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This essay will evaluate The Sun and our Solar System in depth.

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This essay will evaluate The Sun and our Solar System in depth.  As the sun rushes through space at a speed of 150 miles (240 kilometres) per second, it takes many smaller bodies along with it. The sun and its smaller companions together are known as the solar system. Together, these bodies are making a revolution around the Milky Way that takes 225 million years. These other members of the solar system range in size from the giant planet Jupiter to microscopic particles called micrometeorites and even smaller particles--atoms and molecules of the interplanetary gas. Earth is one of the largest bodies of the solar system, although it is quite small when compared with the sun or Jupiter.  

   Astronomers do not know exactly how far out the solar system extends. When it is at its farthest point from the sun, some 41/2 billion miles (7.2 billion kilometres)--a point called the aphelion--Pluto is the most distant known planet. Many comets, however, have orbits that take them even farther out, up to several hundred times the distance of Pluto. Even at that distance the sun's gravitational force can pull the comet back. Some hundred billion comets form a tenuous halo in the outer parts of the solar system. Each is like a giant snowball, 1,000 to 10,000 feet (300 to 3,000 meters) in diameter.


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   The planets may be grouped according to their nearness to the sun or according to their physical properties. For example, Mercury and Venus, whose orbits lie between the sun and Earth, are called inferior planets. The planets whose orbits lie beyond Earth's orbit are the superior planets. Alternatively, the planets may be divided by location into inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) and outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto).  

   The reason for this division is that the four inner planets are similar in composition--mostly silicate rock and iron in varying proportions--while the four major outer planets, Jupiter to Neptune, are huge, not very dense, and have deep gaseous atmospheres. Since Jupiter is the outstanding representative of this group, these four planets are also known as the Jovian planets. These planets are composed mostly of hydrogen and helium in liquid and gaseous form. Pluto is an exception. It is much smaller than the other planets and is composed mostly of nitrogen.  

   Seven of the planets have smaller bodies--their natural satellites--circling them. With 24 moons, Saturn has the greatest number. Earth and Pluto each have one moon. These moons are so large with respect to the planets they orbit that each of the two planet-moon systems is sometimes considered a double planet system. Jupiter's Ganymede and Saturn's Titan are larger than the planet Mercury.

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   The future of the solar system probably depends on the behaviour of the sun. If current theories of stellar evolution are correct, the sun will have much the same size and temperature for 4 billion or 5 billion more years. By then, all of its hydrogen will have been burned. Other nuclear reactions involving helium and heavier atoms will begin. Then it will grow much brighter and larger, turning into a red giant and expanding beyond the orbit of Venus, perhaps even engulfing Earth. Much later, when all of its nuclear energy sources are exhausted, the sun will begin to cool down, evolving into a white-dwarf star. As its temperature decreases, it will become a dense no luminous black dwarf of dead matter. Around it will orbit the remaining planets. They will have turned into frozen chunks, orbiting their shrunken star.  


Berger, Melvin.  Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids (Putnam, 1981).  Curtis, Anthony R.  Solar System Handbook (ARCsoft, 1989).

Dormand, John and Michael Woolfson.  The Origin of the Solar System (Prentice, 1989).  Gallant, Roy.

 The Planets: Exploring the Solar System (Macmillan, 1990). Jones, B.W. and Keynes, Milton.  

The Solar System (Pergamon, 1984).  Kivelson, M.G.  The Solar System: Observations and Interpretations (Prentice, 1986).  Miller, Ron and Hartmann, W.K.  The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to the Solar System (Workman, 1980).  Nourse, A.E.  The Giant Planets, rev. ed. (Watts, 1982).  Runcorn, S.K.  Smaller Solar System Bodies and Orbits (Pergamon, 1989).  Vogt, Gregory.  Mars and the Inner Planets (Watts, 1982).  

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