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The Solar System. Chapter 15. Planets, moons and other bodies. Solar System Sun ~ 10 planets ? ~100 moons Thousands of asteroids, millions of icy bodies, comets, … Astronomical unit (AU) Average Earth-Sun distance 1.5x10 8 km (93 million miles)

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planets moons and other bodies
Planets, moons and other bodies

Solar System


~ 10 planets ?

~100 moons

Thousands of asteroids, millions of icy bodies, comets, …

Astronomical unit (AU)

Average Earth-Sun distance

1.5x108 km (93 million miles)

Planet classification: size, density and atmosphere

Terrestrial planets

Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars

Mostly rocky materials, metallic nickel and iron

Giant planets

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune

Mostly hydrogen, helium and methane

Pluto and Quaoar


In a class by themselves

True planet?


Orbits sun 288 years.

Size 1250 km (1/2 size of Pluto)

Dis. By Mike Brown and Chad Trujilo California Institute of Technology

Named after god of Tongva Indian- original tribe located on campus of Cal. Tech. in Los Angeles.

Is it a real Planet?

Scientist believe that it and Pluto are members of the “Kuiper-belt” a second asteroid belt at the fringes of our solar system.

Called “ Ice dwarfs”

If Pluto was discovered today would not be classified as planet.

The discovery of Quaoar puts more doubt on Pluto being classified as a planet.


Innermost planet

Highly elliptical orbit

Average distance ~ 0.4 AU

Has the shortest revolution of all planets with ~ 3 months

Rotational period ~ 59 days

Visible shortly after sunset or before sunrise

Highly cratered; no atmosphere


Orbital distance ~ 0.7 AU

Morning and evening “star”

Exhibits phases, like the Moon

Rotational motion opposite orbital motion

Venusian “day” longer than Venusian “year”

Visited by numerous probes

Mostly CO2 atmosphere, high temperature and pressure

Surface mostly flat but varied


Orbital distance ~ 1.5 AU

Geologically active regions

Inactive volcanoes


Terraced plateaus near poles

Flat regions pitted with craters

Thin atmosphere, mostly CO2

Strong evidence for liquid water in past

Numerous space probes

Two satellites- Phobos and Demos


~ 5 AU from Sun

Most massive planet

318 times Earth’s mass

Mostly H and He with iron-silicate core

Dynamic atmosphere

H2, He, ammonia, methane, water, …

Great Red Spot

39 widely varying satellites

jupiter s largest moons
Jupiter's Largest Moons

Four largest satellites were discovered by Galileo using his small telescope, Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede.


9.5 AU from Sun

Rings of particles

Density = 0.7 that of water

Surface similar to Jupiter’s

30 satellites

Titan: only moon with substantial atmosphere

uranus neptune and pluto
Uranus, Neptune and Pluto

Uranus (~19 AU) and Neptune: (~30 AU)

Outermost giant planets

Similar internal structures


Smaller than the Moon

70% rock; 30% water ice; tenuous, thin atmosphere

Unusual orbit

Tilted 17o from ecliptic

Crosses Neptune’s

smaller bodies of the solar system
Smaller bodies of the Solar System

Comets, asteroids, meteorites

Leftover from solar and planetary formation

Mass of smaller bodies may be 2/3 of total Solar System mass

Bombard larger objects

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragments (bottom)…

… and strikes Jupiter (July 1994)

comet origins
Comet origins

Oort cloud

Origin of long-period comets (>200 years)

30 AU to light-year away

Kuiper belt

Origin of short-period comets (<200 years)

Disk-shaped region 30-100 AU from Sun

Gravitational nudges deflect objects toward Sun

comet structure
Comet structure

Small, solid objects

“Dirty snowball” model

Frozen water, CO2, ammonia, and methane

Dusty and rocky bits

Comet head

Solid nucleus and coma of gas

Two types of tails

Ionized gases


Tail points away from Sun


Located in belt between Mars and Jupiter

Sizes: up to 1,000 km

Varied composition

Inner belt: stony

Outer belt: dark with carbon

Others: iron and nickel

Formed from original solar nebula

Prevented from clumping by Jupiter nearby

meteors and meteorites
Meteors and meteorites


Remnants of comets and asteroids


Meteoroid encountering Earth’s atmosphere

Meteor showers: Earth passing through comet’s tail


Meteoroid surviving to strike Earth’s surface

Iron, stony or stony-iron

origin of the solar system
Origin of the Solar System

Protoplanet nebular model

Stage A

Formation of heavy elements in many earlier stars and supernovas

Concentration in one region of space as dust, gas and chemical compounds

origin of the solar system1
Origin of the Solar System

Stage B

Formation of large, rotating nebula

Gravitational contraction, spin rate increases

Most mass concentrates in central protostar

Remaining material forms outer disk

Material in outer disk begins clumping

origin of the solar system2
Origin of the Solar System

Stage C

Protosun becomes a star

Solar ignition flare-up may have blown away hydrogen and helium atmospheres of inner planets

Protoplanets heated, separating heavy and light minerals

Larger bodies cooled slower, with heavy materials settling over longer times into central cores