The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. The name describes the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye; the term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος. From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610; until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe. Following the 1920 Great Debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies; the Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a diameter between 200,000 light-years. It is estimated to contain 100 -- more than 100 billion planets; the Solar System is located at a radius of 26,490 light-years from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of the Orion Arm, one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust.
The stars in the innermost 10,000 light-years form a bulge and one or more bars that radiate from the bulge. The galactic center is an intense radio source known as Sagittarius A*, assumed to be a supermassive black hole of 4.100 million solar masses. Stars and gases at a wide range of distances from the Galactic Center orbit at 220 kilometers per second; the constant rotation speed contradicts the laws of Keplerian dynamics and suggests that much of the mass of the Milky Way is invisible to telescopes, neither emitting nor absorbing electromagnetic radiation. This conjectural mass has been termed "dark matter"; the rotational period is about 240 million years at the radius of the Sun. The Milky Way as a whole is moving at a velocity of 600 km per second with respect to extragalactic frames of reference; the oldest stars in the Milky Way are nearly as old as the Universe itself and thus formed shortly after the Dark Ages of the Big Bang. The Milky Way has several satellite galaxies and is part of the Local Group of galaxies, which form part of the Virgo Supercluster, itself a component of the Laniakea Supercluster.
The Milky Way is visible from Earth as a hazy band of white light, some 30° wide, arching across the night sky. In night sky observing, although all the individual naked-eye stars in the entire sky are part of the Milky Way, the term “Milky Way” is limited to this band of light; the light originates from the accumulation of unresolved stars and other material located in the direction of the galactic plane. Dark regions within the band, such as the Great Rift and the Coalsack, are areas where interstellar dust blocks light from distant stars; the area of sky that the Milky Way obscures is called the Zone of Avoidance. The Milky Way has a low surface brightness, its visibility can be reduced by background light, such as light pollution or moonlight. The sky needs to be darker than about 20.2 magnitude per square arcsecond in order for the Milky Way to be visible. It should be visible if the limiting magnitude is +5.1 or better and shows a great deal of detail at +6.1. This makes the Milky Way difficult to see from brightly lit urban or suburban areas, but prominent when viewed from rural areas when the Moon is below the horizon.
Maps of artificial night sky brightness show that more than one-third of Earth's population cannot see the Milky Way from their homes due to light pollution. As viewed from Earth, the visible region of the Milky Way's galactic plane occupies an area of the sky that includes 30 constellations; the Galactic Center lies in the direction of Sagittarius. From Sagittarius, the hazy band of white light appears to pass around to the galactic anticenter in Auriga; the band continues the rest of the way around the sky, back to Sagittarius, dividing the sky into two equal hemispheres. The galactic plane is inclined by about 60° to the ecliptic. Relative to the celestial equator, it passes as far north as the constellation of Cassiopeia and as far south as the constellation of Crux, indicating the high inclination of Earth's equatorial plane and the plane of the ecliptic, relative to the galactic plane; the north galactic pole is situated at right ascension 12h 49m, declination +27.4° near β Comae Berenices, the south galactic pole is near α Sculptoris.
Because of this high inclination, depending on the time of night and year, the arch of the Milky Way may appear low or high in the sky. For observers from latitudes 65° north to 65° south, the Milky Way passes directly overhead twice a day; the Milky Way is the second-largest galaxy in the Local Group, with its stellar disk 100,000 ly in diameter and, on average 1,000 ly thick. The Milky Way is 1.5 trillion times the mass of the Sun. To compare the relative physical scale of the Milky Way, if the Solar System out to Neptune were the size of a US quarter, the Milky Way would be the size of the contiguous United States. There is a ring-like filament of stars rippling above and below the flat galactic plane, wrapping around the Milky Way at a diameter of 150,000–180,000 light-years, which may be part of the Milky Way itself. Estimates of the mass of the Milky Way vary, depending upon the method and data used; the low end of the estimate range is 5.8×1011 solar masses, somewhat less than that of the Andromeda Galaxy.
Measurements using the Very Long Baseline Array in 2009 found
Right ascension is the angular distance of a particular point measured eastward along the celestial equator from the Sun at the March equinox to the point above the earth in question. When paired with declination, these astronomical coordinates specify the direction of a point on the celestial sphere in the equatorial coordinate system. An old term, right ascension refers to the ascension, or the point on the celestial equator that rises with any celestial object as seen from Earth's equator, where the celestial equator intersects the horizon at a right angle, it contrasts with oblique ascension, the point on the celestial equator that rises with any celestial object as seen from most latitudes on Earth, where the celestial equator intersects the horizon at an oblique angle. Right ascension is the celestial equivalent of terrestrial longitude. Both right ascension and longitude measure an angle from a primary direction on an equator. Right ascension is measured from the Sun at the March equinox i.e. the First Point of Aries, the place on the celestial sphere where the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north at the March equinox and is located in the constellation Pisces.
Right ascension is measured continuously in a full circle from that alignment of Earth and Sun in space, that equinox, the measurement increasing towards the east. As seen from Earth, objects noted to have 12h RA are longest visible at the March equinox. On those dates at midnight, such objects will reach their highest point. How high depends on their declination. Any units of angular measure could have been chosen for right ascension, but it is customarily measured in hours and seconds, with 24h being equivalent to a full circle. Astronomers have chosen this unit to measure right ascension because they measure a star's location by timing its passage through the highest point in the sky as the Earth rotates; the line which passes through the highest point in the sky, called the meridian, is the projection of a longitude line onto the celestial sphere. Since a complete circle contains 24h of right ascension or 360°, 1/24 of a circle is measured as 1h of right ascension, or 15°. A full circle, measured in right-ascension units, contains 24 × 60 × 60 = 86400s, or 24 × 60 = 1440m, or 24h.
Because right ascensions are measured in hours, they can be used to time the positions of objects in the sky. For example, if a star with RA = 1h 30m 00s is at its meridian a star with RA = 20h 00m 00s will be on the/at its meridian 18.5 sidereal hours later. Sidereal hour angle, used in celestial navigation, is similar to right ascension, but increases westward rather than eastward. Measured in degrees, it is the complement of right ascension with respect to 24h, it is important not to confuse sidereal hour angle with the astronomical concept of hour angle, which measures angular distance of an object westward from the local meridian. The Earth's axis rotates westward about the poles of the ecliptic, completing one cycle in about 26,000 years; this movement, known as precession, causes the coordinates of stationary celestial objects to change continuously, if rather slowly. Therefore, equatorial coordinates are inherently relative to the year of their observation, astronomers specify them with reference to a particular year, known as an epoch.
Coordinates from different epochs must be mathematically rotated to match each other, or to match a standard epoch. Right ascension for "fixed stars" near the ecliptic and equator increases by about 3.05 seconds per year on average, or 5.1 minutes per century, but for fixed stars further from the ecliptic the rate of change can be anything from negative infinity to positive infinity. The right ascension of Polaris is increasing quickly; the North Ecliptic Pole in Draco and the South Ecliptic Pole in Dorado are always at right ascension 18h and 6h respectively. The used standard epoch is J2000.0, January 1, 2000 at 12:00 TT. The prefix "J" indicates. Prior to J2000.0, astronomers used the successive Besselian epochs B1875.0, B1900.0, B1950.0. The concept of right ascension has been known at least as far back as Hipparchus who measured stars in equatorial coordinates in the 2nd century BC, but Hipparchus and his successors made their star catalogs in ecliptic coordinates, the use of RA was limited to special cases.
With the invention of the telescope, it became possible for astronomers to observe celestial objects in greater detail, provided that the telescope could be kept pointed at the object for a period of time. The easiest way to do, to use an equatorial mount, which allows the telescope to be aligned with one of its two pivots parallel to the Earth's axis. A motorized clock drive is used with an equatorial mount to cancel out the Earth's rotation; as the equatorial mount became adopted for observation, the equatorial coordinate system, which includes right ascension, was adopted at the same time for simplicity. Equatorial mounts could be pointed at objects with known right ascension and declination by the use of setting circles; the first star catalog to use right ascen
In physics, redshift is a phenomenon where electromagnetic radiation from an object undergoes an increase in wavelength. Whether or not the radiation is visible, "redshift" means an increase in wavelength, equivalent to a decrease in wave frequency and photon energy, in accordance with the wave and quantum theories of light. Neither the emitted nor perceived light is red. Examples of redshifting are a gamma ray perceived as an X-ray, or visible light perceived as radio waves; the opposite of a redshift is energy increases. However, redshift is a more common term and sometimes blueshift is referred to as negative redshift. There are three main causes of red in astronomy and cosmology: Objects move apart in space; this is an example of the Doppler effect. Space itself expands; this is known as cosmological redshift. All sufficiently distant light sources show redshift corresponding to the rate of increase in their distance from Earth, known as Hubble's Law. Gravitational redshift is a relativistic effect observed due to strong gravitational fields, which distort spacetime and exert a force on light and other particles.
Knowledge of redshifts and blueshifts has been used to develop several terrestrial technologies such as Doppler radar and radar guns. Redshifts are seen in the spectroscopic observations of astronomical objects, its value is represented by the letter z. A special relativistic redshift formula can be used to calculate the redshift of a nearby object when spacetime is flat. However, in many contexts, such as black holes and Big Bang cosmology, redshifts must be calculated using general relativity. Special relativistic and cosmological redshifts can be understood under the umbrella of frame transformation laws. There exist other physical processes that can lead to a shift in the frequency of electromagnetic radiation, including scattering and optical effects; the history of the subject began with the development in the 19th century of wave mechanics and the exploration of phenomena associated with the Doppler effect. The effect is named after Christian Doppler, who offered the first known physical explanation for the phenomenon in 1842.
The hypothesis was tested and confirmed for sound waves by the Dutch scientist Christophorus Buys Ballot in 1845. Doppler predicted that the phenomenon should apply to all waves, in particular suggested that the varying colors of stars could be attributed to their motion with respect to the Earth. Before this was verified, however, it was found that stellar colors were due to a star's temperature, not motion. Only was Doppler vindicated by verified redshift observations; the first Doppler redshift was described by French physicist Hippolyte Fizeau in 1848, who pointed to the shift in spectral lines seen in stars as being due to the Doppler effect. The effect is sometimes called the "Doppler–Fizeau effect". In 1868, British astronomer William Huggins was the first to determine the velocity of a star moving away from the Earth by this method. In 1871, optical redshift was confirmed when the phenomenon was observed in Fraunhofer lines using solar rotation, about 0.1 Å in the red. In 1887, Vogel and Scheiner discovered the annual Doppler effect, the yearly change in the Doppler shift of stars located near the ecliptic due to the orbital velocity of the Earth.
In 1901, Aristarkh Belopolsky verified optical redshift in the laboratory using a system of rotating mirrors. The earliest occurrence of the term red-shift in print appears to be by American astronomer Walter S. Adams in 1908, in which he mentions "Two methods of investigating that nature of the nebular red-shift"; the word does not appear unhyphenated until about 1934 by Willem de Sitter indicating that up to that point its German equivalent, was more used. Beginning with observations in 1912, Vesto Slipher discovered that most spiral galaxies mostly thought to be spiral nebulae, had considerable redshifts. Slipher first reports on his measurement in the inaugural volume of the Lowell Observatory Bulletin. Three years he wrote a review in the journal Popular Astronomy. In it he states that "the early discovery that the great Andromeda spiral had the quite exceptional velocity of –300 km showed the means available, capable of investigating not only the spectra of the spirals but their velocities as well."
Slipher reported the velocities for 15 spiral nebulae spread across the entire celestial sphere, all but three having observable "positive" velocities. Subsequently, Edwin Hubble discovered an approximate relationship between the redshifts of such "nebulae" and the distances to them with the formulation of his eponymous Hubble's law; these observations corroborated Alexander Friedmann's 1922 work, in which he derived the Friedmann-Lemaître equations. They are today considered strong evidence for the Big Bang theory; the spectrum of light that comes from a single source can be measured. To determine the redshift, one searches for features in the spectrum such as absorption lines, emission lines, or other variations in light intensity. If found, these featur
Ursa Major is a constellation in the northern sky, whose associated mythology dates back into prehistory. Its Latin name means "greater she-bear", standing as a reference to and in direct contrast with nearby Ursa Minor, the lesser bear. In antiquity, it was one of the original 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy, is now the third largest constellation of the 88 modern constellations. Ursa Major is known from the asterism of its main seven bright stars comprising the "Big Dipper", "the Wagon", "Charles's Wain" or "the Plough", with its stellar configuration mimicking the shape of the "Little Dipper"; the general constellation outline significantly features in numerous world cultures, is used as a symbol of the north. E.g. as the flag of Alaska. The asterism's two brightest stars, named Dubhe and Merak, can be used as the navigational pointer towards the place of the current northern pole star, Polaris in Ursa Minor. Ursa Major is visible throughout the year from most of the northern hemisphere, appears circumpolar above the mid-northern latitudes.
From southern temperate latitudes, the main asterism is invisible, but the southern parts of the constellation can still be viewed. Appearing in the northern sky, Ursa Major occupies a large area covering 1279.66 square degrees or 3.10% of the total sky, making it the third largest constellations in the night sky. Eugène Delporte in 1930, who set the official International Astronomical Union constellation boundaries, formed a 28-sided irregular polygon, which according to the equatorial coordinate system, stretches between the right ascension coordinates of 08h 08.3m and 14h 29.0m and the declination coordinates of +28.30° and +73.14°. Ursa Major borders eight other constellations: Draco to the north and northeast, Boötes to the east, Canes Venatici to the east and southeast, Coma Berenices to the southeast and Leo Minor to the south, Lynx to the southwest and Camelopardalis to the northwest; the three-letter constellation abbreviation'UMa' was adopted by the IAU in 1922. The "Big Dipper" is an asterism within Ursa Major composed of seven bright stars that together comprise one of the best-known patterns in the sky.
Like many of its common names allude to, its shape is said to resemble either a ladle, an agricultural plough or wagon. Starting with the "ladle" portion of the dipper and extending clockwise through the handle, these stars are the following: α Ursae Majoris, known by the Arabic name Dubhe, which at a magnitude of 1.79 is the 35th-brightest star in the sky and the second-brightest of Ursa Major. Β Ursae Majoris, called Merak, with a magnitude of 2.37. Γ Ursae Majoris, known as either Phecda or Phad, with a magnitude of 2.44. Δ Ursae Majoris, or Megrez, meaning "root of the tail," referring to its location as the intersection of the body and tail of the bear. Ε Ursae Majoris, known as Alioth, a name which refers not to a bear but to a "black horse," the name corrupted from the original and mis-assigned to the named Alcor, the naked-eye binary companion of Mizar. Alioth is the brightest star of Ursa Major and the 33rd-brightest in the sky, with a magnitude of 1.76. It is the brightest of the "peculiar A stars," magnetic stars whose chemical elements are either depleted or enhanced, appear to change as the star rotates.
Ζ Ursae Majoris, the second star in from the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, the constellation's fourth-brightest star. Mizar, which means "girdle," forms a famous double star, with its optical companion Alcor, the two of which were termed the "horse and rider" by the Arabs; the ability to resolve the two stars with the naked eye is quoted as a test of eyesight, although people with quite poor eyesight can see the two stars. Η Ursae Majoris, known as either Alkaid or Benetnash, both meaning the "end of the tail." With a magnitude of 1.85, Alkaid is the third-brightest star of Ursa Major. Except for Dubhe and Alkaid, the stars of the Big Dipper all have proper motions heading toward a common point in Sagittarius. A few other such stars have been identified, together they are called the Ursa Major Moving Group; the stars Merak and Dubhe are known as the "pointer stars" because they are helpful for finding Polaris known as the North Star or Pole Star. By visually tracing a line from Merak through Dubhe and continuing for 5 units, one's eye will land on Polaris indicating true north.
Another asterism known as the "Three Leaps of the Gazelle" is recognized in Arab culture, a series of three pairs of stars found along the southern border of the constellation. W Ursae Majoris is the prototype of a class of contact binary variable stars, ranges between 7.75m and 8.48m. 47 Ursae Majoris is a Sun-like star with a three-planet system. 47 Ursae Majoris b, discovered in 1996, orbits every 1078 days and is 2.53 times the mass of Jupiter. 47 Ursae Majoris c, discovered in 2001, orbits every 2391 days and is 0.54 times the
Supermassive black hole
A supermassive black hole is the largest type of black hole, containing a mass of the order of hundreds of thousands, to billions of times, the mass of the Sun. Black holes are a class of astronomical object that have undergone gravitational collapse, leaving behind spheroidal regions of space from which nothing can escape, not light. Observational evidence indicates that nearly all large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole, located at the galaxy's center. In the case of the Milky Way, the supermassive black hole corresponds to the location of Sagittarius A* at the Galactic Core. Accretion of interstellar gas onto supermassive black holes is the process responsible for powering quasars and other types of active galactic nuclei. Supermassive black holes have properties. First, the average density of a SMBH can be less than the density of water in the case of some SMBHs; this is. Since the volume of a spherical object is directly proportional to the cube of the radius, the density of a black hole is inversely proportional to the square of the mass, thus higher mass black holes have lower average density.
In addition, the tidal forces in the vicinity of the event horizon are weaker for supermassive black holes. The tidal force on a body at the event horizon is inversely proportional to the square of the mass: a person on the surface of the Earth and one at the event horizon of a 10 million M☉ black hole experience about the same tidal force between their head and feet. Unlike with stellar mass black holes, one would not experience significant tidal force until deep into the black hole; some astronomers have begun labeling black holes of at least 10 billion M☉ as ultramassive black holes. Most of these are associated with exceptionally energetic quasars; the story of how supermassive black holes were found began with the investigation by Maarten Schmidt of the radio source 3C 273 in 1963. This was thought to be a star, but the spectrum proved puzzling, it was determined to be hydrogen emission lines, red shifted, indicating the object was moving away from the Earth. Hubble's law showed that the object was located several billion light-years away, thus must be emitting the energy equivalent of hundreds of galaxies.
The rate of light variations of the source, dubbed a quasi-stellar object, or quasar, suggested the emitting region had a diameter of one parsec or less. Four such sources had been identified by 1964. In 1963, Fred Hoyle and W. A. Fowler proposed the existence of hydrogen burning supermassive stars as an explanation for the compact dimensions and high energy output of quasars; these would have a mass of about 105 – 109 M☉. However, Richard Feynman noted stars above a certain critical mass are dynamically unstable and would collapse into a black hole, at least if they were non-rotating. Fowler proposed that these supermassive stars would undergo a series of collapse and explosion oscillations, thereby explaining the energy output pattern. Appenzeller and Fricke built models of this behavior, but found that the resulting star would still undergo collapse, concluding that a non-rotating 0.75×106 M☉ SMS "cannot escape collapse to a black hole by burning its hydrogen through the CNO cycle". Edwin E. Salpeter and Yakov B.
Zel'dovich made the proposal in 1964 that matter falling onto a massive compact object would explain the properties of quasars. It would require a mass of around 108 M☉ to match the output of these objects. Donald Lynden-Bell noted in 1969 that the infalling gas would form a flat disk that spirals into the central "Schwarzschild throat", he noted that the low output of nearby galactic cores implied these were old, inactive quasars. Meanwhile, in 1967, Martin Ryle and Malcolm Longair suggested that nearly all sources of extra-galactic radio emission could be explained by a model in which particles are ejected from galaxies at relativistic velocities. Martin Ryle, Malcolm Longair, Peter Scheuer proposed in 1973 that the compact central nucleus could be the original energy source for these relativistic jets. Arthur M. Wolfe and Geoffrey Burbidge noted in 1970 that the large velocity dispersion of the stars in the nuclear region of elliptical galaxies could only be explained by a large mass concentration at the nucleus.
They showed that the behavior could be explained by a massive black hole with up to 1010 M☉, or a large number of smaller black holes with masses below 103 M☉. Dynamical evidence for a massive dark object was found at the core of the active elliptical galaxy Messier 87 in 1978 estimated at 5×109 M☉. Discovery of similar behavior in other galaxies soon followed, including the Andromeda Galaxy in 1984 and the Sombrero Galaxy in 1988. Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees hypothesized in 1971 that the center of the Milky Way galaxy would contain a massive black hole. Sagittarius A* was discovered and named on February 13 and 15, 1974, by astronomers Bruce Balick and Robert Brown using the Green Bank Interferometer of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, they discovered a radio source. This was, the first indication that a supermassive black hole exists in the center of the Milky Way; the Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, provided the resolution needed to perform more refined observations of galactic nuclei.
In 1994 th
The Solar System is the gravitationally bound planetary 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, such as the five 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, Venus and Mars, are terrestrial planets, being composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets are giant planets, being more massive than the terrestrials; the two largest and Saturn, are gas giants, being composed of hydrogen and helium. All eight planets have circular orbits that lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic.
The Solar System contains smaller objects. The asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter 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 of ices, beyond them a newly discovered population of sednoids. Within these populations are several dozen to 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 trans-Neptunian objects Pluto and Eris. In addition to these two regions, various other small-body populations, including comets and interplanetary dust clouds travel between regions. Six of the planets, at least four of the dwarf planets, many of the smaller bodies are orbited by natural satellites 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; the Oort cloud, thought to be the source for long-period comets, may exist at a distance 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 galaxy. For most of history, humanity did not understand the concept of the Solar System. Most people up to the Late Middle Ages–Renaissance believed Earth to be stationary at the centre of the universe and categorically different from the divine or ethereal objects that moved through the sky. Although the Greek philosopher Aristarchus of Samos had speculated on a heliocentric reordering of the cosmos, Nicolaus Copernicus was the first to develop a mathematically predictive heliocentric system.
In the 17th century, Galileo discovered that the Sun was marked with sunspots, that Jupiter had four satellites in orbit around it. Christiaan Huygens followed on from Galileo's discoveries by discovering Saturn's moon Titan and the shape of the rings of Saturn. Edmond Halley realised in 1705 that repeated sightings of a comet were recording the same object, returning once every 75–76 years; this was the first evidence that anything other than the planets orbited the Sun. Around this time, the term "Solar System" first appeared in English. In 1838, Friedrich Bessel measured a stellar parallax, an apparent shift in the position of a star created by Earth's motion around the Sun, providing the first direct, experimental proof of heliocentrism. Improvements in observational astronomy and the use of unmanned spacecraft have since enabled the detailed investigation of other bodies orbiting the Sun; the principal component of the Solar System is the Sun, a G2 main-sequence star that contains 99.86% of the system's known mass and dominates it gravitationally.
The Sun's four largest orbiting bodies, the giant planets, account for 99% of the remaining mass, with Jupiter and Saturn together comprising more than 90%. The remaining objects of the Solar System together comprise less than 0.002% of the Solar System's total mass. Most large objects in orbit around the Sun lie near the plane of Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic; the planets are close to the ecliptic, whereas comets and Kuiper belt objects are at greater angles to it. All the planets, most other objects, orbit the Sun in the same direction that the Sun is rotating. There are exceptions, such as Halley's Comet; the overall structure of the charted regions of the Solar System consists of the Sun, four small inner planets surrounded by a belt of rocky asteroids, four giant planets surrounded by the Kuiper belt of icy objects. Astronomers sometimes informally divide this structure into separate regions; the inner Solar System includes the asteroid belt. The outer Solar System is including the four giant planets.
Since the discovery of the Kuiper belt, the outermost parts of the Solar Sys