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Planet Orbits in the Solar System

Describes the size and shapes of the orbits of the eight planets.

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Flat as a Pancake

Flat as a Pancake

Credit: NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NGC_4414_%28NASA-med%29.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The solar systems, galaxies, black hole accretion disks that we can see are flat. Why is flatness a preferred shape for so many space objects? Here is why our solar system is flat.

Why It Matters

Credit: Miles Orchinik
Source: http://miles-home.smugmug.com/Vacation/Cozumel-with-above-water/i-M2c3nTx
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

  • Our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago from a nebular cloud.
  • The swirling dust and gas of the nebular cloud was shapeless but then objects coalesced within it due to gravity.

Explore More

With the link below, learn more about our flat solar system. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is angular momentum?
  2. Why do particles end up in a plane in 3-dimensional space?
  3. Why does the cloud keep spinning?
  4. Why would a solar system or galaxy not be flat in a 4-dimensional system?
  5. Why is it good that we live in a 3-dimensional universe?


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