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6: Solar System- Origin and Basics

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    Learning Objectives

    • Take an inventory of the Solar System and its major bodies.
    • Examine smaller bodies in the Solar System, including asteroids, meteoroids, and comets.
    • Examine the Kuiper Belt and Beyond.
    • Describe the origin and evolution of the Solar System.


    So far, we have discussed several ways we can study and learn about objects in our solar system.

    1.      We can determine the distance from Sun by Kepler’s laws.

    2.      The orbital period can be observed by tracking its position in the sky.

    3.      The planet’s radius can be determined from distance and from angular size.

    4.      We can use Newton’s laws to determine a planet’s mass.

    5.      Rotational period can also be known from observations.

    6.      Knowing radius and mass, we can calculate a planet’s volume therefore, density.

    With this information, can start taking an inventory of the solar system. It contains one star, eight planets, over 200 moons, at least five dwarf planets, and numerous smaller bodies such as asteroids, meteoroids, Kuiper Belt objects, and comets. Of the eight planets, we can separate them into two categories, Terrestrial (Earth-like) planets and Jovian (Jupiter-like) planets. The solar system has four Terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) and four Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). The table below compares several properties of Terrestrial and Jovian planets.

    Terrestrial Planets

    Jovian Planets

    Orbit close to the Sun

    Orbit further away from the Sun

    Orbits are closely spaced

    Orbits are farther apart

    Predominantly rocky

    Predominantly gaseous

    Have small mass

    Have large mass

    Have small radii

    Have large radii

    Have high density

    Have low density

    Have few moons

    Have numerous moons

    Solid surface

    No solid surface

    Slow rotation

    Fast rotation

    Weak or no detectable magnetic fields

    Strong magnetic fields

    No rings

    Several rings




    6: Solar System- Origin and Basics is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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