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solar system
<a href='/solarsystem/sun/index.html'>sun</a> Sun
mercury Mercury
venus Venus
earth Earth
mars Mars
jupiter Jupiter
saturn Saturn
uranus Uranus
neptune Neptune
pluto Pluto
Planet Stats
Planet Sizes
Planets & Stars
A Light Year
  Our Solar System
  The solar system consists of sun together with the nine planets and all other celestial bodies that orbit the sun.
  Solar System Facts
  • The four planets closes to the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are small and solid.
  • The four outer planets are very large and gaseous.
  • Between the inner four planets and the outer four lies the asteroid belt.
  • The orbits of the planets are ellipses with the Sun at one focus, though all except Mercury are very nearly circular. The orbits of the planets are all more or less in the same plane (called the ecliptic and defined by the plane of the Earth's orbit). The ecliptic is inclined only 7 degrees from the plane of the Sun's equator. The above diagrams show the relative sizes of the orbits of the eight planets (plus Pluto) from a perspective somewhat above the ecliptic (hence their non-circular appearance). They all orbit in the same direction (counter-clockwise looking down from above the Sun's north pole); all but Venus, Uranus and Pluto also rotate in that same sense.
planets The Solar System formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The Sun's retinue of objects circle it in a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic plane, most of the mass of which is contained within eight relatively solitary planets whose orbits are almost circular. The four smaller inner planets; Mercury, 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 main belts of small bodies. The asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is similar to the terrestrial planets as it is composed mainly of rock and metal. The Kuiper belt (and its subpopulation, the scattered disc), which lies beyond Neptune's orbit, is composed mostly of ices such as water, ammonia and methane. Within these belts, five individual objects, Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris, are recognised to be large enough to have been rounded by their own gravity, and are thus termed dwarf planets. The hypothetical Oort cloud, which acts as the source for long-period comets, may also exist at a distance roughly a thousand times beyond these regions.

Within the Solar System, various populations of small bodies, such as comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust, freely travel between these regions, while the solar wind, a flow of plasma from the Sun, creates a bubble in the interstellar medium known as the heliosphere, which extends out to the edge of the scattered disc.

For many thousands of years, humanity, with a few notable exceptions, did not recognise the existence of the Solar System. They believed the Earth to be stationary at the centre 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.

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