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Solar System


The Solar System is the gravitationally bound system of the planets and the Sun plus other objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of the objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest eight are the planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. Of the objects that orbit the Sun indirectly, the moons, two are larger than the smallest planet, Mercury.

The Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant interstellar molecular cloud. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun, with the majority of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter, the four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, are terrestrial planets, being primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets are giant planets, being substantially more massive than the terrestrials, the two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are gas giants, being composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants, being composed mostly of substances with relatively high melting points compared with hydrogen and helium, called volatiles, such as water, ammonia and methane. All eight planets have almost circular orbits that lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic.

The Solar System also contains smaller objects, the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, mostly contains objects composed, like the terrestrial planets, of rock and metal. Beyond Neptune's orbit lie the Kuiper belt and scattered disc, which are populations of trans-Neptunian objects composed mostly of ices, and beyond them a newly discovered population of sednoids. Within these populations are several dozen to possibly tens of thousands of objects large enough that they have been rounded by their own gravity, such objects are categorized as dwarf planets. Identified dwarf planets include the asteroid Ceres and the trans-Neptunian objects Pluto and Eris; in addition to these two regions, various other small-body populations, including comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust clouds, freely travel between regions. Six of the planets, at least four of the dwarf planets, and many of the smaller bodies are orbited by natural satellites, usually termed "moons" after the Moon, each of the outer planets is encircled by planetary rings of dust and other small objects.

The solar wind, a stream of charged particles flowing outwards from the Sun, creates a bubble-like region in the interstellar medium known as the heliosphere. The heliopause is the point at which pressure from the solar wind is equal to the opposing pressure of the interstellar medium; it extends out to the edge of the scattered disc. The Oort cloud, which is thought to be the source for long-period comets, may also exist at a distance roughly a thousand times further than the heliosphere, the Solar System is located in the Orion Arm, 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way.

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Image of the Trojan asteroids in front of and behind Jupiter
The Jupiter Trojans are a large group of objects that share the orbit of the planet Jupiter around the Sun. Relative to Jupiter, each Trojan librates around one of the planet's two Lagrangian points of stability, L4 and L5, that respectively lie 60° ahead of and behind the planet in its orbit. Trojan asteroids are distributed in two elongated, curved regions around these Lagrangian points with an average semi-major axis of about 5.2 AU. The first Trojan, 588 Achilles, was discovered in 1906 by the German astronomer Max Wolf. A total of 2,909 Jupiter Trojans have been found as of January 2009. The name "Trojans" derives from the fact that, by convention, they each are named after a mythological figure from the Trojan War, the total number of Jupiter Trojans larger than 1 km is believed to be about 1 million, approximately equal to the number of asteroids larger than 1 km in the main asteroid belt. Like main belt asteroids, Trojans form families. Jupiter Trojans are dark bodies with reddish, featureless spectra. No firm evidence of the presence of water, organic matter or other chemical compounds has been obtained, the Trojans' densities (as measured by studying binaries or rotational lightcurves) vary from 0.8 to 2.5 g·cm−3. Trojans are thought to have been captured into their orbits during the early stages of the formation and evolution of the Solar System or slightly later, during the migration of giant planets.

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Saturn eclipse
Credit: Cassini orbiter

Saturn eclipsing the Sun, as seen by the Cassini orbiter. Individual rings seen in this image include (in order, starting from most distant): E ring, Pallene ring (visible very faintly in an arc just below Saturn), G ring, Janus/Epimetheus ring (faint), F ring (narrow brightest feature), Main rings (A,B,C), and D ring (bluish, nearest Saturn). Interior to the G ring and above the brighter main rings is the pale dot of Earth

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The SunMercuryVenusThe MoonEarthMarsPhobos and DeimosCeresThe main asteroid beltJupiterMoons of JupiterSaturnMoons of SaturnUranusMoons of UranusNeptuneMoons of NeptunePlutoMoons of PlutoHaumeaMoons of HaumeaMakemakeThe Kuiper BeltErisDysnomiaThe Scattered DiscThe Hills CloudThe Oort CloudSolar System Template Final.png

Solar System: Planets (Definition ˑ Planetary habitability ˑ Terrestrial planets ˑ Gas giants ˑ Rings) ˑ Dwarf planets (Plutoid) ˑ Moons ˑ Exploration ˑ Colonization ˑ Discovery timeline

Sun: Sunspot ˑ Solar wind ˑ Solar flare ˑ Solar eclipse
Mercury: Geology ˑ Exploration (Mariner 10 ˑ MESSENGER ˑ BepiColombo) ˑ Transit
Venus: Geology ˑ Atmosphere ˑ Exploration (Venera ˑ Mariner program 2/5/10 ˑ Pioneer ˑ Vega 1/2ˑ Magellan ˑ Venus Express) ˑ Transit
Earth: History ˑ Geology ˑ Geography ˑ Atmosphere ˑ Rotation
Moon: Geology ˑ Selenography ˑ Atmosphere ˑ Exploration (Luna ˑ Apollo 8/11) ˑ Orbit ˑ Lunar eclipse
Mars: Moons (Phobos ˑ Deimos) ˑ Geology ˑ Geography ˑ Atmosphere ˑ Exploration (Mariner ˑ Mars ˑ Viking 1/2 ˑ Pathfinder ˑ MER)
Ceres: Exploration (Dawn)
Jupiter: Moons (Amalthea, Io ˑ Europa ˑ Ganymede ˑ Callisto) ˑ Rings ˑ Atmosphere ˑ Magnetosphere ˑ Exploration (Pioneer 10/11 ˑ Voyager 1/2 ˑ Ulysses ˑ Cassini ˑ Galileo ˑ New Horizons)
Saturn: Moons (Mimas ˑ Enceladus ˑ Tethys ˑ Dione ˑ Rhea ˑ Titan ˑ Iapetus) ˑ Rings ˑ Exploration (Pioneer 11 ˑ Voyager 1/2 ˑ CassiniHuygens)
Uranus: Moons (Miranda ˑ Ariel ˑ Umbriel ˑ Titania ˑ Oberon) ˑ Rings ˑ Exploration (Voyager 2)
Neptune: Moons (Triton) ˑ Rings ˑ Exploration (Voyager 2)
Planets beyond Neptune
Pluto: Moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, Styx) ˑ Exploration (New Horizons)
Haumea: Moons (Hi'iaka, Namaka)
Eris: Dysnomia
Small bodies: Meteoroids ˑ Asteroids (Asteroid belt) ˑ Centaurs ˑ TNOs (Kuiper belt ˑ Scattered disc ˑ Oort cloud) ˑ Comets (Hale–Bopp ˑ Halley's ˑ Hyakutake ˑ Shoemaker–Levy 9)
Formation and evolution of the Solar System: History of Solar System formation and evolution hypotheses ˑ Nebular hypothesis
See also: Featured content ˑ Featured topic ˑ Good articles ˑ List of objects

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