Solar System Facts: What’s really out there?

There are so many Solar system facts that you should know about. The Solar system consists of the Sun including the planets, moons, asteroids, meteoroids and comets that revolve around it. The Solar system is in the “milky way” galaxy, along with millions of other systems. The universe is believed to be made up of at least 100 billion galaxies.

Scientists believe that it all started with the “Big Bang” – an enormous explosion. The theory suggests that gravity caused clouds to clump together as the universe was filled with dust and gas. They say the big clumps formed galaxies while the smaller clumps formed the stars. Approximately 4.6 billion years ago, the Solar system was formed.

sunThe Sun
The Sun’s strong gravitational pull holds everything in the Solar system in place. It is gravity that makes the whole system work like it does. Like gravity keeps us from floating (in air), it keeps the planets and everything else in the Solar system from moving out into space as well. Each planet rotates like a spinning top while it follows a path called “orbit” as it revolves around the sun.

The Planets
Planets are defined as celestial bodies which revolve around a star. Yes, the Sun is definitely the star of the Solar system – literally and metaphorically speaking. The eight planets in the solar system are:

• Mercury
• Venus
• Earth
• Mars
• Jupiter
• Saturn
• Uranus
• Neptune

Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are known as the terrestrial planets. These 4 planets have solid, hard surfaces made up of metals or rock. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are made up of thick clouds of Hydrogen, Helium and all other gases. They are then called the gas giants.
solar systemThere are also 5 known “dwarf planets” in the Solar system. These are Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Makemake and Haumea. Each of these dwarf planets does not have enough gravity to keep itself from being pulled into another planet’s orbit. Pluto’s orbit occasionally crosses Neptune’s, thus it was reclassified as a “dwarf planet.” A planet should also be shaped like a sphere. Pluto is shaped like a potato.

The Moons
Moons are also known as planetary satellites since they orbit around another celestial body or a planet. Moons are categorized as regular and irregular. Regular moons follow almost circular orbit paths. Irregular moons do not. An irregular moon’s orbit is difficult to predict because it follows a variable, retrograde orbit. Planetary satellites vary in shape, features and size. Some satellites have atmospheres. Some even have volcanoes. Quite possibly, some moons might even have (liquid water) oceans. There are 170 moons in the Solar system. The number increases as more discoveries are made.

Asteroids are not big enough to be called planets. They are airless, rocky worlds that orbit the Sun. Scientists believe that these detached pieces of rock might be residuals from the formation of the Solar system. They might also be chunks of a planet that may have broken apart. Quite possibly, they might also be small clumps that never really merged with the larger ones. Thousands of these asteroids are clustered in the main asteroid belt. This Asteroid belt lies in a region between Jupiter and Mars. Some asteroids that journey close to the Earth are called “NEOs” or Near-Earth Objects.

Meteoroids are much smaller compared to asteroids. They could be chunks of asteroids that might have broken apart. Meteoroids could also be portions of dust left behind in a comet’s trail. Upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere, these meteoroids burn up. The bright streak of light in the sky produced as a small meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere is what we call a “meteor.” CometYes, this is what you may commonly call a shooting or falling star. Fireballs are very bright meteors. Larger pieces of meteoroids that don’t burn up completely, thus able to make it to the Earth’s surface are what you call “meteorites.”

Comets are frozen gases, dust and rock in the form of cosmic snowballs. A comet is approximately the size of a small town. Like with the Asteroids, scientists believe that comets are left over from when the Solar system was formed. A comet heats up and spits gases and dust as it’s orbit comes close to the Sun – turning into an enormous glowing head which is larger compared to most planets. The gases and dust the comet spews, forms into a tail that extends further from the sun for millions of kilometers.

Milky way

Milky way

So in our Solar System, the Sun is most definitely the Star. All the 8 major planets and the dwarf planets, their moons, asteroids, meteoroids and comets revolve around it. As countless numbers of other systems exist in the galaxy, these Solar System facts that scientists have gathered truly captivate countless people. These Solar System facts would make you want to ask yourself, “What is really out there?” – leaving you to want to know more!