11. The Solar System

11. The Solar System - The Solar System Outline Our goals...

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The Solar System Outline Our goals for this section: To learn about the contents of the solar system To remind ourselves of the basic structure of the solar system To learn the differences between terrestrial and Jovian planets (…and then there’s Pluto) To discover the basic order underlying the major motions of solar system bodies
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Schematically, the solar system is laid out like this (not to scale): Overall Layout the Sun Venus Earth Mercury Mars Saturn Jupiter Uranus Neptune asteroid belt Kuiper belt Oort cloud Pluto terrestrial (Earth-like) planets jovian (Jupiter-like) planets many comets trillions of comets
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Inventory of the Solar System In the last few decades, our knowledge of the solar system has exploded The terminology is confusing because there are many types of bodies with similar properties Most of the confusion concerns bodies smaller than a few 100 m in diameter Some of the most clearly-defined terms: star : a gaseous sphere held together by its own gravity which generates a large net output of energy via nuclear fusion in its core planet : (2006 IAU definition) a non-stellar celestial body which • orbits a star (specifically the Sun, but not necessarily the Sun) • is massive enough for its gravity to pull it into a mostly spherical shape • has cleared its orbit of most smaller bodies
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dwarf planet : like a planet, but it has NOT cleared its orbit; also, typically less massive than a planet comet : a small, icy body which orbits a star and, at least sometimes, exhibits a coma (atmosphere) and/or a tail moon/satellite : a large-ish body which orbits a planet asteroid : a small body (about 10 m to a few hundred km), mostly made of rock and dust, which orbits a star and is not a planetary satellite meteroid : a very small body (less than 10
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This note was uploaded on 03/01/2011 for the course ASTRO 1a03 taught by Professor Samantha during the Spring '11 term at McMaster University.

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11. The Solar System - The Solar System Outline Our goals...

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