Questions tagged [solar-system]

Questions regarding the Sun and objects orbiting it.

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59 votes
7 answers
38k views

How many planets are there in this solar system?

So, in school (that's a long time ago) they have been teaching us there are 9 planets in our solar system. Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto But every now and then I keep ...
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58 votes
6 answers
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Why hasn't the "9th Planet" been detected already?

In the comments to this question, there was considerable doubt placed as to the subject of if the so called "9th planet" really exists. That wasn't really the intent of the previous question, so I ask ...
50 votes
4 answers
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Why does it take so long to transmit an image from New Horizons to Earth?

I just got the news that the New Horizons space probe has passed by some remote planet on the edge of the solar system. I was surprised that the guy from NASA says that it might take 24 months from ...
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48 votes
5 answers
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Where does the Solar System end?

The Sun is roughly 4 light-years away from the closest star system, the Alpha Centauri system. The planets in our Solar System, however, aren't even close to that far away from the Sun. Where does our ...
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2 answers
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Do all stars have an Oort cloud or is it a rare occurence?

Do all stars have an Oort cloud like ours that will be filled with comets and other objects? If not, why are they not around every star?
42 votes
1 answer
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Closest star system to Alpha Centauri?

The closest star system to our Solar System is Alpha Centauri. But is our Solar System the closest star system to Alpha Centuari? If not, which star system is?
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42 votes
2 answers
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Why is our solar system "tipped" about 63° with respect to the plane of our galaxy?

Our own solar system is "tipped" by about 63 degrees with respect to the plane of the galaxy. Has it ever been researched or is there any scientific theory which could explain the reason why our solar ...
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38 votes
2 answers
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How can comets have tails if there's no air resistance in space?

I understand that solar radiation causes material to vaporize out of a comet into dust but why does the dust then trail behind the comet like a "tail"? Assuming gravity is the only applied force ...
38 votes
5 answers
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Why do (most of) the planets rotate counterclockwise, i.e. the same way the Sun does?

Referring to the mechanisms explaining the solar system formation and to the initial rotation of the gaseous cloud that collapsed, I understand easily why the planets orbit the Sun the same way this ...
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37 votes
5 answers
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9th planet location?

I've seen a number of news reports indicating there is likely a 9th planet in our Solar System, something with an orbital period of between 10k-20k years, that is 10 times Earth's mass. I haven't seen ...
36 votes
1 answer
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Why do the planets in our solar system orbit in the same plane?

(Yes I'm excluding Pluto from this the same way it was excluded for not being a planet) Observing the planets orbit of the Sun they all seem relatively planar and roughly all orbit along the same ...
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35 votes
1 answer
7k views

Considering our methods of exploration, how likely is it that there are unfound planets (not dwarf planets) in our solar system?

I think it's probably unlikely that there are more planets between Mercury and Mars, but out from Jupiter, there's lots of empty space between the planets. Could there be some small planet hidden out ...
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33 votes
4 answers
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Is it odd that our Sun has so many planets?

The internet is abuzz with the new evidence of the possible ninth planet in our Solar System. With those nine objects, the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt, and everything else in our Solar System - the ...
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32 votes
3 answers
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Can our Sun become a black hole

Does every star become a black hole? Is there any probability that our sun can become a black hole? If yes then is it on its way to become a black hole? what is the current state of sun as per the ...
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31 votes
6 answers
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Why is the Sun's density less than the inner planets?

The density of the Sun is $1410~\frac{\text{kg}}{\text{m}^{3}}$ and Mercury's is $5430~\frac{\text{kg}}{\text{m}^{3}}$, but shouldn't the Sun be denser? Because when the Solar System was forming, ...
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31 votes
2 answers
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Which planet, viewed from which other planet would appear the largest?

Inspired by this question, I'm curious: Which planet in our solar system, when viewed from which other planet, would appear the largest/brightest? You probably can't really see much of Uranus from ...
30 votes
3 answers
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Pluto's orbit overlaps Neptune's, does this mean Pluto will hit Neptune sometime?

We know that the orbits of Pluto and Neptune overlap. This means that pluto sometimes crosses the orbit of Neptune; will Pluto hit Neptune in any circumstance?
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28 votes
4 answers
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Which planet came first in our Solar system?

I always wonder which planet came first in our solar system? Sources suggest that Jupiter might be the first planet in our solar system, but how did our solar system evolve into an 8 planet system?
27 votes
2 answers
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Why do the planets orbit in the same direction?

Theoretically, planets would have an approximately equal chance of going one way in their orbit or another but in reality, this is not the case (at least in our solar system). Why is this?
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27 votes
2 answers
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How much magnification is needed to see the planets of solar system?

I have a 3inch Newtonian reflector telescope with 300 mm focal length. I can use highest magnification of 75x using a 4mm eyepiece. But in 75x I can't see the details of Jupiter what was expected. ...
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27 votes
1 answer
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Why do planets and satellites in the Solar system look so wildly different if they came from more or less the same matter?

First, the planets. We have Mercury, which is rocky, no atmosphere. But then we have Venus, which is completely different: thick atmosphere, very hot, geologically active. Then Earth - blue, full of ...
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25 votes
2 answers
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How can Io be tidally heated while it is in tidal lock?

According to its Wikipedia page: Rotation period: synchronous Eccentricity: 0.0041 But also ...extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating... How is it possible? It should not be ...
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24 votes
6 answers
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What makes protoplanetary disks start rotating? (Initial energy needed to rotate)

Planets form from a protoplanetary disk that has been rotating around its star. The initial energy that makes them rotate really matters to me. Why did the protoplanetary disk start rotating around ...
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2 answers
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Can a planet in our system eclipse the sun as seen from another one?

When the Sun, Earth and Moon get properly aligned, we get eclipses, where the Sun is partially or totally hidden by the Moon when seen from Earth. Is it possible for one planet of the solar system to ...
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24 votes
2 answers
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Is Jupiter a failed star?

The elemental make-up of Jupiter is about entirely hydrogen and helium, along with a very small fraction of the atmosphere being made up of compounds such as ammonia, sulfur, methane, and water vapor. ...
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24 votes
3 answers
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Are we made of the stuff of one star or more stars?

[T]his coincidence enabled stars in the late stages of their lives to turn helium into carbon, oxygen and most of the other atoms that you and I are made of. [...] [W]e're made of star stuff. Max ...
21 votes
3 answers
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Why won't the Sun set for days at N66.2 which is below the arctic circle?

Correct me if I am wrong, but if we count sunsets by the center of the Sun apparently crossing the horizon then the Sun is supposed to set every day at latitudes under the arctic circle. (Yes if you ...
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21 votes
1 answer
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Do the axes of rotation of most stars in the Milky Way align reasonably closely with the axis of galactic rotation?

The axis of rotation of the Solar System makes a large angle of about 60 degrees relative to the axis of rotation of the Milky Way. That seems unusual - for example, most of the bodies within the ...
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20 votes
2 answers
897 views

Hypothetical trans-Neptunian planets orbiting the Sun

The planet HD 106906 b was found at 650 AU from its home star, a star not so different from the Sun. Fomalhaut b is also a young planet that is orbiting very far away from its star. These two planets ...
20 votes
1 answer
426 views

How often do comets survive passage by the Sun?

I had heard that comet ISON might not survive a close pass by our Sun, and I was curious about the odds of how other comets had fared. So, how often do other comets survive a close pass by our sun? ...
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19 votes
2 answers
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How do we know Nemesis is not a black hole (or neutron star)?

Nemesis, the hypothetical "death star", is supposed to be a massive body that orbits the Sun at long distances and periodically sends comets from the Oort Cloud into the inner solar system. These ...
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19 votes
1 answer
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How do/did we figure out that planets move in orbits?

I've learned that planets move in orbits around the Sun, but I really don't know how I would come to this conclusion myself. I've only seen planets in the sky a couple times (knowingly), and I am ...
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2 answers
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Are heavy elements equally distributed throughout the Solar System?

I want to know if heavy elements are distributed roughly evenly throughout the Solar System or if they are (excluding the Sun) concentrated mostly in a particular area, such as the inner part. Would ...
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18 votes
2 answers
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How many undiscovered planets might be in our solar system?

Some people talk about the possibility of a planet 9. Could there be a planet 10 or 11? How many undiscovered planets could there be in our solar system?
18 votes
2 answers
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Could the 9th planet be virtual?

Astronomers recently claim that there is evidence for a 9th planet. As far as I understood it, this is mainly based on coinciding orbital parameters of a few Kuiper belt objects. Could the 9th planet ...
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18 votes
1 answer
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Have we ever observed a body, such as a large asteroid, "hitting" the Sun?

Some other SE questions about launching ICBM's into the sun got me wondering whether we have ever observed an object on a path that intersected with the Sun? How close did it get?
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18 votes
2 answers
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How long should it take for us to observationally determine if Caltech's Planet Nine is really there?

Caltech just released a report that says there is possibly a large (10 earth mass) planet in a remote orbit (10 - 20 thousand year) that explains a lot of observations of Kuiper Belt objects. How long ...
18 votes
1 answer
483 views

How did scientists determine an estimate of the number of planets greater than Sedna's size to exist in the Inner Oort Cloud?

In the article, New Dwarf Planet Found at Solar System's Edge, Hints at Possible Faraway 'Planet X' (Wall, 2014) where they report on research and observations performed by astronomers that discovered ...
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18 votes
2 answers
447 views

Do any known exoplanetary/solar bodies have "annular" eclipses similar to Earth's?

This was somewhat inspired by this question but is a bit different: I am interested in if there are any known systems in which the angular size of the eclipsing object is almost the same as the ...
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17 votes
1 answer
729 views

Can the paper narrowing Solar System's barycentre to within 100m help find Planet Nine?

I've just read this recent news article, Astronomers Have Located The Centre of The Solar System to Within 100 Metres, reporting on a paper[1] that claims narrowing the Solar System barycentre to ...
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2 answers
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What reason is there to doubt the existence of the hypothesised planet Tyche in the far distant solar system?

Please note, I do not necessarily believe in its existence, just after a scientific (hence, non-Wikipedia) reasoning to doubt the planet's existence, other than the "we would have seen it" argument. ...
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17 votes
2 answers
640 views

What are the current observational constraints on the existence of Nemesis?

Nemesis is a hypothetical companion to the Sun on a very eccentric, long-period orbit. The star supposedly returns every few tens of millions years, driving comets into the inner solar system and ...
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17 votes
5 answers
3k views

When will all eight planets in our solar system align?

Ignoring expansion of the universe, entropy, decaying orbits, and interference from any bodies colliding with or otherwise interfering with their orbits, will the eight planets known planets in our ...
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17 votes
2 answers
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How many planetary systems exist in our galaxy?

For many years scientists have studied our own solar system and modern technology allows them to look deeper and deeper into space. Knowing the Sun is only one of a few billion stars in the Milky Way ...
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17 votes
2 answers
269 views

How do we know that the planets of our solar system began their formation at more or less the same time?

A long time ago, when I had to help my children with their homeworks, I often had the vexing question « how do we know ? ». It is true that reading a middle-school science textbook is like reading ...
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1 answer
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Do we get any benefit from being in a galaxy?

If our solar system were to somehow be created outside of a galaxy as a single star in the vast nothingness between galaxies, would life on Earth change any? Does being a member of a galaxy actually ...
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16 votes
1 answer
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Why is the solar system often shown as a 2D plane?

Whenever I have learned about the solar system I always see the orbits displayed as a virtually flat plane. Are all of the orbits in the solar system really like this? If so, why? It seems like a ...
16 votes
2 answers
903 views

Open problems in astronomy that an amateur (with a PhD in some other field) would have a chance of solving?

What are some open problems in astronomy that an amateur would have a chance of solving? Suppose the amateur has a PhD in some other field, owns a basic telescope, a set of filters, diffraction ...
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16 votes
1 answer
451 views

Any possibility for life on moons of planets in our Solar System

We all focused on our moon, to find water or life, or any thing related to life. But my question is, is there any chance for life in moons of other planets in our solar system, others have too many ...
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15 votes
3 answers
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Undiscovered dwarf planets

Scientists think there may be dozens of undiscovered dwarf planets in the Solar system. What I find intriguing is that, we have been able to detect distant galaxies and clusters, locate supermassive ...

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