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The Solar System.

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The Earth is one of nine planets that orbit the Sun. Together with comets and other space debris, such as the asteroid belt, these bodies make up the solar system. All these bodies are held in orbit around the Sun by gravity.


The planets are all held in their different orbits by the gravitational force exerted by the Sun and by the planets on each other.

Other bodies in the solar system


The Earth and some of the other planets have one or more moons. These moons are natural satellites. Our Moon takes one month to orbit the Earth.

Artificial satellites

We also have many man-made satellites in orbit around the Earth.

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*Geostationary orbit: A circular orbit in the equatorial plane, any point on which revolves about the Earth in the same direction and with the same period as the Earth's rotation.

*Polar orbit: An orbit for which the angle of inclination is 90o. Note: A satellite in polar orbit will pass over both the north and south geographic poles once per orbit.


Comets make very eccentric orbits of the Sun, passing close to the Sun (when they can be seen from Earth) and then travelling far beyond Pluto. When comets are close to the Sun they move faster and when they are further away they move more slowly.

The asteroid belt

Between the four inner planets and the outer planets lies the asteroid belt, made up of dust and rocks.

 Planetary time

A day

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All the planets except Pluto have almost circular (elliptical) orbits in the same plane. The orbit of Pluto is much more elliptical and at an angle to the plane of the other planets. The time taken for a planet to orbit the Sun is its year. The further a planet is from the Sun, the weaker the pull of gravity on it and the greater its orbit. The further from the Sun a planet is, the longer its year. The Moon is a natural satellite of the Earth. Some other planets have natural satellites. The time taken for the Moon to make one orbit of the Earth is one lunar month. Artificial satellites are put into orbit around the Earth. Those close to the Earth orbit much more quickly than those in higher orbits.

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