Skip to content

The Solar System Journey: Planets, Moons, Rings, and More

The Solar System Journey: Planets, Moons, Rings, and More

Salutations from the solar system! The Sun, the planets, and the Milky Way Galaxy's lone residence for humans can all be found here. It has worlds with ring systems, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and one star. The ability to examine other solar system objects more closely with spacecraft has only recently been possible, despite the fact that astronomers and skywatchers have been observing other solar system objects in the sky since the beginning of human history.

Views of the Solar System over Time

Before astronomers could look via telescopes at celestial objects, people believed that the planets were merely roving stars. They had no idea that there was a structured system of planets orbiting the Sun. They only understood that, against the background of the stars, some things travelled along predictable routes. They initially believed these entities to be "gods" or other supernatural beings. They then came to the conclusion that those actions had an impact on people's lives. Those concepts were abandoned with the development of scientific astronomical observations.

Galileo Galilei was the first astronomer to use a telescope to observe a planet other than our own. His findings altered how people thought about humanity's role in space. Soon, a large number of men and women began conducting scientific research on the planets, their moons, asteroids, and comets. This still holds true today, and several solar system investigations are being conducted by spacecraft.

What else do planetary scientists and astronomers know about the solar system?

Solar System Perspectives

The Sun, the nearest star to us, is first encountered as we travel through the solar system. Amazingly, it comprises 99.8% of the solar system's mass. The next most massive object is the planet Jupiter, which has twice the mass of all the other planets combined.

The "terrestrial" or "rocky" planets are the four inner planets, which are small, cratered Mercury, cloud-shrouded Venus (also known as Earth's Twin), temperate and watery Earth (our planet), and reddish Mars.

The term "gas giants" refers to Jupiter, ringed Saturn, enigmatic Uranus in blue, and distant Neptune. Because of their extreme cold and abundance of icy debris, Uranus and Neptune are frequently referred to as the "ice giants".

There are five recognised dwarf planets in the solar system. Pluto, Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris are their names. On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons expedition visited Pluto. It is currently in route to the dwarf planet 2014 MU69. Although we lack precise photos of them, there are at least one and maybe two other dwarf planets in the outer limits of the solar system.

The "Kuiper Belt" (pronounced KYE-per Belt) is a region of the solar system where there are most likely at least 200 additional dwarf planets. The solar system's most distant planets are found in the Kuiper Belt, which extends beyond Neptune's orbit. Since it is so far away, its objects are probably frosty and frozen.

The Oort Cloud is the name of the solar system's outermost area. It most likely lacks huge worlds, but it does have ice fragments that, when they orbit the Sun at a very near distance, turn into comets.

Between Mars and Jupiter is a section of space known as the Asteroid Belt. Rock fragments of different sizes, from tiny boulders to those the size of major cities, are scattered throughout. These asteroids are byproducts of the planets' planet-forming process.

Moons can be found all over the solar system. Mercury and Venus are the two planets devoid of moons. Mars has two, Jupiter has dozens, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have one, and Earth has one. A few of the moons in the outer solar system are ice-covered worlds with liquid oceans beneath them.

We are aware of only four planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—that have rings. However, planetary scientists recently found a flimsy ring surrounding the dwarf planet Haumea, and at least one asteroid named Chariklo has a ring as well.

The Solar System's Evolution and Origin

Everything that astronomers learn about solar system bodies helps them understand the origin and evolution of the Sun and planets. We know they formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Their birthplace was a cloud of gas and dust that slowly contracted to make the Sun, followed by the planets. The comets and asteroids are often considered the "leftovers" of the birth of the planets.

What astronomers know about the Sun tells us that it will not last forever. Some five billion years from now, it will expand and engulf some of the planets. Eventually, it will shrink down, leaving behind a very changed solar system from the one we know of today.

Back to top