The solar system is defined as the stars, the sun and any other objects that are bound to gravity. According to Longo and Damer (2020), it includes but is not limited to planets such as Mercury, Earth, Venus, Mar, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto, and dozens of moons and millions of asteroids. The Sun is one star within the billions contained within the Milky way, which itself is one of a massive number of galaxies. It has no currently known qualities that make it exceptional other than the existence of life on Earth. This means that there are likely to be thousands of planetary systems such as the solar system existing within the galaxy. Therefore, the solar system and beyond has been the target of discovery and research by scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other organizations.
Scientists currently believe that the solar system was formed around 4.6 billion years ago and its formation occurred as a result of the gravitational collapse of a giant cloud of dust and gas. The Earth is one of the planets which make up the solar system, located at a distance of 150,000,000 km from the Sun, and there are 7 other planets in the solar system. The Sun and Earth are some of the known bodies on which many scientists have focused their studies and discovery in the last decades. The Sun is an ordinary G2 square star but it comprises 99.9% of the solar system’s total mass. Doğan and Burcu (2020) state that the Sun is 109 times the size of the Earth diameter. It is composed mainly of helium at 27 per cent, and hydrogen at 71 per cent. The light it produces is due to nuclear fusion that takes place in its core, with lighter elements combining to produce heavier ones and releasing large amounts of energy in the process.
The inner planets in the solar system are those that are closer to the Sun than Earth as well as itself, namely Mercury, Earth, Venus and Mars. Due to their proximity to the Sun, these planets tend to be considerably warmer than those located further away, with all but Earth being most likely excessively hot for life. However, all the planets are still located miles away from the Sun, approximately 147 million kilometers for the Earth, and it takes 8 minutes for light from the Sun to reach the Earth (Longo & Damer, 2020). The orbit in which the Earth orbits the Sun is known as the ecliptic and is the foundation of a large part of astronomy. The planets in the solar system are different in size and they are located along orbits at substantially different distances from the Sun. The Earth and Venus are largely similar, while Mercury and Mars are smaller in size. The differences between the planets extend further, with substantial diversity in composition, atmosphere, and the landscape.
Not all of the planets in the solar system are solid like the inner planets. The giants of the solar system are Jupiter and Saturn, both of which are gaseous. There are also outer planets such as Neptune and Pluto, though the recognition of the last one as a planet has been a controversial topic throughout last century. The reason is its small size, which is comparable to, or smaller than, many of the moons of the different planets in the solar system. The Moon is one such body that orbits the Earth, which has led people to take a keen interest in discovering its composition and orbit. While the Moon rotates around the Earth, attracted by its gravitational pull, it also influences events on the larger body, most notably the tidal waves. Additionally, it can be a valuable reservoir of resources, assuming humanity finds a cost-effective way of extracting and using them.
Research is also ongoing into potential travel to, and exploitation of, other bodies in the solar system. A study conducted by the IOP Institutes of Physics states that, while considerable advances have been made, additional development is necessary before it becomes feasible. (Impey, 2019). Rockets are one significant development, as they are among the few devices capable of supplying enough force to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull. Among other valuable tools are satellites, which have been used for the discovery and study of Earth as well as the solar system. They are not subject to many of the limitations of land-based tools, such as the atmosphere interfering with telescopes. With the advancement of technology, humanity may be able to substantially improve its understanding of the universe without leaving its home planet.
In conclusion, the solar system is a massively complex system that has been in existence for billions of years. Humanity is only starting to explore it, both physically and with remote tools such as telescopes. While many unknown or hotly debated topics remain, the opportunities for future expansion that the solar system and the wider universe present are massive and readily apparent.
Doğan, F., & Burcu, Ö. (2020). Developing an achievement test about 7th grade “Solar System and Beyond” unit: Analysis of validity and reliability. Journal of Computer and Education Research, 21(4), 63-63.
Impey, C. (2019). Mars and beyond: The feasibility of living in the Solar System. The Human Factor in a Mission to Mars, 93-111.
Longo, A., & Damer, B. (2020). Factoring origin of life hypotheses into the search for life in the Solar System and beyond. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546, USA, 3(8), 2-15.