Tuesday, January 1, 1980

The Solar System (c. 4,600,000 BC) - Oscillation

The Solar System initially formed 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disc out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed.

This widely accepted model, known as the nebular hypothesis, was first developed in the 18th century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Its subsequent development has interwoven a variety of scientific disciplines including astronomy, physics, geology, and planetary science. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s and the discovery of extrasolar planets in the 1990s, the models have been both challenged and refined to account for new observations.

Beginning with the initial formation, the Solar System has evolved considerably. Many moons formed from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while many other moons are believed to have been captured or (in the case of the Earth's Moon) to have resulted from a giant collision. Collisions between bodies have occurred continuously up to the present day and are central to the evolution of the system. The planets' positions often shifted outward or inward, and planets have switched places. This planetary migration is now believed to be responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.

Just as the Sun and planets were born, they will eventually die. In roughly 5 billion years, the Sun will cool and bloat outward to many times its current diameter (becoming a red giant) before casting off its outer layers as a planetary nebula and leaving behind a stellar corpse known as a white dwarf. The planets will follow the Sun's course; in the far distant future, the gravity of passing stars will gradually whittle away at the Sun's retinue of planets. Some will be destroyed, others will be ejected into interstellar space, but ultimately, over the course of trillions of years, the Sun will be left alone with no other bodies in orbit. The Solar System (or Solar system, solar system[a]) consists of the Sun and those celestial objects bound to it by gravity. These objects are the eight planets and their 166 known moons; three dwarf planets (Ceres, Pluto, and Eris) and their four known moons; and billions of small bodies, including asteroids, Kuiper belt objects, comets, meteoroids, and interplanetary dust.

In broad terms, the charted regions of the Solar System consist of the Sun, four terrestrial inner planets, an asteroid belt composed of small rocky bodies, four gas giant outer planets, and a second belt, the Kuiper belt, composed of icy objects. Beyond the Kuiper belt is the scattered disc, the heliopause, and ultimately the hypothetical Oort cloud.
In order of their distances from the Sun,

the terrestrial planets are:


The outer gas giants (or Jovians) are:


The three dwarf planets are

Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt;
Pluto, the largest known object in the Kuiper belt;
Eris, the largest known object in the scattered disc.

Six of the eight planets and two of the dwarf planets are in turn orbited by natural satellites, usually termed "moons" after Earth's Moon, and each of the outer planets is encircled by planetary rings of dust and other particles. All the planets except Earth are named after deities from Greco-Roman mythology.

A planet is any body in orbit around the Sun that has enough mass to form itself into a spherical shape and has cleared its immediate neighbourhood of all smaller objects. By this definition, the Solar System has eight known planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. From the time of its discovery in 1930 until 2006, Pluto was considered the Solar System's ninth planet. But in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, many objects similar to Pluto were discovered in the outer Solar System, most notably Eris, which is slightly larger than Pluto. On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union defined the term "planet" for the first time, excluding Pluto and reclassifying it under the new category of dwarf planet along with Eris and Ceres.

A dwarf planet is not required to clear its neighbourhood of other celestial bodies. Other objects that may become classified as dwarf planets are Sedna, Orcus, and Quaoar.

The remainder of the objects in orbit around the Sun are small Solar System bodies (SSSBs).

Natural satellites, or moons, are those objects in orbit around planets, dwarf planets and SSSBs, rather than the Sun itself.

Astronomers usually measure distances within the Solar System in astronomical units (AU). One AU is the approximate distance between the Earth and the Sun, or roughly 149,598,000 km (93,000,000 mi). Pluto is roughly 38 AU from the Sun while Jupiter lies at roughly 5.2 AU. One light-year, the best known unit of interstellar distance, is roughly 63,240 AU. A body's distance from the Sun varies in the course of its year. Its closest approach to the Sun is called its perihelion, while its farthest distance from the Sun is called its aphelion.

Informally, the Solar System is sometimes divided into separate zones. The inner Solar System includes the four terrestrial planets and the main asteroid belt. Some define the outer Solar System as comprising everything beyond the asteroids.

Others define it as the region beyond Neptune, with the four gas giants considered a separate "middle zone."

The principal component of the Solar System is the Sun, a main sequence G2 star that contains 99.86% of the system's known mass and dominates it gravitationally.

Jupiter and Saturn, the Sun's two largest orbiting bodies, account for more than 90% of the system's remaining mass.

Most large objects in orbit around the Sun lie near the plane of Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic. The planets are very close to the ecliptic while comets and Kuiper belt objects are usually at significantly greater angles to it.

All of the planets and most other objects also orbit with the Sun's rotation (counter-clockwise, as viewed from above the Sun's north pole). There are exceptions, such as Halley's Comet.
Objects travel around the Sun following Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Each object orbits along an approximate ellipse with the Sun at one focus of the ellipse. The closer an object is to the Sun, the faster it moves. The orbits of the planets are nearly circular, but many comets, asteroids and objects of the Kuiper belt follow highly elliptical orbits.

To cope with the vast distances involved, many representations of the Solar System show orbits the same distance apart. In reality, with a few exceptions, the farther a planet or belt is from the Sun, the larger the distance between it and the previous orbit. For example, Venus is approximately 0.33 AU farther out than Mercury, while Saturn is 4.3 AU out from Jupiter, and Neptune lies 10.5 AU out from Uranus. Attempts have been made to determine a correlation between these orbital distances (see Titius-Bode law), but no such theory has been accepted.

The Sun is the Solar System's parent star, and far and away its chief component. Its large mass gives it an interior density high enough to sustain nuclear fusion, which releases enormous amounts of energy, mostly radiated into space as electromagnetic radiation such as visible light.

The Sun is classified as a moderately large yellow dwarf, but this name is misleading as, compared to stars in our galaxy, the Sun is rather large and bright. Stars are classified by the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a graph which plots the brightness of stars against their surface temperatures. Generally, hotter stars are brighter. Stars following this pattern are said to be on the main sequence; the Sun lies right in the middle of it. However, stars brighter and hotter than the Sun are rare, while stars dimmer and cooler are common.

It is believed that the Sun's position on the main sequence puts it in the "prime of life" for a star, in that it has not yet exhausted its store of hydrogen for nuclear fusion. The Sun is growing brighter; early in its history it was 75 percent as bright as it is today.

Calculations of the ratios of hydrogen and helium within the Sun suggest it is halfway through its life cycle. It will eventually move off the main sequence and become larger, brighter, cooler and redder, becoming a red giant in about five billion years.

At that point its luminosity will be several thousand times its present value.

The Sun is a population I star; it was born in the later stages of the universe's evolution. It contains more elements heavier than hydrogen and helium ("metals" in astronomical parlance) than older population II stars.[10] Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were formed in the cores of ancient and exploding stars, so the first generation of stars had to die before the universe could be enriched with these atoms. The oldest stars contain few metals, while stars born later have more. This high metallicity is thought to have been crucial to the Sun's developing a planetary system, because planets form from accretion of metals.

The inner Solar System is the traditional name for the region comprising the terrestrial planets and asteroids. Composed mainly of silicates and metals, the objects of the inner Solar System huddle very closely to the Sun; the radius of this entire region is shorter than the distance between Jupiter and Saturn.

The four inner or terrestrial planets have dense, rocky compositions, few or no moons, and no ring systems. They are composed largely of minerals with high melting points, such as the silicates which form their solid crusts and semi-liquid mantles, and metals such as iron and nickel, which form their cores. Three of the four inner planets (Venus, Earth and Mars) have substantial atmospheres; all have impact craters and tectonic surface features such as rift valleys and volcanoes. The term inner planet should not be confused with inferior planet, which designates those planets which are closer to the Sun than Earth is (i.e. Mercury and Venus).

Mercury (0.4 AU) is the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet (0.055 Earth masses). Mercury has no natural satellites, and its only known geological features besides impact craters are "wrinkle-ridges," probably produced by a period of contraction early in its history.

Mercury's almost negligible atmosphere consists of atoms blasted off its surface by the solar wind.

Its relatively large iron core and thin mantle have not yet been adequately explained. Hypotheses include that its outer layers were stripped off by a giant impact, and that it was prevented from fully accreting by the young Sun's energy.

Venus (0.7 AU) is close in size to Earth, (0.815 Earth masses) and like Earth, has a thick silicate mantle around an iron core, a substantial atmosphere and evidence of internal geological activity. However, it is much drier than Earth and its atmosphere is ninety times as dense. Venus has no natural satellites. It is the hottest planet, with surface temperatures over 400 °C, most likely due to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.[

No definitive evidence of current geological activity has been detected on Venus, but it has no magnetic field that would prevent depletion of its substantial atmosphere, which suggests that its atmosphere is regularly replenished by volcanic eruptions.

Earth (1 AU) is the largest and densest of the inner planets, the only one known to have current geological activity, and the only planet known to have life. Its liquid hydrosphere is unique among the terrestrial planets, and it is also the only planet where plate tectonics has been observed. Earth's atmosphere is radically different from those of the other planets, having been altered by the presence of life to contain 21% free oxygen.

It has one natural satellite, the Moon, the only large satellite of a terrestrial planet in the Solar System.


[Gustav Holst (1874-1934) - The Planets, Op. 32: I. Mars (1919)]

Mars (1.5 AU) is smaller than Earth and Venus (0.107 Earth masses). It possesses a tenuous atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide. Its surface, peppered with vast volcanoes such as Olympus Mons and rift valleys such as Valles Marineris, shows geological activity that may have persisted until very recently. Its red color comes from rust in its iron-rich soil.

Mars has two tiny natural satellites (Deimos and Phobos) thought to be captured asteroids.

Asteroids are mostly small Solar System bodies composed mainly of rocky and metallic non-volatile minerals.

The main asteroid belt occupies the orbit between Mars and Jupiter, between 2.3 and 3.3 AU from the Sun. It is thought to be remnants from the Solar System's formation that failed to coalesce because of the gravitational interference of Jupiter.

Asteroids range in size from hundreds of kilometres across to microscopic. All asteroids save the largest, Ceres, are classified as small Solar System bodies, but some asteroids such as Vesta and Hygieia may be reclassed as dwarf planets if they are shown to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium.

The asteroid belt contains tens of thousands, possibly millions, of objects over one kilometre in diameter.

Despite this, the total mass of the main belt is unlikely to be more than a thousandth of that of the Earth.

The main belt is very sparsely populated; spacecraft routinely pass through without incident. Asteroids with diameters between 10 and 10-4 m are called meteoroids.

Ceres (2.77 AU) is the largest body in the asteroid belt and is classified as a dwarf planet. It has a diameter of slightly under 1000 km, large enough for its own gravity to pull it into a spherical shape. Ceres was considered a planet when it was discovered in the 19th century, but was reclassified as an asteroid in the 1850s as further observation revealed additional asteroids.

It was again reclassified in 2006 as a dwarf planet.

Asteroids in the main belt are divided into asteroid groups and families based on their orbital characteristics. Asteroid moons are asteroids that orbit larger asteroids. They are not as clearly distinguished as planetary moons, sometimes being almost as large as their partners. The asteroid belt also contains main-belt comets which may have been the source of Earth's water.[

The middle region of the Solar System is home to the gas giants and their planet-sized satellites. Many short period comets, including the centaurs, also lie in this region. It has no traditional name; it is occasionally referred to as the "outer Solar System", although recently that term has been more often applied to the region beyond Neptune. The solid objects in this region are composed of a higher proportion of "ices" (water, ammonia, methane) than the rocky denizens of the inner Solar System.

The four outer planets, or gas giants (sometimes called Jovian planets), collectively make up 99 percent of the mass known to orbit the Sun. Jupiter and Saturn's atmospheres are largely hydrogen and helium. Uranus and Neptune's atmospheres have a higher percentage of “ices,” such as water, ammonia and methane. Some astronomers suggest they belong in their own category, “ice giants.”[34] All four gas giants have rings, although only Saturn's ring system is easily observed from Earth. The term outer planet should not be confused with superior planet, which designates planets outside Earth's orbit (the outer planets and Mars).

Jupiter (5.2 AU), at 318 Earth masses, masses 2.5 times all the other planets put together. It is composed largely of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter's strong internal heat creates a number of semi-permanent features in its atmosphere, such as cloud bands and the Great Red Spot. Jupiter has sixty-three known satellites. The four largest, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa, show similarities to the terrestrial planets, such as volcanism and internal heating.

Ganymede, the largest satellite in the Solar System, is larger than Mercury.

Saturn (9.5 AU), famous for its extensive ring system, has similarities to Jupiter, such as its atmospheric composition. Saturn is far less massive, being only 95 Earth masses. Saturn has sixty known satellites (and three unconfirmed); two of which, Titan and Enceladus, show signs of geological activity, though they are largely made of ice.

Titan is larger than Mercury and the only satellite in the Solar System with a substantial atmosphere.

Uranus (19.6 AU), at 14 Earth masses, is the lightest of the outer planets. Uniquely among the planets, it orbits the Sun on its side; its axial tilt is over ninety degrees to the ecliptic. It has a much colder core than the other gas giants, and radiates very little heat into space.

Uranus has twenty-seven known satellites, the largest ones being Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel and Miranda.

Neptune (30 AU), though slightly smaller than Uranus, is more massive (equivalent to 17 Earths) and therefore more dense. It radiates more internal heat, but not as much as Jupiter or Saturn.

Neptune has thirteen known satellites. The largest, Triton, is geologically active, with geysers of liquid nitrogen.

Triton is the only large satellite with a retrograde orbit. Neptune is accompanied in its orbit by a number of minor planets, termed Neptune Trojans, that are in 1:1 resonance with it.

Comets are small Solar System bodies, usually only a few kilometres across, composed largely of volatile ices. They have highly eccentric orbits, generally a perihelion within the orbits of the inner planets and an aphelion far beyond Pluto. When a comet enters the inner Solar System, its proximity to the Sun causes its icy surface to sublimate and ionise, creating a coma: a long tail of gas and dust often visible to the naked eye.

Short-period comets have orbits lasting less than two hundred years. Long-period comets have orbits lasting thousands of years. Short-period comets are believed to originate in the Kuiper belt, while long-period comets, such as Hale-Bopp, are believed to originate in the Oort cloud. Many comet groups, such as the Kreutz Sungrazers, formed from the breakup of a single parent.

Some comets with hyperbolic orbits may originate outside the Solar System, but determining their precise orbits is difficult.

Old comets that have had most of their volatiles driven out by solar warming are often categorised as asteroids.

The area beyond Neptune, or the "trans-Neptunian region," is still largely unexplored. It appears to consist overwhelmingly of small worlds (the largest having a diameter only a fifth that of the Earth and a mass far smaller than that of the Moon) composed mainly of rock and ice. This region is sometimes known as the "outer Solar System," though others use that term to mean the region beyond the asteroid belt.

The Kuiper belt, the region's first formation, is a great ring of debris similar to the asteroid belt, but composed mainly of ice. It extends between 30 and 50 AU from the Sun. It is composed mainly of small Solar System bodies, but many of the largest Kuiper belt objects, such as Quaoar, Varuna, (136108) 2003 EL61, (136472) 2005 FY9 and Orcus, may be reclassified as dwarf planets. There are estimated to be over 100,000 Kuiper belt objects with a diameter greater than 50 km, but the total mass of the Kuiper belt is thought to be only a tenth or even a hundredth the mass of the Earth.

Many Kuiper belt objects have multiple satellites, and most have orbits that take them outside the plane of the ecliptic.

Pluto (39 AU average), a dwarf planet, is the largest known object in the Kuiper belt. When discovered in 1930, it was considered to be the ninth planet; this changed in 2006 with the adoption of a formal definition of planet. Pluto has a relatively eccentric orbit inclined 17 degrees to the ecliptic plane and ranging from 29.7 AU from the Sun at perihelion (within the orbit of Neptune) to 49.5 AU at aphelion.

It is unclear whether Charon, Pluto's largest moon, will continue to be classified as such or as a dwarf planet itself. Both Pluto and Charon orbit a barycenter of gravity above their surfaces, making Pluto-Charon a binary system. Two much smaller moons, Nix and Hydra, orbit Pluto and Charon.

Pluto lies in the resonant belt and has a 3:2 resonance with Neptune, meaning that Pluto orbits twice round the Sun for every three Neptunian orbits. Kuiper belt objects whose orbits share this resonance are called plutinos.

[Time-lapse photography of the course of a swinging pendulum]

Vibration refers to mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point. The oscillations may be periodic such as the motion of a pendulum or random such as the movement of a tire on a gravel road.

Vibration can be "desirable." For example the motion of a tuning fork, the reed in a woodwind instrument or harmonica, or the cone of a loudspeaker is desirable vibration, necessary for the correct functioning of the various devices.

Vibration can also be "undesirable," wasting energy and creating unwanted sound -- "noise." For example, the vibrational motions of engines, electric motors, or any mechanical device in operation are typically unwanted. Such vibrations can be caused by imbalances in the rotating parts, uneven friction, the meshing of gear teeth, etc. Careful designs usually minimize unwanted vibrations.

The study of sound and vibration are closely related. Sound, or "pressure waves," are generated by vibrating structures (e.g. vocal cords); these pressure waves can also induce the vibration of structures (e.g. ear drum).

[1981 Earth / 1980 Solar System / 1970 Universe]