Scientists are learning more about our Solar System every day. As we send new missions out into space, we are gathering information that is added to our knowledge. The words “Solar System” relate to two things: Any celestial body that is “of the Sun,” and a collection of objects that work together to form the entire whole.
Solar systems contain an immense amount of objects. The Sun or star is at the center and are surrounded by planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, gas, comets, and dust. To date, our Solar System contains:
Our Sun contains 99.8% of the mass of the entire Solar System, with the gas giant planet, Jupiter, containing almost all of the remaining mass.
The formation of our Solar System has been outlined and studied, and many offer explanations that are debated through to today. Thus far we believe that our Solar System developed in the following way:
The objects in our Solar System interact with each other. One way is that they move around the Sun in elliptical paths and since they exist on around the same plane, they interact in an ecliptic plane.
The interaction that causes the objects to orbit is gravity, and the Sun exerts so much gravitational pull on all of the objects in our Solar System that it “bends” the path of each object from a straight path into a curved path.
Other objects, such as the planets, also have significant gravitational pull so that they maintain the orbit of moons around them.
Information about our Solar System has drastically changed in the 20th century.
Where we once thought the Solar System ended at the orbit of Pluto, we now know that there are many celestial bodies beyond that area.
Currently, our Solar System is thought to be around two light years, which is around 125,000 times the distance of the Earth to the Sun. However, beyond Pluto we have an area of asteroids called the Kuiper Belt as well as a spherical area called the Oort Cloud that contains many comets.