The Sun plus the collection of bodies in orbit around the Sun such as planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, comets, etc.

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33
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Can the solar system really fit in a thimble?

Almost every time somebody talks about atoms, at some point they mention something like this: If we remove the spaces between the atoms and atomic components, we can fit the solar system in a ...
33
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2answers
1k views

Why are our planets in the solar system all on the same disc/plane/layer?

I always see pictures of the solar system where our sun is in the middle and the planets surround the sun. All these planets move on orbits on the same layer. Why?
25
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3answers
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Why do the planets' orbital distances fall on an exponential curve?

Background: I was recently reading a book on the planets to my son and I noticed a pattern in the distributions of the planets. The planets' distances roughly follow an exponential distribution. ...
18
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4answers
715 views

Staying in orbit - but doesn't any perturbation start a positive feedback?

I am not a physicist; I am a software engineer. While trying to fall asleep recently, I started thinking about the following. There are many explanations online of how any object stays in orbit. The ...
18
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4answers
1k views

Why doesn't dark matter affect planetary motion?

If the universe is made up of ~95% dark matter, and it interacts only gravitationally then why didn't Newton and Kepler discover it before ? Why does it show itself only in the radial velocity profile ...
17
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2answers
6k views

Is Jupiter a failed star?

In my physics lessons, my teachers have always been keen to tell my class that Jupiter is considered a 'failed star' by scientists. Is this true? In my own effort I wondered if maybe this could just ...
15
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3answers
649 views

Why is Uranus's axis of rotation tilted?

The poles of Uranus are 'in the wrong place', why is this? historically, do we have any evidence of its past? also, do we have an understanding of how its rotational axis might be evolving?
15
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4answers
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What did general relativity clarify about Mercury?

I frequently hear that Kepler, using his equations of orbital motion, could predict the orbits of all the planets to a high degree of accuracy -- except Mercury. I've heard that mercury's motion ...
14
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7answers
6k views

What is the average distance between objects in our asteroid belt?

We've all seen sci-fi movies with asteroid belts that require "great skill" to fly through, but how dense is the asteroid belt really? How much of the belt could you see from the surface of a given ...
14
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2answers
2k views

Why Aren't Saturn's Rings Clumping into Moons?

While reading with my son about how a Mars-like planet collided with the early Earth that resulted in our current moon, it said the initial debris also formed a ring, but that ring ended up getting ...
14
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5answers
4k views

Why do we always see the same side of the Moon? [duplicate]

I am puzzled why we always see the same side of the Moon even though it is rotating around its own axis apart from revolving around the earth. Shouldn't this only be possible if the Moon is not ...
14
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3answers
3k views

Why are Saturn's rings so thin?

Take a look at this picture (from APOD http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110308.html): I presume that rocks within rings smash each other. Below the picture there is a note which says that Saturn's rings ...
14
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1answer
353 views

How fast is the Earth-Sun distance changing

This is inspired by Evidence that the Solar System is expanding like the Universe?, which referenced an article by G. A. Krasinsky and V. A. Brumberg, "Secular Increase of Astronomical Unit from ...
13
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2answers
563 views

What if our Sun were located in the middle of a globular cluster?

Say you took our current solar system and relocated it deep in the heart of a globular cluster such as Omega Centauri. What would the night sky look like? Would the starshine of nearby stars be enough ...
12
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6answers
3k views

Why are the orbits of planets in the Solar System nearly circular?

Except for Mercury, the planets in the Solar System have very small eccentricities. Is this property special to the Solar System? Wikipedia states: Most exoplanets with orbital periods of 20 ...
12
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2answers
299 views

Why were space physicists wrong about the location of the heliopause?

The heliopause is now estimated to be something around 100 AU (1 AU = Astronomical unit = about the earth sun distance). See the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliosphere From ...
12
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1answer
226 views

Relationship between Mars and Earth rotation

Is it by pure random chance that Mars and the Earth have nearly the same day duration (Mars day is barely 40 minutes longer, which is just 3% difference), or there is some causal relationship between ...
11
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4answers
407 views

Is solar wind positively charged?

Many times I heared that the solar wind consists of protons and alpha particles. The both are positively charged, but are there electrons in solar wind?
11
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1answer
4k views

How does a comet form?

As the title explains, How does a comet form? What are the elements, what is a comet composed of? Why didn't they become part of planets, moons or asteroids?
10
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12answers
4k views

Why do we say that the earth moves around the sun?

In history we are taught that the Catholic Church was wrong, because the Sun does not move around the Earth, instead the Earth moves around the Sun. But then in physics we learn that movement is ...
10
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3answers
243 views

Why did the ancients fail to discover that the Earth orbits the Sun?

The ancients observed that the Sun and the 'fixed' stars rotated about the Earth. They were also aware that the Earth was spherical. They performed many astronomical measurements on the planets - ...
10
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1answer
3k views

What are the facts that allow accepting the Oort cloud theory?

I admit without any fact that the Oort cloud (comet reservoir) should exist, and it seems to be accepted by far by the large majority of astronomers. But it is still a theory without any direct ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Observing Jupiter's non-Galilean moons

What strength of telescope is required to observe some of the non-Galilean moons of Jupiter? My current telescope at 50 magnification resolves the Galilean moons well, but I'm guessing it's far ...
10
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2answers
118 views

When the Sun goes red giant, will it “vaporize” away a significant fraction of Jupiter and Saturn moons?

Since Jupiter and Saturn's moons are composed of a rock+ice mix. For example, Callisto is 50% rock and 50% ice. When the Sun finally goes red giant, could it melt a significant portion of the 50% of ...
9
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3answers
559 views

Questions about the Solar System

Most images you see of the solar system are 2D and all planets orbit in the same plane. In a 3D view, are really all planets orbiting in similar planes? Is there a reason for this? I'd expect that ...
9
votes
6answers
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What is the simplest way to prove that the Earth orbits the Sun?

Assume you're talking to someone ignorant of the basic facts of astronomy. How would you prove to them that the Earth orbits the Sun? Similarly, how would you prove to them that the Moon orbits ...
9
votes
2answers
146 views

How big is the Solar System?

How big is the solar system? By "big", I guess I mean "wide", i.e. how far away from the Sun is the farthest object that is considered part of the Solar System? I've checked Wikipedia's pages on ...
8
votes
7answers
2k views

How does the earth move?

My son who is 5 years old is asking me a question about how the earth moves around the sun. What answer should I give him?
8
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1answer
394 views

Where will New Horizons go after sailing past Pluto?

The New Horizons Spacecraft is scheduled to whiz by Pluto around 2015, and my understanding is that it is going to do exactly that — whiz by it. Where will it go after that? Or what else can it do ...
8
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1answer
260 views

How is the Plane of the Solar System oriented to the Sun's motion through space?

How is the Plane of the Solar System oriented to the Sun's motion through space: parallel, perpendicular, or some other angle?
8
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1answer
53 views

Why does the debris from comets and former comets hang around so long?

So tonight's Quatrantids shower got me thinking. Why does the debris from comets and former comets hang around so long? Each year the earth sweeps through the region of space that the comet went ...
8
votes
1answer
139 views

Are Uranus and Neptune too big for their location?

So I was watching some TV, and I heard Dr. Plait mention that the planets Uranus and Neptune are too big to be located so far out in our solar system. Now, I heard his explanation on the show as to ...
7
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3answers
1k views

Kepler's third law doesn't give earth's orbital period! Why? [closed]

I tried to calculate earth's orbital period using Kepler's third law, but I found 365.2075 days for the orbital period instead of 365.256363004 which is the correct value. I checked everything, and I ...
7
votes
6answers
836 views

Can any telescope be used for solar observing?

Can any telescope, such as a 8" reflector, that is normally used at night to look at planets be used or adapted for solar observing? What kind of adapters or filters are required or is it better to ...
7
votes
2answers
19 views

Predicting solar storms?

Quote from BBC "A strong solar storm is expected to hit Earth shortly, and experts warn it could disrupt power grids, satellite navigation and plane routes." How is it that we are aware of a massive ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

How did Halley calculate the distance to the Sun by measuring the transit of Venus?

What numbers did Halley, Cook, et al. have? What was the strategy by which they calculated the AU?
7
votes
1answer
25 views

Meteorites from Mars?

So I've heard of meteorites "originating from Mars" (e.g. AH84001), but the phrase confuses me. I'm interested in what this means - have these rocks somehow escaped Mars' gravity and ended up here; or ...
7
votes
1answer
176 views

How did Eratosthenes know the suns rays are parallel?

Eratosthenes famously observed that the suns rays were perpendicular to the ground in one location, yet non-perpendicular to the ground at a location some miles to the north. On the assumption that ...
7
votes
1answer
74 views

How plausible is a subsurface ocean on Pluto?

According to this article on physorg.com, it's likely that Pluto has a subsurface ocean of liquid water. It suggests that the ocean would be about 165 km deep, under an equally deep crust of solid ...
7
votes
3answers
152 views

Can a planet form before the parent star ignites?

I'm unable to find an answer to my questions via my searches. This questions pertains to the timeline of a star system creation. My question: During the creation of a star system, can satellite ...
7
votes
2answers
637 views

Where does tidal energy come from?

Kind of an odd, random question that popped into my head. Tidal energy - earth's ocean movement, volcanism on some of Jupiter's moons, etc. - obviously comes from the gravitational interaction between ...
7
votes
3answers
398 views

Question on the stability of the solar system

One of the pertinent questions about many body systems that causes me much wonder is why the solar system is so stable for billions of years. I came across the idea of "resonance" and albeit an useful ...
6
votes
2answers
247 views

Why is there this asymmetry between the two foci of an orbital ellipse?

Why does the Earth revolve with the Sun at one of its foci? Does the other focus do nothing? Why is there this asymmetry in our solar system?
6
votes
3answers
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What is the irregularity in Uranus' orbit that is caused by Neptune?

I carefully read the Wikipedia article Discovery of Neptune, and I don't get what the irregularity of Uranus orbit was that lead to the discovery of Neptune. Years ago, I watched some educational film ...
6
votes
3answers
257 views

“Reverse engineering” of a horoscope?

I'll start with a disclaimer -- this is not a question about astrology itself, I'm neither trying to refute nor to defend astrology. I'm interested in purely technical things, which are mostly ...
6
votes
3answers
3k views

Why did the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter form as it did?

I'm curious about why the asteroid belt wasn't pulled by Mars's or Jupiter's gravity or formed into either moons or planets. Why did it form into an asteroid belt instead?
6
votes
1answer
907 views

How many Pluto sized planetoids have been discovered?

How many planetoids have been discovered that are, say, 50% the size of Pluto or larger? Where are they? Incidentally, what is the difference between a planet, a planetoid, and an asteroid?
6
votes
1answer
176 views

When the sun's magnetic field reverses, how can “the north pole (have) already (…) reversed, and (we are) waiting for the south pole to catch-up”?

I was reading a popular news account of the sun's upcoming magnetic field reversal at http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0807/Sun-s-magnetic-reversal-means-big-changes-for-the-solar-system-video, ...
6
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1answer
311 views

Has Voyager 1 entered a solar radiation belt?

The Voyager 1 probe was sent out in 1977 to go where no man made object has gone before, after more than 35 years it’s still going strong. It’s now 124 AU away from Earth and many are wondering when ...
6
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1answer
76 views

Does a celestial system exhibit a collective magnetic field?

Sol exhibits a magnetic field, most of the planets in orbit around Sol exhibit a magnetic field - strong and weak both. Does the solar system as a whole exhibit a magnetic field? Does the paradigm ...