Download PDF The Solar System: A Tour in Verse

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Colored pencils OR markers. Most stars host their own planets, so there are likely tens of billions of other solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Solar systems can also have more than one star. These are called binary-star systems, if there are two stars, or multi-star systems, if there are three or more stars.

The solar system we call home is located in an outer spiral arm of the vast Milky Way galaxy. It consists of the Sun our star and everything that orbits around it. This includes the eight planets and their natural satellites such as our moon , dwarf planets and their satellites, as well as asteroids, comets and countless particles of smaller debris. Watch on YouTube. Our solar system formed about 4.

The cloud collapsed, possibly due to the shockwave of a nearby exploding star, called a supernova. At the center, gravity pulled more and more material in. Eventually the pressure in the core was so great that hydrogen atoms began to combine and form helium, releasing a tremendous amount of energy. With that, our Sun was born, and it eventually amassed more than 99 percent of the available matter. Matter farther out in the disk was also clumping together.

These clumps smashed into one another, forming larger and larger objects.

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Some of them grew big enough for their gravity to shape them into spheres, becoming planets, dwarf planets and large moons. In other cases, planets did not form: the asteroid belt is made of bits and pieces of the early solar system that could never quite come together into a planet. Other smaller leftover pieces became asteroids, comets, meteoroids and small, irregular moons. The order and arrangement of the planets and other bodies in our solar system is a result of the way the solar system formed.

Nearest the Sun, only rocky material could withstand the heat when the solar system was young. They're small with solid, rocky surfaces. Meanwhile, materials we are used to seeing as ice, liquid or gas settled in the outer regions of the young solar system. Gravity pulled these materials together, and that is where we find the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, and ice giants, Uranus and Neptune.

Our solar system extends much farther than the eight planets that orbit the Sun. The solar system also includes the Kuiper Belt that lies past Neptune's orbit. It was held up with a framework of wood, and they had to have helpers move it around using ropes and pulleys. It was the largest telescope in the world until over years later. Which planet was formed first and how was it formed? We think that the planets all formed pretty much at the same time. However the sun probably formed first.

The leftover gas and dust remained in a disk around the sun. In this disk, stuff began to clump and form "planetesimals" pronounced pla-ne-TE-si-mals.


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These are small rocky bodies, something like asteroids. They crashed into each other and eventually formed the inner planets. At the same time, planetesimals formed the cores of the outer planets Jupiter and Saturn.

The Nine Planets

Because of their strong gravity, they swept up a lot of gas. Uranus and Neptune did this too, but there was less gas around because Jupiter and Saturn got it first. The asteroid belt may be left-over planetesimals that never formed a planet because Jupiter's strong gravity nearby kept it from forming. Are there any living things on any of the planets?

So far we know of only one planet with life — Earth! In , we landed probes on Mars that looked carefully for evidence of life. But they couldn't find any. The other planets are less likely to have life at least life like that on Earth because they are too cold, too hot, don't have water or air. So as far as we know, Earth is alone in this solar system in having life. Why are all planets round? Planets and stars are round because of gravity. Gravity pulls equally in all directions.

Suppose you had a great big, tall mountain. As time goes by, rocks and dirt loosen up and fall down the mountain side.

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Eventually the mountain is worn down. Similarly a deep, deep valley will fill up. Of course a planet is not perfectly round — look at the mountains and valleys on the Earth and on Mars! Also the bigger the planet, the stronger the gravity. So bigger planets will be rounder. Tiny planets may not be very round.

For instance, some of the moons around Jupiter are not very big and are not round — sort of oblong and irregular. Asteroids, which may be only a few miles long, are also irregular. Why does every planet have gravity? Even you do! All matter in the universe has gravity. The bigger something is, the more gravity it has. The earth has strong gravity, but the sun is much bigger and has much stronger gravity. You also have gravity much, much, much smaller than the earth, so your gravity is very small.

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That's good or else things would be sticking to you! Why do some planets have more gravity than others? The strength of gravity depends on two things, the mass of the planet and how far we are from the center of the planet. So the gravity we would experience standing on the surface of a planet depends on how massive the planet is the heavier the planet, the more gravity and how big the planet is the bigger the planet, the further we are standing from the center, and thus the gravity is less. Most of the planets in our solar system are more massive than Earth, but they are also larger, so you have to do the calculations to figure out how the surface gravity compares.

How did the planets get the energy to rotate? Actually in space it is hard to get something to NOT rotate! The planets were formed from the same big cloud of gas and dust that formed the sun. That cloud, as it collapsed and started to form the sun, spun faster and faster as it got smaller.

That is the way spin works — something that scientists call "conservation of angular momentum. The ice skater starts to spin, and when she pulls her arms close around her the spin goes faster.

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You can do the same thing on a chair that lets you spin. Push yourself into a spin with your arms and legs stuck out. Then pull your arms and legs in to your body. Your chair will spin faster! Well the same thing happened to the cloud that formed the sun which is spinning and to the portions of the cloud that formed the planets.

As their smaller clouds collapsed, they spun faster and faster. Could planets come together to form one large planet? When our solar system was forming, many small "planets" did collide to make bigger planets. But this stopped and as a result we have our current collection of planets.

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Their orbits are all very stable and they can't collide now. What are the relative distances of each of the planets from the sun? How long does it take for each of the planets to orbit the sun? Also, please provide any other data regarding the weight and such. Let's see if I can put the information into a table to help you to better understand:. This is length of time for the planet to circle the sun, so this is the planet's "year. Earth's radius is about 3, miles. If you could weigh Earth, it would weigh13,,,,,, That's heavy! Do the weights of planets stay the same?

Pretty much. Over millions of years, they pick up some space dust but that's very little compared to how much they weigh to start with.