Stars and celestial bodies

Understanding celestial bodies is an all-consuming idea, to be sure. We have a special affinity toward the other planets that circle our sun. Maybe it's all the science fiction stories written about visiting the moon, Mars and other planets. We love to think about those planets that make up our solar system, our celestial neighborhood.

The planets of our solar system have taken on personalities and mythical appeal in our literature and arts. It is easy to find artists who render their vision of the planets that make up our group of planets near our sun. The names of the planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all from our cultural past, gods from Greek and Roman mythology. The solar system is not just made up of these planets, it is a very busy place indeed.

There are many objects floating around in our solar system other than the known planets. In addition to the planets there are 165 moons orbiting around those nine planets. Some of those moons are so advanced that scientists have suspected that they might have supported life at one time.

In addition to the regular planets and moons, there are dwarf planets, asteroid belts and routine visits by comets that create a lot of traffic in our cosmic corner of the universe. The two known dwarf planets that exist on the outer rim of our solar system are Eries and Ceres. When Pluto's status was changed and removed from the list of planets, it joined those two bodies as dwarf planets but still a solid citizen of the community of celestial bodies around our sun.

In addition to these larger bodies, there is an asteroid belt that exists between Mars and Jupiter that most of the asteroids that we see in our night sky come from. There is another belt of large objects further out called the Kuiper belt as well as a bubble in space called a heliopause and there is a suspected additional belt outside the known solar system called the Oort belt that we think is the origin of a lot of large asteroids and comets that frequent our solar system and come to orbit our sun.

Many celestial bodies who are our neighbors in space is the origin of our solar system. Early history of the solar system and the universe was one of gas and clouds of matter eventually cooling and heating, exploding and spinning off stars and other massive space giants that became more stars, galaxies and solar systems. It was from this erratic activity that our sun separated from the gases and carried with it the material that became our solar system. The gravity of the sun captured sufficient matter to go through the process of forming, cooling, exploding and separating. This is what happened as the planets all went through the same process, establishing stable orbits and small objects falling into orbit around them.

When you think of how majestic and powerful this process is, it's amazing to step back and see the beauty of the organization of our solar system today. The more detail you learn about the history of our solar system, the more you will enjoy your explorations of the planets with your telescope. Understanding celestial bodies is part of our heritage and right as citizens of the universe.