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    The Solar System (Part 1)

    شاطر

    Roully Fadel
    مشرفة اللغة الانجليزية
    مشرفة اللغة الانجليزية

    عدد المساهمات : 426
    نقاط : 952
    الرتبة : 10
    تاريخ التسجيل : 04/01/2010
    الموقع : مشرفة اللغة الانجليزية

    The Solar System (Part 1)

    مُساهمة من طرف Roully Fadel في الثلاثاء فبراير 02, 2010 5:10 pm

    The Solar System[
    The Solar System[a] consists of the Sun and those celestial objects bound to it by gravity, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. Of the retinue of objects that orbit the Sun, most of the mass is contained within eight relatively solitary planets whose orbits are almost circular and lie within a nearly-flat disc called the ecliptic plane. The four smaller inner planets, ]Mercury[/url], Venus, Earth and Mars, also called the terrestrial planets, are primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, also called the gas giants, are composed largely of hydrogen and helium and are far more massive than the terrestrials.
    The Solar System is also home to two regions populated by smaller objects. The asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is similar to the terrestrial planets as it is composed mainly of rock and metal. Beyond Neptune's orbit lie trans-Neptunian objects composed mostly of ices such as water, ammonia and methane. Within these two regions, five individual objects, [dwarf_planet)]Haumea[/url], are recognized to be large enough to have been rounded by their own gravity, and are thus termed dwarf planets. In addition to thousands of small bodies in those two regions, various other small body populations, such as comets, and interplanetary dust, freely travel between regions.
    The solar wind, a flow of [physics)]plasma[/url] from the Sun, creates a bubble in the interstellar medium known as the heliosphere, which extends out to the edge of the scattered disc. The hypothetical Oort cloud, which acts as the source for long-period comets, may also exist at a distance roughly a thousand times further than the heliosphere.
    Six of the planets and three of the dwarf planets are orbited by natural satellites, usually termed "moons" after Earth's Moon. Each of the outer planets is encircled by planetary rings of dust and other particles

    Planets and dwarf planets of the Solar System. Sizes are to scale, but relative distances from the Sun are not.

    [b]Discovery and exploration


    Main article: Discovery and exploration of the Solar System

    For many thousands of years, humanity, with a few notable exceptions, did not recognize the existence of the Solar System. They believed the Earth to be stationary at the center of the universe and categorically different from the divine or ethereal objects that moved through the sky. Although the Indian mathematician-astronomer Aryabhata and the Greek philosopher Aristarchus of Samos had speculated on a heliocentric reordering of the cosmos,[1] Nicolaus Copernicus was the first to develop a mathematically predictive heliocentric system. His 17th-century successors, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton, developed an understanding of physics which led to the gradual acceptance of the idea that the Earth moves around the Sun and that the planets are governed by the same physical laws that governed the Earth. In more recent times, improvements in the telescope and the use of unmanned spacecraft have enabled the investigation of geological phenomena such as mountains and craters, and seasonal meteorological phenomena such as clouds, dust storms and ice caps on the other planets.
    Structure


    The orbits of the bodies in the Solar System to scale (clockwise from top left)



    The principal component of the Solar System is the Sun, a main sequence G2 star that contains 99.86 percent of the system's known mass and dominates it gravitationally.[2] The Sun's four largest orbiting bodies, the gas giants, account for 99 percent of the remaining mass, with Jupiter and Saturn together comprising more than 90 percent.[c]
    Most large objects in orbit around the Sun lie near the plane of Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic. The planets are very close to the ecliptic while comets and Kuiper belt objects are frequently at significantly greater angles to it.[3][4]
    All of the planets and most other objects also orbit with the Sun's rotation (counter-clockwise, as viewed from above the Sun's north pole). There are exceptions, such as Halley's Comet.
    To cope with the vast distances involved, many representations of the Solar System show orbits the same distance apart. In reality, with a few exceptions, the farther a planet or belt is from the Sun, the larger the distance between it and the previous orbit. For example, Venus is approximately 0.33 astronomical units (AU)[d] farther out from the Sun than Mercury, while Saturn is 4.3 AU out from Jupiter, and Neptune lies 10.5 AU out from Uranus. Attempts have been made to determine a correlation between these orbital distances (for example, the Titius-Bode law),[5] but no such theory has been accepted.
    Kepler's laws of planetary motion describe the orbits of objects about the Sun. According to Kepler's laws, each object travels along an ellipse with the Sun at one Objects closer to the Sun (with smaller semi-major axes) have shorter years. On an elliptical orbit, a body's distance from the Sun varies over the course of its year. A body's closest approach to the Sun is called its perihelion, while its most distant point from the Sun is called its aphelion. Each body moves fastest at its perihelion and slowest at its aphelion. The orbits of the planets are nearly circular, but many comets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects follow highly elliptical orbits.
    Most of the planets in the Solar System possess secondary systems of their own. Many are in turn orbited by planetary objects called natural satellites, or moons, some of which are larger than the planet Most of the largest natural satellites are in synchronous rotation, with one face permanently turned toward their parent. The four largest planets, the gas giants, also possess planetary rings, thin bands of tiny particles that orbit them in unison.
    Terminology


    Informally, the Solar System is sometimes divided into separate regions. The inner Solar System includes the four terrestrial planets and the main asteroid belt. The outer Solar System is beyond the asteroids, including the four gas giant planets.[6] Since the discovery of the Kuiper belt, the outermost parts of the Solar System are considered a distinct region consisting of the objects beyond Neptune.[7]
    Dynamically and physically, objects orbiting the Sun are officially classed into three categories: planets, dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. A planet is any body in orbit around the Sun that has enough mass to form itself into a spherical shape and has cleared its immediate neighbourhood of all smaller objects. By this definition, the Solar System has eight known planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto does not fit this definition, as it has not cleared its orbit of surrounding Kuiper belt objects.[8] A dwarf planet is a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity but which has not cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals and is not a satellite.[8] By this definition, the Solar System has five known dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.[9] Other objects may be classified in the future as dwarf planets, such as Sedna, Orcus, and Quaoar.[10] Dwarf planets that orbit in the trans-Neptunian region are called "plutoids".[11] The remainder of the objects in orbit around the Sun are small Solar System bodies.[8]
    Planetary scientists use the terms gas, ice, and rock to describe the various classes of substances found throughout the Solar System.[12] Rock is used to describe compounds with high condensation temperatures or melting points that remained solid under almost all conditions in the protoplanetary nebula.[12] Rocky substances typically include silicates and metals such as iron and nickel.[13] They are prevalent in the inner Solar System, forming most of the terrestrial planets and asteroids. Gases are materials with extremely low melting points and high vapor pressure such as molecular hydrogen, helium, and neon, which were always in the gaseous phase in the nebula.[12] They dominate the middle region of the Solar System, comprising most of Jupiter and Saturn. Ices, like water, methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide,[13] have melting points up to a few hundred kelvins, while their phase depends on the ambient pressure and temperature.[12] They can be found as ices, liquids, or gases in various places in the Solar System, while in the nebula they were either in the solid or gaseous phase.[12] Icy substances comprise the majority of the satellites of the giant planets, as well as most of Uranus and Neptune (the so-called "ice giants") and the numerous small objects that lie beyond Neptune's orbit.[13][14] Together, gases and ices are referred to as volatiles.[15]

    Sun

    Main article: Sun

    A transit of Venus



    The Sun is the Solar System's star, and far and away its chief component. Its large mass (332,900 Earth masses)[16] produces temperatures and densities in its core great enough to sustain nuclear fusion,[17] which releases enormous amounts of energy, mostly radiated into space as electromagnetic radiation, peaking in the 400–to–700 nm band we call visible light.[18]
    The Sun is classified as a type G2 yellow dwarf, but this name is misleading as, compared to the majority of stars in our galaxy, the Sun is rather large and bright.[19] Stars are classified by the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a graph which plots the brightness of stars against their surface temperatures. Generally, hotter stars are brighter. Stars following this pattern are said to be on the main sequence, and the Sun lies right in the middle of it. However, stars brighter and hotter than the Sun are rare, while substantially dimmer and cooler stars, known as red dwarfs, are common, making up 85 percent of the stars in the galaxy.[19][20]
    It is believed that the Sun's position on the main sequence puts it in the "prime of life" for a star, in that it has not yet exhausted its store of hydrogen for nuclear fusion. The Sun is growing brighter; early in its history it was 70 percent as bright as it is today.[21]
    The Sun is a population I star; it was born in the later stages of the universe's evolution, and thus contains more elements heavier than hydrogen and helium ("metals" in astronomical parlance) than older population II stars.[22] Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were formed in the cores of ancient and exploding stars, so the first generation of stars had to die before the universe could be enriched with these atoms. The oldest stars contain few metals, while stars born later have more. This high metallicity is thought to have been crucial to the Sun's developing a planetary system, because planets form from accretion of "metals".[23]
    The heliospheric current sheet.



    Interplanetary medium

    Main article: Interplanetary medium

    Along with light, the Sun radiates a continuous stream of charged particles (a plasma) known as the solar wind. This stream of particles spreads outwards at roughly 1.5 million kilometres per hour,[24] creating a tenuous atmosphere (the heliosphere) that permeates the Solar System out to at least 100 AU (see heliopause).[25] This is known as the interplanetary medium. Geomagnetic storms on the Sun's surface, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, disturb the heliosphere, creating space weather.[26] The largest structure within the heliosphere is the heliospheric current sheet, a spiral form created by the actions of the Sun's rotating magnetic field on the interplanetary medium.[27][28]
    Earth's magnetic field stops its atmosphere from being stripped away by the solar wind. Venus and Mars do not have magnetic fields, and as a result, the solar wind causes their atmospheres to gradually bleed away into space.[29] Coronal mass ejections and similar events blow magnetic field and huge quantities of material from the surface of the Sun. The interaction of this magnetic field and material with Earth's magnetic field funnels charged particles into the Earth's upper atmosphere, where its interactions create aurorae seen near the magnetic poles.
    Cosmic rays originate outside the Solar System. The heliosphere partially shields the Solar System, and planetary magnetic fields (for those planets that have them) also provide some protection. The density of cosmic rays in the interstellar medium and the strength of the Sun's magnetic field change on very long timescales, so the level of cosmic radiation in the Solar System varies, though by how much is unknown.[30]
    The interplanetary medium is home to at least two disc-like regions of cosmic dust. The first, the zodiacal dust cloud, lies in the inner Solar System and causes zodiacal light. It was likely formed by collisions within the asteroid belt brought on by interactions with the planets.[31] The second extends from about 10 AU to about 40 AU, and was probably created by similar collisions within the Kuiper belt.[32][33]
    Inner Solar System


    The inner Solar System is the traditional name for the region comprising the terrestrial planets and asteroids.[34] Composed mainly of silicates and metals, the objects of the inner Solar System are relatively close to the Sun; the radius of this entire region is shorter than the distance between Jupiter and Saturn.
    Inner planets

    Main article: Terrestrial planet

    The inner planets. From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars (sizes to scale, interplanetary distances not)



    The four inner or terrestrial planets have dense, rocky compositions, few or no moons, and no ring systems. They are composed largely of refractory minerals, such as the silicates which form their crusts and mantles, and metals such as iron and nickel, which form their cores. Three of the four inner planets (Venus, Earth and Mars) have atmospheres substantial enough to generate weather; all have impact craters and tectonic surface features such as rift valleys and volcanoes. The term inner planet should not be confused with inferior planet, which designates those planets which are closer to the Sun than Earth is (i.e. Mercury and Venus).
    Mercury



    Mercury (0.4 AU from the Sun) is the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet (0.055 Earth masses). Mercury has no natural satellites, and its only known geological features besides impact craters are lobed ridges or rupes, probably produced by a period of contraction early in its history.[35] Mercury's almost negligible atmosphere consists of atoms blasted off its surface by the solar wind.[36] Its relatively large iron core and thin mantle have not yet been adequately explained. Hypotheses include that its outer layers were stripped off by a giant impact, and that it was prevented from fully accreting by the young Sun's energy.[37][38]
    Venus



    Venus (0.7 AU from the Sun) is close in size to Earth, (0.815 Earth masses) and like Earth, has a thick silicate mantle around an iron core, a substantial atmosphere and evidence of internal geological activity. However, it is much drier than Earth and its atmosphere is ninety times as dense. Venus has no natural satellites. It is the hottest planet, with surface temperatures over 400 °C, most likely due to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.[39] No definitive evidence of current geological activity has been detected on Venus, but it has no magnetic field that would prevent depletion of its substantial atmosphere, which suggests that its atmosphere is regularly replenished by volcanic eruptions.[40]
    Earth



    Earth (1 AU from the Sun) is the largest and densest of the inner planets, the only one known to have current geological activity, and is the only place in the universe where life is known to exist.[41] Its liquid hydrosphere is unique among the terrestrial planets, and it is also the only planet where plate tectonics has been observed. Earth's atmosphere is radically different from those of the other planets, having been altered by the presence of life to contain 21% free oxygen.[42] It has one natural satellite, the Moon, the only large satellite of a terrestrial planet in the Solar System.
    Mars



    Mars (1.5 AU from the Sun) is smaller than Earth and Venus (0.107 Earth masses). It possesses an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide with a surface pressure of 6.1 millibars (roughly 0.6 percent that of the Earth's).[43] Its surface, peppered with vast volcanoes such as Olympus Mons and rift valleys such as Valles Marineris, shows geological activity that may have persisted until as recently as 2 million years ago.[44] Its red colour comes from iron oxide (rust) in its soil.[45] Mars has two tiny natural satellites (Deimos and Phobos) thought to be captured asteroids.[46]
    Asteroid belt

    Main article: Asteroid belt

    Image of the main asteroid belt and the Trojan asteroids



    Asteroids are mostly small Solar System bodies composed mainly of [rocky and metallic minerals.[47]
    The main asteroid belt occupies the orbit between Mars and Jupiter, between 2.3 and 3.3 AU from the Sun. It is thought to be remnants from the Solar System's formation that failed to coalesce because of the gravitational interference of Jupiter.[48]
    Asteroids range in size from hundreds of kilometres across to microscopic. All asteroids save the largest, Ceres, are classified as small Solar System bodies, but some asteroids such as Vesta and Hygieia may be reclassed as dwarf planets if they are shown to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium.[49]
    The asteroid belt contains tens of thousands, possibly millions, of objects over one kilometre in diameter.[50] Despite this, the total mass of the main belt is unlikely to be more than a thousandth of that of the Earth.[51] The main belt is very sparsely populated; spacecraft routinely pass through without incident. Asteroids with diameters between 10 and 10−4 m are called meteoroids.[52]
    Ceres



    AU) is the largest body in the asteroid belt and is classified as a dwarf planet. It has a diameter of slightly under 1000 km, and a mass large enough for its own gravity to pull it into a spherical shape. Ceres was considered a planet when it was discovered in the 19th century, but was reclassified as an asteroid in the 1850s as further observation revealed additional asteroids.[53] It was again reclassified in 2006 as a dwarf planet.
    Asteroid groups


    Asteroids in the main belt are divided into asteroid groups and families based on their orbital characteristics. Asteroid moons are asteroids that orbit larger asteroids. They are not as clearly distinguished as planetary moons, sometimes being almost as large as their partners. The asteroid belt also contains main-belt comets which may have been the source of Earth's water.[54]
    Trojan asteroids are located in either of Jupiter's L4 or L5 points (gravitationally stable regions leading and trailing a planet in its orbit); the term "Trojan" is also used for small bodies in any other planetary or satellite Lagrange point. Hilda asteroids are in a 2:3 resonance with Jupiter; that is, they go around the Sun three times for every two Jupiter orbits.[55]
    The inner Solar System is also dusted with rogue asteroids, many of which cross the orbits of the inner planets.[56]
    Outer Solar System


    The outer region of the Solar System is home to the gas giants and their large moons. Many short period comets, including the centaurs[/url], also orbit in this region. Due to their greater distance from the Sun, the solid objects in the outer Solar System are composed of a higher proportion of ices (such as water, ammonia, methane, often called ices in planetary science) than the rocky denizens of the inner Solar System, as the colder temperatures allow these compounds to remain solid.


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