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The Story of the Solar SystemThe Story of the Solar System

The Story of the Solar System

The Story of the Solar System

The bodies of the Solar System have orbited continuously around the Sun since they formed, but have you ever wondered they got there? In The Story of the Solar System, we bring you the story of how the Sun was born from a vast cloud of gas and dust, how the planets formed around our central star and how the Solar System has evolved over the past five billion years. Packed with vivid illustrations and the latest photography, The Story of the Solar System uncovers how the planets, moons, asteroids and comets of the Sun came to be, and where their ultimate fate lies.

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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IN THIS ISSUE

access_time1 min.
welcome

THE BODIES OF our Solar System have orbited continuously around the Sun since their formation. But they have not always been there, and conditions have not always been as they are today. The Story of the Solar System explains how our planetary system came into existence, how it has evolved and how it might end billions of years from now. After a brief historical introduction to theories of the formation and structure of the Solar System, we illustrate the birth of the Sun and then explain the steps that built up the bodies of our planetary system. With the use of vivid illustrations, the planets, moons, asteroids and comets are described in detail – when and how they were made, what they are made of, and what they look like.…

access_time8 min.
introduction

THE SUN, ITS eight planets and their satellites, the dwarf planets, the asteroids, the Kuiper-belt objects and the comets – together, these are the elements that comprise the Solar System. In this volume we will meet them in detail. We will come to know their properties, their place in the Solar System, what they look like and how they compare with each other. We will learn what they are made of and how they were made. We will discover what the Solar System's various contents have endured since their fiery birth. And, lastly, we will see what will happen to them – to the Solar System as a whole – in the distant future, billions of years from now, as the tired star we call the Sun passes into old…

access_time2 min.
part 1: genesis of the sun and solar nebula

THIRTY TO 50 million years. That's all the time it took to form the star we call the Sun. This may sound like a lot, but let's put it in perspective. Since the last dinosaurs stalked the planet, enough time has passed for at least one and possibly two stars like the Sun to have formed – utterly from scratch. The details of this miraculous creation are not exceptionally well understood, but astronomers at least have a good grounding in the basics. Perhaps ironically, one star's birth starts at the other end of the line – when other stars die. Generally speaking, stars make their exit in one of two ways. A low-mass star like the Sun eventually expands its outermost layers until the star becomes a gross, bloated caricature of…

access_time2 min.
time zero: giant molecular cloud

PRIOR TO 4.66 billion years ago, our Solar System existed as little more than a cloud of raw materials. The Sun, the planets, trees, people, the HIV virus – all of it came from this single, rarefied cloud of gas and dust particles. These patches of interstellar fog would have been as common billions of years ago as they are now. They are known as giant molecular clouds. Orbiting the nucleus of a galaxy called the Milky Way, about two-thirds of the way out from its centre, this ancient cloud from which the Solar System sprang would have been about 50-100 lightyears across, similar in size to its modern cousins. And again like today's giant molecular clouds, it would probably have contained enough material to outweigh millions of stars like the…

access_time2 min.
2 million years: solar globule

“Gradually, this tight clump of gas continued to fall in on itself like a slow-motion demolished chimney stack” ONCE THE COLLAPSE of the giant molecular cloud had started, it continued under its own momentum. By the time two million years had passed, a multitude of nuclei had developed in the cloud, regions where the density was higher than average. These concentrations began to pull in more gas from their surroundings by virtue of their stronger gravity, and the original cloud fragmented into hundreds or even thousands of small, dense cores. Most of them would later form stars. Importantly, one of them was destined to become the Sun. Turning up the heat By now, the cloud core from which the Sun would form was perhaps a tenth of a lightyear across, more than a…

access_time2 min.
2.03 million years: protosun

“By now, the core of the globule was taking on a definite shape – a gargantuan ball, about the size of the present-day Solar System out to Neptune” OVER TENS OF thousands of years, the gases inside the globule continued to fall away from the inside edge of the cocoon, pulled inexorably towards that dense core at the centre. By now, the core of the globule was taking on a definite shape – a gargantuan ball, about the size of the present-day Solar System out to Neptune. Its surface was still too cold to glow optically. But at last, its central regions had warmed up significantly – to about 10,000°C – and the molecules there had split into atoms of hydrogen. This marked an important point in the development of the Sun.…

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