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The Solar System
Characteristics of the Sun and Planets
 
     

Solar System ViewThe primary components of the solar system are the sun and the planets. Except for Mercury and Venus, all the planets have one or more satellites. There is also an asteroid belt situated between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter, and the Oort cloud, a vast cloud surrounding the planetary system and extending outward approximately 3 light years from the sun. The Oort cloud is the source of comets that occasionally approach the planetary region.

The sun is a G2 main sequence star, one of 200 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. The sun was formed 4.57 billion years ago. It is 26,000 light years from the galactic center. Looking at the solar system from the north direction, the planets orbit the sun in a counterclockwise direction.

The chemical composition of the sun, by mass, is 73.46% Hydrogen, 24.85% Helium, 0.77% Oxygen, 0.29% Carbon, 0.099% Silicon, and trace amounts of other elements. The sun generates light and heat from thermonuclear Hydrogen fusion.

The closest stars to the sun are the three stars forming the Alpha Centauri star system, Proxima Centauri and Alpha Centauri A and B. This system is centered 4.36 light years from the sun. Alpha Centauri A and B orbit each other, and Proxima Centauri and the pair orbit each other at a greater distance.


Solar System Characteristics
 Epoch January 1, 2000 Sun Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
  Sun Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
Diameter, miles 864,327 3,100 7,520 7,926 4,219 88,846 74,897 31,763 30,775 1,473
Mass, lb 4.38481 x 1030 7.27966 x 1023 1.07343 x 1025 1.31708 x 1025 1.41516 x 1024 4.18591 x 1027 1.25335 x 1027 1.91469 x 1026 2.25841 x 1026 2.86600 x 1022
Surface gravity, gs 27.94 0.38 0.904 1.0 0.38 2.36 0.92 0.89 1.12 0.07
Mean distance from sun, miles x 106 0.0 35.98 67.23 92.96 141.62 483.78 890.75 1784.86 2793.10 3670.0
Mean distance from sun, AU 0.0 0.39 0.723 1.0 1.524 5.203 9.539 19.18 30.06 39.53
Axial tilt, deg 7.5 0.01 177.4 23.45 25.19 3.13 26.73 97.77 28.32 123.0
Average surface temperature, deg F 10,000 333 867 59 -85 -166 -220 -319 -328 -378
Length of day, hours - 4222.6 2802.0 24.0 24.6597 9.9259 10.656 17.24 16.11 153.282
Orbit inclination, deg - 7.0 3.4 0.0 1.85 1.30 2.49 0.77 1.77 17.16
Sidereal orbital period, days - 87.9691 224.70 365.256 686.980 4332.589 10,759.22 30,685.4 60,189.0 90,465.0
Orbit semi-major axis, miles x 106 - 35.983046 67.237912 92.955817 141.634790 483.766802 890.754245 1784.863895 2793.10079 3670.05438
Orbit eccentricity - 0.2056 0.0068 0.0167 0.0935 0.0489 0.0539 0.0457 0.0113 0.2488
Longitude of ascending node, deg - 48.331 76.680 -11.260 49.578 100.556 113.715 74.229 131.721 110.303
Argument of periapsis, deg - 29.124 54.852 114.208 286.537 275.066 336.014 96.541 265.647 113.763
Mean anomaly, deg - 174.795 50.416 357.529 19.373 20.020 317.021 141.050 256.225 14.882

    Planet photos - NASA

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