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Top Solar System Facts

Top Solar System Facts

From the vastness of the universe, there's the solar system where the Earth belongs. But what is the solar system?

I'm Robert Massey and I'm here from the Royal Astronomical Society which is one of the biggest astronomical organizations in the world and we look after the interests of astronomers not just in the UK but across the world. What I'm going to do today is give you a few pointers to get you started in astronomy which I think is one of the most incredibly interesting subjects there is. Our solar system is the bit of the universe that we're most familiar with.

It's very much our neighbourhood. Now, it's not to say that things are very close. In fact, even the nearest planet Venus gets no closer than a few tens of millions of kilometres away from the Earth.

But it is something we can see and we can be very aware of because it's dominated by the sun which is our nearest star, 150 million kilometres away but nevertheless bright enough and hot enough to give us the heat and light that we enjoy such that we can enjoy life here on Earth. It also binds the whole thing together as well, all the planets move around the sun and since 2006, we've officially recognized 8 proper planets all the way from Mercury to Neptune and objects like Pluto have been downgraded to the status of dwarf planets. But nonetheless, it's very much the familiar place, the names that we grow up within our childhood and what's great is that we're just starting to scratch the surface of the solar system.

We're sending probes to almost all of the planets now, they'll probably even get to Pluto in the year 2015, so for the first time, we've got a much better understanding of our local bit of the universe than we ever had before. .