I am going to ask an odd question, It is: In most of the images of our solar system we see that the planets are arranged in a straight line. As the paths of the planets are elliptical, could it be possible for planets be arranged other than in straight line (a bit up and down) ?


1 Answer 1


The orbits of the planets are coplanar (in the same plane) because supposedly during the Solar System's formation, the planets formed out of a disk of dust (ha, ha) which surrounded the Sun. Because it was a disk, all in one plane, all of the planets formed in that one lousy plane as well.

Single rings and disks are common in astronomy. Jupiter's moons are coplanar too.

The common explanation is that orbits are unstable and they all eventually tend to get into the same plane and stay there. Wouldn't it be fun to have a planet orbiting the Sun at a right angle to the other planet's orbits? You'd never know when the damn thing's going to hit what.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the explanation. Yes, right angled path would cause a massacre. $\endgroup$
    – ni8mr
    Jan 2, 2016 at 6:52
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    $\begingroup$ As a note, comets frequently have high inclination (and highly elliptical) orbits, and they do occasionally crash into stuff. $\endgroup$
    – user21
    Jan 2, 2016 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @barrycarter: Yeah, well, Jupiter is rumored to be on the lookout for those. $\endgroup$
    – Ricky
    Jan 4, 2016 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ Only 8 of Jupiter's moons are coplanar: the 4 Galilean moons and the 4 inferior moons. The other ~60 (all superior to Callisto) are at least 25 degrees out of plane. Their eccentricities are rather large, too: >0.2 for most of them. $\endgroup$
    – Bill N
    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ @BillN: What's 25 degrees among friends. It's still in keeping with the general idea. 80 or 90 would be something. $\endgroup$
    – Ricky
    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:38

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