The Solar System


At present the Solar System consists of a star (the Sun), eight "planets" (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), [1] five newly classified "dwarf planets" (Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris the latter four of which are also designated as "plutoids"), along with attendant satellites and assorted debris such as asteroids, comets and meteors. [2] [3]

Intelligent life within the Solar System appears to be limited to Earth (at least insofar as visual data of the other planets and a lack of electromagnetic emissions is concerned), this is not to say that there isn’t life, only that a technological civilization isn’t in evidence. Whether there is bacteria on Mars, porpoise like creatures in an ocean beneath a layer of ice on the Galilean moon Europa or giant gas bags floating in the outer layers of Jupiter's atmosphere is yet to be determined.

Our Solar System is located an estimated 28,000 light years from the center of our home galaxy the Milky Way a vast spiral of suns, gas and dust approximately 100,000 light years in diameter.    

Our Sun, a yellow dwarf, is at four and a half billion years old almost halfway through its main-sequence a period of relative stability (hydrostatic equilibrium).

The focal point of an expanding globe of electromagnetic radiation, we signal our presence (though if we continue to switch from powerful transmitters to cable and satellites we will eventually become "radio quiet" and difficult to detect) and then listen with giant radio telescopes for a reply. Are we alone, or perhaps a backwater surrounded by advanced life forms communicating with each other in ways we have yet to fathom? It is possible that we are playing tom-toms (drums) while they are watching high definition television.


[1] Though at this point still conjecture, two scientists
Michael E. Brown and Konstantin Batyginhave, based on mathematical modeling and computer simulations, proposed the existence of a huge ninth planet. This potential planet would orbit at a distance between 20 billion and 100 billion miles (32 billion and 160 billion kilometers) of the Sun with one circumnavigation taking between 10 and 20 thousand years.

[2] Passed August 24, 2006, by the International Astronomical Union:

The IAU . . . resolves that planets and other bodies, except satellites, in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

(1) A "planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape) and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape), (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and (d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects, except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies."

[3] Formally announced June 11, 2008, by the International Astronomical Union:

"Plutoids" are celestial bodies in orbit around the Sun at a semi-major axis greater than that of Neptune (trans-Neptunian) that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round shape) but have not yet cleared the neighborhood around their orbit. (At present only Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris fill all these requirements, Ceres does not.) Satellites of plutoids are not plutoids themselves.




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