objects composed of rock, metal and ice. Beyond Neptune's orbit lie the Kuiper belt and scattered disc, which are populations of objects composed mostly of ice and rock.

In the outer reaches of the Solar System lies a class of minor planets called detached objects. There is considerable debate as to how many such objects there will prove to be. Some of these objects are large enough to have rounded under their own gravity and thus to be categorized as dwarf planets. Astronomers generally accept about nine objects as dwarf planets: the asteroid Ceres, the Kuiper-belt objects Pluto, Orcus, Haumea, Quaoar, and Makemake, and the scattered-disc objects Gonggong, Eris, and Sedna. Various small-body populations, including comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust clouds, freely travel between the regions of the Solar System.

The solar wind, a stream of charged particles flowing outwards from the Sun, creates a bubble-like region of interplanetary medium in the interstellar medium known as the heliosphere. The heliopause is the point at which pressure from the solar wind is equal to the opposing pressure of the interstellar medium; it extends out to the edge of the scattered disc. The Oort cloud, which is thought to be the source for long-period comets, may also exist at a distance roughly a thousand times further than the heliosphere. The Solar System is located 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way galaxy in the Orion Arm, which contains most of the visible stars in the night sky. The nearest stars are within the so-called Local Bubble, with the closest, Proxima Centauri, at 4.2441 light-years. (Full article...)

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Voyager 2 picture of Uranus' rings
Voyager 2 picture of Uranus' rings
The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977, by James L. Elliot, Edward W. Dunham, and Douglas J. Mink. Two additional rings were discovered in 1986 by the Voyager 2 spacecraft, and two outer rings were found in 2003–2005 by the Hubble Space Telescope. A number of faint dust bands and incomplete arcs may exist between the main rings. The rings are extremely dark—the Bond albedo of the rings' particles does not exceed 2%. They are likely composed of water ice with the addition of some dark radiation-processed organics. The majority of Uranus's rings are opaque and only a few kilometres wide. The ring system contains little dust overall; it consists mostly of large bodies 0.2–20 m in diameter. The relative lack of dust in the ring system is due to aerodynamic drag from the extended Uranian exospherecorona. The rings of Uranus are thought to be relatively young, at not more than 600 million years. The mechanism that confines the narrow rings is not well understood. The Uranian ring system probably originated from the collisional fragmentation of a number of moons that once existed around the planet. After colliding, the moons broke up into numerous particles, which survived as narrow and optically dense rings only in strictly confined zones of maximum stability. (Full article...)

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The SunMercuryVenusThe MoonEarthMarsPhobos and DeimosCeresThe main asteroid beltJupiterMoons of JupiterSaturnMoons of SaturnUranusMoons of UranusNeptuneMoons of NeptunePlutoMoons of PlutoHaumeaMoons of HaumeaMakemakeThe Kuiper BeltErisDysnomiaThe Scattered DiscThe Hills CloudThe Oort CloudSolar System Template Final.png

Solar System: Planets (Definition · Planetary habitability · Terrestrial planets · Gas giants · Rings· Dwarf planets (Plutoid· Colonization · Discovery timelineˑ Exploration · Moons · Planetariums

Sun: Sunspot · Solar wind · Solar flare · Solar eclipse
Mercury: Geology · Exploration (Mariner 10 · MESSENGER · BepiColombo· Transit
Venus: Geology · Atmosphere · Exploration (Venera · Mariner program 2/5/10 · Pioneer · Vega 1/2ˑ Magellan · Venus Express· Transit
Earth: History · Geology · Geography · Atmosphere · Rotation
Moon: Geology · Selenography · Atmosphere · Exploration (Luna · Apollo 8/11· Orbit · Lunar eclipse
Mars: Moons (Phobos · Deimos) · Geology · Geography · Atmosphere · Exploration (Mariner · Mars · Viking 1/2 · Pathfinder · MER)
Ceres: Exploration (Dawn)
Jupiter: Moons (Amalthea, Io · Europa · Ganymede · Callisto) · Rings · Atmosphere · Magnetosphere · Exploration (Pioneer 10/11 · Voyager 1/2 · Ulysses · Cassini · Galileo · New Horizons)
Saturn: Moons (Mimas · Enceladus · Tethys · Dione · Rhea · Titan · Iapetus) · Rings · Exploration (Pioneer 11 · Voyager 1/2 · CassiniHuygens)
Uranus: Moons (Miranda · Ariel · Umbriel · Titania · Oberon) · Rings · Exploration (Voyager 2)
Neptune: Moons (Triton) · Rings · Exploration (Voyager 2)
Planets beyond Neptune
Pluto: Moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, Styx) · Exploration (New Horizons)
Haumea: Moons (Hi'iaka, Namaka)
Makemake
Eris: Dysnomia
Small bodies: Meteoroids · Asteroids (Asteroid belt· Centaurs · TNOs (Kuiper belt · Scattered disc · Oort cloud· Comets (Hale–Bopp · Halley's · Hyakutake · Shoemaker–Levy 9)
Formation and evolution of the Solar System: History of Solar System formation and evolution hypotheses · Nebular hypothesis
See also: Featured content · Featured topic · Good articles · List of objects

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