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l The Planets Orbit In The Same Plane?

Thomas Quinn et al., Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Our Solar System is an orderly place, with the four inner planets, the asteroid belt, and the gas giant worlds all orbiting in the same plane around the Sun. Even as you go farther out, the Kuiper belt objects appear to line up with that same exact plane. Given that the Sun is spherical and that there are stars appearing with planets orbiting in every direction imaginable, it seems too much of a coincidence to be random chance that all these worlds line up. In fact, practically every Solar System we’ve observed outside of our own appears to have their worlds line up in the same plane, too, wherever we’ve been able to detect it. Here’s the science behind what’s going on, to the best of our knowledge.

Today, we’ve mapped out the orbits of the planets to incredible precision, and what we find is that they go around the Sun — all of them — in the same two-dimensional plane, to within an accuracy of, at most, 7° difference.

In fact, if you take Mercury out of the equation, the innermost and most inclined planet, you’ll find that everything else is really well-aligned: the deviation from the Solar System’s invariable plane, or the average plane-of-orbit of the planets, is only about two degrees.

Wikimedia commons author Lookang, based on the work of Todd K. Timberlake and Francisco Esquembre (L); screenshot from Wikipedia (R)

They’re also pretty closely lined up with the Sun’s rotation axis: just as the planets all spin as they orbit the Sun, the Sun itself spins. And as you might expect, the axis that the Sun rotates about is — again — within approximately 7° of all the planets’ orbits.

And yet, this isn’t what you would have imagined unless something caused these planets to all be sandwiched down into the same plane. You would’ve expected the orbits to be oriented randomly, since gravity — the force that keeps the planets in these steady orbits — works the same in all three dimensions. You would’ve expected something more like a swarm than a nice, orderly set of nearly perfect circles. The thing is, if you go far enough away from our Sun — beyond the planets and asteroids, beyond the Halley-like comets and even beyond the Kuiper Belt — that’s exactly what you find.

So what is it, exactly, that caused our planets to wind up in a single disk? In a single plane orbiting our Sun, rather than as a swarm? To understand this, let’s travel back in time to when our Sun was first forming: from a molecular cloud of gas, the very thing that gives rise to all new stars in the Universe.

When a molecular cloud grows to be massive enough, gravitationally bound and cool enough to contract-and-collapse under its own gravity, like the Pipe Nebula (above, left), it will form dense enough regions where new star clusters will be born (circles, above right).

You’ll notice, immediately, that this nebula — and any nebula like it — is not a perfect sphere, but rather takes on an irregular, elongated shape. Gravitation is unforgiving of imperfections, and because of the fact that gravity is an accelerative force that quadruples every time you halve the distance to a massive object, it takes even small differences in an initial shape and magnifies them tremendously in short order.

NASA,ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team

The result is that you get a star-forming nebula that’s incredibly asymmetric in shape, where the stars form in the regions where the gas gets densest. The thing is, when we look inside, at the individual stars that are in there, they’re pretty much perfect spheres, just like our Sun is.

NASA; K.L. Luhman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.); and G. Schneider, E. Young, G. Rieke, A. Cotera, H. Chen, M. Rieke, R. Thompson (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.); NASA, C.R. O’Dell and S.K. Wong (Rice University)

But just as the nebula itself became very asymmetric, the individual stars that formed inside came from imperfect, overdense, asymmetric clumps inside that nebula. They’re going to collapse in one (of the three) dimensions first, and since matter — stuff like you and me, atoms, made of nuclei and electrons — sticks together and interacts when you smack it into other matter, you’re going to wind up with an elongated disk, in general, of matter. Yes, gravitation will pull most of that matter in towards the center, which is where the star(s) will form, but around it you’ll get what’s known as a protoplanetary disk. Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, we’ve seen these disks directly!

Mark McCughrean (Max-Planck–Inst. Astron.); C. Robert O’Dell (Rice Univ.); NASA

That’s your first hint that you’re going to wind up with something that’s more aligned in a plane than a randomly swarming sphere. To go to the next step, we have to turn to simulations, since we haven’t been around long enough to watch this process unfold — it takes about a million years — in any young solar system. But here’s the story that the simulations tell us.

STScl OPO — C Burrows and J. Krist (STScl), K. Stabelfeldt (JPL) and NASA

The protoplanetary disk, after going “splat” in one dimension, will continue to contract down as more and more matter gets attracted to the center. But while much of the material gets funnelled inside, a substantial amount of it will wind up in a stable, spinning orbit in this disk.

Why?

There’s a physical quantity that has to be conserved: angular momentum, which tells us how much the entire system — gas, dust, star and all — is intrinsically spinning. Because of how angular momentum works overall, and how its shared pretty evenly between the different particles inside, this means that everything in the disk needs to move, roughly, in the same (clockwise or counterclockwise) direction overall. Over time, that disk reaches a stable size and thickness, and then small gravitational instabilities begin to grow those instabilities into planets.

Sure, there are small, subtle differences (and gravitational effects occurring between interacting planets) between different parts of the disk, as well as slight differences in initial conditions. The star that forms at the center isn’t a single point, but rather an extended object somewhere in the ballpark of a million kilometers in diameter. And when you put all of this together, itwill lead to everything not winding up in a perfectly singular plane, but it’s going to be extremely close. In fact, we’ve only recently — as in just three years ago — discovered the very first planetary system beyond our own that we’ve caught in the process of forming new planets in a single plane.

The young star in the upper left of the image above, on the outskirts of a nebular region — HL Tauri, about 450 light years away — is surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. The star itself is only about one million years old. Thanks to ALMA, a long-baseline array that measures light of quite long (millimeter) wavelengths, or more than a thousand times longer than what our eyes can see, returned the following image.

It’s clearly a disk, with everything in the same plane, and yet there are dark “gaps” in there. Those gaps each correspond to a young planet that’s attracted all the matter within its vicinity! We don’t know which of these will merge together, which ones will get kicked out, and which ones will migrate inwards and get swallowed by their parent star, but we are witnessing a pivotal step in the development of a young solar system. While we’d observed young planets before, we’ve never seen this particular stage. From the early ones to the intermediate ones to the later stages of more-complete solar systems, they’re all spectacular, and all consistent with the same story.

So why are all the planets in the same plane? Because they form from an asymmetric cloud of gas, which collapses in the shortest direction first; the matter goes “splat” and sticks together; it contracts inwards but winds up spinning around the center, with planets forming from imperfections in that young disk of matter; they all wind up orbiting in the same plane, separated only by a few degrees — at most — from one another.

It’s a case where observations and simulations, based on theoretical calculations, agree remarkably with one another. It’s a remarkable story, and one that — thanks to not only simulations but now observations of the Universe itself — illustrates in incredible detail how rich and fascinating it is that all the planets orbit in the same plane no matter where in the Universe you go!

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Why Do All The Planets Orbit In The Same Plane? – Forbes

Why Do All The Planets Orbit In The Same Plane? - Forbes

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  • Sumary: The possibilities were almost limitless, so why does everything line up?

  • Matching Result: Because they form from an asymmetric cloud of gas, which collapses in the shortest direction first; the matter goes “splat” and sticks together …

  • Intro: Why Do All The Planets Orbit In The Same Plane? Thomas Quinn et al., Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Our Solar System is an orderly place, with the four inner planets, the asteroid belt, and the gas giant worlds all orbiting in the same plane around the Sun. Even as you go…
  • Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2018/03/01/why-do-all-the-planets-orbit-in-the-same-plane/

The Origin of the Solar System

The Origin of the Solar System

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  • Sumary: 2. Orbits in same plane,

  • Matching Result: Observed features any origin model of the solar system/planets must explain. 1. Disk shape. 2. Orbits in same plane,. 3. For most planets, direction of …

  • Intro: The Origin of the Solar System The Origin of theSolar System Observed features any origin model of the solar system/planets must explain 1. Disk shape 2. Orbits in same plane, 3. For most planets, direction of motion and orbit are same (note peculiarities of Venus, Uranus, Pluto however) 4. Two…
  • Source: http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~blackman/ast104/nebular.html

In light of modern solar system theory why do the orbits of the …

In light of modern solar system theory why do the orbits of the ...

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  • Sumary: The orbits of the planets all lie in nearly the same plane for preservation of angular momentum.

  • Matching Result: The orbits of the planets all lie in nearly the same plane for preservation of angular momentum.

  • Intro: In light of modern solar system theory why do the orbits of the planets all lie in nearly the same plane? – AnswersOne of the discoveries that led to the modern view of the Solar System was that the BLANK of the planets were ellipses?One of the discoveries that led…
  • Source: https://www.answers.com/Q/In_light_of_modern_solar_system_theory_why_do_the_orbits_of_the_planets_all_lie_in_nearly_the_same_plane

Chapter 15, Chapter Review

Chapter 15, Chapter Review

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  • Sumary: Our solar system is an orderly place, making it unlikely that the planets were simply captured by the Sun. The overall organization points toward formation as the product of an ancient, one-time event,…

  • Matching Result: An ideal theory of the solar system should provide strong reasons for the observed … 3. The orbits of the planets all lie near the ecliptic plane.

  • Intro: Chapter 15, Chapter Review SUMMARY Our solar system is an orderly place, making it unlikely that the planets were simply captured by the Sun. The overall organization points toward formation as the product of an ancient, one-time event, 4.6 billion years ago. An ideal theory of the solar system should…
  • Source: https://lifeng.lamost.org/courses/astrotoday/CHAISSON/AT315/HTML/AT315EOC.HTM

Frequently Asked Questions About in light of modern solar system theory, why do the orbits of the planets all lie in the same plane?

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What keeps the planets in our solar system’s orbits as they move around the Sun, in your opinion?

The only thing that holds us to the surface of the Earth is gravity, which is the only force that keeps planets in orbit around the Sun. Planets have measurable characteristics, such as size, mass, density, and composition, which determine their gravitational pull.

Do all of the planets revolve around the same axis?

Scientists have discovered a distant solar system that is very similar to our own, in which all known planets have orbits that are aligned with the rotation of their star and that nearly all of them lie in the same plane.

Why do all solar system objects typically orbit and rotate in the same plane?

Because of how angular momentum functions generally and how it is distributed fairly evenly among the various particles inside, everything in the disk must move, roughly, in the same direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) overall.

What is the current explanation for why the Sun is orbited by every planet in our solar system in the same direction and roughly in the same plane?

The sun and planets are thought to have formed out of this spinning original cloud, which flattened out into a disk shape and is why the planets still orbit in a single plane around our sun today.

Why do you think planets avoid colliding and continue to orbit the Sun?

The planets are kept in their orbits by the gravity of the Sun because no other force in the Solar System can prevent them from doing so.

What, in your opinion, makes the Earth the only planet at this time that can sustain life?

The Earth is habitable because it orbits the Sun at the proper distance, is shielded from solar radiation by its magnetic field, is kept warm by an insulating atmosphere, and contains the necessary chemical elements for life, such as carbon and water.

The same orbit for multiple planets is possible.

Yes, two planets can orbit in the same general direction.

Why do planets have parallel orbits?

The Sun and planets settled into a disk structure during the formation of the Solar System from a cloud of collapsing gas and dust, which is why all of the planets orbit the Sun in (almost) the same plane.

Why do planets all rotate and revolve?

In the vacuum of space, spinning objects maintain their momentum and direction, or their spin, since no external forces have been applied to stop them. Therefore, the world, along with the other planets in our solar system, has continued to spin.

Why does Earth rotate? Has its rotation period always been the same? Will it always be the same?

A day was shorter in the past because of the tidal effects the Moon has on Earth’s rotation. Earth rotates once in about 24 hours with respect to the Sun, but once every 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds with respect to other distant stars (see below).

Why does Earth revolve around the Sun rather than another planet in the solar system?

In any case, the gravity of the Sun, just as the Moon orbits the Earth due to the pull of the Earth’s gravity, and the Earth orbits the Sun due to the pull of the Sun’s gravity, is what causes the planets to revolve around, or orbit, the Sun.

Why is it not in orbit but rather on orbit?

The space shuttle is described as being “in orbit,” while the experiments carried out on the shuttle are referred to as being “conducted on orbit.”

Two planets could possibly orbit each other.

However, it is possible for two planet-like bodies to share the same orbit around a central star without colliding: the second object would need to be positioned at a specific point in the first object’s gravitational field. Therefore, strictly speaking, two “planets” in the same orbit would not be classed as planets.

Why don’t planets collide with one another?

Therefore, planets never collide with one another as they move in separate elliptical orbits around the Sun at various speeds.

What justifies the existence of different orbits?

The Short Answer: Satellites have different orbits because their orbits depend on what each satellite is designed to do. In the video below, the yellow areas show what part of Earth each satellite “sees” during its orbit.

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