The Solar System is the gravitationally bound system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of the objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest are the eight planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, the dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies.
A solar system is a bizarre place with its alien planets, mysterious moons, and strange phenomena that are so out-of-this-world they elude explanation. The mass at its center collected to form the Sun and a flat disk of dust around it. This eventually formed the planets and other bodies of the solar system.
Here are 10 Fun Facts About Our Solar System.
- The first thing to notice is that the solar system is mostly empty space. The planets are very small compared to the space between them. Even the dots on the diagrams above are too big to be in proper scale with respect to the sizes of the orbits.
2. 99.86% of the solar system’s mass is found in the Sun. The majority of the remaining 0.14% is contained within the eight planets.
3. The greatest distance across the contiguous United States — from Northern California to Maine — is nearly 2,900 miles (about 4,700 km). Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015, we now know that Pluto is 1,473 miles (2,371 km) across, less than half the width of the U.S. Certainly in size it is much smaller than any major planet, perhaps making it a bit easier to understand why, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union changed Pluto’s status from major planet to dwarf planet.
4. Scientists now believe that there are two major regions beyond Pluto. The first is the Kuiper Belt, a region of asteroids similar to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the Oort Cloud, a spherical region that contains numerous comets.
5. The two outermost gas giants, Uranus and Neptune, are composed largely of ices (water, ammonia, and methane). Together they are referred to as the “ice giants“.