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The Solar System
Spectra of Science
Early Thought and Models
• Aristotle (384 BC -322 BC)explained the phases of the
moon and eclipses by using
a geocentric model
• Ptolemy (90 A.D -168 A.D.)suggests planets, sun, and
moon orbited Earth in
perfect circles
Early Thought and Models
• Nicolaus Copernicus
(1473-1543)- proposed
the heliocentric model
• Johannes Kepler (15711630)- propsed that the
orbits around the sun
were ellipses
What is an Ellipse?
• An oval or egg-like shape created from the result of
two foci
Early Thought and Models
• In 1687, Isaac Newton put it all together explaining
that the force responsible for keeping the planets
and satellites (moons) in their orbits was…GRAVITY
• First to propose that everything in the universe
follows the same rules and acts in predictable ways
Bodies in our Solar System:
The Sun
• At the center
• It’s a medium sized
star in the middle of its
life cycle
• Constantly creating
energy from nuclear
Bodies in our Solar System:
• Terrestrial Planets:
– Small
– Dense
– Solid surfaces and cores
• Gas Giants (Jovian):
– Large
– No solid surface
– Very light
• Saturn is the least dense of the planets. It is
actually less dense than water. That means, if
you could find a tub big enough….it would
• We really are so small!
Bodies in our Solar System:
• Composed of dust and
ice (dirty snowballs)
• When it passes near the
sun, the heat begins to
melt the ice and it gives
off gases forming the
long tail
• Tail always point away
from the sun
Bodies in our Solar System:
• Most likely leftover material
from when the
solar systems
• Come from the
Oort Cloud and
Kuiper belt
• Halley’s comet is perhaps the most popular comet. It
passes by every 76 years. Its last pass occurred in 1986,
so expect to see it again in 2061!
• Miss Amole will be 76 next time it is here!
Bodies in our Solar System:
• Most found in the Asteroid belt between Mars and
• Meteoroids small pieces that reach our atmosphere
• Meteors-meteoroids that burn up in atmosphere
• Meteorites- make it to Earth
• Many scientists believe
that it was a 10-15 km
asteroid or comet that
hit the Earth 65 million
years ago that is
responsible for the
extinction of the
• The best preserved meteorite crater is located in
Arizona. It is over a mile wide, 2.4 miles in
circumference, and over 550 feet deep!
Bodies in our Solar System:
• Pieces of rocks that accumulated to form planets
• Left over planetesimals are in the Kuiper belt
beyond the orbit of Neptune
• Pluto may actually just be the largest object in this
Bodies in our Solar System:
Dwarf Planets
• Unlike planets, dwarf planets lack the gravitational
muscle to sweep up or scatter objects near their orbits
• They orbit the sun in zones of similar objects such as
the asteroid and Kuiper belts.
• Pluto, Eris and the asteroid Ceres became the first
• Pluto was still a planet
when Miss Amole sat in
your seat.
• Pluto was added as a
planet in 1930
• In 2005 Eris, about the
same size as Pluto, was
found in the Kuiper belt
• In 2006 the new system
of classification…
How it all Began…
The Formation of the
Solar System
Nebular Theory
• According to the dating of rocks, the solar system is
4.6 billion years old
• Most scientist accept the Nebular Theory, or
Nebular Model, as the best supported explanation
• It explains why…
– Planets are so far apart
– In the same plane
– orbit in the same direction
– They have nearly circular orbits
– Why some are terrestrial and some gaseous
Nebular Theory: Step 1
• Started as a nebula- huge cloud or gas and dust
• It begins to collapse because of its own gravity
• Gravity drew much of the matter towards the
Nebular Theory: Step 2
• The nebula began to flatten out into a disk and
• Getting hotter and hotter towards the center
• After 10 million years, the star becomes hot enough
to fuse Hydrogen
• A star, our sun, is born
Nebular Theory: Step 3
• Planetesimals began to form in the swirling disk
through accretion
• Accretion = accumulation of matter
Nebular Theory: Step 4
• The largest planetesimals began to collect the dust
and gas from the nebula because they had greater
gravitational pulls
• Remember that gravity depends on mass and
Nebular Theory: Step 5
• Smaller planetesimals collide with the large ones
and the planets grow
Nebular Theory: Step 6
• The remaining dust and gas is removed or settles
into the Asteroid and Kuiper belts and Oort Cloud
• A solar system is born
What about the Moon?
The Formation of the Moon
• When Earth was still
very hot and molten,
a large body crashed
into it and blasted
part of the mantle
into space
• The resulting debris began to orbit Earth being held
by Earth’s gravity
• The debris began to accumulate to form the moon
• Formation of Earth and Moon
• Formation of Solar System
• Formation of Solar System (dramatic)