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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.

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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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