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Universe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


For other uses, see Universe (disambiguation).

Universe

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field image shows some of the


most remote galaxies visible with present technology,
each consisting of billions of stars. The image's area of
sky is very small - equivalent in size to one tenth of a
full moon.[1]
Age

13.799 0.021 billion years[2]

Diameter

At least 91 billion light-years


(28 billion parsecs)[3]

Mass (ordinary

At least 1053 kg[4]

matter)
Average density

4.5 x 1031 g/cm3[5]

Average

2.72548 K[6]

temperature
Main Contents

Ordinary (baryonic) matter(4.9%)

Dark matter (26.8%)


Dark energy (68.3%)[7]
Shape

Flat with only a 0.4% margin of


error[8]

The Universe is all of time and space and its contents.[9][10][11][12] It includes planets, moons, minor
planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, and all matter and energy. The
observable universe is about 28 billion parsecs (91 billion light-years) in diameter.[3] The size of the
entire Universe is unknown, but there are many hypotheses about the composition and evolution of
the Universe.[13]
The earliest scientific models of the Universe were developed by ancient Greek and Indian
philosophers and were geocentric, placing the Earth at the center of the Universe.[14][15] Over the
centuries, more precise astronomical observations led Nicolaus Copernicus (14731543) to develop
the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of the Solar System. In developing the law of
universal gravitation, Sir Isaac Newton (NS: 16431727) built upon Copernicus's work as well as
observations by Tycho Brahe(15461601) and Johannes Kepler's (15711630) laws of planetary
motion. Further observational improvements led to the realization that our Solar System is located in
the Milky Way Galaxy and is one of many solar systems and galaxies. It is assumed that galaxies
are distributed uniformly and the same in all directions, meaning that the Universe has neither an
edge nor a center. Discoveries in the early 20th century have suggested that the Universe had a
beginning and that it is expanding[16] at an increasing rate.[17] The majority of mass in the Universe
appears to exist in an unknown form called dark matter.
The Big Bang theory, the prevailing cosmological model describing the development of the Universe,
states that space and time were created in the Big Bang and were given a fixed amount of energy
and matter that becomes less dense as space expands. After the initial expansion, the Universe
cooled, allowing the first subatomic particles to form and then simple atoms. Giant clouds later
merged through gravity to form stars. Assuming that the standard model of the Big Bang theory is
correct, the age of the Universe is measured to be 13.7990.021 billion years.[2]
There are many competing hypotheses about the ultimate fate of the Universe and about what, if
anything, preceded the Big Bang, while other physicists and philosophers refuse to speculate,
doubting that information about prior states will ever be accessible. Some physicists have suggested
various multiverse hypotheses, in which the Universe might be one among many universes that
likewise exist.[18][19]

Part of a series on

Physical cosmology

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Chronology of the universe


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Scientists[show]
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Contents
[hide]

1Definition

2Etymology
o

2.1Synonyms

3Chronology and the Big Bang

4Properties
o

4.1Shape

4.2Size and regions

4.3Age and expansion

4.4Spacetime

5Contents
o

5.1Dark energy

5.2Dark matter

5.3Ordinary Matter

5.4Particles

5.4.1Hadrons

5.4.2Leptons

5.4.3Photons
6Cosmological models

6.1Model of the Universe based on general relativity

6.2Multiverse hypothesis

6.3Fine-tuned Universe

7Historical development
o

7.1Mythologies

7.2Philosophical models

7.3Astronomical concepts

8See also

9References

Definition

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cosmic expansion
Earliest light
cosmic speed-up
Solar System
water

Simple life
photosynthesis

Complex life
Land life
Earliest gravity

Earliest universe

Earliest galaxy

Earliest quasar

Omega Centauri forms

Andromeda Galaxy forms

Milky Way Galaxy


spiral arms form

NGC 188 star cluster forms

Alpha Centauri forms

Earliest Earth
(-4.54)

Earliest life

Earliest oxygen

Atmospheric oxygen

Earliest sexual reproduction

Earliest land life

Earliest humans

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Axis scale: Billions of years.
also see {{Life timeline}}

The Universe can be defined as everything that exists, everything that has existed, and everything
that will exist.[20][21][22]According to our current understanding, the Universe consists of spacetime,
forms of energy (including electromagnetic radiation and matter), and the physical laws that relate
them. The Universe encompasses all of life, all of history, and some philosophers and scientists
suggest that it even encompasses ideas such as mathematics and logic. [23][24][25]

Etymology
The word universe derives from the Old French word univers, which in turn derives from
the Latin word universum.[26] The Latin word was used by Cicero and later Latin authors in many of
the same senses as the modern English word is used.[27]

Synonyms
A term for "universe" among the ancient Greek philosophers from Pythagoras onwards was
t pn ("the all"), defined as all matter and all space, and t hlon ("all things"), which
did not necessarily include the void.[28][29] Another synonym was ho ksmos (meaning
the world, the cosmos).[30] Synonyms are also found in Latin authors (totum, mundus,natura)[31] and
survive in modern languages, e.g., the German words Das All, Weltall, and Natur for Universe. The
same synonyms are found in English, such as everything (as in the theory of everything), the
cosmos (as in cosmology), the world (as in the many-worlds interpretation), and nature (as in natural
laws or natural philosophy).[32]

Chronology and the Big Bang


Main articles: Big Bang and Chronology of the Universe
The prevailing model for the evolution of the Universe is the Big Bang theory.[33][34] The Big Bang
model states that the earliest state of the Universe was extremely hot and dense and that it
subsequently expanded. The model is based on general relativityand on simplifying assumptions
such as homogeneity and isotropy of space. A version of the model with a cosmological
constant (Lambda) and cold dark matter, known as the Lambda-CDM model, is the simplest model
that provides a reasonably good account of various observations about the Universe. The Big Bang
model accounts for observations such as the correlation of distance and redshift of galaxies, the
ratio of the number of hydrogen to helium atoms, and the microwave radiation background.

In this diagram, time passes from left to right, so at any given time, the Universe is
represented by a disk-shaped "slice" of the diagram.
The initial hot, dense state is called the Planck epoch, a brief period extending from time zero to
one Planck time unit of approximately 1043 seconds. During the Planck epoch, all types of matter
and all types of energy were concentrated into a dense state, where gravitation is believed to have
been as strong as the other fundamental forces, and all the forces may have been unified. Since the
Planck epoch, the Universe has beenexpanding to its present form, possibly with a very brief period
of cosmic inflation which caused the Universe to reach a much larger size in less than 1032 seconds.
[35]

After the Planck epoch and inflation came the quark, hadron, and lepton epochs. Together, these
epochs encompassed less than 10 seconds of time following the Big Bang. The observed
abundance of the elements can be explained by combining the overall expansion of space
with nuclear and atomic physics. As the Universe expands, the energy density of electromagnetic
radiation decreases more quickly than does that of matter because the energy of a photon
decreases with its wavelength. As the Universe expanded and cooled, elementary
particles associated stably into ever larger combinations. Thus, in the early part of the matterdominated era, stable protons and neutrons formed, which then formed atomic
nuclei through nuclear reactions. This process, known as Big Bang nucleosynthesis, led to the
present abundances of lighter nuclei, particularlyhydrogen, deuterium, and helium. Big Bang
nucleosynthesis ended about 20 minutes after the Big Bang, when the Universe had cooled enough
so that nuclear fusion could no longer occur. At this stage, matter in the Universe was mainly a hot,
dense plasma of negatively charged electrons, neutral neutrinos and positive nuclei. This era, called
thephoton epoch, lasted about 380 thousand years.
Eventually, at a time known as recombination, electrons and nuclei formed stable atoms, which are
transparent to most wavelengths of radiation. With photons decoupled from matter, the Universe
entered the matter-dominated era. Light from this era could now travel freely, and it can still be seen
in the Universe as the cosmic microwave background(CMB). After around 100 million years, the
first stars formed; these were likely very massive, luminous, and responsible for the reionization of
the Universe. Having no elements heavier than lithium, these stars also produced the first heavy
elements through stellar nucleosynthesis.[36] The Universe also contains a mysterious energy
called dark energy; the energy density of dark energy does not change over time. After about 9.8
billion years, the Universe had expanded sufficiently so that the density of matter was less than the
density of dark energy, marking the beginning of the present dark-energy-dominated era.[37] In this
era, the expansion of the Universe is accelerating due to dark energy.

Properties
Main articles: Observable universe, Age of the Universe and Metric expansion of space
The spacetime of the Universe is usually interpreted from a Euclidean perspective, with space as
consisting of three dimensions, and time as consisting of one dimension, the "fourth dimension".
[38]
By combining space and time into a single manifold called Minkowski space, physicists have
simplified a large number of physical theories, as well as described in a more uniform way the
workings of the Universe at both the supergalactic and subatomic levels.
Spacetime events are not absolutely defined spatially and temporally but rather are known relative to
the motion of an observer. Minkowski space approximates the Universe without gravity; the pseudoRiemannian manifolds of general relativity describe spacetime with matter and gravity. String
theory postulates the existence of additional dimensions.
Of the four fundamental interactions, gravitation is dominant at cosmological length scales, including
galaxies and larger-scale structures. Gravity's effects are cumulative; by contrast, the effects of

positive and negative charges tend to cancel one another, making electromagnetism relatively
insignificant on cosmological length scales. The remaining two interactions, the weak and strong
nuclear forces, decline very rapidly with distance; their effects are confined mainly to sub-atomic
length scales.
The Universe appears to have much more matter than antimatter, an asymmetry possibly related to
the observations of CP violation.[39] The Universe also appears to have neither
net momentum nor angular momentum. The absence of net charge and momentum would follow
from accepted physical laws (Gauss's law and the non-divergence of thestress-energy-momentum
pseudotensor, respectively) if the Universe were finite.[40]

Constituent spatial scales of the observable universe

This diagram shows Earth's location in the Universe.

Shape

The three possible options of the shape of the Universe.


Main article: Shape of the Universe
General relativity describes how spacetime is curved and bent by mass and energy.
The topology or geometry of the Universe includes both local geometry in the observable
universe and global geometry. Cosmologists often work with a given space-like slice of spacetime
called the comoving coordinates. The section of spacetime which can be observed is the
backward light cone, which delimits the cosmological horizon. The cosmological horizon (also called
the particle horizon or the light horizon) is the maximum distance from which particles can have
traveled to the observer in the age of the Universe. This horizon represents the boundary between
the observable and the unobservable regions of the Universe.[41][42] The existence, properties, and
significance of a cosmological horizon depend on the particular cosmological model.
An important parameter determining the future evolution of the Universe theory is the density
parameter, Omega (), defined as the average matter density of the universe divided by a critical
value of that density. This selects one of three possible geometriesdepending on whether is equal
to, less than, or greater than 1. These are called, respectively, the flat, open and closed universes. [43]
Observations, including the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy
Probe (WMAP), and Planck maps of the CMB, suggest that the Universe is infinite in extent with a
finite age, as described by the FriedmannLematreRobertsonWalker (FLRW) models.[44][45][46]
[47]
These FLRW models thus support inflationary models and the standard model of cosmology,
describing a flat, homogeneous universe presently dominated by dark matter and dark energy.[48][49]

Size and regions


See also: Observable universe and Observational cosmology
The size of the Universe is somewhat difficult to define. According to a restrictive definition, the
Universe is everything within our connected spacetime that could have a chance to interact with us
and vice versa.[50] According to the general theory of relativity, some regions of space may never
interact with ours even in the lifetime of the Universe due to the finite speed of light and the
ongoing expansion of space. For example, radio messages sent from Earth may never reach some
regions of space, even if the Universe were to exist forever: space may expand faster than light can
traverse it.[51]
Distant regions of space are assumed to exist and to be part of reality as much as we are, even
though we can never interact with them. The spatial region that we can affect and be affected by is
the observable universe. The observable universe depends on the location of the observer. By
traveling, an observer can come into contact with a greater region of spacetime than an observer
who remains still. Nevertheless, even the most rapid traveler will not be able to interact with all of

space. Typically, the observable universe is taken to mean the portion of the Universe that is
observable from our vantage point in the Milky Way.
The proper distancethe distance as would be measured at a specific time, including the present
between Earth and the edge of the observable universe is 46 billion light-years (14 billion parsecs),
making the diameter of the observable universe about 91 billion light-years (28109 pc). The
distance the light from the edge of the observable universe has travelled is very close to the age of
the Universe times the speed of light, 13.8 billion light-years (4.2109 pc), but this does not represent
the distance at any given time because the edge of the observable universe and the Earth have
since moved further apart.[52] For comparison, the diameter of a typical galaxy is 30,000 light-years,
and the typical distance between two neighboring galaxies is 3 million light-years.[53] As an example,
the Milky Way is roughly 100,000 light years in diameter,[54] and the nearest sister galaxy to the Milky
Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, is located roughly 2.5 million light years away.[55] Because we cannot
observe space beyond the edge of the observable universe, it is unknown whether the size of the
Universe is finite or infinite.[13][56][57]

Age and expansion


Main articles: Age of the universe and Metric expansion of space
Astronomers calculate the age of the Universe by assuming that the Lambda-CDM model accurately
describes the evolution of the Universe from a very uniform, hot, dense primordial state to its present
state and measuring the cosmological parameters which constitute the model. This model is well
understood theoretically and supported by recent high-precision astronomical observations such
as WMAP and Planck. Commonly, the set of observations fitted includes the cosmic microwave
background anisotropy, the brightness/redshift relation for Type Ia supernovae, and large-scale
galaxy clustering including the baryon acoustic oscillation feature. Other observations, such as the
Hubble constant, the abundance of galaxy clusters, weak gravitational lensing and globular cluster
ages, are generally consistent with these, providing a check of the model, but are less accurately
measured at present. With the prior that the Lambda-CDM model is correct, the measurements of
the parameters using a variety of techniques by numerous experiments yield a best value of the age
of the Universe as of 2015 of 13.799 0.021 billion years.[2]
Over time, the Universe and its contents have evolved; for example, the relative population
of quasars and galaxies has changed[58] and space itself has expanded. Due to this expansion,
scientists on Earth can observe the light from a galaxy 30 billion light years away even though that
light has traveled for only 13 billion years; the very space between them has expanded. This
expansion is consistent with the observation that the light from distant galaxies has been redshifted;
the photons emitted have been stretched to longerwavelengths and lower frequency during their
journey. Analyses of Type Ia supernovae indicate that the spatial expansion is accelerating.[59][60]
The more matter there is in the Universe, the stronger the mutual gravitational pull of the matter. If
the Universe were too dense then it would re-collapse into a gravitational singularity. However, if the
Universe contained too little matter then the expansion would accelerate too rapidly
for planets and planetary systems to form. Since the Big Bang, the universe has
expanded monotonically. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our universe has just the right mass density of
about 5 protons per cubic meter which has allowed it to expand for the last 13.8 billion years, giving
time to form the universe as observed today.[61]
There are dynamical forces acting on the particles in the Universe which affect the expansion rate.
Before 1998, it was expected that the rate of increase of the Hubble Constant would be decreasing
as time went on due to the influence of gravitational interactions in the Universe, and thus there is an
additional observable quantity in the Universe called the deceleration parameter which cosmologists
expected to be directly related to the matter density of the Universe. In 1998, the deceleration
parameter was measured by two different groups to be consistent with 1 but not zero, which
implied that the present-day rate of increase of the Hubble Constant is increasing over time. [17][62]

Spacetime
Main articles: Spacetime and World line
See also: Lorentz transformation
Spacetimes are the arenas in which all physical events take placean event is a point in spacetime
specified by its time and place. The basic elements of spacetime are events. In any given spacetime,
an event is a unique position at a unique time. Because events are spacetime points, in classical
relativistic physics, the location of an elementary (point-like) particle at a particular time can be
written as (x, y, z, t). A spacetime is the union of all events in the same way that a line is the union of
all of its points, formally organized into a manifold.[63]
The Universe appears to be a smooth spacetime continuum consisting of
three spatial dimensions and one temporal (time) dimension. On the average, space is observed to
be very nearly flat (close to zero curvature), meaning that Euclidean geometry is empirically true with
high accuracy throughout most of the Universe.[64] Spacetime also appears to have a simply
connected topology, in analogy with a sphere, at least on the length-scale of the observable
Universe. However, present observations cannot exclude the possibilities that the Universe has
more dimensions and that its spacetime may have a multiply connected global topology, in analogy
with the cylindrical or toroidal topologies of two-dimensional spaces.[45][65]

Contents

The formation of clusters and large-scalefilaments in the Cold Dark Matter model withdark
energy. The frames show the evolution of structures in a 43 million parsecs (or 140 million
light years) box from redshift of 30 to the present epoch (upper left z=30 to lower right z=0).
See also: Galaxy formation and evolution, Galaxy cluster, Illustris project, and Nebula
The Universe is composed almost completely of dark energy, dark matter, and ordinary matter.
Other contents are electromagnetic radiation (estimated to be from 0.005% to close to 0.01%)
and antimatter.[66][67][68] The total amount of electromagnetic radiation generated within the universe
has decreased by 1/2 in the past 2 billion years.[69][70]
The percent of all types matter and energy has changed over the history of the Universe. [71] Today,
ordinary matter, which includes atoms, stars, galaxies, and life, accounts for only 4.9% of the
contents of the Universe.[7] The present overall density of this type of matter is very low, roughly 4.5
1031 grams per cubic centimetre, corresponding to a density of the order of only one proton for
every four cubic meters of volume.[5] The nature of both dark energy and dark matter is unknown.
Dark matter, a mysterious form of matter that has not yet been identified, accounts for 26.8% of the
contents. Dark energy, which is the energy of empty space and that is causing the expansion of the
Universe to accelerate, accounts for the remaining 68.3% of the contents. [7][72][73]

A map of the Superclusters and voidsnearest to Earth


Matter, dark matter, and dark energy are distributed homogeneously throughout the Universe over
length scales longer than 300 million light-years or so.[74] However, over shorter length-scales, matter
tends to clump hierarchically; many atoms are condensed into stars, most stars into galaxies, most
galaxies into clusters, superclusters and, finally, large-scale galactic filaments. The observable
Universe contains approximately 300 sextillion (31023) stars[75] and more than 100 billion
(1011) galaxies.[76] Typical galaxies range from dwarfs with as few as ten million[77] (107) stars up to
giants with one trillion[78] (1012) stars. Between the structures are voids, which are typically 10150
Mpc (33 million490 million ly) in diameter. The Milky Way is in the Local Group of galaxies, which in
turn is in the Laniakea Supercluster.[79] This supercluster spans over 500 million light years, while the
Local Group spans over 10 million light years.[80] The Universe also has vast regions of relative
emptiness; the largest known void measures 1.8 billion ly (550 Mpc) across. [81]

Comparison of the contents of the Universe today to 380,000 years after the Big Bang as
measured with 5 year WMAP data (from 2008). [82] (Due to rounding errors, the sum of these
numbers is not 100%). This reflects the 2008 limits of WMAP's ability to define Dark Matter
and Dark Energy.

The observable Universe is isotropic on scales significantly larger than superclusters, meaning that
the statistical properties of the Universe are the same in all directions as observed from Earth. The
Universe is bathed in highly isotropic microwave radiation that corresponds to a thermal
equilibrium blackbody spectrum of roughly 2.72548 kelvin.[6] The hypothesis that the large-scale
Universe is homogeneous and isotropic is known as the cosmological principle.[83] A Universe that is
both homogeneous and isotropic looks the same from all vantage points [84] and has no center.[85]

Dark energy
Main article: Dark energy
An explanation for why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating remains elusive. It is often
attributed to "dark energy", an unknown form of energy that is hypothesized to permeate space.
[86]
On a massenergy equivalence basis, the density of dark energy (~ 7 1030 g/cm3) is much less
than the density of ordinary matter or dark matter within galaxies. However, in the present darkenergy era, it dominates the massenergy of the universe because it is uniform across space. [87][88]
Two proposed forms for dark energy are the cosmological constant, a constant energy density filling
space homogeneously,[89] and scalar fields such as quintessence or moduli, dynamic quantities
whose energy density can vary in time and space. Contributions from scalar fields that are constant
in space are usually also included in the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant can be
formulated to be equivalent to vacuum energy. Scalar fields having only a slight amont of spatial
inhomogeneity would be difficult to distinguish from a cosmological constant.

Dark matter
Main article: Dark matter
Dark matter is a hypothetical kind of matter that is invisible to the entire electromagnetic spectrum,
but which accounts for most of the matter in the Universe. The existence and properties of dark
matter are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the large-scale
structure of the Universe. Other than neutrinos, a form of hot dark matter, dark matter has not been
detected directly, making it one of the greatest mysteries in modern astrophysics. Dark matter
neither emits nor absorbs light or any other electromagnetic radiation at any significant level. Dark
matter is estimated to constitute 26.8% of the total massenergy and 84.5% of the total matter in the
Universe.[72][90]

Ordinary Matter
Main article: Matter
The remaining 4.9% of the massenergy of the Universe is ordinary matter, that
is, atoms, ions, electrons and the objects they form. This matter includes stars, which produce nearly
all of the light we see from galaxies, as well as interstellar gas in
the interstellar andintergalactic media, planets, and all the objects from everyday life that we can
bump into, touch or squeeze.[91] As a matter of fact, the great majority of ordinary matter in the
universe is unseen, since visible stars and gas inside galaxies and clusters account for less than 10
per cent of the ordinary matter contribution to the mass-energy density of the universe. [92]
Ordinary matter commonly exists in four states (or phases): solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. However,
advances in experimental techniques have revealed other previously theoretical phases, such
as BoseEinstein condensates and fermionic condensates.
Ordinary matter is composed of two types of elementary particles: quarks and leptons.[93] For
example, the proton is formed of two up quarks and one down quark; the neutron is formed of two
down quarks and one up quark; and the electron is a kind of lepton. An atom consists of an atomic
nucleus, made up of protons and neutrons, and electrons that orbit the nucleus. Because most of the
mass of an atom is concentrated in its nucleus, which is made up of baryons, astronomers often use
the term baryonic matter to describe ordinary matter, although a small fraction of this "baryonic
matter" is electrons.

Soon after the Big Bang, primordial protons and neutrons formed from the quarkgluon plasma of
the early Universe as it cooled below two trillion degrees. A few minutes later, in a process known
as Big Bang nucleosynthesis, nuclei formed from the primordial protons and neutrons. This
nucleosynthesis formed lighter elements, those with small atomic numbers up
to lithium and beryllium, but the abundance of heavier elements dropped off sharply with increasing
atomic number. Some boron may have been formed at this time, but the next heavier
element, carbon, was not be formed in significant amounts. Big Bang nucleosynthesis shut down
after about 20 minutes due to the rapid drop in temperature and density of the expanding Universe.
Subsequent formation of heavier elements resulted from stellar nucleosynthesis and supernova
nucleosynthesis.[94]

Particles

Standard model of elementary particles: the 12 fundamental fermions and 4 fundamental


bosons. Brown loops indicate which bosons (red) couple to which fermions (purple and
green). Columns are three generations of matter (fermions) and one of forces (bosons). In
the first three columns, two rows contain quarks and two leptons. The top two rows'
columns contain up (u) and down (d) quarks, charm (c) and strange (s) quarks, top (t) and
bottom (b) quarks, and photon () and gluon (g), respectively. The bottom two rows'
columns contain electron neutrino (e) and electron (e), muon neutrino () and muon (),
tau neutrino () and tau (), and the Z0 and W carriers of the weak force. Mass, charge, and
spin are listed for each particle.
Main article: Particle physics
Ordinary matter and the forces that act on matter can be described in terms of elementary particles.
[95]
These particles are sometimes described as being fundamental, since they have an unknown
substructure, and it is unknown whether or not they are composed of smaller and even more
fundamental particles.[96][97] Of central importance is the Standard Model, a theory that is concerned
with electromagnetic interactions and the weak and strong nuclear interactions.[98] The Standard
Model is supported by the experimental confirmation of the existence of particles that compose
matter: quarks and leptons, and their corresponding "antimatter" duals, as well as the force particles
that mediate interactions: the photon, the W and Z bosons, and the gluon.[96] The Standard Model
predicted the existence of the recently discovered Higgs boson, a particle that is a manifestation of a
field within the Universe that can endow particles with mass.[99][100] Because of its success in
explaining a wide variety of experimental results, the Standard Model is sometimes regarded as a
"theory of almost everything".[98] The Standard Model does not, however, accommodate gravity. A
true force-particle "theory of everything" has not been attained.[101]

Hadrons
Main article: Hadron
A hadron is a composite particle made of quarks held together by the strong force. Hadrons are
categorized into two families:baryons (such as protons and neutrons) made of three quarks,
and mesons (such as pions) made of one quark and oneantiquark. Of the hadrons, protons are
stable, and neutrons bound within atomic nuclei are stable. Other hadrons are unstable under
ordinary conditions and are thus insignificant constituents of the modern Universe. From
approximately 106seconds after the Big Bang, during a period is known as the hadron epoch, the
temperature of the universe had fallen sufficiently to allow quarks to bind together into hadrons, and
the mass of the Universe was dominated by hadrons. Initially the temperature was high enough to
allow the formation of hadron/anti-hadron pairs, which kept matter and antimatter inthermal
equilibrium. However, as the temperature of the Universe continued to fall, hadron/anti-hadron pairs
were no longer produced. Most of the hadrons and anti-hadrons were then eliminated in particleantiparticle annihilation reactions, leaving a small residual of hadrons by the time the Universe was
about one second old.[102]:244266

Leptons
Main article: Lepton
A lepton is an elementary, half-integer spin particle that does not undergo strong interactions but is
subject to the Pauli exclusion principle; no two leptons of the same species can be in exactly the
same state at the same time.[103] Two main classes of leptons exist: charged leptons (also known as
the electron-like leptons), and neutral leptons (better known as neutrinos). Electrons are stable and
the most common charged lepton in the Universe, whereas muons and taus are unstable particle
that quickly decay after being produced in high energy collisions, such as those involving cosmic
rays or carried out in particle accelerators.[104][105] Charged leptons can combine with other particles to
form various composite particles such as atoms and positronium. The electron governs nearly all
of chemistry, as it is found in atoms and is directly tied to all chemical properties. Neutrinos rarely
interact with anything, and are consequently rarely observed. Neutrinos stream throughout the
Universe but rarely interact with normal matter.[106]
The lepton epoch was the period in the evolution of the early Universe in which
the leptons dominated the mass of the Universe. It started roughly 1 second after the Big Bang, after
the majority of hadrons and anti-hadrons annihilated each other at the end of the hadron epoch.
During the lepton epoch the temperature of the Universe was still high enough to create lepton/antilepton pairs, so leptons and anti-leptons were in thermal equilibrium. Approximately 10 seconds after
the Big Bang, the temperature of the Universe had fallen to the point where lepton/anti-lepton pairs
were no longer created.[107] Most leptons and anti-leptons were then eliminated
in annihilation reactions, leaving a small residue of leptons. The mass of the Universe was then
dominated by photons as it entered the following photon epoch.[108][109]

Photons
Main article: Photon epoch
See also: Photino
A photon is the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is the force
carrier for the electromagnetic force, even when static via virtual photons. The effects of
this force are easily observable at the microscopic and at the macroscopic level because the photon
has zero rest mass; this allows long distance interactions. Like all elementary particles, photons are
currently best explained by quantum mechanics and exhibit waveparticle duality, exhibiting
properties of waves and of particles.
The photon epoch started after most leptons and anti-leptons were annihilated at the end of the
lepton epoch, about 10 seconds after the Big Bang. Atomic nuclei were created in the process of

nucleosynthesis which occurred during the first few minutes of the photon epoch. For the remainder
of the photon epoch the Universe contained a hot denseplasma of nuclei, electrons and photons.
About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the temperature of the Universe fell to the point where
nuclei could combine with electrons to create neutral atoms. As a result, photons no longer
interacted frequently with matter and the Universe became transparent. The highly redshifted
photons from this period form the cosmic microwave background. Tiny variations in temperature and
density detectable in the CMB were the early "seeds" from which all subsequent structure
formation took place.[102]:244266

[show]

Timeline of the B

Cosmological models
Model of the Universe based on general relativity
Main article: Solutions of the Einstein field equations
See also: Big Bang and Ultimate fate of the Universe
General relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and the
current description of gravitation in modern physics. It is the basis of currentcosmological models of
the Universe. General relativity generalizes special relativity and Newton's law of universal
gravitation, providing a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time,
or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to
the energy and momentum of whatever matter and radiationare present. The relation is specified by
the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations. In general relativity, the
distribution of matter and energy determines the geometry of spacetime, which in turn describes
the acceleration of matter. Therefore, solutions of the Einstein field equations describe the evolution
of the Universe. Combined with measurements of the amount, type, and distribution of matter in the
Universe, the equations of general relativity describe the evolution of the Universe over time. [110]
With the assumption of the cosmological principle that the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic
everywhere, a specific solution of the field equations that describes the Universe is the metric
tensor called the FriedmannLematreRobertsonWalker metric,
where (r, , ) correspond to a spherical coordinate system. This metric has only two
undetermined parameters. An overall dimensionless length scale factor R describes the size
scale of the Universe as a function of time; an increase in R is the expansion of the Universe.
[111]
A curvature index k describes the geometry. The index k is defined so that it can be only 0,
corresponding to flat Euclidean geometry, 1, corresponding to a space of positive curvature, or
1, a space of positive or negative curvature.[112] The value of R as a function of time t depends
upon k and the cosmological constant .[110] The cosmological constant represents the energy
density of the vacuum of space and could be related to dark energy.[73] The equation describing
how R varies with time is known as the Friedmann equation after its inventor, Alexander
Friedmann.[113]
The solutions for R(t) depend on k and , but some qualitative features of such solutions are
general. First and most importantly, the length scale R of the Universe can remain
constant only if the Universe is perfectly isotropic with positive curvature (k=1) and has one
precise value of density everywhere, as first noted by Albert Einstein.[110] However, this

equilibrium is unstable: because the Universe is known to be inhomogeneous on smaller


scales, R must change over time. When R changes, all the spatial distances in the Universe
change in tandem; there is an overall expansion or contraction of space itself. This accounts for
the observation that galaxies appear to be flying apart; the space between them is stretching.
The stretching of space also accounts for the apparent paradox that two galaxies can be 40
billion light years apart, although they started from the same point 13.8 billion years ago [114] and
never moved faster than the speed of light.
Second, all solutions suggest that there was a gravitational singularity in the past, when R went
to zero and matter and energy were infinitely dense. It may seem that this conclusion is
uncertain because it is based on the questionable assumptions of perfect homogeneity and
isotropy (the cosmological principle) and that only the gravitational interaction is significant.
However, the PenroseHawking singularity theorems show that a singularity should exist for
very general conditions. Hence, according to Einstein's field equations, R grew rapidly from an
unimaginably hot, dense state that existed immediately following this singularity (when R had a
small, finite value); this is the essence of the Big Bang model of the Universe. Understanding the
singularity of the Big Bang likely requires a quantum theory of gravity, which has not yet been
formulated.[115]
Third, the curvature index k determines the sign of the mean spatial curvature
of spacetime[112] averaged over sufficiently large length scales (greater than about a billion light
years). If k=1, the curvature is positive and the Universe has a finite volume.[116] Such universes
are often visualized as a three-dimensional sphere embedded in a four-dimensional space.
Conversely, if k is zero or negative, the Universe has infinite volume. [116] It may seem counterintuitive that an infinite and yet infinitely dense Universe could be created in a single instant at
the Big Bang when R=0, but exactly that is predicted mathematically when k does not equal 1.
By analogy, an infinite plane has zero curvature but infinite area, whereas an infinite cylinder is
finite in one direction and a torus is finite in both. A toroidal Universe could behave like a normal
Universe with periodic boundary conditions.
The ultimate fate of the Universe is still unknown, because it depends critically on the curvature
index k and the cosmological constant . If the Universe were sufficiently dense, kwould equal
+1, meaning that its average curvature throughout is positive and the Universe will eventually
recollapse in a Big Crunch,[117] possibly starting a new Universe in a Big Bounce. Conversely, if
the Universe were insufficiently dense, k would equal 0 or 1 and the Universe would expand
forever, cooling off and eventually reaching the Big Freezeand the heat death of the Universe.
[110]
Modern data suggests that the rate of expansion of the Universe is not decreasing, as
originally expected, but increasing; if this continues indefinitely, the Universe may eventually
reach a Big Rip. Observationally, the Universe appears to be flat (k = 0), with an overall density
that is very close to the critical value between recollapse and eternal expansion. [118]

Multiverse hypothesis
Main articles: Multiverse, Many-worlds interpretation, Bubble universe theory and Parallel
universe (fiction)

Depiction of a multiverse of seven"bubble" universes, which are


separatespacetime continua, each having different physical laws, physical constants,
and perhaps even different numbers of dimensions or topologies.
See also: Eternal inflation
Some speculative theories have proposed that our Universe is but one of a set of disconnected
universes, collectively denoted as themultiverse, challenging or enhancing more limited
definitions of the Universe.[18][119] Scientific multiverse models are distinct from concepts such
as alternate planes of consciousness and simulated reality.
Max Tegmark developed a four-part classification scheme for the different types of multiverses
that scientists have suggested in various problem domains. An example of such a model is
the chaotic inflation model of the early universe.[120] Another is the many-worlds interpretation of
quantum mechanics. Parallel worlds are generated in a manner similar to quantum
superposition and decoherence, with all states of the wave function being realized in separate
worlds. Effectively, the multiverse evolves as a universal wavefunction. If the Big Bang that
created our multiverse created an ensemble of multiverses, the wave function of the ensemble
would be entangled in this sense.[121]
The least controversial category of multiverse in Tegmark's scheme is Level I, which describes
distant spacetime events "in our own universe", but suggests that statistical analysis exploiting
the anthropic principle provides an opportunity to test multiverse theories in some cases. If
space is infinite, or sufficiently large and uniform, identical instances of the history of Earth's
entire Hubble volume occur every so often, simply by chance. Tegmark calculated our nearest
so-called doppelgnger, is 1010115 meters away from us (a double exponential function larger than
a googolplex).[122][123] In principle, it would be impossible to scientifically verify an identical Hubble
volume. However, it does follow as a fairly straightforward consequence from otherwise
unrelated scientific observations and theories.
It is possible to conceive of disconnected spacetimes, each existing but unable to interact with
one another.[122][124] An easily visualized metaphor is a group of separate soap bubbles, in which
observers living on one soap bubble cannot interact with those on other soap bubbles, even in
principle.[125] According to one common terminology, each "soap bubble" of spacetime is denoted
as a universe, whereas our particular spacetime is denoted as the Universe,[18] just as we call
our moon the Moon. The entire collection of these separate spacetimes is denoted as the
multiverse.[18] With this terminology, different Universes are not causally connected to each other.
[18]
In principle, the other unconnectedUniverses may have
different dimensionalities and topologies of spacetime, different forms of matter and energy, and
different physical laws and physical constants, although such possibilities are purely speculative.
[18]
Others consider each of several bubbles created as part of chaotic inflation to be
separate Universes, though in this model these universes all share a causal origin.[18]

Fine-tuned Universe
Main article: Fine-tuned Universe
The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can
only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range,
so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would
be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development ofmatter, astronomical
structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood. [126] The proposition is discussed
among philosophers, scientists, theologians, and proponents and detractors of creationism.

Historical development
See also: Cosmology, Timeline of cosmology, Nicolaus Copernicus Copernican system,
and Philosophi Naturalis Principia Mathematica Beginnings of the Scientific Revolution
Historically, there have been many ideas of the cosmos (cosmologies) and its origin
(cosmogonies). Theories of an impersonal Universe governed by physical laws were first
proposed by the Greeks and Indians.[15] Ancient Chinese philosophy encompassed the notion of
the Universe including both all of space and all of time. [127][128] Over the centuries, improvements
in astronomical observations and theories of motion and gravitation led to ever more accurate
descriptions of the Universe. The modern era of cosmology began with Albert Einstein's
1915 general theory of relativity, which made it possible to quantitatively predict the origin,
evolution, and conclusion of the Universe as a whole. Most modern, accepted theories of
cosmology are based on general relativity and, more specifically, the predicted Big Bang.[129]

Mythologies
Main articles: Creation myth, Creator deity and Religious cosmology
Many cultures have stories describing the origin of the world and universe. Cultures generally
regard these stories as having some truth. There are however many differing beliefs in how
these stories apply amongst those believing in a supernatural origin, ranging from a god directly
creating the Universe as it is now to a god just setting the "wheels in motion" (for example via
mechanisms such as the big bang and evolution). [130]
Ethnologists and anthropologists who study myths have developed various classification
schemes for the various themes that appear in creation stories.[131][132] For example, in one type
of story, the world is born from a world egg; such stories include the Finnish epic poem Kalevala,
the Chinese story of Pangu or the Indian Brahmanda Purana. In related stories, the Universe is
created by a single entity emanating or producing something by him- or herself, as in the Tibetan
Buddhism concept of Adi-Buddha, the ancient Greekstory of Gaia (Mother Earth),
the Aztec goddess Coatlicue myth, the ancient Egyptian god Atum story, and the JudeoChristian Genesis creation narrative in which the Abrahamic God created the Universe. In
another type of story, the Universe is created from the union of male and female deities, as in
the Maori story of Rangi and Papa. In other stories, the Universe is created by crafting it from
pre-existing materials, such as the corpse of a dead god as from Tiamat in
the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish or from the giant Ymir inNorse mythology or from chaotic
materials, as in Izanagi and Izanami in Japanese mythology. In other stories, the Universe
emanates from fundamental principles, such asBrahman and Prakrti, the creation myth of
the Serers,[133] or the yin and yang of the Tao.

Philosophical models
Further information: Cosmology
See also: Pre-Socratic philosophy, Physics (Aristotle), Hindu cosmology, Islamic cosmology,
and Philosophy of space and time

The pre-Socratic Greek philosophers and Indian philosophers developed some of the earliest
philosophical concepts of the Universe.[15][134] The earliest Greek philosophers noted that
appearances can be deceiving, and sought to understand the underlying reality behind the
appearances. In particular, they noted the ability of matter to change forms (e.g., ice to water to
steam) and several philosophers proposed that all the physical materials in the world are
different forms of a single primordial material, or arche. The first to do so was Thales, who
proposed this material to be water. Thales' student, Anaximander, proposed that everything
came from the limitless apeiron. Anaximenes proposed the primordial material to be air on
account of its perceived attractive and repulsive qualities that cause the arche to condense or
dissociate into different forms. Anaxagorasproposed the principle of Nous (Mind),
while Heraclitus proposed fire (and spoke of logos). Empedocles proposed the elements to be
earth, water, air and fire. His four-element model became very popular.
Like Pythagoras, Plato believed that all things were composed of number, with Empedocles'
elements taking the form of the Platonic solids.Democritus, and later philosophersmost
notably Leucippusproposed that the Universe is composed of indivisible atoms moving
through void (vacuum), although Aristotle did not believe that to be feasible because air, like
water, offers resistance to motion. Air will immediately rush in to fill a void, and moreover, without
resistance, it would do so indefinitely fast.[15]
Although Heraclitus argued for eternal change, his contemporary Parmenides made the radical
suggestion that all change is an illusion, that the true underlying reality is eternally unchanging
and of a single nature. Parmenides denoted this reality as (The One). Parmenides' idea
seemed implausible to many Greeks, but his student Zeno of Eleachallenged them with several
famous paradoxes. Aristotle responded to these paradoxes by developing the notion of a
potential countable infinity, as well as the infinitely divisible continuum. Unlike the eternal and
unchanging cycles of time, he believed that the world is bounded by the celestial spheres and
that cumulative stellar magnitude is only finitely multiplicative.
The Indian philosopher Kanada, founder of the Vaisheshika school, developed a notion
of atomism and proposed that light and heat were varieties of the same substance.[135] In the 5th
century AD, the Buddhist atomist philosopher Dignga proposed atoms to be point-sized,
durationless, and made of energy. They denied the existence of substantial matter and proposed
that movement consisted of momentary flashes of a stream of energy.[136]
The notion of temporal finitism was inspired by the doctrine of creation shared by the
three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Christian philosopher, John
Philoponus, presented the philosophical arguments against the ancient Greek notion of an
infinite past and future. Philoponus' arguments against an infinite past were used by the early
Muslim philosopher, Al-Kindi (Alkindus); the Jewish philosopher, Saadia Gaon (Saadia ben
Joseph); and the Muslim theologian, Al-Ghazali (Algazel).[137]

Astronomical concepts
Main articles: History of astronomy and Timeline of astronomy

Aristarchus's 3rd century BCE calculations on the relative sizes of from left the Sun,
Earth and Moon, from a 10th-century AD Greek copy
Astronomical models of the Universe were proposed soon after astronomy began with
the Babylonian astronomers, who viewed the Universe as a flat disk floating in the ocean, and
this forms the premise for early Greek maps like those of Anaximander andHecataeus of
Miletus.
Later Greek philosophers, observing the motions of the heavenly bodies, were concerned with
developing models of the Universe-based more profoundly on empirical evidence. The first
coherent model was proposed by Eudoxus of Cnidos. According to Aristotle's physical
interpretation of the model, celestial spheres eternally rotate with uniform motion around a
stationary Earth. Normal matter is entirely contained within the terrestrial sphere.
De Mundo (composed before 250 BC or between 350 and 200 BC), stated, Five elements,
situated in spheres in five regions, the less being in each case surrounded by the greater
namely, earth surrounded by water, water by air, air by fire, and fire by ether make up the
whole Universe.[138]
This model was also refined by Callippus and after concentric spheres were abandoned, it was
brought into nearly perfect agreement with astronomical observations by Ptolemy. The success
of such a model is largely due to the mathematical fact that any function (such as the position of
a planet) can be decomposed into a set of circular functions (the Fourier modes). Other Greek
scientists, such as the Pythagorean philosopher Philolaus, postulated (according
to Stobaeus account) that at the center of the Universe was a "central fire" around which
the Earth, Sun, Moon and Planets revolved in uniform circular motion.[139]
The Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos was the first known individual to propose
a heliocentric model of the Universe. Though the original text has been lost, a reference
inArchimedes' book The Sand Reckoner describes Aristarchus's heliocentric model. Archimedes
wrote: (translated into English):
"You, King Gelon, are aware the Universe is the name given by most astronomers to the sphere
the center of which is the center of the Earth, while its radius is equal to the straight line between
the center of the Sun and the center of the Earth. This is the common account as you have
heard from astronomers. But Aristarchus has brought out a book consisting of certain
hypotheses, wherein it appears, as a consequence of the assumptions made, that the Universe
is many times greater than the Universe just mentioned. His hypotheses are that the fixed stars
and the Sun remain unmoved, that the Earth revolves about the Sun on the circumference of a
circle, the Sun lying in the middle of the orbit, and that the sphere of fixed stars, situated about
the same center as the Sun, is so great that the circle in which he supposes the Earth to revolve
bears such a proportion to the distance of the fixed stars as the center of the sphere bears to its
surface"
Aristarchus thus believed the stars to be very far away, and saw this as the reason why stellar
parallax had not been observed, that is, the stars had not been observed to move relative each
other as the Earth moved around the Sun. The stars are in fact much farther away than the
distance that was generally assumed in ancient times, which is why stellar parallax is only
detectable with precision instruments. The geocentric model, consistent with planetary parallax,
was assumed to be an explanation for the unobservability of the parallel phenomenon, stellar
parallax. The rejection of the heliocentric view was apparently quite strong, as the following
passage from Plutarch suggests (On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon):
"Cleanthes [a contemporary of Aristarchus and head of the Stoics ] thought it was the duty of the
Greeks to indict Aristarchus of Samos on the charge of impiety for putting in motion the Hearth

of the Universe [i.e. the Earth], . . . supposing the heaven to remain at rest and the Earth to
revolve in an oblique circle, while it rotates, at the same time, about its own axis"

Flammarion engraving, Paris 1888


The only other astronomer from antiquity known by name who supported Aristarchus's
heliocentric model was Seleucus of Seleucia, a Hellenistic astronomer who lived a century after
Aristarchus.[140][141][142] According to Plutarch, Seleucus was the first to prove the heliocentric
system through reasoning, but it is not known what arguments he used. Seleucus' arguments for
a heliocentric cosmology were probably related to the phenomenon of tides.[143] According
to Strabo (1.1.9), Seleucus was the first to state that the tides are due to the attraction of the
Moon, and that the height of the tides depends on the Moon's position relative to the Sun.
[144]
Alternatively, he may have proved heliocentricity by determining the constants of
a geometricmodel for it, and by developing methods to compute planetary positions using this
model, like what Nicolaus Copernicus later did in the 16th century.[145] During the Middle
Ages, heliocentric models were also proposed by the Indian astronomerAryabhata,[146] and by
the Persian astronomers Albumasar[147] and Al-Sijzi.[148]

Model of the Copernican Universeby Thomas Digges in 1576, with the amendment that
the stars are no longer confined to a sphere, but spread uniformly throughout the space
surrounding the planets.

The Aristotelian model was accepted in the Western world for roughly two millennia, until
Copernicus revived Aristarchus's perspective that the astronomical data could be explained
more plausibly if the earth rotated on its axis and if the sun were placed at the center of the
Universe.
In the center rests the Sun. For who would place this lamp of a very beautiful temple in another
or better place than this wherefrom it can illuminate everything at the same time?
Nicolaus Copernicus, in Chapter 10, Book 1 of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestrum (1543)
As noted by Copernicus himself, the notion that the Earth rotates is very old, dating at least
to Philolaus (c. 450 BC), Heraclides Ponticus(c. 350 BC) and Ecphantus the Pythagorean.
Roughly a century before Copernicus, the Christian scholar Nicholas of Cusa also proposed that
the Earth rotates on its axis in his book, On Learned Ignorance (1440).[149] Al-Sijzi[150] also
proposed that the Earth rotates on its axis.Empirical evidence for the Earth's rotation on its axis,
using the phenomenon of comets, was given by Tusi (12011274) and Ali Qushji(14031474).
[151]

This cosmology was accepted by Isaac Newton, Christiaan Huygens and later scientists.
[152]
Edmund Halley (1720)[153] and Jean-Philippe de Chseaux (1744)[154] noted independently
that the assumption of an infinite space filled uniformly with stars would lead to the prediction
that the nighttime sky would be as bright as the Sun itself; this became known as Olbers'
paradox in the 19th century.[155] Newton believed that an infinite space uniformly filled with matter
would cause infinite forces and instabilities causing the matter to be crushed inwards under its
own gravity.[152] This instability was clarified in 1902 by the Jeans instability criterion.[156] One
solution to these paradoxes is the Charlier Universe, in which the matter is arranged
hierarchically (systems of orbiting bodies that are themselves orbiting in a larger system, ad
infinitum) in a fractal way such that the Universe has a negligibly small overall density; such a
cosmological model had also been proposed earlier in 1761 by Johann Heinrich Lambert.[53][157]A
significant astronomical advance of the 18th century was the realization by Thomas
Wright, Immanuel Kant and others of nebulae.[153]
The modern era of physical cosmology began in 1917, when Albert Einstein first applied
his general theory of relativity to model the structure and dynamics of the Universe. [158]

Galaxy formation and evolution


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The study of galaxy formation and evolution is concerned with the processes that formed
a heterogeneous universe from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the
way galaxies change over time, and the processes that have generated the variety of structures
observed in nearby galaxies.
Galaxy formation is hypothesized to occur, from structure formation theories, as a result of
tiny quantum fluctuations in the aftermath of the Big Bang. The simplest model for this that is in
general agreement with observed phenomena is the -Cold Dark Matter cosmology; that is to say
that clustering and merging is how galaxies gain in mass, and can also determine their shape and
structure.

Contents
[hide]

1Commonly observed properties of galaxies

2Formation of disk galaxies


o

2.1Top-down theories

2.2Bottom-up theories

3Galaxy mergers and the formation of elliptical galaxies

4Galaxy quenching

5Gallery

6See also

7Further reading

8References

9External links

Commonly observed properties of galaxies[edit]

Hubble tuning fork diagram of galaxy morphology


Because of the inability to conduct experiments in outer space, the only way to test theories and
models of galaxy evolution is to compare them with observations. Explanations for how galaxies
formed and evolved must be able to predict the observed properties and types of galaxies.
Edwin Hubble created the first galaxy classification scheme known as the Hubble tuning-fork
diagram. It partitioned galaxies intoellipticals, normal spirals, barred spirals (such as the Milky Way),

and irregulars. These galaxy types exhibit the following properties which can be explained by current
galaxy evolution theories:

Many of the properties of galaxies (including the galaxy colormagnitude diagram) indicate
that there are fundamentally two types of galaxies. These groups divide into blue star-forming
galaxies that are more like spiral types, and red non-star forming galaxies that are more like
elliptical galaxies.

Spiral galaxies are quite thin, dense, and rotate relatively fast, while the stars in elliptical
galaxies have randomly-oriented orbits.

The majority of mass in galaxies is made up of dark matter, a substance which is not directly
observable, and might not interact through any means except gravity.

The majority of giant galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their centers, ranging in
mass from millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun. The black hole mass is tied to the
host galaxy bulge or spheroid mass.

Metallicity has a positive correlation with the absolute magnitude (luminosity) of a galaxy.

Hubble thought incorrectly that the tuning fork diagram described an evolutionary sequence for
galaxies, from elliptical galaxies throughlenticulars to spiral galaxies. However, astronomers now
believe that disk galaxies likely formed first, then evolved into elliptical galaxies through galaxy
mergers.

Formation of disk galaxies[edit]


The earliest stage in the evolution of galaxies is the formation. When a galaxy forms, it has a disk
shape and is called a spiral galaxy due to spiral-like "arm" structures located on the disk. There are
different theories on how these disk-like distributions of stars develop from a cloud of matter, and at
this point, one cannot say which is "right" because no current theory exactly predicts everything
correctly as compared to what we observe.

Top-down theories[edit]
Olin Eggen, Donald Lynden-Bell, and Allan Sandage[1] in 1962, proposed a theory that disk galaxies
form through a monolithic collapse of a large gas cloud. The distribution of matter in the early
universe was in clumps that consisted mostly of dark matter. These clumps interacted gravitationally,
putting tidal torques on each other that acted to give them some angular momentum. As the baryonic
matter cooled, it dissipated some energy and contracted toward the center. With angular momentum
conserved, the matter near the center speeds up its rotation. Then, like a spinning ball of pizza
dough, the matter forms into a tight disk. Once the disk cools, the gas is not gravitationally stable, so
it cannot remain a singular homogeneous cloud. It breaks, and these smaller clouds of gas form
stars. Since the dark matter does not dissipate as it only interacts gravitationally, it remains
distributed outside the disk in what is known as the dark halo. Observations show that there are
stars located outside the disk, which does not quite fit the "pizza dough" model. It was first proposed
by Leonard Searle and Robert Zinn[2] that galaxies form by the coalescence of smaller progenitors.
Known as a top-down formation scenario, this theory is quite simple yet no longer widely accepted.

Bottom-up theories[edit]
More recent theories include the clustering of dark matter halos in the bottom-up process. Instead of
large gas clouds collapsing to form a galaxy in which the gas breaks up into smaller clouds, it is
proposed that matter started out in these smaller clumps (mass on the order of globular clusters),

and then many of these clumps merged to form galaxies,[3] which then were drawn by gravitation to
form galaxy clusters. This still results in disk-like distributions of baryonic matter with dark matter
forming the halo for all the same reasons as in the top-down theory. Models using this sort of
process predict more small galaxies than large ones, which matches observations.
Astronomers do not currently know what process stops the contraction. In fact, theories of disk
galaxy formation are not successful at producing the rotation speed and size of disk galaxies. It has
been suggested that the radiation from bright newly formed stars, or from an active galactic
nuclei can slow the contraction of a forming disk. It has also been suggested that the dark
matter halo can pull the galaxy, thus stopping disk contraction.[4]
The Lambda-CDM model is a cosmological model that explains the formation of the universe after
the Big Bang. It is a relatively simple model that predicts many properties observed in the universe,
including the relative frequency of different galaxy types; however, it underestimates the number of
thin disk galaxies in the universe.[5] The reason is that these galaxy formation models predict a large
number of mergers. If disk galaxies merge with another galaxy of comparable mass (at least 15
percent of its mass) the merger will likely destroy, or at a minimum greatly disrupt the disk, and the
resulting galaxy is not expected to be a disk galaxy (see next section). While this remains an
unsolved problem for astronomers, it does not necessarily mean that the Lambda-CDM model is
completely wrong, but rather that it requires further refinement to accurately reproduce the
population of galaxies in the universe.

Galaxy mergers and the formation of elliptical galaxies [edit]

Artist image of a firestorm of star birth deep inside core of young, growing elliptical galaxy

NGC 4676 (Mice Galaxies) is an example of a present merger

Antennae Galaxies are a pair of colliding galaxies - the bright, blue knots are young stars
that have recently ignited as a result of the merger

ESO 325-G004, a typical elliptical galaxy


Main article: Galaxy merger
Elliptical galaxies are among some of the largest known (IC 1101) thus far. Their stars are on orbits
that are randomly oriented within the galaxy (i.e. they are not rotating like disk galaxies). A
distinguishing feature of elliptical galaxies is that the velocity of the stars does not necessarily
contribute to flattening of the galaxy, such as in spiral galaxies.[6] Based on current observations, it
can be seen that elliptical galaxies have supermassive black holes at their center, and the mass of
these black holes correlates with the galaxys mass.
Elliptical galaxies have two main stages of evolution. The first is due to the supermassive black hole
increasing in size from accreting cooling gas. The second stage of the elliptical galaxy can be
marked by the black hole stabilizing by suppressing gas cooling, thus leaving the elliptical galaxy in
a stable state.[7]The mass of the black hole is also correlated to a property called sigma which is the
dispersion of the velocities of stars in the elliptical galaxies. This relationship, known as the M-sigma
relation, was discovered in 2000.[8] Elliptical galaxies do not have disks around them, although
some bulges of disk galaxies look similar to elliptical galaxies.One is more likely to find elliptical
galaxies in more crowded regions of the universe (such as galaxy clusters).
Astronomers now see elliptical galaxies as some of the most evolved systems in the universe. It is
widely accepted that the main driving force for the evolution of elliptical galaxies is mergers of
smaller galaxies. Many galaxies in the universe are gravitationally bound to other galaxies, which
means that they will never escape the pull of the other galaxy. If the galaxies are of similar size, the
resultant galaxy will appear similar to neither of the two galaxies merging, [9] but will instead be an
elliptical galaxy. It is important to note that there are many types of galaxy mergers, which do not
necessarily result in elliptical galaxies, but result in a change in the structure of the mergers. For
example, a minor merger event is thought to be occurring between the Milky Way and the Magellanic
Clouds.
The merging between such large galaxies is regarded as violent, but because of the vast distances
between stars, there are essentially no stellar collisions involved in a collision between two galaxies.
However, the frictional interaction of the gas between the two galaxies can cause gravitational shock
waves, which are capable of forming new stars as the elliptical galaxy forms. [10] By sequencing
several images of different galactic collisions, one can observe the timeline of two spiral galaxies
merging into a single elliptical galaxy.[11]

In the Local Group, the Milky Way and M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) are gravitationally bound, and
currently approaching each other at high speed. From simulations, it can be seen that the Milky Way
and Andromeda are on a collision course and are expected to collide in less than five billion years.
During this collision, it is expected that the Sun and the rest of the Solar System will be ejected from
its current path around the Milky Way. After the collision takes place, the merging of these two
galaxies would cause a giant elliptical galaxy to form. [12]
While scientists have learned a great deal about The Milky Way and other galaxies, the most
fundamental questions about formation and evolution remain only tentatively answered.

Galaxy quenching[edit]

Star formation in what are now "dead" galaxies sputtered out billions of years ago. [13]
One observation (see above) that must be explained by a successful theory of galaxy evolution is
the existence of two different populations of galaxies on the galaxy color-magnitude diagram. Most
galaxies tend to fall into two separate locations on this diagram: a "red sequence" and a "blue cloud."
Red sequence galaxies are generally non-star-forming elliptical galaxies with little gas and dust,
while blue cloud galaxies tend to be dusty star-forming spiral galaxies. [14][15]
As described in previous sections, galaxies tend to evolve from spiral to elliptical structure via
mergers. However, the current rate of galaxy mergers does not explain how all galaxies move from
the "blue cloud" to the "red sequence." It also does not explain how star formation ceases in
galaxies. Theories of galaxy evolution must therefore be able to explain how star formation turns off
in galaxies. This phenomenon is called galaxy "quenching".[16]
Stars form out of cold gas (see also the Kennicutt-Schmidt law), so a galaxy is quenched when it has
no more cold gas. However, it is thought that quenching occurs relatively quickly (within 1 billion
years), which is much longer than the time it would take for a galaxy to simply use up its reservoir of
cold gas.[17][18] Galaxy evolution models explain this by hypothesizing other physical mechanisms that
remove or shut off the supply of cold gas in a galaxy. These mechanisms can be broadly classified
into two categories: (1) preventive feedback mechanisms that stop cold gas from entering a galaxy
or stop it from producing stars, and (2) ejective feedback mechanisms that remove gas so that it
cannot form stars.[19]
One theorized preventive mechanism called strangulation keeps cold gas from entering the galaxy.
Strangulation is likely the main mechanism for quenching star formation in nearby low-mass
galaxies.[20] The exact physical explanation for strangulation is still unknown, but it may have to do
with a galaxys interactions with other galaxies. As a galaxy falls into a galaxy cluster, gravitational
interactions with other galaxies can strangle it by preventing it from accreting more gas. [21] For
galaxies with massive dark matter halos, another preventive mechanism called virial shock heating
may also prevent gas from becoming cool enough to form stars.[18]
Ejective processes, which expel cold gas from galaxies, may explain how more massive galaxies are
quenched.[22] One ejective mechanism is caused by supermassive black holes found in the centers
of galaxies. Simulations have shown that gas accreting onto supermassive black holes in galactic

centers produces high-energy jets; the released energy can expel enough cold gas to quench star
formation.[23]
Our own Milky Way and the nearby Andromeda Galaxy currently appear to be undergoing the
quenching transition from star-forming blue galaxies to passive red galaxies. [24]This may offer us a
unique opportunity to observe star formation quenching up close, and to better understand this
important stage in galaxy evolution.

Gallery[edit]

NGC 3610 shows some structure in the form of a bright disc implies that it formed only
[25]
a short time ago.

NGC 891, a very thin disk galaxy

An image of Messier 101, a prototypical spiral galaxy seen face-on

A spiral galaxy, ESO 510-G13, was warped as a result of colliding with another galaxy.
After the other galaxy is completely absorbed, the distortion will disappear. The process
typically takes millions if not billions of years.

Formation and evolution of the Solar System


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Artist's conception of a protoplanetary disk


The formation of the Solar System began 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a
small part of a giantmolecular cloud.[1] Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming
the Sun, while the rest flattened into aprotoplanetary disk out of which the planets, moons, asteroids,
and other small Solar System bodies formed.
This model, known as the nebular hypothesis, was first developed in the 18th century by Emanuel
Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Its subsequent development has
interwoven a variety of scientific disciplines includingastronomy, physics, geology, and planetary
science. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s and the discovery ofextrasolar planets in the
1990s, the model has been both challenged and refined to account for new observations.
The Solar System has evolved considerably since its initial formation. Many moons have formed
from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while other moons are thought to
have formed independently and later been captured by their planets. Still others, such as
Earth's Moon, may be the result of giant collisions. Collisions between bodies have occurred
continually up to the present day and have been central to the evolution of the Solar System. The
positions of the planets often shifted due to gravitational interactions. [2] Thisplanetary migration is
now thought to have been responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.
In roughly 5 billion years, the Sun will cool and expand outward many times its current diameter
(becoming a red giant), before casting off its outer layers as a planetary nebulaand leaving behind a
stellar remnant known as a white dwarf. In the far distant future, the gravity of passing stars will
gradually reduce the Sun's retinue of planets. Some planets will be destroyed, others ejected
into interstellar space. Ultimately, over the course of tens of billions of years, it is likely that the Sun
will be left with none of the original bodies in orbit around it.[3]

Contents
[hide]

1History

2Formation
o

2.1Pre-solar nebula

2.2Formation of the planets

3Subsequent evolution
o

3.1Terrestrial planets

3.2Asteroid belt

3.3Planetary migration

3.4Late Heavy Bombardment and after

4Moons

5Future
o

5.1Long-term stability

5.2Moonring systems

5.3The Sun and planetary environments

6Galactic interaction
o

6.1Galactic collision and planetary disruption


7Chronology

7.1Timeline of Solar System evolution

8See also

9Notes

10References

11Bibliography

12External links

History[edit]
Main article: History of Solar System formation and evolution hypotheses

Pierre-Simon Laplace, one of the originators of the nebular hypothesis


Ideas concerning the origin and fate of the world date from the earliest known writings; however, for
almost all of that time, there was no attempt to link such theories to the existence of a "Solar
System", simply because it was not generally thought that the Solar System, in the sense we now
understand it, existed. The first step toward a theory of Solar System formation and evolution was
the general acceptance of heliocentrism, which placed the Sun at the centre of the system and
the Earth in orbit around it. This conception had gestated for millennia (Aristarchus of Samos had
suggested it as early as 250 BC), but was not widely accepted until the end of the 17th century. The
first recorded use of the term "Solar System" dates from 1704. [4]
The current standard theory for Solar System formation, the nebular hypothesis, has fallen into and
out of favour since its formulation by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon
Laplace in the 18th century. The most significant criticism of the hypothesis was its apparent inability
to explain the Sun's relative lack of angular momentum when compared to the planets.[5] However,
since the early 1980s studies of young stars have shown them to be surrounded by cool discs of
dust and gas, exactly as the nebular hypothesis predicts, which has led to its re-acceptance. [6]
Understanding of how the Sun will continue to evolve required an understanding of the source of its
power. Arthur Stanley Eddington's confirmation ofAlbert Einstein's theory of relativity led to his
realisation that the Sun's energy comes from nuclear fusion reactions in its core, fusing hydrogen
into helium.[7] In 1935, Eddington went further and suggested that other elements also might form
within stars.[8] Fred Hoyle elaborated on this premise by arguing that evolved stars called red
giants created many elements heavier than hydrogen and helium in their cores. When a red giant
finally casts off its outer layers, these elements would then be recycled to form other star systems. [8]

Formation[edit]
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Earliest quasar

Omega Centauri forms

Andromeda Galaxy forms

Milky Way Galaxy


spiral arms form

NGC 188 star cluster forms

Alpha Centauri forms

Earliest Earth
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Earliest oxygen

Atmospheric oxygen

Earliest sexual reproduction

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Earliest humans

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See also: Nebular hypothesis

Pre-solar nebula[edit]
The nebular hypothesis maintains that the Solar System formed from the gravitational collapse of a
fragment of a giantmolecular cloud.[9] The cloud itself had a size of about 20 parsec (65 light years),
[9]
while the fragments were roughly 1 parsec (three and a quarter light-years) across.[10] The further

collapse of the fragments led to the formation of dense cores 0.010.1 pc (2,00020,000 AU) in size.
[note 1][9][11]
One of these collapsing fragments (known as the pre-solar nebula) would form what
became the Solar System.[12] The composition of this region with a mass just over that of the Sun
(M) was about the same as that of the Sun today, with hydrogen, along with helium and trace
amounts of lithium produced by Big Bang nucleosynthesis, forming about 98% of its mass. The
remaining 2% of the mass consisted of heavier elements that were created by nucleosynthesis in
earlier generations of stars.[13] Late in the life of these stars, they ejected heavier elements into
the interstellar medium.[14]

Hubble image of protoplanetary discs in the Orion Nebula, a light-years-wide "stellar


nursery" probably very similar to the primordial nebula from which the Sun formed
The oldest inclusions found in meteorites, thought to trace the first solid material to form in the presolar nebula, are 4568.2 million years old, which is one definition of the age of the Solar System.
[1]
Studies of ancient meteorites reveal traces of stable daughter nuclei of short-lived isotopes, such
as iron-60, that only form in exploding, short-lived stars. This indicates that one or
more supernovae occurred near the Sun while it was forming. Ashock wave from a supernova may
have triggered the formation of the Sun by creating regions of over-density within the cloud, causing
these regions to collapse.[15] Because only massive, short-lived stars produce supernovae, the Sun
must have formed in a large star-forming region that produced massive stars, possibly similar to
the Orion Nebula.[16][17] Studies of the structure of the Kuiper belt and of anomalous materials within it
suggest that the Sun formed within a cluster of between 1,000 and 10,000 stars with a diameter of
between 6.5 and 19.5 light-years and a collective mass of 3,000 M. This cluster began to break
apart between 135 million and 535 million years after formation. [18][19] Several simulations of our
young Sun interacting with close-passing stars over the first 100 million years of its life produce
anomalous orbits observed in the outer Solar System, such as detached objects.[20]
Because of the conservation of angular momentum, the nebula spun faster as it collapsed. As the
material within the nebula condensed, the atoms within it began to collide with increasing frequency,
converting their kinetic energy into heat. The centre, where most of the mass collected, became
increasingly hotter than the surrounding disc.[10] Over about 100,000 years,[9] the competing forces of
gravity, gas pressure, magnetic fields, and rotation caused the contracting nebula to flatten into a
spinning protoplanetary discwith a diameter of ~200 AU[10] and form a hot, dense protostar (a star in
which hydrogen fusion has not yet begun) at the centre. [21]
At this point in its evolution, the Sun is thought to have been a T Tauri star.[22] Studies of T Tauri stars
show that they are often accompanied by discs of pre-planetary matter with masses of 0.001
0.1 M.[23] These discs extend to several hundred AUthe Hubble Space Telescope has observed
protoplanetary discs of up to 1000 AU in diameter in star-forming regions such as the Orion
Nebula[24]and are rather cool, reaching a surface temperature of only one thousand kelvin at their
hottest.[25] Within 50 million years, the temperature and pressure at the core of the Sun became so
great that its hydrogen began to fuse, creating an internal source of energy that countered
gravitational contraction until hydrostatic equilibrium was achieved.[26] This marked the Sun's entry
into the prime phase of its life, known as the main sequence. Main-sequence stars derive energy

from the fusion of hydrogen into helium in their cores. The Sun remains a main-sequence star today.
[27]

Formation of the planets[edit]


See also: Protoplanetary disk

Artist's conception of the solar nebula


The various planets are thought to have formed from the solar nebula, the disc-shaped cloud of gas
and dust left over from the Sun's formation.[28] The currently accepted method by which the planets
formed is accretion, in which the planets began as dust grains in orbit around the central protostar.
Through direct contact, these grains formed into clumps up to 200 metres in diameter, which in turn
collided to form larger bodies (planetesimals) of ~10 kilometres (km) in size.[29] These gradually
increased through further collisions, growing at the rate of centimetres per year over the course of
the next few million years.[29]
The inner Solar System, the region of the Solar System inside 4 AU, was too warm for volatile
molecules like water and methane to condense, so the planetesimals that formed there could only
form from compounds with high melting points, such as metals (like iron, nickel, and aluminium) and
rocky silicates. These rocky bodies would become the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth,
and Mars). These compounds are quite rare in the Universe, comprising only 0.6% of the mass of
the nebula, so the terrestrial planets could not grow very large. [10] The terrestrial embryos grew to
about 0.05 Earth masses (M) and ceased accumulating matter about 100,000 years after the
formation of the Sun; subsequent collisions and mergers between these planet-sized bodies allowed
terrestrial planets to grow to their present sizes (see Terrestrial planetsbelow).[30]
When the terrestrial planets were forming, they remained immersed in a disk of gas and dust. The
gas was partially supported by pressure and so did not orbit the Sun as rapidly as the planets. The
resulting drag caused a transfer of angular momentum, and as a result the planets gradually
migrated to new orbits. Models show that density and temperature variations in the disk governed
this rate of migration,[31] but the net trend was for the inner planets to migrate inward as the disk
dissipated, leaving the planets in their current orbits.[32]
The giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed further out, beyond the frost line,
the point between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter where the material is cool enough for volatile icy
compounds to remain solid. The ices that formed the Jovian planets were more abundant than the
metals and silicates that formed the terrestrial planets, allowing the giant planets to grow massive
enough to capture hydrogen and helium, the lightest and most abundant elements.[10] Planetesimals
beyond the frost line accumulated up to 4 M within about 3 million years.[30] Today, the four giant
planets comprise just under 99% of all the mass orbiting the Sun.[note 2] Theorists believe it is no
accident that Jupiter lies just beyond the frost line. Because the frost line accumulated large
amounts of water via evaporation from infalling icy material, it created a region of lower pressure that
increased the speed of orbiting dust particles and halted their motion toward the Sun. In effect, the
frost line acted as a barrier that caused material to accumulate rapidly at ~5 AU from the Sun. This
excess material coalesced into a large embryo (or core) on the order of 10 M, which began to
accumulate an envelope via accretion of gas from the surrounding disc at an ever increasing rate. [33]

[34]

Once the envelope mass became about equal to the solid core mass, growth proceeded very
rapidly, reaching about 150 Earth masses ~105 years thereafter and finally topping out at 318 M.
[35]
Saturn may owe its substantially lower mass simply to having formed a few million years after
Jupiter, when there was less gas available to consume.[30][36]
T Tauri stars like the young Sun have far stronger stellar winds than more stable, older stars. Uranus
and Neptune are thought to have formed after Jupiter and Saturn did, when the strong solar
wind had blown away much of the disc material. As a result, the planets accumulated little hydrogen
and heliumnot more than 1 M each. Uranus and Neptune are sometimes referred to as failed
cores.[37] The main problem with formation theories for these planets is the timescale of their
formation. At the current locations it would have taken a hundred million years for their cores to
accrete. This means that Uranus and Neptune probably formed closer to the Sunnear or even
between Jupiter and Saturnand later migrated or were ejected outward (see Planetary
migration below).[37][38] Motion in the planetesimal era was not all inward toward the Sun;
the Stardust sample return fromComet Wild 2 has suggested that materials from the early formation
of the Solar System migrated from the warmer inner Solar System to the region of the Kuiper belt. [39]
After between three and ten million years,[30] the young Sun's solar wind would have cleared away all
the gas and dust in the protoplanetary disc, blowing it into interstellar space, thus ending the growth
of the planets.[40][41]

Subsequent evolution[edit]

Artist's conception of the giant impact thought to have formed theMoon


The planets were originally thought to have formed in or near their current orbits. However, this view
underwent radical change during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Currently, it is thought that
the Solar System looked very different after its initial formation: several objects at least as massive
as Mercury were present in the inner Solar System, the outer Solar System was much more
compact than it is now, and the Kuiper belt was much closer to the Sun.[42]

Terrestrial planets[edit]
At the end of the planetary formation epoch the inner Solar System was populated by 50100 Moonto Mars-sized planetary embryos.[43][44]Further growth was possible only because these bodies
collided and merged, which took less than 100 million years. These objects would have
gravitationally interacted with one another, tugging at each other's orbits until they collided, growing
larger until the four terrestrial planets we know today took shape. [30] One such giant collision is
thought to have formed the Moon (see Moons below), while another removed the outer envelope of
the young Mercury.[45]
One unresolved issue with this model is that it cannot explain how the initial orbits of the prototerrestrial planets, which would have needed to be highly eccentric to collide, produced the
remarkably stable and nearly circular orbits they have today.[43] One hypothesis for this "eccentricity
dumping" is that the terrestrials formed in a disc of gas still not expelled by the Sun. The

"gravitational drag" of this residual gas would have eventually lowered the planets' energy,
smoothing out their orbits.[44] However, such gas, if it existed, would have prevented the terrestrial
planets' orbits from becoming so eccentric in the first place.[30] Another hypothesis is that
gravitational drag occurred not between the planets and residual gas but between the planets and
the remaining small bodies. As the large bodies moved through the crowd of smaller objects, the
smaller objects, attracted by the larger planets' gravity, formed a region of higher density, a
"gravitational wake", in the larger objects' path. As they did so, the increased gravity of the wake
slowed the larger objects down into more regular orbits.[46]

Asteroid belt[edit]
The outer edge of the terrestrial region, between 2 and 4 AU from the Sun, is called the asteroid belt.
The asteroid belt initially contained more than enough matter to form 23 Earth-like planets, and,
indeed, a large number of planetesimals formed there. As with the terrestrials, planetesimals in this
region later coalesced and formed 2030 Moon- to Mars-sized planetary embryos;[47] however, the
proximity of Jupiter meant that after this planet formed, 3 million years after the Sun, the region's
history changed dramatically.[43]Orbital resonances with Jupiter and Saturn are particularly strong in
the asteroid belt, and gravitational interactions with more massive embryos scattered many
planetesimals into those resonances. Jupiter's gravity increased the velocity of objects within these
resonances, causing them to shatter upon collision with other bodies, rather than accrete. [48]
As Jupiter migrated inward following its formation (see Planetary migration below), resonances
would have swept across the asteroid belt, dynamically exciting the region's population and
increasing their velocities relative to each other.[49] The cumulative action of the resonances and the
embryos either scattered the planetesimals away from the asteroid belt or excited their orbital
inclinations and eccentricities.[47][50] Some of those massive embryos too were ejected by Jupiter,
while others may have migrated to the inner Solar System and played a role in the final accretion of
the terrestrial planets.[47][51][52] During this primary depletion period, the effects of the giant planets and
planetary embryos left the asteroid belt with a total mass equivalent to less than 1% that of the
Earth, composed mainly of small planetesimals.[50] This is still 1020 times more than the current
mass in the main belt, which is now about 1/2,000 M.[53] A secondary depletion period that brought
the asteroid belt down close to its present mass is thought to have followed when Jupiter and Saturn
entered a temporary 2:1 orbital resonance (see below).
The inner Solar System's period of giant impacts probably played a role in the Earth acquiring its
current water content (~61021 kg) from the early asteroid belt. Water is too volatile to have been
present at Earth's formation and must have been subsequently delivered from outer, colder parts of
the Solar System.[54] The water was probably delivered by planetary embryos and small
planetesimals thrown out of the asteroid belt by Jupiter.[51] A population of main-belt
comets discovered in 2006 has been also suggested as a possible source for Earth's water.[54][55] In
contrast, comets from the Kuiper belt or farther regions delivered not more than about 6% of Earth's
water.[2][56] The panspermiahypothesis holds that life itself may have been deposited on Earth in this
way, although this idea is not widely accepted.[57]

Planetary migration[edit]
Main articles: Nice model and Grand Tack Hypothesis
According to the nebular hypothesis, the outer two planets are in the "wrong
place". Uranus and Neptune (known as the "ice giants") exist in a region where the reduced density
of the solar nebula and longer orbital times render their formation highly implausible. [58] The two are
instead thought to have formed in orbits near Jupiter and Saturn, where more material was available,
and to have migrated outward to their current positions over hundreds of millions of years. [37]

Simulation showing outer planets and Kuiper belt: a) Before Jupiter/Saturn 2:1 resonance b)
Scattering of Kuiper belt objects into the Solar System after the orbital shift of Neptune c)
After ejection of Kuiper belt bodies by Jupiter [2]
The migration of the outer planets is also necessary to account for the existence and properties of
the Solar System's outermost regions.[38] Beyond Neptune, the Solar System continues into
the Kuiper belt, thescattered disc, and the Oort cloud, three sparse populations of small icy bodies
thought to be the points of origin for most observed comets. At their distance from the Sun, accretion
was too slow to allow planets to form before the solar nebula dispersed, and thus the initial disc
lacked enough mass density to consolidate into a planet. [58] The Kuiper belt lies between 30 and
55 AU from the Sun, while the farther scattered disc extends to over 100 AU,[38] and the distant Oort
cloud begins at about 50,000 AU.[59] Originally, however, the Kuiper belt was much denser and closer
to the Sun, with an outer edge at approximately 30 AU. Its inner edge would have been just beyond
the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, which were in turn far closer to the Sun when they formed (most
likely in the range of 1520 AU), and in opposite locations, with Uranus farther from the Sun than
Neptune.[2][38]
According to the so-called Nice model, after the formation of the Solar System, the orbits of all the
giant planets continued to change slowly, influenced by their interaction with the large number of
remaining planetesimals. After 500600 million years (about 4 billion years ago) Jupiter and Saturn
fell into a 2:1 resonance: Saturn orbited the Sun once for every two Jupiter orbits. [38] This resonance
created a gravitational push against the outer planets, causing Neptune to surge past Uranus and
plough into the ancient Kuiper belt. The planets scattered the majority of the small icy bodies
inwards, while themselves moving outwards. These planetesimals then scattered off the next planet
they encountered in a similar manner, moving the planets' orbits outwards while they moved
inwards.[38] This process continued until the planetesimals interacted with Jupiter, whose immense
gravity sent them into highly elliptical orbits or even ejected them outright from the Solar System.
This caused Jupiter to move slightly inward.[note 3] Those objects scattered by Jupiter into highly
elliptical orbits formed the Oort cloud;[38] those objects scattered to a lesser degree by the migrating
Neptune formed the current Kuiper belt and scattered disc.[38] This scenario explains the Kuiper belt's
and scattered disc's present low mass. Some of the scattered objects, including Pluto, became
gravitationally tied to Neptune's orbit, forcing them into mean-motion resonances.[60] Eventually,
friction within the planetesimal disc made the orbits of Uranus and Neptune circular again. [38][61]
In contrast to the outer planets, the inner planets are not thought to have migrated significantly over
the age of the Solar System, because their orbits have remained stable following the period of giant
impacts.[30]
Another question is why Mars came out so small compared with Earth. A study by Southwest
Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, published June 6, 2011 (called the Grand Tack Hypothesis),
proposes that Jupiter had migrated inward to 1.5 AU. After Saturn formed, migrated inward, and
established the 2:3 mean motion resonance with Jupiter, the study assumes that both planets
migrated back to their present positions. Jupiter thus would have consumed much of the material
that would have created a bigger Mars. The same simulations also reproduce the characteristics of
the modern asteroid belt, with dry asteroids and water-rich objects similar to comets. [62][63] However, it

is unclear whether conditions in the solar nebula would have allowed Jupiter and Saturn to move
back to their current positions, and according to current estimates this possibility appears unlikely.
[64]
Moreover, alternative explanations for the small mass of Mars exist. [65][66][67]

Late Heavy Bombardment and after[edit]


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Earliest oxygen

Atmospheric oxygen

Oxygen Crisis

Earliest sexual reproduction

Earliest land life

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Main article: Late Heavy Bombardment

Meteor Crater in Arizona. Created 50,000 years ago by an impactor only 50 metres (160 ft)
across, it shows that the accretion of the Solar System is not over.
Gravitational disruption from the outer planets' migration would have sent large numbers of asteroids
into the inner Solar System, severely depleting the original belt until it reached today's extremely low
mass.[50] This event may have triggered the Late Heavy Bombardment that occurred approximately
4 billion years ago, 500600 million years after the formation of the Solar System. [2][68] This period of
heavy bombardment lasted several hundred million years and is evident in the cratering still visible
on geologically dead bodies of the inner Solar System such as the Moon and Mercury.[2][69]The oldest
known evidence for life on Earth dates to 3.8 billion years agoalmost immediately after the end of
the Late Heavy Bombardment.[70]
Impacts are thought to be a regular (if currently infrequent) part of the evolution of the Solar System.
That they continue to happen is evidenced by the collision of Comet ShoemakerLevy
9 with Jupiter in 1994, the 2009 Jupiter impact event, the Tunguska event, the Chelyabinsk
meteor and the impact feature Meteor Crater in Arizona. The process of accretion, therefore, is not
complete, and may still pose a threat to life on Earth.[71][72]
Over the course of the Solar System's evolution, comets were ejected out of the inner Solar System
by the gravity of the giant planets, and sent thousands of AU outward to form the Oort cloud, a
spherical outer swarm of cometary nuclei at the farthest extent of the Sun's gravitational pull.
Eventually, after about 800 million years, the gravitational disruption caused by galactic tides,
passing stars and giant molecular clouds began to deplete the cloud, sending comets into the inner
Solar System.[73] The evolution of the outer Solar System also appears to have been influenced
by space weathering from the solar wind, micrometeorites, and the neutral components of
the interstellar medium.[74]
The evolution of the asteroid belt after Late Heavy Bombardment was mainly governed by collisions.
[75]
Objects with large mass have enough gravity to retain any material ejected by a violent collision.
In the asteroid belt this usually is not the case. As a result, many larger objects have been broken
apart, and sometimes newer objects have been forged from the remnants in less violent collisions.
[75]
Moons around some asteroids currently can only be explained as consolidations of material flung
away from the parent object without enough energy to entirely escape its gravity.[76]

Moons[edit]
See also: Giant impact hypothesis
Moons have come to exist around most planets and many other Solar System bodies. These natural
satellites originated by one of three possible mechanisms:

Co-formation from a circum-planetary disc (only in the cases of the giant planets);

Formation from impact debris (given a large enough impact at a shallow angle); and

Capture of a passing object.

Jupiter and Saturn have several large moons, such as Io, Europa, Ganymede and Titan, which may
have originated from discs around each giant planet in much the same way that the planets formed
from the disc around the Sun.[77][78][79] This origin is indicated by the large sizes of the moons and their
proximity to the planet. These attributes are impossible to achieve via capture, while the gaseous
nature of the primaries also make formation from collision debris unlikely. The outer moons of the
giant planets tend to be small and have eccentric orbits with arbitrary inclinations. These are the
characteristics expected of captured bodies.[80][81] Most such moons orbit in the direction opposite the
rotation of their primary. The largest irregular moon is Neptune's moon Triton, which is thought to be
a captured Kuiper belt object.[72]
Moons of solid Solar System bodies have been created by both collisions and capture. Mars's two
small moons, Deimos and Phobos, are thought to be captured asteroids.[82]The Earth's Moon is
thought to have formed as a result of a single, large oblique collision. [83][84] The impacting object
probably had a mass comparable to that of Mars, and the impact probably occurred near the end of
the period of giant impacts. The collision kicked into orbit some of the impactor's mantle, which then
coalesced into the Moon.[83] The impact was probably the last in the series of mergers that formed
the Earth. It has been further hypothesized that the Mars-sized object may have formed at one of the
stable EarthSun Lagrangian points (either L4 or L5) and drifted from its position.[85] The moons
of trans-Neptunian objects Pluto (Charon) and Orcus (Vanth) may also have formed by means of a
large collision: the PlutoCharon, OrcusVanth and EarthMoon systems are unusual in the Solar
System in that the satellite's mass is at least 1% that of the larger body.[86][87]

Future[edit]
Astronomers estimate that the Solar System as we know it today will not change drastically until the
Sun has fused almost all the hydrogen fuel in its core into helium, beginningits evolution from
the main sequence of the HertzsprungRussell diagram and into its red-giant phase. Even so, the
Solar System will continue to evolve until then.

Long-term stability[edit]
Main article: Stability of the Solar System
The Solar System is chaotic over million- and billion-year timescales,[88] with the orbits of the planets
open to long-term variations. One notable example of this chaos is the NeptunePluto system, which
lies in a 3:2 orbital resonance. Although the resonance itself will remain stable, it becomes
impossible to predict the position of Pluto with any degree of accuracy more than 1020 million
years (the Lyapunov time) into the future.[89] Another example is Earth's axial tilt, which, due to
friction raised within Earth's mantle by tidal interactions with the Moon (see below), will be
incomputable at some point between 1.5 and 4.5 billion years from now.[90]
The outer planets' orbits are chaotic over longer timescales, with a Lyapunov time in the range of 2
230 million years.[91] In all cases this means that the position of a planet along its orbit ultimately
becomes impossible to predict with any certainty (so, for example, the timing of winter and summer
become uncertain), but in some cases the orbits themselves may change dramatically. Such chaos
manifests most strongly as changes in eccentricity, with some planets' orbits becoming significantly
moreor lesselliptical.[92]
Ultimately, the Solar System is stable in that none of the planets are likely to collide with each other
or be ejected from the system in the next few billion years.[91] Beyond this, within five billion years or
so Mars's eccentricity may grow to around 0.2, such that it lies on an Earth-crossing orbit, leading to
a potential collision. In the same timescale, Mercury's eccentricity may grow even further, and a
close encounter with Venus could theoretically eject it from the Solar System altogether [88] or send it
on a collision course withVenus or Earth.[93] This could happen within a billion years, according to
numerical simulations in which Mercury's orbit is perturbed.[94]

Moonring systems[edit]
The evolution of moon systems is driven by tidal forces. A moon will raise a tidal bulge in the object it
orbits (the primary) due to the differential gravitational force across diameter of the primary. If a
moon is revolving in the same direction as the planet's rotation and the planet is rotating faster than
the orbital period of the moon, the bulge will constantly be pulled ahead of the moon. In this
situation, angular momentum is transferred from the rotation of the primary to the revolution of the
satellite. The moon gains energy and gradually spirals outward, while the primary rotates more
slowly over time.
The Earth and its Moon are one example of this configuration. Today, the Moon is tidally locked to
the Earth; one of its revolutions around the Earth (currently about 29 days) is equal to one of its
rotations about its axis, so it always shows one face to the Earth. The Moon will continue to recede
from Earth, and Earth's spin will continue to slow gradually. In about 50 billion years, if they
survive the Sun's expansion, the Earth and Moon will become tidally locked to each other; each will
be caught up in what is called a "spinorbit resonance" in which the Moon will circle the Earth in
about 47 days and both Moon and Earth will rotate around their axes in the same time, each only
visible from one hemisphere of the other.[95][96] Other examples are the Galilean moons of Jupiter (as
well as many of Jupiter's smaller moons)[97] and most of the larger moons of Saturn.[98]

Neptune and its moon Triton, taken by Voyager 2. Triton's orbit will eventually take it within
Neptune'sRoche limit, tearing it apart and possibly forming a new ring system.
A different scenario occurs when the moon is either revolving around the primary faster than the
primary rotates, or is revolving in the direction opposite the planet's rotation. In these cases, the tidal
bulge lags behind the moon in its orbit. In the former case, the direction of angular momentum
transfer is reversed, so the rotation of the primary speeds up while the satellite's orbit shrinks. In the
latter case, the angular momentum of the rotation and revolution have opposite signs, so transfer
leads to decreases in the magnitude of each (that cancel each other out). [note 4] In both cases, tidal
deceleration causes the moon to spiral in towards the primary until it either is torn apart by tidal
stresses, potentially creating a planetary ring system, or crashes into the planet's surface or
atmosphere. Such a fate awaits the moons Phobos of Mars (within 30 to 50 million years),
[99]
Triton of Neptune (in 3.6 billion years),[100] Metis and Adrastea of Jupiter,[101] and at least 16 small
satellites of Uranus and Neptune. Uranus's Desdemona may even collide with one of its neighboring
moons.[102]
A third possibility is where the primary and moon are tidally locked to each other. In that case, the
tidal bulge stays directly under the moon, there is no transfer of angular momentum, and the orbital
period will not change. Pluto and Charon are an example of this type of configuration. [103]
Prior to the 2004 arrival of the CassiniHuygens spacecraft, the rings of Saturn were widely thought
to be much younger than the Solar System and were not expected to survive beyond another
300 million years. Gravitational interactions with Saturn's moons were expected to gradually sweep
the rings' outer edge toward the planet, with abrasion by meteorites and Saturn's gravity eventually
taking the rest, leaving Saturn unadorned.[104] However, data from the Cassini mission led scientists

to revise that early view. Observations revealed 10 km-wide icy clumps of material that repeatedly
break apart and reform, keeping the rings fresh. Saturn's rings are far more massive than the rings
of the other giant planets. This large mass is thought to have preserved Saturn's rings since it first
formed 4.5 billion years ago, and is likely to preserve them for billions of years to come. [105]

The Sun and planetary environments[edit]


See also: Stellar evolution and Future of the Earth
In the long term, the greatest changes in the Solar System will come from changes in the Sun itself
as it ages. As the Sun burns through its supply of hydrogen fuel, it gets hotter and burns the
remaining fuel even faster. As a result, the Sun is growing brighter at a rate of ten percent every
1.1 billion years.[106] In one billion years' time, as the Sun's radiation output increases,
its circumstellar habitable zone will move outwards, making the Earth's surface too hot for liquid
water to exist there naturally. At this point, all life on land will become extinct. [107] Evaporation of
water, a potent greenhouse gas, from the oceans' surface could accelerate temperature increase,
potentially ending all life on Earth even sooner.[108] During this time, it is possible that as Mars's
surface temperature gradually rises, carbon dioxide and water currently frozen under the
surface regolith will release into the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect that will heat the
planet until it achieves conditions parallel to Earth today, providing a potential future abode for life.
[109]
By 3.5 billion years from now, Earth's surface conditions will be similar to those of Venus today.[106]

Relative size of the Sun as it is now (inset) compared to its estimated future size as a red
giant
Around 5.4 billion years from now, the core of the Sun will become hot enough to trigger hydrogen
fusion in its surrounding shell.[107] This will cause the outer layers of the star to expand greatly, and
the star will enter a phase of its life in which it is called a red giant.[110][111]Within 7.5 billion years, the
Sun will have expanded to a radius of 1.2 AU256 times its current size. At the tip of the red giant
branch, as a result of the vastly increased surface area, the Sun's surface will be much cooler (about
2600 K) than now and its luminosity much higherup to 2,700 current solar luminosities. For part of
its red giant life, the Sun will have a strong stellar wind that will carry away around 33% of its mass.
[107][112][113]
During these times, it is possible that Saturn's moon Titan could achieve surface
temperatures necessary to support life.[114][115]
As the Sun expands, it will swallow the planets Mercury and Venus.[116] Earth's fate is less clear;
although the Sun will envelop Earth's current orbit, the star's loss of mass (and thus weaker gravity)
will cause the planets' orbits to move farther out.[107] If it were only for this, Venus and Earth would
probably escape incineration,[112] but a 2008 study suggests that Earth will likely be swallowed up as
a result oftidal interactions with the Sun's weakly bound outer envelope.[107]
Gradually, the hydrogen burning in the shell around the solar core will increase the mass of the core
until it reaches about 45% of the present solar mass. At this point the density and temperature will
become so high that the fusion of helium into carbon will begin, leading to a helium flash; the Sun

will shrink from around 250 to 11 times its present (main-sequence) radius. Consequently, its
luminosity will decrease from around 3,000 to 54 times its current level, and its surface temperature
will increase to about 4770 K. The Sun will become a horizontal giant, burning helium in its core in a
stable fashion much like it burns hydrogen today. The helium-fusing stage will last only 100 million
years. Eventually, it will have to again resort to the reserves of hydrogen and helium in its outer
layers and will expand a second time, turning into what is known as an asymptotic giant. Here the
luminosity of the Sun will increase again, reaching about 2,090 present luminosities, and it will cool
to about 3500 K.[107] This phase lasts about 30 million years, after which, over the course of a further
100,000 years, the Sun's remaining outer layers will fall away, ejecting a vast stream of matter into
space and forming a halo known (misleadingly) as a planetary nebula. The ejected material will
contain the helium and carbon produced by the Sun's nuclear reactions, continuing the enrichment
of the interstellar medium with heavy elements for future generations of stars. [117]

The Ring nebula, a planetary nebula similar to what the Sun will become
This is a relatively peaceful event, nothing akin to a supernova, which the Sun is too small to
undergo as part of its evolution. Any observer present to witness this occurrence would see a
massive increase in the speed of the solar wind, but not enough to destroy a planet completely.
However, the star's loss of mass could send the orbits of the surviving planets into chaos, causing
some to collide, others to be ejected from the Solar System, and still others to be torn apart by tidal
interactions.[118] Afterwards, all that will remain of the Sun is a white dwarf, an extraordinarily dense
object, 54% its original mass but only the size of the Earth. Initially, this white dwarf may be
100 times as luminous as the Sun is now. It will consist entirely of degenerate carbon and oxygen,
but will never reach temperatures hot enough to fuse these elements. Thus the white dwarf Sun will
gradually cool, growing dimmer and dimmer.[119]
As the Sun dies, its gravitational pull on the orbiting bodies such as planets, comets and asteroids
will weaken due to its mass loss. All remaining planets' orbits will expand; if Venus, Earth, and Mars
still exist, their orbits will lie roughly at 1.4 AU (210,000,000 km), 1.9 AU(280,000,000 km), and
2.8 AU (420,000,000 km). They and the other remaining planets will become dark, frigid hulks,
completely devoid of any form of life.[112] They will continue to orbit their star, their speed slowed due
to their increased distance from the Sun and the Sun's reduced gravity. Two billion years later, when
the Sun has cooled to the 60008000K range, the carbon and oxygen in the Sun's core will freeze,
with over 90% of its remaining mass assuming a crystalline structure. [120] Eventually, after billions
more years, the Sun will finally cease to shine altogether, becoming a black dwarf.[121]

Galactic interaction[edit]

Location of the Solar System within the Milky Way


The Solar System travels alone through the Milky Way in a circular orbit approximately 30,000 light
years from the Galactic Centre. Its speed is about 220 km/s. The period required for the Solar
System to complete one revolution around the Galactic Centre, the galactic year, is in the range of
220250 million years. Since its formation, the Solar System has completed at least 20 such
revolutions.[122]
Various scientists have speculated that the Solar System's path through the galaxy is a factor in the
periodicity of mass extinctionsobserved in the Earth's fossil record. One hypothesis supposes that
vertical oscillations made by the Sun as it orbits the Galactic Centre cause it to regularly pass
through the galactic plane. When the Sun's orbit takes it outside the galactic disc, the influence of
the galactic tide is weaker; as it re-enters the galactic disc, as it does every 2025 million years, it
comes under the influence of the far stronger "disc tides", which, according to mathematical models,
increase the flux of Oort cloud comets into the Solar System by a factor of 4, leading to a massive
increase in the likelihood of a devastating impact.[123]
However, others argue that the Sun is currently close to the galactic plane, and yet the last great
extinction event was 15 million years ago. Therefore, the Sun's vertical position cannot alone explain
such periodic extinctions, and that extinctions instead occur when the Sun passes through the
galaxy's spiral arms. Spiral arms are home not only to larger numbers of molecular clouds, whose
gravity may distort the Oort cloud, but also to higher concentrations of bright blue giants, which live
for relatively short periods and then explode violently as supernovae.[124]

Galactic collision and planetary disruption[edit]


Main article: AndromedaMilky Way collision
Although the vast majority of galaxies in the Universe are moving away from the Milky Way, the
Andromeda Galaxy, the largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, is heading toward it at about
120 km/s.[125] In 4 billion years, Andromeda and the Milky Way will collide, causing both to deform
as tidal forces distort their outer arms into vast tidal tails. If this initial disruption occurs, astronomers
calculate a 12% chance that the Solar System will be pulled outward into the Milky Way's tidal tail
and a 3% chance that it will becomegravitationally bound to Andromeda and thus a part of that
galaxy.[125] After a further series of glancing blows, during which the likelihood of the Solar System's
ejection rises to 30%,[126] the galaxies' supermassive black holes will merge. Eventually, in roughly
6 billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will complete their merger into a giant elliptical galaxy.
During the merger, if there is enough gas, the increased gravity will force the gas to the centre of the
forming elliptical galaxy. This may lead to a short period of intensive star formation called a starburst.
[125]
In addition, the infalling gas will feed the newly formed black hole, transforming it into an active
galactic nucleus. The force of these interactions will likely push the Solar System into the new
galaxy's outer halo, leaving it relatively unscathed by the radiation from these collisions. [125][126]

It is a common misconception that this collision will disrupt the orbits of the planets in the Solar
System. Although it is true that the gravity of passing stars can detach planets into interstellar space,
distances between stars are so great that the likelihood of the Milky WayAndromeda collision
causing such disruption to any individual star system is negligible. Although the Solar System as a
whole could be affected by these events, the Sun and planets are not expected to be disturbed. [127]
However, over time, the cumulative probability of a chance encounter with a star increases, and
disruption of the planets becomes all but inevitable. Assuming that the Big Crunchor Big
Rip scenarios for the end of the Universe do not occur, calculations suggest that the gravity of
passing stars will have completely stripped the dead Sun of its remaining planets within 1 quadrillion
(1015) years. This point marks the end of the Solar System. Although the Sun and planets may
survive, the Solar System, in any meaningful sense, will cease to exist. [3]

Chronology[edit]

The time frame of the Solar System's formation has been determined using radiometric dating.
Scientists estimate that the Solar System is 4.6 billion years old. The oldest known mineral
grains on Earth are approximately 4.4 billion years old.[128] Rocks this old are rare, as Earth's surface
is constantly being reshaped by erosion, volcanism, and plate tectonics. To estimate the age of the
Solar System, scientists use meteorites, which were formed during the early condensation of the
solar nebula. Almost all meteorites (see theCanyon Diablo meteorite) are found to have an age of
4.6 billion years, suggesting that the Solar System must be at least this old. [129]
Studies of discs around other stars have also done much to establish a time frame for Solar System
formation. Stars between one and three million years old have discs rich in gas, whereas discs
around stars more than 10 million years old have little to no gas, suggesting that giant planets within
them have ceased forming.[30]

Timeline of Solar System evolution[edit]

A graphical timeline is available at


Graphical timeline of Earth and Sun
Note: All dates and times in this chronology are approximate and should be taken as an order of
magnitude indicator only.

Chronology of the formation and evolution of the Solar System


Phase

Time since
formation of

Time from
present

Event

the Sun
Billions of
years before
the
formation of
the Solar
System

(approximate)

Previous generations of stars live and


Over 4.6 billion die, injecting heavy elements into
years ago (bya) the interstellar medium out of which the
Solar System formed.[14]

Pre-Solar
System

Formation
of Sun

Main
sequence

~ 50 million
years before
formation of
the Solar
System

4.6 bya

If the Solar System formed in an Orion


nebula-like star-forming region, the most
massive stars are formed, live their lives,
die, and explode in supernova. One
particular supernova, called the primal
supernova, possibly triggers the
formation of the Solar System.[16][17]

0100,000
years

4.6 bya

Pre-solar nebula forms and begins to


collapse. Sun begins to form.[30]

100,000 50
4.6 bya
million years

Sun is a T Tauri protostar.[9]

100,000 10
4.6 bya
million years

Outer planets form. By 10 million years,


gas in the protoplanetary disc has been
blown away, and outer planet formation
is likely complete.[30]

10 million
100 million
years

4.54.6 bya

Terrestrial planets and the Moon form.


Giant impacts occur. Water delivered to
Earth.[2]

4.5 bya

Sun becomes a main-sequence star.[26]

50 million
years

200 million
years

4.4 bya

Oldest known rocks on the Earth formed.

500
million
600 million
years

4.04.1 bya

Resonance in Jupiter and Saturn's orbits


moves Neptune out into the Kuiper
belt. Late Heavy Bombardment occurs in
the inner Solar System.[2]

800 million
years

3.8 bya

Oldest known life on Earth.[70][130] Oort


cloud reaches maximum mass.[73]

4.6 billion
years

Today

Sun remains a main-sequence star,


continually growing warmer and brighter
by ~10% every 1 billion years.[106]

6 billion
years

1.4 billion
years in the
future

Sun's habitable zone moves outside of


the Earth's orbit, possibly shifting onto
Mars's orbit.[109]

7 billion
years

2.4 billion
years in the
future

The Milky Way and Andromeda


Galaxy begin to collide. Slight chance
the Solar System could be captured by
Andromeda before the two galaxies fuse
completely.[125]

Postmain 10 billion
sequence 12 billion
years

57 billion
years in the
future

[128][130]

Sun starts burning hydrogen in a shell


surrounding its core, ending its main
sequence life. Sun begins to ascend
the red giant branch of the Hertzsprung
Russell diagram, growing dramatically
more luminous (by a factor of up to
2,700), larger (by a factor of up to 250 in
radius), and cooler (down to 2600 K):
Sun is now a red giant. Mercury and
possibly Venus and Earth are swallowed.
[107][112]
Saturn's moon Titan may become

habitable.[114]

Remnant
Sun

~ 12 billion
years

~ 7 billion
years in the
future

Sun passes through heliumburning horizontal-branch and asymptoti


c-giant-branch phases, losing a total of
~30% of its mass in all post-mainsequence phases. The asymptotic-giantbranch phase ends with the ejection of
a planetary nebula, leaving the core of
the Sun behind as a white dwarf.[107][117]

~1
quadrillion
years
(1015years)

~ 1 quadrillion
years in the
future

Sun cools to 5 K.[131] Gravity of passing


stars detaches planets from orbits. Solar
System ceases to exist.[3]

Big Bang
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Big Bang theory" redirects here. For the American TV sitcom, see The Big Bang Theory. For other
uses, see Big Bang (disambiguation) and Big Bang Theory (disambiguation).

According to the Big Bang model, theuniverse expanded from an extremely dense and hot
state and continues to expand.
Part of a series on

Physical cosmology

Big Bang Universe

Age of the universe

Chronology of the universe


Early universe[show]
Expansion Future[show]
Components Structure[show]
Experiments[show]
Scientists[show]
Subject history[show]

Category

Cosmology portal

Astronomy portal

v
t
e

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known
periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution.[1][2][3] The model accounts for the fact that the
universe expanded from a very high density and high temperature state, [4][5] and offers a
comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light

elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure and Hubble's Law.[6] If the known
laws of physics are extrapolated beyond where they have been verified, there is a singularity. Some
estimates place this moment at approximately 13.8billion years ago, which is thus considered
the age of the universe.[7] After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the
formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements
later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies.
Since Georges Lematre first noted, in 1927, that an expanding universe might be traced back in
time to an originating single point, scientists have built on his idea of cosmic expansion. While the
scientific community was once divided between supporters of two different expanding universe
theories, the Big Bang and the Steady State theory, accumulated empirical evidence provides strong
support for the former.[8] In 1929, from analysis of galactic redshifts, Edwin Hubble concluded that
galaxies are drifting apart; this is important observational evidence consistent with the hypothesis of
an expanding universe. In 1965, the cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered, which
was crucial evidence in favor of the Big Bang model, since that theory predicted the existence of
background radiation throughout the universe before it was discovered. More recently,
measurements of the redshifts of supernovae indicate that the expansion of the universe is
accelerating, an observation attributed to dark energy's existence.[9] The known physical laws of
nature can be used to calculate the characteristics of the universe in detail back in time to an initial
state of extreme density and temperature.[10][11][12]

Contents
[hide]

1Overview

2Timeline
o

2.1Singularity

2.2Inflation and baryogenesis

2.3Cooling

2.4Structure formation

2.5Cosmic acceleration

3Underlying assumptions
o

3.1Expansion of space

3.2Horizons

4History
o

4.1Etymology

4.2Development
5Observational evidence

5.1Hubble's law and the expansion of space

5.2Cosmic microwave background radiation

5.3Abundance of primordial elements

5.4Galactic evolution and distribution

5.5Primordial gas clouds

5.6Other lines of evidence

5.7Future observations

6Problems and related issues in physics


o

6.1Baryon asymmetry

6.2Dark energy

6.3Dark matter

6.4Horizon problem

6.5Magnetic monopoles

6.6Flatness problem

7Ultimate fate of the universe

8Speculations

9Religious and philosophical interpretations

10See also

11Notes

12References

12.1Books

13Further reading

14External links

Overview
Nature timeline
view discuss edit
-13

-12

-11

-10

-9

-8

-7

-6

-5

-4

-3

-2

-1

0
cosmic expansion
Earliest light
cosmic speed-up
Solar System
water

Simple life
photosynthesis

Complex life
Land life
Earliest gravity

Earliest universe

Earliest galaxy

Earliest quasar

Omega Centauri forms

Andromeda Galaxy forms

Milky Way Galaxy


spiral arms form

NGC 188 star cluster forms

Alpha Centauri forms

Earliest Earth
(-4.54)

Earliest life

Earliest oxygen

Atmospheric oxygen

Earliest sexual reproduction

Earliest land life

Earliest humans

L
I
F
E
P
R
I
M
O

R
D
I
A
L
Axis scale: Billions of years.
also see {{Life timeline}}

History of the Universe - gravitational wavesare hypothesized to arise from cosmic inflation,
an expansion just after the Big Bang.[13][14][15][16]

A graphical timeline is available at


Graphical timeline of the Big Bang
American astronomer Edwin Hubble observed that the distances to faraway galaxies were strongly
correlated with their redshifts. This was interpreted to mean that all distant galaxies and clusters are
receding away from our vantage point with an apparent velocity proportional to their distance: that is,
the farther they are, the faster they move away from us, regardless of direction. [17]Assuming
the Copernican principle (that the Earth is not the center of the universe), the only remaining
interpretation is that all observable regions of the universe are receding from all others. Since we
know that the distance between galaxies increases today, it must mean that in the past galaxies
were closer together. The continuous expansion of the universe implies that the universe was denser
and hotter in the past.
Large particle accelerators can replicate the conditions that prevailed after the early moments of the
universe, resulting in confirmation and refinement of the details of the Big Bang model. However,
these accelerators can only probe so far into high energy regimes. Consequently, the state of the
universe in the earliest instants of the Big Bang expansion is still poorly understood and an area of
open investigation and speculation.
The first subatomic particles included protons, neutrons, and electrons. Though simple atomic nuclei
formed within the first three minutes after the Big Bang, thousands of years passed before the
first electrically neutral atoms formed. The majority of atoms produced by the Big Bang

were hydrogen, along with helium and traces of lithium. Giant clouds of these primordial elements
later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies, and the heavier elements were
synthesized either within stars or during supernovae.
The Big Bang theory offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of observed phenomena,
including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure,
and Hubble's Law.[6] The framework for the Big Bang model relies on Albert Einstein's theory
of general relativity and on simplifying assumptions such as homogeneity andisotropy of space. The
governing equations were formulated by Alexander Friedmann, and similar solutions were worked
on byWillem de Sitter. Since then, astrophysicists have incorporated observational and theoretical
additions into the Big Bang model, and its parametrization as the Lambda-CDM model serves as the
framework for current investigations of theoretical cosmology. The Lambda-CDM model is the
standard model of Big Bang cosmology, the simplest model that provides a reasonably good account
of various observations about the universe.

Timeline
Main article: Chronology of the universe

Singularity
See also: Gravitational singularity and Planck epoch
Extrapolation of the expansion of the universe backwards in time using general relativity yields
an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past.[18] This singularitysignals the
breakdown of general relativity and thus, all the laws of physics. How closely this can be
extrapolated toward the singularity is debatedcertainly no closer than the end of the Planck epoch.
This singularity is sometimes called "the Big Bang", [19] but the term can also refer to the early hot,
dense phase itself,[20][notes 1] which can be considered the "birth" of our universe. Based on
measurements of the expansion using Type Ia supernovae and measurements of temperature
fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, the universe has an estimated age of 13.799
0.021 billion years.[21] The agreement of these three independent measurements strongly supports
the CDM modelthat describes in detail the contents of the universe.

Inflation and baryogenesis


Main articles: Cosmic inflation and baryogenesis
The earliest phases of the Big Bang are subject to much speculation. In the most common models
the universe was filled homogeneously and isotropically with a very highenergy density and huge
temperatures and pressures and was very rapidly expanding and cooling. Approximately
1037 seconds into the expansion, a phase transition caused acosmic inflation, during which the
universe grew exponentially.[22] After inflation stopped, the universe consisted of a quarkgluon
plasma, as well as all other elementary particles.[23] Temperatures were so high that the random
motions of particles were at relativistic speeds, and particleantiparticle pairs of all kinds were being
continuously created and destroyed in collisions.[4] At some point an unknown reaction
called baryogenesis violated the conservation of baryon number, leading to a very small excess
ofquarks and leptons over antiquarks and antileptonsof the order of one part in 30 million. This
resulted in the predominance of matter over antimatter in the present universe.[24]

Cooling
Main articles: Big Bang nucleosynthesis and cosmic microwave background radiation

Panoramic view of the entire near-infrared sky reveals the distribution of galaxies beyond
the Milky Way. Galaxies are color-coded by redshift.
The universe continued to decrease in density and fall in temperature, hence the typical energy of
each particle was decreasing. Symmetry breaking phase transitions put the fundamental forces of
physics and the parameters ofelementary particles into their present form.[25] After about
1011 seconds, the picture becomes less speculative, since particle energies drop to values that can
be attained in particle physics experiments. At about 106 seconds, quarks and gluons combined to
form baryons such as protons and neutrons. The small excess of quarks over antiquarks led to a
small excess of baryons over antibaryons. The temperature was now no longer high enough to
create new protonantiproton pairs (similarly for neutronsantineutrons), so a mass annihilation
immediately followed, leaving just one in 1010 of the original protons and neutrons, and none of their
antiparticles. A similar process happened at about 1 second for electrons and positrons. After these
annihilations, the remaining protons, neutrons and electrons were no longer moving relativistically
and the energy density of the universe was dominated by photons(with a minor contribution
from neutrinos).
A few minutes into the expansion, when the temperature was about a billion (one thousand million;
109; SI prefixgiga-) kelvin and the density was about that of air, neutrons combined with protons to
form the universe's deuterium and helium nuclei in a process called Big Bang nucleosynthesis.
[26]
Most protons remained uncombined as hydrogen nuclei. As the universe cooled, the rest
mass energy density of matter came to gravitationally dominate that of the photon radiation. After
about 379,000 years the electrons and nuclei combined into atoms (mostly hydrogen); hence the
radiation decoupled from matter and continued through space largely unimpeded. This relic radiation
is known as the cosmic microwave background radiation.[27] The chemistry of life may have begun
shortly after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, during a habitable epoch when the universe was
only 1017 million years old.[28][29]

Structure formation
Main article: Structure formation

Abell 2744 galaxy cluster - Hubble Frontier Fields view.[30]

Over a long period of time, the slightly denser regions of the nearly uniformly distributed matter
gravitationally attracted nearby matter and thus grew even denser, forming gas clouds, stars,
galaxies, and the other astronomical structures observable today.[4] The details of this process
depend on the amount and type of matter in the universe. The four possible types of matter are
known as cold dark matter, warm dark matter, hot dark matter, andbaryonic matter. The best
measurements available (from WMAP) show that the data is well-fit by a Lambda-CDM model in
which dark matter is assumed to be cold (warm dark matter is ruled out by early reionization),[31] and
is estimated to make up about 23% of the matter/energy of the universe, while baryonic matter
makes up about 4.6%.[32] In an "extended model" which includes hot dark matter in the form
of neutrinos, then if the "physical baryon density" bh2 is estimated at about 0.023 (this is different
from the 'baryon density' b expressed as a fraction of the total matter/energy density, which as
noted above is about 0.046), and the corresponding cold dark matter density ch2 is about 0.11, the
corresponding neutrino density vh2 is estimated to be less than 0.0062.[32]

Cosmic acceleration
Main article: Accelerating universe
Independent lines of evidence from Type Ia supernovae and the CMB imply that the universe today
is dominated by a mysterious form of energy known as dark energy, which apparently permeates all
of space. The observations suggest 73% of the total energy density of today's universe is in this
form. When the universe was very young, it was likely infused with dark energy, but with less space
and everything closer together, gravity predominated, and it was slowly braking the expansion. But
eventually, after numerous billion years of expansion, the growing abundance of dark energy caused
the expansion of the universe to slowly begin to accelerate. Dark energy in its simplest formulation
takes the form of the cosmological constant term in Einstein's field equations of general relativity, but
its composition and mechanism are unknown and, more generally, the details of itsequation of
state and relationship with the Standard Model of particle physics continue to be investigated both
through observation and theoretically.[9]
All of this cosmic evolution after the inflationary epoch can be rigorously described and modeled by
the CDM model of cosmology, which uses the independent frameworks of quantum mechanics and
Einstein's General Relativity. There is no well-supported model describing the action prior to
1015 seconds or so. Apparently a new unified theory ofquantum gravitation is needed to break this
barrier. Understanding this earliest of eras in the history of the universe is currently one of the
greatest unsolved problems in physics.

Underlying assumptions
The Big Bang theory depends on two major assumptions: the universality of physical laws and
the cosmological principle. The cosmological principle states that on large scales the universe
is homogeneous and isotropic.
These ideas were initially taken as postulates, but today there are efforts to test each of them. For
example, the first assumption has been tested by observations showing that largest possible
deviation of the fine structure constant over much of the age of the universe is of order 105.[33] Also,
general relativity has passed stringent tests on the scale of the Solar System and binary stars.[notes 2]
If the large-scale universe appears isotropic as viewed from Earth, the cosmological principle can be
derived from the simpler Copernican principle, which states that there is no preferred (or special)
observer or vantage point. To this end, the cosmological principle has been confirmed to a level of
105 via observations of the CMB. The universe has been measured to be homogeneous on the
largest scales at the 10% level.[34]

Expansion of space
Main articles: FriedmannLematreRobertsonWalker metric and Metric expansion of space

General relativity describes spacetime by a metric, which determines the distances that separate
nearby points. The points, which can be galaxies, stars, or other objects, themselves are specified
using a coordinate chart or "grid" that is laid down over all spacetime. The cosmological principle
implies that the metric should be homogeneous andisotropic on large scales, which uniquely singles
out the FriedmannLematreRobertsonWalker metric (FLRW metric). This metric contains a scale
factor, which describes how the size of the universe changes with time. This enables a convenient
choice of a coordinate system to be made, called comoving coordinates. In this coordinate system
the grid expands along with the universe, and objects that are moving only because of the expansion
of the universe remain at fixed points on the grid. While their coordinate distance (comoving
distance) remains constant, the physical distance between two such comoving points expands
proportionally with the scale factor of the universe.[35]
The Big Bang is not an explosion of matter moving outward to fill an empty universe. Instead, space
itself expands with time everywhere and increases the physical distance between two comoving
points. In other words, the Big Bang is not an explosion in space, but rather an expansion of space.
[4]
Because the FLRW metric assumes a uniform distribution of mass and energy, it applies to our
universe only on large scaleslocal concentrations of matter such as our galaxy are gravitationally
bound and as such do not experience the large-scale expansion of space. [36]

Horizons
Main article: Cosmological horizon
An important feature of the Big Bang spacetime is the presence of horizons. Since the universe has
a finite age, and light travels at a finite speed, there may be events in the past whose light has not
had time to reach us. This places a limit or a past horizon on the most distant objects that can be
observed. Conversely, because space is expanding, and more distant objects are receding ever
more quickly, light emitted by us today may never "catch up" to very distant objects. This defines
a future horizon, which limits the events in the future that we will be able to influence. The presence
of either type of horizon depends on the details of the FLRW model that describes our universe. Our
understanding of the universe back to very early times suggests that there is a past horizon, though
in practice our view is also limited by the opacity of the universe at early times. So our view cannot
extend further backward in time, though the horizon recedes in space. If the expansion of the
universe continues to accelerate, there is a future horizon as well.[37]

History
Main article: History of the Big Bang theory
See also: Timeline of cosmology

Etymology
English astronomer Fred Hoyle is credited with coining the term "Big Bang" during a 1949 BBC radio
broadcast. It is popularly reported that Hoyle, who favored an alternative "steady state" cosmological
model, intended this to be pejorative, but Hoyle explicitly denied this and said it was just a striking
image meant to highlight the difference between the two models.[38][39][40]:129

Development
Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF)

XDF size compared to the size of the moon - several thousandgalaxies, each consisting of
billions of stars, are in this small view.

XDF (2012) view - each light speck is a galaxy - some of these are as old as 13.2 billion
years[41] - the universe is estimated to contain 200 billion galaxies.

XDF image shows fully mature galaxies in the foreground plane - nearly mature galaxies
from 5 to 9 billion years ago - protogalaxies, blazing with young stars, beyond 9 billion
years.
The Big Bang theory developed from observations of the structure of the universe and from
theoretical considerations. In 1912 Vesto Sliphermeasured the first Doppler shift of a "spiral nebula"
(spiral nebula is the obsolete term for spiral galaxies), and soon discovered that almost all such
nebulae were receding from Earth. He did not grasp the cosmological implications of this fact, and
indeed at the time it was highly controversial whether or not these nebulae were "island universes"
outside our Milky Way.[42][43] Ten years later, Alexander Friedmann,
aRussian cosmologist and mathematician, derived the Friedmann equations from Albert Einstein's
equations of general relativity, showing that the universe might be expanding in contrast to the static
universe model advocated by Einstein at that time.[44] In 1924 Edwin Hubble's measurement of the
great distance to the nearest spiral nebulae showed that these systems were indeed other galaxies.

Independently deriving Friedmann's equations in 1927, Georges Lematre, a Belgian physicist


and Roman Catholic priest, proposed that the inferred recession of the nebulae was due to the
expansion of the universe.[45]
In 1931 Lematre went further and suggested that the evident expansion of the universe, if projected
back in time, meant that the further in the past the smaller the universe was, until at some finite time
in the past all the mass of the universe was concentrated into a single point, a "primeval atom"
where and when the fabric of time and space came into existence. [46]
Starting in 1924, Hubble painstakingly developed a series of distance indicators, the forerunner of
the cosmic distance ladder, using the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson
Observatory. This allowed him to estimate distances to galaxies whose redshifts had already been
measured, mostly by Slipher. In 1929 Hubble discovered a correlation between distance and
recession velocitynow known asHubble's law.[17][47] Lematre had already shown that this was
expected, given the cosmological principle.[9]
In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state universe,
and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious
concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory.
[48]
This perception was enhanced by the fact that the originator of the Big Bang theory,
Monsignor Georges Lematre, was a Roman Catholic priest.[49] Arthur Eddington agreed
with Aristotle that the universe did not have a beginning in time, viz., that matter is eternal. A
beginning in time was "repugnant" to him.[50][51] Lematre, however, thought that
If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and time would altogether fail to
have any meaning at the beginning; they would only begin to have a sensible meaning when the
original quantum had been divided into a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct,
the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time. [52]
During the 1930s other ideas were proposed as non-standard cosmologies to explain Hubble's
observations, including the Milne model,[53]the oscillatory universe (originally suggested by
Friedmann, but advocated by Albert Einstein and Richard Tolman)[54] and Fritz Zwicky's tired
light hypothesis.[55]
After World War II, two distinct possibilities emerged. One was Fred Hoyle's steady state model,
whereby new matter would be created as the universe seemed to expand. In this model the universe
is roughly the same at any point in time.[56] The other was Lematre's Big Bang theory, advocated and
developed by George Gamow, who introduced big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN)[57] and whose
associates, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman, predicted the cosmic microwave background
radiation (CMB).[58] Ironically, it was Hoyle who coined the phrase that came to be applied to
Lematre's theory, referring to it as "this big bang idea" during a BBC Radio broadcast in March
1949.[40][notes 3]For a while, support was split between these two theories. Eventually, the observational
evidence, most notably from radio source counts, began to favor Big Bang over Steady State. The
discovery and confirmation of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1965 secured the Big
Bang as the best theory of the origin and evolution of the universe. [60] Much of the current work in
cosmology includes understanding how galaxies form in the context of the Big Bang, understanding
the physics of the universe at earlier and earlier times, and reconciling observations with the basic
theory.
In 1968 and 1970, Roger Penrose, Stephen Hawking, and George F. R. Ellis published papers
where they showed that mathematical singularities were an inevitable initial condition of general
relativistic models of the Big Bang.[61][62] Then, from the 1970s to the 1990s, cosmologists worked on
characterizing the features of the Big Bang universe and resolving outstanding problems. In
1981, Alan Guth made a breakthrough in theoretical work on resolving certain outstanding
theoretical problems in the Big Bang theorywith the introduction of an epoch of rapid expansion in
the early universe he called "inflation".[63] Meanwhile, during these decades, two questions

in observational cosmology that generated much discussion and disagreement were over the
precise values of the Hubble Constant[64] and the matter-density of the universe (before the discovery
of dark energy, thought to be the key predictor for the eventual fate of the universe).[65] In the mid1990s observations of certain globular clusters appeared to indicate that they were about 15 billion
years old, which conflicted with most then-current estimates of the age of the universe (and indeed
with the age measured today). This issue was later resolved when new computer simulations, which
included the effects of mass loss due to stellar winds, indicated a much younger age for globular
clusters.[66] While there still remain some questions as to how accurately the ages of the clusters are
measured, globular clusters are of interest to cosmology as some of the oldest objects in the
universe.
Significant progress in Big Bang cosmology have been made since the late 1990s as a result of
advances in telescope technology as well as the analysis of data from satellites such as COBE,
[67]
the Hubble Space Telescope and WMAP.[68] Cosmologists now have fairly precise and accurate
measurements of many of the parameters of the Big Bang model, and have made the unexpected
discovery that the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating.

Observational evidence

Artist's depiction of the WMAPsatellite gathering data to help scientists understand the Big
Bang
"[The] big bang picture is too firmly grounded in data from every area to be proved invalid in
its general features."
Lawrence Krauss[69]
The earliest and most direct observational evidence of the validity of the theory are the expansion of
the universe according to Hubble's law (as indicated by the redshifts of galaxies), discovery and
measurement of the cosmic microwave background and the relative abundances of light elements
produced by Big Bang nucleosynthesis. More recent evidence includes observations of galaxy
formation and evolution, and the distribution of large-scale cosmic structures,[70] These are
sometimes called the "four pillars" of the Big Bang theory.[71]
Precise modern models of the Big Bang appeal to various exotic physical phenomena that have not
been observed in terrestrial laboratory experiments or incorporated into the Standard
Model of particle physics. Of these features, dark matter is currently subjected to the most active
laboratory investigations.[72] Remaining issues include the cuspy halo problem and the dwarf galaxy
problem of cold dark matter. Dark energy is also an area of intense interest for scientists, but it is not
clear whether direct detection of dark energy will be possible. [73] Inflation and baryogenesis remain
more speculative features of current Big Bang models. Viable, quantitative explanations for such
phenomena are still being sought. These are currently unsolved problems in physics.

Hubble's law and the expansion of space


Main articles: Hubble's law and Metric expansion of space
See also: Distance measures (cosmology) and Scale factor (universe)

Observations of distant galaxies and quasars show that these objects are redshifted
the light emitted from them has been shifted to longer wavelengths. This can be seen by taking
a frequency spectrum of an object and matching the spectroscopic pattern of emission
lines or absorption lines corresponding to atoms of the chemical elementsinteracting with the light.
These redshifts are uniformly isotropic, distributed evenly among the observed objects in all
directions. If the redshift is interpreted as a Doppler shift, the recessional velocity of the object can
be calculated. For some galaxies, it is possible to estimate distances via the cosmic distance ladder.
When the recessional velocities are plotted against these distances, a linear relationship known as
Hubble's law is observed:[17]
v = H0D,
where

v is the recessional velocity of the galaxy or other distant object,

D is the comoving distance to the object, and

H0 is Hubble's constant, measured to be 70.4+1.3


1.4 km/s/Mpc by the WMAP probe.[32]

Hubble's law has two possible explanations. Either we are at the center of an explosion of
galaxieswhich is untenable given the Copernican principleor the universe isuniformly
expanding everywhere. This universal expansion was predicted from general relativity by
Alexander Friedmann in 1922[44] and Georges Lematre in 1927,[45] well before Hubble made his
1929 analysis and observations, and it remains the cornerstone of the Big Bang theory as
developed by Friedmann, Lematre, Robertson, and Walker.
The theory requires the relation v = HD to hold at all times, where D is the comoving
distance, v is the recessional velocity, and v, H, and D vary as the universe expands (hence we
write H0 to denote the present-day Hubble "constant"). For distances much smaller than the size
of the observable universe, the Hubble redshift can be thought of as the Doppler shift
corresponding to the recession velocity v. However, the redshift is not a true Doppler shift, but
rather the result of the expansion of the universe between the time the light was emitted and the
time that it was detected.[74]
That space is undergoing metric expansion is shown by direct observational evidence of
the Cosmological principle and the Copernican principle, which together with Hubble's law have
no other explanation. Astronomical redshifts are extremely isotropic and homogeneous,
[17]
supporting the Cosmological principle that the universe looks the same in all directions, along
with much other evidence. If the redshifts were the result of an explosion from a center distant
from us, they would not be so similar in different directions.
Measurements of the effects of the cosmic microwave background radiation on the dynamics of
distant astrophysical systems in 2000 proved the Copernican principle, that, on a cosmological
scale, the Earth is not in a central position.[75] Radiation from the Big Bang was demonstrably
warmer at earlier times throughout the universe. Uniform cooling of the cosmic microwave
background over billions of years is explainable only if the universe is experiencing a metric
expansion, and excludes the possibility that we are near the unique center of an explosion.

Cosmic microwave background radiation


Main article: Cosmic microwave background radiation

9 year WMAP image of the cosmic microwave background radiation (2012). [76][77] The
radiation is isotropic to roughly one part in 100,000.[78]
In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson serendipitously discovered the cosmic background
radiation, an omnidirectional signal in the microwave band.[60] Their discovery provided
substantial confirmation of the big-bang predictions by Alpher, Herman and Gamow around
1950. Through the 1970s the radiation was found to be approximately consistent with a black
body spectrum in all directions; this spectrum has been redshifted by the expansion of the
universe, and today corresponds to approximately 2.725 K. This tipped the balance of evidence
in favor of the Big Bang model, and Penzias and Wilson were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1978.

The cosmic microwave background spectrum measured by the FIRAS instrument on the
COBE satellite is the most-precisely measured black body spectrum in nature.
[79]
The data pointsand error bars on this graph are obscured by the theoretical curve.
The surface of last scattering corresponding to emission of the CMB occurs shortly
afterrecombination, the epoch when neutral hydrogen becomes stable. Prior to this, the universe
comprised a hot dense photon-baryon plasma sea where photons were quickly scatteredfrom
free charged particles. Peaking at around 37214 kyr,[31] the mean free path for a photon
becomes long enough to reach the present day and the universe becomes transparent.
In 1989 NASA launched the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE) which made two
major advances: in 1990, high-precision spectrum measurements showed the CMB frequency
spectrum is an almost perfect blackbody with no deviations at a level of 1 part in 104, and
measured a residual temperature of 2.726 K (more recent measurements have revised this
figure down slightly to 2.7255 K); then in 1992 further COBE measurements discovered tiny
fluctuations (anisotropies) in the CMB temperature across the sky, at a level of about one part in
105.[67] John C. Mather and George Smoot were awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for
their leadership in these results. During the following decade, CMB anisotropies were further
investigated by a large number of ground-based and balloon experiments. In 20002001 several
experiments, most notably BOOMERanG, found the shape of the universe to be spatially almost
flat by measuring the typical angular size (the size on the sky) of the anisotropies. [80][81][82]

In early 2003 the first results of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) were
released, yielding what were at the time the most accurate values for some of the cosmological
parameters. The results disproved several specific cosmic inflation models, but are consistent
with the inflation theory in general.[68] The Planck space probe was launched in May 2009. Other
ground and balloon based cosmic microwave background experiments are ongoing.

Abundance of primordial elements


Main article: Big Bang nucleosynthesis
Using the Big Bang model it is possible to calculate the concentration of helium-4, helium-3,
deuterium, and lithium-7 in the universe as ratios to the amount of ordinary hydrogen. [26] The
relative abundances depend on a single parameter, the ratio of photons to baryons. This value
can be calculated independently from the detailed structure ofCMB fluctuations. The ratios
predicted (by mass, not by number) are about 0.25 for 4He/H, about 103 for 2H/H, about
104 for 3He/H and about 109 for 7Li/H.[26]
The measured abundances all agree at least roughly with those predicted from a single value of
the baryon-to-photon ratio. The agreement is excellent for deuterium, close but formally
discrepant for 4He, and off by a factor of two for 7Li; in the latter two cases there are
substantial systematic uncertainties. Nonetheless, the general consistency with abundances
predicted by Big Bang nucleosynthesis is strong evidence for the Big Bang, as the theory is the
only known explanation for the relative abundances of light elements, and it is virtually
impossible to "tune" the Big Bang to produce much more or less than 2030% helium. [83] Indeed,
there is no obvious reason outside of the Big Bang that, for example, the young universe (i.e.,
before star formation, as determined by studying matter supposedly free of stellar
nucleosynthesis products) should have more helium than deuterium or more deuterium
than 3He, and in constant ratios, too.[84]:182185

Galactic evolution and distribution


Main articles: Galaxy formation and evolution and Structure formation
Detailed observations of the morphology and distribution of galaxies and quasars are in
agreement with the current state of the Big Bang theory. A combination of observations and
theory suggest that the first quasars and galaxies formed about a billion years after the Big
Bang, and since then larger structures have been forming, such as galaxy
clusters and superclusters. Populations of stars have been aging and evolving, so that distant
galaxies (which are observed as they were in the early universe) appear very different from
nearby galaxies (observed in a more recent state). Moreover, galaxies that formed relatively
recently appear markedly different from galaxies formed at similar distances but shortly after the
Big Bang. These observations are strong arguments against the steady-state model.
Observations of star formation, galaxy and quasar distributions and larger structures agree well
with Big Bang simulations of the formation of structure in the universe and are helping to
complete details of the theory.[85][86]

Primordial gas clouds

Focal plane of BICEP2 telescope under a microscope - used to search for


polarization in the CMB.[13][14][15][16]
In 2011 astronomers found what they believe to be pristine clouds of primordial gas, by
analyzing absorption lines in the spectra of distant quasars. Before this discovery, all other
astronomical objects have been observed to contain heavy elements that are formed in stars.
These two clouds of gas contain no elements heavier than hydrogen and deuterium. [87][88] Since
the clouds of gas have no heavy elements, they likely formed in the first few minutes after the
Big Bang, during Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

Other lines of evidence


The age of the universe as estimated from the Hubble expansion and the CMB is now in good
agreement with other estimates using the ages of the oldest stars, both as measured by
applying the theory of stellar evolution to globular clusters and through radiometric dating of
individual Population II stars.[89]
The prediction that the CMB temperature was higher in the past has been experimentally
supported by observations of very low temperature absorption lines in gas clouds at high
redshift.[90] This prediction also implies that the amplitude of the SunyaevZel'dovich
effect in clusters of galaxies does not depend directly on redshift. Observations have found this
to be roughly true, but this effect depends on cluster properties that do change with cosmic time,
making precise measurements difficult.[91][92]
On 17 March 2014, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced
the apparent detection of primordial gravitational waves, which, was shown to be due to galactic
dust.[13][14][15][16] On February 11, 2016, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration
teams announced that they had made first observation of gravitational waves, originating from
a pair of merging black holes using the Advanced LIGO detectors.[93][94][95]

Future observations
Future gravitational waves observatories might see primordial gravitational waves, relics of the
early universe, up to less than a second of the Big Bang. [96][97]

Problems and related issues in physics


See also: List of unsolved problems in physics
As with any theory, a number of mysteries and problems have arisen as a result of the
development of the Big Bang theory. Some of these mysteries and problems have been
resolved while others are still outstanding. Proposed solutions to some of the problems in the
Big Bang model have revealed new mysteries of their own. For example, thehorizon problem,
the magnetic monopole problem, and the flatness problem are most commonly resolved

with inflationary theory, but the details of the inflationary universe are still left unresolved and
many, including some founders of the theory, say it has been disproven.[98][99][100][101] What follows
are a list of the mysterious aspects of the Big Bang theory still under intense investigation by
cosmologists and astrophysicists.

Baryon asymmetry
Main article: Baryon asymmetry
It is not yet understood why the universe has more matter than antimatter.[102] It is generally
assumed that when the universe was young and very hot, it was in statistical equilibrium and
contained equal numbers of baryons and antibaryons. However, observations suggest that the
universe, including its most distant parts, is made almost entirely of matter. A process called
baryogenesis was hypothesized to account for the asymmetry. For baryogenesis to occur,
the Sakharov conditions must be satisfied. These require that baryon number is not conserved,
that C-symmetry and CP-symmetry are violated and that the universe depart
from thermodynamic equilibrium.[103] All these conditions occur in the Standard Model, but the
effect is not strong enough to explain the present baryon asymmetry.

Dark energy
Main article: Dark energy
Measurements of the redshiftmagnitude relation for type Ia supernovae indicate that the
expansion of the universe has been accelerating since the universe was about half its present
age. To explain this acceleration, general relativity requires that much of the energy in the
universe consists of a component with large negative pressure, dubbed "dark energy".[9] Dark
energy, though speculative, solves numerous problems. Measurements of the cosmic
microwave background indicate that the universe is very nearly spatially flat, and therefore
according to general relativity the universe must have almost exactly the critical density of
mass/energy. But the mass density of the universe can be measured from its gravitational
clustering, and is found to have only about 30% of the critical density.[9] Since theory suggests
that dark energy does not cluster in the usual way it is the best explanation for the "missing"
energy density. Dark energy also helps to explain two geometrical measures of the overall
curvature of the universe, one using the frequency ofgravitational lenses, and the other using the
characteristic pattern of the large-scale structure as a cosmic ruler.
Negative pressure is believed to be a property of vacuum energy, but the exact nature and
existence of dark energy remains one of the great mysteries of the Big Bang. Results from the
WMAP team in 2008 are in accordance with a universe that consists of 73% dark energy, 23%
dark matter, 4.6% regular matter and less than 1% neutrinos.[32]According to theory, the energy
density in matter decreases with the expansion of the universe, but the dark energy density
remains constant (or nearly so) as the universe expands. Therefore, matter made up a larger
fraction of the total energy of the universe in the past than it does today, but its fractional
contribution will fall in the far future as dark energy becomes even more dominant.
The dark energy component of the universe has been explained by theorists using a variety of
competing theories including Einstein's cosmological constant but also extending to more exotic
forms of quintessence or other modified gravity schemes.[104] A cosmological constant
problem sometimes called the "most embarrassing problem in physics" results from the apparent
discrepancy between the measured energy density of dark energy and the one naively predicted
from Planck units.[105]

Dark matter
Main article: Dark matter

Chart shows the proportion of different components of the universe about 95%
is dark matter and dark energy.
During the 1970s and 80s, various observations showed that there is not sufficient visible matter
in the universe to account for the apparent strength of gravitational forces within and between
galaxies. This led to the idea that up to 90% of the matter in the universe is dark matter that
does not emit light or interact with normal baryonicmatter. In addition, the assumption that the
universe is mostly normal matter led to predictions that were strongly inconsistent with
observations. In particular, the universe today is far more lumpy and contains far less deuterium
than can be accounted for without dark matter. While dark matter has always been controversial,
it is inferred by various observations: the anisotropies in the CMB, galaxy cluster velocity
dispersions, large-scale structure distributions, gravitational lensing studies, and X-ray
measurements of galaxy clusters.[106]
Indirect evidence for dark matter comes from its gravitational influence on other matter, as no
dark matter particles have been observed in laboratories. Many particle physics candidates for
dark matter have been proposed, and several projects to detect them directly are underway.[107]
Additionally, there are outstanding problems associated with the currently favored cold dark
matter model which include the dwarf galaxy problem[108] and the cuspy halo problem.
[109]
Alternative theories have been proposed that do not require a large amount of undetected
matter but instead modify the laws of gravity established by Newton and Einstein, but no
alternative theory as been as successful as the cold dark matter proposal in explaining all extant
observations.[110]

Horizon problem
The horizon problem results from the premise that information cannot travel faster than light. In a
universe of finite age this sets a limitthe particle horizonon the separation of any two regions
of space that are in causal contact.[111] The observed isotropy of the CMB is problematic in this
regard: if the universe had been dominated by radiation or matter at all times up to the epoch of
last scattering, the particle horizon at that time would correspond to about 2 degrees on the sky.
There would then be no mechanism to cause wider regions to have the same temperature. [84]:191
202

A resolution to this apparent inconsistency is offered by inflationary theory in which a


homogeneous and isotropic scalar energy field dominates the universe at some very early
period (before baryogenesis). During inflation, the universe undergoes exponential expansion,
and the particle horizon expands much more rapidly than previously assumed, so that regions
presently on opposite sides of the observable universe are well inside each other's particle
horizon. The observed isotropy of the CMB then follows from the fact that this larger region was
in causal contact before the beginning of inflation. [22]:180186
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle predicts that during the inflationary phase there would
be quantum thermal fluctuations, which would be magnified to cosmic scale. These fluctuations
serve as the seeds of all current structure in the universe.[84]:207 Inflation predicts that

the primordial fluctuations are nearly scale invariant and Gaussian, which has been accurately
confirmed by measurements of the CMB.[112]:sec 6
If inflation occurred, exponential expansion would push large regions of space well beyond our
observable horizon.[22]:180186
A related issue to the classic horizon problem arises because in most standard cosmological
inflation models, inflation ceases well before electroweak symmetry breaking occurs, so inflation
should not be able to prevent large-scale discontinuities in the electroweak vacuum since distant
parts of the observable universe were causally separate when theelectroweak epoch ended.[113]

Magnetic monopoles
The magnetic monopole objection was raised in the late 1970s. Grand unified
theories predicted topological defects in space that would manifest as magnetic monopoles.
These objects would be produced efficiently in the hot early universe, resulting in a density much
higher than is consistent with observations, given that no monopoles have been found. This
problem is also resolved by cosmic inflation, which removes all point defects from the
observable universe, in the same way that it drives the geometry to flatness. [111]

Flatness problem

The overall geometry of the universe is determined by whether the Omega


cosmological parameter is less than, equal to or greater than 1. Shown from top to
bottom are a closed universewith positive curvature, a hyperbolic universe with
negative curvature and a flat universe with zero curvature.
The flatness problem (also known as the oldness problem) is an observational problem
associated with a FriedmannLematreRobertsonWalker metric.[111] The universe may have
positive, negative, or zero spatial curvature depending on its total energy density. Curvature is
negative if its density is less than the critical density, positive if greater, and zero at the critical
density, in which case space is said to be flat. The problem is that any small departure from the
critical density grows with time, and yet the universe today remains very close to flat. [notes 4] Given
that a natural timescale for departure from flatness might be the Planck time, 1043 seconds,
[4]
the fact that the universe has reached neither a heat death nor a Big Crunch after billions of
years requires an explanation. For instance, even at the relatively late age of a few minutes (the
time of nucleosynthesis), the universe density must have been within one part in 10 14 of its
critical value, or it would not exist as it does today.[114]

Ultimate fate of the universe


Main article: Ultimate fate of the universe
Before observations of dark energy, cosmologists considered two scenarios for the future of the
universe. If the mass density of the universe were greater than the critical density, then the
universe would reach a maximum size and then begin to collapse. It would become denser and
hotter again, ending with a state similar to that in which it starteda Big Crunch. [37] Alternatively,
if the density in the universe were equal to or below the critical density, the expansion would
slow down but never stop. Star formation would cease with the consumption of interstellar gas in
each galaxy; stars would burn out leaving white dwarfs, neutron stars, andblack holes. Very
gradually, collisions between these would result in mass accumulating into larger and larger
black holes. The average temperature of the universe would asymptotically approach absolute
zeroa Big Freeze.[115] Moreover, if the proton were unstable, then baryonic matter would
disappear, leaving only radiation and black holes. Eventually, black holes would evaporate by
emitting Hawking radiation. The entropyof the universe would increase to the point where no
organized form of energy could be extracted from it, a scenario known as heat death. [116]:sec VI.D
Modern observations of accelerating expansion imply that more and more of the currently visible
universe will pass beyond our event horizon and out of contact with us. The eventual result is not
known. The CDM model of the universe contains dark energy in the form of a cosmological
constant. This theory suggests that only gravitationally bound systems, such as galaxies, will
remain together, and they too will be subject to heat death as the universe expands and cools.
Other explanations of dark energy, called phantom energy theories, suggest that ultimately
galaxy clusters, stars, planets, atoms, nuclei, and matter itself will be torn apart by the everincreasing expansion in a so-called Big Rip.[117]

Speculations
Main article: Cosmogony

Timeline of the metric expansion of space, where space (including hypothetical nonobservable portions of the universe) is represented at each time by the circular
sections. On the left the dramatic expansion occurs in the inflationary epoch, and at
the center the expansion accelerates (artist's concept; not to scale).
While the Big Bang model is well established in cosmology, it is likely to be refined. The Big
Bang theory, built upon the equations of classical general relativity, indicates a singularity at the
origin of cosmic time; this infinite energy density is regarded as impossible in physics. Still, it is
known that the equations are not applicable before the time when the universe cooled down to

the Planck temperature, and this conclusion depends on various assumptions, of which some
could never be experimentally verified. (Also see Planck epoch.)
One proposed refinement to avoid this would-be singularity is to develop a correct treatment
of quantum gravity.[118]
It is not known what could have preceded the hot dense state of the early universe or how and
why it originated, though speculation abounds in the field of cosmogony.
Some proposals, each of which entails untested hypotheses, are:

Models including the HartleHawking no-boundary condition, in which the whole of spacetime is finite; the Big Bang does represent the limit of time but without any singularity.[119]

Big Bang lattice model, states that the universe at the moment of the Big Bang consists of an
infinite lattice offermions, which is smeared over the fundamental domain so it has
rotational, translational and gauge symmetry. The symmetry is the largest symmetry
possible and hence the lowest entropy of any state.[120]

Brane cosmology models, in which inflation is due to the movement of branes in string
theory; the pre-Big Bang model; the ekpyrotic model, in which the Big Bang is the result of a
collision between branes; and the cyclic model, a variant of the ekpyrotic model in which
collisions occur periodically. In the latter model the Big Bang was preceded by a Big Crunch
and the universe cycles from one process to the other.[121][122][123][124]

Eternal inflation, in which universal inflation ends locally here and there in a random fashion,
each end-point leading to a bubble universe, expanding from its own big bang.[125][126]

Proposals in the last two categories, see the Big Bang as an event in either a much larger
and older universe or in a multiverse.

Religious and philosophical interpretations


Main article: Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory
As a description of the origin of the universe, the Big Bang has significant bearing on religion
and philosophy.[127][128] As a result, it has become one of the liveliest areas in the discourse
between science and religion.[129] Some believe the Big Bang implies a creator,[130][131] and some
see its mention in their holy books,[132] while others argue that Big Bang cosmology makes the
notion of a creator superfluous.[128][133]

See also
Cosmology portal
Physics portal

Big Crunch

Cosmic Calendar

Shape of the universe

Notes
1.

Jump up^ There is no consensus about how long the Big Bang phase lasted.
For some writers this denotes only the initial singularity, for others the whole
history of the universe. Usually, at least the first few minutes (during which
helium is synthesized) are said to occur "during the Big Bang".

2.

Jump up^ Detailed information of and references for tests of general


relativity are given in the article tests of general relativity.

3.

Jump up^ It is commonly reported that Hoyle intended this to be pejorative.


However, Hoyle later denied that, saying that it was just a striking image meant
to emphasize the difference between the two theories for radio listeners. [59]

4.

Jump up^ Strictly, dark energy in the form of a cosmological constant drives
the universe towards a flat state; however, our universe remained close to flat for
several billion years, before the dark energy density became significant.

Stellar evolution
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Life cycle of stars)

Representative lifetimes of stars as a function of their masses

The life cycle of a Sun-like star.

Artist's depiction of the life cycle of a Sun-like star, starting as a main-sequence star at lower
left then expanding through the subgiant and giant phases, until its outer envelope is
expelled to form a planetary nebula at upper right.
Stellar evolution is the process by which a star changes during its lifetime. Depending on the mass
of the star, this lifetime ranges from a few million years for the most massive to trillions of years for
the least massive, which is considerably longer than the age of the universe. The table shows the
lifetimes of stars as a function of their masses.[1] All stars are born fromcollapsing clouds of gas and
dust, often called nebulae or molecular clouds. Over the course of millions of years,
theseprotostars settle down into a state of equilibrium, becoming what is known as a mainsequence star.
Nuclear fusion powers a star for most of its life. Initially the energy is generated by the fusion
of hydrogen atoms at the core of the main-sequence star. Later, as the preponderance of atoms at
the core becomes helium, stars like the Sun begin to fuse hydrogen along a spherical shell
surrounding the core. This process causes the star to gradually grow in size, passing through
the subgiant stage until it reaches the red giant phase. Stars with at least half the mass of
the Sun can also begin to generate energy through the fusion of helium at their core, whereas moremassive stars can fuse heavier elements along a series of concentric shells. Once a star like the
Sun has exhausted its nuclear fuel, its core collapses into a dense white dwarfand the outer layers
are expelled as a planetary nebula. Stars with around ten or more times the mass of the Sun can
explode in a supernova as their inert iron cores collapse into an extremely dense neutron
star or black hole. Although theuniverse is not old enough for any of the smallest red dwarfs to have
reached the end of their lives, stellar models suggest they will slowly become brighter and hotter
before running out of hydrogen fuel and becoming low-mass white dwarfs. [2]

Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life of a single star, as most stellar changes occur
too slowly to be detected, even over many centuries. Instead, astrophysicists come to understand
how stars evolve by observing numerous stars at various points in their lifetime, and by
simulating stellar structure using computer models.
In June 2015, astronomers reported evidence for Population III stars in the Cosmos Redshift
7 galaxy at z = 6.60. Such stars are likely to have existed in the very early universe (i.e., at high
redshift), and may have started the production of chemical elements heavier than hydrogen that are
needed for the later formation of planets and life as we know it.[3][4]

Contents
[hide]

1Birth of a star
o

1.1Protostar

1.2Brown dwarfs and sub-stellar objects

1.3Main sequence

2Mature stars
o

2.1Low-mass stars

2.2Mid-sized stars

2.2.1Subgiant phase

2.2.2Red-giant-branch phase

2.2.3Horizontal branch

2.2.4Asymptotic-giant-branch phase

2.2.5Post-AGB
2.3Massive stars

2.3.1Supernova
3Stellar remnants

3.1White and black dwarfs

3.2Neutron stars

3.3Black holes

4Models

5See also

6Further reading

7External links

8References

Birth of a star[edit]

Schematic of stellar evolution.


Main article: Star formation

Protostar[edit]
Main article: Protostar
Stellar evolution starts with the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud. Typical giant
molecular clouds are roughly 100 light-years (9.510 14 km) across and contain up to 6,000,000 solar
masses (1.21037 kg). As it collapses, a giant molecular cloud breaks into smaller and smaller
pieces. In each of these fragments, the collapsing gas releases gravitationalpotential energy as heat.
As its temperature and pressure increase, a fragment condenses into a rotating sphere of superhot
gas known as a protostar.[5]
A protostar continues to grow by accretion of gas and dust from the molecular cloud, becoming
a pre-main-sequence star as it reaches its final mass. Further development is determined by its
mass. (Mass is compared to the mass of the Sun: 1.0 M(2.01030 kg) means 1 solar mass.)

Protostars are encompassed in dust, and are thus more readily visible at infrared wavelengths.
Observations from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have been especially important
for unveiling numerous Galactic protostars and their parent star clusters.[6][7]

Brown dwarfs and sub-stellar objects[edit]


Main article: Brown dwarf
Protostars with masses less than roughly 0.08 M (1.61029 kg) never reach temperatures high
enough for nuclear fusion of hydrogen to begin. These are known as brown dwarfs. The International
Astronomical Union defines brown dwarfs as stars massive enough to fuse deuterium at some point
in their lives (13 Jupiter masses (MJ), 2.5 1028 kg, or 0.0125 M). Objects smaller than 13 MJ are
classified as sub-brown dwarfs (but if they orbit around another stellar object they are classified as
planets).[8] Both types, deuterium-burning and not, shine dimly and die away slowly, cooling gradually
over hundreds of millions of years.

A dense starfield in Sagittarius

Main sequence[edit]
Main article: Main sequence
For a more-massive protostar, the core temperature will eventually reach 10 million kelvin, initiating
the protonproton chain reaction and allowing hydrogen to fuse, first to deuterium and then
to helium. In stars of slightly over 1 M (2.01030 kg), the carbonnitrogenoxygen fusion reaction
(CNO cycle) contributes a large portion of the energy generation. The onset of nuclear fusion leads
relatively quickly to ahydrostatic equilibrium in which energy released by the core exerts a "radiation
pressure" balancing the weight of the star's matter, preventing further gravitational collapse. The star
thus evolves rapidly to a stable state, beginning the main-sequence phase of its evolution.
A new star will sit at a specific point on the main sequence of the HertzsprungRussell diagram, with
the main-sequence spectral typedepending upon the mass of the star. Small, relatively cold, lowmass red dwarfs fuse hydrogen slowly and will remain on the main sequence for hundreds of billions
of years or longer, whereas massive, hot O-type stars will leave the main sequence after just a few
million years. A mid-sized yellow dwarf star, like the Sun, will remain on the main sequence for about
10 billion years. The Sun is thought to be in the middle of its main sequence lifespan.

WR
LBV
YHG
BSG
RSG
AGB
RG

The evolutionary tracks of stars with different initial masses on the HertzsprungRussell
diagram. The tracks start once the star has evolved to the main sequence and stop
whenfusion stops (for massive stars) and at the end of the red giant branch (for stars
1 M and less).[9]
A yellow track is shown for the Sun, which will become a red giant after its main-sequence
phase ends before expanding further along the asymptotic giant branch, which will be the
last phase in which the Sun undergoes fusion.

Mature stars[edit]
Eventually the core exhausts its supply of hydrogen and the star begins to evolve off of themain
sequence. Without the outward pressure generated by the fusion of hydrogen to counteract the force
of gravity the core contracts until either electron degeneracy pressurebecomes sufficient to oppose
gravity or the core becomes hot enough (around 100 MK) forhelium fusion to begin. Which of these
happens first depends upon the star's mass.

Low-mass stars[edit]
What happens after a low-mass star ceases to produce energy through fusion has not been directly
observed; the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, which is less time (by several orders of
magnitude, in some cases) than it takes for fusion to cease in such stars.
Recent astrophysical models suggest that red dwarfs of 0.1 M may stay on the main sequence for
some six to twelve trillion years, gradually increasing in both temperature andluminosity, and take

several hundred billion more to collapse, slowly, into a white dwarf.[10][11]Such stars will not become
red giants as they are fully convective and will not develop a degenerate helium core with a shell
burning hydrogen. Instead, hydrogen fusion will proceed until almost the whole star is helium.

Internal structures of main-sequence stars, convection zones with arrowed cycles and
radiative zones with red flashes. To the left a low-mass red dwarf, in the center a midsized yellow dwarf and at the right a massive blue-white main-sequence star.
Slightly more massive stars do expand into red giants, but their helium cores are not massive
enough to reach the temperatures required for helium fusion so they never reach the tip of the red
giant branch. When hydrogen shell burning finishes, these stars move directly off the red giant
branch like a post AGB star, but at lower luminosity, to become a white dwarf. [2] A star of about
0.5 M will be able to reach temperatures high enough to fuse helium, and these "mid-sized" stars
go on to further stages of evolution beyond the red giant branch.[12]

Mid-sized stars[edit]

The evolutionary track of a solar mass, solar metallicity, star from main sequence to postAGB
Stars of roughly 0.510 M become red giants, which are large non-main-sequence stars of stellar
classification K or M. Red giants lie along the right edge of the HertzsprungRussell diagram due to
their red color and large luminosity. Examples include Aldebaran in the
constellation Taurus and Arcturus in the constellation of Botes.
Mid-sized stars are red giants during two different phases of their post-main-sequence evolution:
red-giant-branch stars, whose inert cores are made of helium, and asymptotic-giant-branch stars,
whose inert cores are made of carbon. Asymptotic-giant-branch stars have helium-burning shells
inside the hydrogen-burning shells, whereas red-giant-branch stars have hydrogen-burning shells
only.[13] Between these two phases, stars spend a period on the Horizontal branch with a heliumfusing core. Many of these helium fusing stars cluster towards the cool end of the horizontal branch
as K-type giants and are referred to red clump giants.

Subgiant phase[edit]
Main article: Subgiant
When a star exhausts the hydrogen in its core, it leaves the main sequence and begins to fuse
hydrogen in a shell outside the core. The core increases in mass as the shell produces more helium.
Depending on the mass of the helium core, this continues for several million to one or two billion
years, with the star expanding and cooling at a similar or slightly lower luminosity to its main
sequence state. Eventually either core becomes degenerate, in stars around the mass of the sun, or
the outer layers cool sufficiently to become opaque, in more massive stars. Either of these changes
cause the hydrogen shell to increase in temperature and the luminosity of the star to increase, at
which point the star expands onto the red giant branch.[14]

Red-giant-branch phase[edit]
Main article: Red giant branch
The expanding outer layers of the star are convective, with the material being mixed by turbulence
from near the fusing regions up to the surface of the star. For all but the lowest-mass stars, the fused
material has remained deep in the stellar interior prior to this point, so the convecting envelope
makes fusion products visible at the star's surface for the first time. At this stage of evolution, the
results are subtle, with the largest effects, alterations to the isotopes of hydrogen and helium, being
unobservable. The effects of theCNO cycle appear at the surface during the first dredge-up, with
lower 12C/13C ratios and altered proportions of carbon and nitrogen. These are detectable
with spectroscopy and have been measured for many evolved stars.
The helium core continues to grow on the red giant branch. It is no longer in thermal equilibrium,
either degenerate or above the Schoenberg-Chandrasekhar limit, so it increases in temperature
which causes the rate of fusion in the hydrogen shell to increase. The star increases in luminosity
towards the tip of the red-giant branch. Red giant branch stars with a degenerate helium core all
reach the tip with very similar core masses and very similar luminosities, although the more massive
of the red giants become hot enough to ignite helium fusion before that point.

Horizontal branch[edit]
Main articles: Horizontal branch and Red clump
If the core is largely supported by electron degeneracy pressure, helium fusion will ignite on a
timescale of days in a helium flash. In more massive stars, the ignition of helium fusion occurs
relatively slowly with no flash.[15] The nuclear power released during the helium flash is very large, on
the order of 108 times the luminosity of the Sun for a few days[14] and 1011 times the luminosity of the
Sun (roughly the luminosity of the Milky Way Galaxy) for a few seconds.[16] However, the energy is
absorbed by the stellar envelope and thus cannot be seen from outside the star.[14][16] The energy
released by helium fusion causes the core to expand, so that hydrogen fusion in the overlying layers
slows and total energy generation decreases. The star contracts, although not all the way to the
main sequence, and it migrates to the horizontal branch on the HertzsprungRussell diagram,
gradually shrinking in radius and increasing its surface temperature.
Core helium flash stars evolve to the red end of the horizontal branch but do not migrate to higher
temperatures before they gain a degenerate carbon-oxygen core and start helium shell burning.
These stars are often observed as a red clump of stars in the colour-magnitude diagram of a cluster,
hotter and less luminous than the red giants. Higher-mass stars with larger helium cores move along
the horizontal branch to higher temperatures, some becoming unstable pulsating stars in the
yellow instability strip (RR Lyrae variables), whereas some become even hotter and can form a blue
tail or blue hook to the horizontal branch. The exact morphology of the horizontal branch depends on
parameters such as metallicity, age, and helium content, but the exact details are still being
modelled.[17]

Asymptotic-giant-branch phase[edit]

Main article: Asymptotic giant branch


After a star has consumed the helium at the core, hydrogen and helium fusion continues in shells
around a hot core of carbon and oxygen. The star follows the asymptotic giant branch on the
HertzsprungRussell diagram, paralleling the original red giant evolution, but with even faster energy
generation (which lasts for a shorter time).[18] Although helium is being burnt in a shell, the majority of
the energy is produced by hydrogen burning in a shell further from the core of the star. Helium from
these hydrogen burning shells drops towards the center of the star and periodically the energy
output from the helium shell increases dramatically. This is known as a thermal pulse and they occur
towards the end of the asymptotic-giant-branch phase, sometimes even into the post-asymptoticgiant-branch phase. Depending on mass and composition, there may be several to hundreds of
thermal pulses.
There is a phase on the ascent of the asymptotic-giant-branch where a deep convective zone forms
and can bring carbon from the core to the surface. This is known as the second dredge up, and in
some stars there may even be a third dredge up. In this way a carbon star is formed, very cool and
strongly reddened stars showing strong carbon lines in their spectra. A process known as hot bottom
burning may convert carbon into oxygen and nitrogen before it can be dredged to the surface, and
the interaction between these processes determines the observed luminosities and spectra of
carbon stars in particular clusters.[19]
Another well known class of asymptotic-giant-branch stars are the Mira variables, which pulsate with
well-defined periods of tens to hundreds of days and large amplitudes up to about 10 magnitudes (in
the visual, total luminosity changes by a much smaller amount). In more-massive stars the stars
become more luminous and the pulsation period is longer, leading to enhanced mass loss, and the
stars become heavily obscured at visual wavelengths. These stars can be observed as OH/IR stars,
pulsating in the infra-red and showing OH maser activity. These stars are clearly oxygen rich, in
contrast to the carbon stars, but both must be produced by dredge ups.

Post-AGB[edit]
Main article: Post-AGB

The Cat's Eye Nebula, a planetary nebula formed by the death of a star with about the
same mass as the Sun
These mid-range stars ultimately reach the tip of the asymptotic-giant-branch and run out of fuel for
shell burning. They are not sufficiently massive to start full-scale carbon fusion, so they contract
again, going through a period of post-asymptotic-giant-branch superwind to produce a planetary
nebula with an extremely hot central star. The central star then cools to a white dwarf. The expelled
gas is relatively rich in heavy elements created within the star and may be

particularly oxygen or carbon enriched, depending on the type of the star. The gas builds up in an
expanding shell called a circumstellar envelope and cools as it moves away from the star,
allowing dust particles and molecules to form. With the high infrared energy input from the central
star, ideal conditions are formed in these circumstellar envelopes for maser excitation.
It is possible for thermal pulses to be produced once post-asymptotic-giant-branch evolution has
begun, producing a variety of unusual and poorly understood stars known as born-again asymptoticgiant-branch stars.[20] These may result in extreme horizontal-branch stars (subdwarf B stars),
hydrogen deficient post-asymptotic-giant-branch stars, variable planetary nebula central stars, and R
Coronae Borealis variables.

Massive stars[edit]
Main article: Supergiant

The Crab Nebula, the shattered remnants of a star which exploded as a supernova, the light
of which reached Earth in 1054 AD
In massive stars, the core is already large enough at the onset of the hydrogen burning shell that
helium ignition will occur before electron degeneracy pressure has a chance to become prevalent.
Thus, when these stars expand and cool, they do not brighten as much as lower-mass stars;
however, they were much brighter than lower-mass stars to begin with, and are thus still brighter
than the red giants formed from less-massive stars. These stars are unlikely to survive as
red supergiants; instead they will destroy themselves as type II supernovas.
Extremely massive stars (more than approximately 40 M), which are very luminous and thus have
very rapid stellar winds, lose mass so rapidly due to radiation pressure that they tend to strip off their
own envelopes before they can expand to become red supergiants, and thus retain extremely high
surface temperatures (and blue-white color) from their main-sequence time onwards. The largest
stars of the current generation are about 100-150 M because the outer layers would be expelled by
the extreme radiation. Although lower-mass stars normally do not burn off their outer layers so
rapidly, they can likewise avoid becoming red giants or red supergiants if they are in binary systems
close enough so that the companion star strips off the envelope as it expands, or if they rotate
rapidly enough so that convection extends all the way from the core to the surface, resulting in the
absence of a separate core and envelope due to thorough mixing. [21]

The core grows hotter and denser as it gains material from fusion of hydrogen at the base of the
envelope. In all massive stars, electron degeneracy pressure is insufficient to halt collapse by itself,
so as each major element is consumed in the center, progressively heavier elements ignite,
temporarily halting collapse. If the core of the star is not too massive (less than approximately
1.4 M, taking into account mass loss that has occurred by this time), it may then form a white dwarf
(possibly surrounded by a planetary nebula) as described above for less-massive stars, with the
difference that the white dwarf is composed chiefly of oxygen, neon, and magnesium.

The onion-like layers of a massive, evolved star just before core collapse. (Not to scale.)
Above a certain mass (estimated at approximately 2.5 M and whose star's progenitor was around
10 M), the core will reach the temperature (approximately 1.1 gigakelvins) at which neon partially
breaks down to form oxygen and helium, the latter of which immediately fuses with some of the
remaining neon to form magnesium; then oxygen fuses to form sulfur,silicon, and smaller amounts of
other elements. Finally, the temperature gets high enough that any nucleus can bepartially broken
down, most commonly releasing an alpha particle (helium nucleus) which immediately fuses with
another nucleus, so that several nuclei are effectively rearranged into a smaller number of heavier
nuclei, with net release of energy because the addition of fragments to nuclei exceeds the energy
required to break them off the parent nuclei.
A star with a core mass too great to form a white dwarf but insufficient to achieve sustained
conversion of neon to oxygen and magnesium, will undergo core collapse (due to electron capture)
before achieving fusion of the heavier elements.[22]Both heating and cooling caused
by electron capture onto minor constituent elements (such as aluminum and sodium) prior to
collapse may have a significant impact on total energy generation within the star shortly before
collapse.[23] This may produce a noticeable effect on the abundance of elements and isotopes
ejected in the subsequent supernova.

Supernova[edit]
Main article: Supernova
Once the nucleosynthesis process arrives at iron-56, the continuation of this process consumes
energy (the addition of fragments to nuclei releases less energy than required to break them off the
parent nuclei). If the mass of the core exceeds the Chandrasekhar limit, electron degeneracy
pressure will be unable to support its weight against the force of gravity, and the core will undergo

sudden, catastrophic collapse to form a neutron star or (in the case of cores that exceed the TolmanOppenheimer-Volkoff limit), a black hole. Through a process that is not completely understood, some
of the gravitational potential energy released by this core collapse is converted into a Type Ib, Type
Ic, or Type IIsupernova. It is known that the core collapse produces a massive surge of neutrinos, as
observed with supernova SN 1987A. The extremely energetic neutrinos fragment some nuclei; some
of their energy is consumed in releasing nucleons, including neutrons, and some of their energy is
transformed into heat and kinetic energy, thus augmenting theshock wave started by rebound of
some of the infalling material from the collapse of the core. Electron capture in very dense parts of
the infalling matter may produce additional neutrons. Because some of the rebounding matter is
bombarded by the neutrons, some of its nuclei capture them, creating a spectrum of heavier-thaniron material including the radioactive elements up to (and likely beyond) uranium.[24] Although nonexploding red giants can produce significant quantities of elements heavier than iron using neutrons
released in side reactions of earlier nuclear reactions, the abundance of elements heavier
than iron (and in particular, of certain isotopes of elements that have multiple stable or long-lived
isotopes) produced in such reactions is quite different from that produced in a supernova. Neither
abundance alone matches that found in the Solar System, so both supernovae and ejection of
elements from red giants are required to explain the observed abundance of heavy elements
and isotopes thereof.
The energy transferred from collapse of the core to rebounding material not only generates heavy
elements, but provides for their acceleration well beyond escape velocity, thus causing a Type Ib,
Type Ic, or Type II supernova. Note that current understanding of this energy transfer is still not
satisfactory; although current computer models of Type Ib, Type Ic, and Type II supernovae account
for part of the energy transfer, they are not able to account for enough energy transfer to produce the
observed ejection of material.[25]
Some evidence gained from analysis of the mass and orbital parameters of binary neutron stars
(which require two such supernovae) hints that the collapse of an oxygen-neon-magnesium core
may produce a supernova that differs observably (in ways other than size) from a supernova
produced by the collapse of an iron core.[26]
The most-massive stars that exist today may be completely destroyed by a supernova with an
energy greatly exceeding its gravitational binding energy. This rare event, caused by pair-instability,
leaves behind no black hole remnant.[27] In the past history of the universe, some stars were even
larger than the largest that exists today, and they would immediately collapse into a black hole at the
end of their lives, due to photodisintegration.

Stellar evolution of low-mass (left cycle) and high-mass (right cycle) stars, with examples in
italics

Stellar remnants[edit]
After a star has burned out its fuel supply, its remnants can take one of three forms, depending on
the mass during its lifetime.

White and black dwarfs[edit]


Main articles: White dwarf and Black dwarf
For a star of 1 M, the resulting white dwarf is of about 0.6 M, compressed into approximately the
volume of the Earth. White dwarfs are stable because the inward pull of gravity is balanced by
the degeneracy pressure of the star's electrons, a consequence of the Pauli exclusion principle.
Electron degeneracy pressure provides a rather soft limit against further compression; therefore, for
a given chemical composition, white dwarfs of higher mass have a smaller volume. With no fuel left
to burn, the star radiates its remaining heat into space for billions of years.
A white dwarf is very hot when it first forms, more than 100,000 K at the surface and even hotter in
its interior. It is so hot that a lot of its energy is lost in the form of neutrinos for the first 10 million
years of its existence, but will have lost most of its energy after a billion years. [28]
The chemical composition of the white dwarf depends upon its mass. A star of a few solar masses
will ignite carbon fusion to form magnesium, neon, and smaller amounts of other elements, resulting
in a white dwarf composed chiefly of oxygen, neon, and magnesium, provided that it can lose
enough mass to get below the Chandrasekhar limit (see below), and provided that the ignition of
carbon is not so violent as to blow the star apart in a supernova. [29] A star of mass on the order of
magnitude of the Sun will be unable to ignite carbon fusion, and will produce a white dwarf
composed chiefly of carbon and oxygen, and of mass too low to collapse unless matter is added to it
later (see below). A star of less than about half the mass of the Sun will be unable to ignite helium
fusion (as noted earlier), and will produce a white dwarf composed chiefly of helium.
In the end, all that remains is a cold dark mass sometimes called a black dwarf. However, the
universe is not old enough for any black dwarfs to exist yet.
If the white dwarf's mass increases above the Chandrasekhar limit, which is 1.4 M for a white dwarf
composed chiefly of carbon, oxygen, neon, and/or magnesium, then electron degeneracy pressure
fails due to electron capture and the star collapses. Depending upon the chemical composition and
pre-collapse temperature in the center, this will lead either to collapse into a neutron star or runaway
ignition of carbon and oxygen. Heavier elements favor continued core collapse, because they
require a higher temperature to ignite, because electron capture onto these elements and their
fusion products is easier; higher core temperatures favor runaway nuclear reaction, which halts core
collapse and leads to a Type Ia supernova.[30] These supernovae may be many times brighter than
the Type II supernova marking the death of a massive star, even though the latter has the greater
total energy release. This inability to collapse means that no white dwarf more massive than
approximately 1.4 M can exist (with a possible minor exception for very rapidly spinning white
dwarfs, whose centrifugal force due to rotation partially counteracts the weight of their matter). Mass
transfer in a binary system may cause an initially stable white dwarf to surpass the Chandrasekhar
limit.
If a white dwarf forms a close binary system with another star, hydrogen from the larger companion
may accrete around and onto a white dwarf until it gets hot enough to fuse in a runaway reaction at
its surface, although the white dwarf remains below the Chandrasekhar limit. Such an explosion is
termed a nova.

Neutron stars[edit]
Main article: Neutron star

Bubble-like shock wave still expanding from a supernova explosion 15,000 years ago.
Ordinarily, atoms are mostly electron clouds by volume, with very compact nuclei at the center
(proportionally, if atoms were the size of a football stadium, their nuclei would be the size of dust
mites). When a stellar core collapses, the pressure causes electrons and protons to fuse by electron
capture. Without electrons, which keep nuclei apart, the neutrons collapse into a dense ball (in some
ways like a giant atomic nucleus), with a thin overlying layer of degenerate matter (chiefly iron unless
matter of different composition is added later). The neutrons resist further compression by the Pauli
Exclusion Principle, in a way analogous to electron degeneracy pressure, but stronger.
These stars, known as neutron stars, are extremely smallon the order of radius 10 km, no bigger
than the size of a large cityand are phenomenally dense. Their period of rotation shortens
dramatically as the stars shrink (due to conservation of angular momentum); observed rotational
periods of neutron stars range from about 1.5 milliseconds (over 600 revolutions per second) to
several seconds.[31]When these rapidly rotating stars' magnetic poles are aligned with the Earth, we
detect a pulse of radiation each revolution. Such neutron stars are called pulsars, and were the first
neutron stars to be discovered. Though electromagnetic radiation detected from pulsars is most
often in the form of radio waves, pulsars have also been detected at visible, X-ray, and gamma ray
wavelengths.[32]

Black holes[edit]
Main article: Black hole
If the mass of the stellar remnant is high enough, the neutron degeneracy pressure will be
insufficient to prevent collapse below theSchwarzschild radius. The stellar remnant thus becomes a
black hole. The mass at which this occurs is not known with certainty, but is currently estimated at
between 2 and 3 M.
Black holes are predicted by the theory of general relativity. According to classical general relativity,
no matter or information can flow from the interior of a black hole to an outside observer,
although quantum effects may allow deviations from this strict rule. The existence of black holes in
the universe is well supported, both theoretically and by astronomical observation.
Because the core-collapse supernova mechanism itself is imperfectly understood, it is still not known
whether it is possible for a star to collapse directly to a black hole without producing a visible
supernova, or whether some supernovae initially form unstable neutron stars which then collapse
into black holes; the exact relation between the initial mass of the star and the final remnant is also

not completely certain. Resolution of these uncertainties requires the analysis of more supernovae
and supernova remnants.

Models[edit]
A stellar evolutionary model is a mathematical model that can be used to compute the evolutionary
phases of a star from its formation until it becomes a remnant. The mass and chemical composition
of the star are used as the inputs, and the luminosity and surface temperature are the only
constraints. The model formulae are based upon the physical understanding of the star, usually
under the assumption of hydrostatic equilibrium. Extensive computer calculations are then run to
determine the changing state of the star over time, yielding a table of data that can be used to
determine the evolutionary track of the star across the HertzsprungRussell diagram, along with
other evolving properties.[33]Accurate models can be used to estimate the current age of a star by
comparing its physical properties with those of stars along a matching evolutionary track. [34]

Sun
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the star. For other uses, see Sun (disambiguation).

The Sun

False-color image of the Sun


Observation data
Mean distance

1 au 1.496108 km

from Earth

8 min 19 s at light speed

Visual brightness (V)

26.74[1]

Absolute magnitude

4.83[1]

Spectral classification G2V[2]


Metallicity

Z = 0.0122[3]

Angular size

31.632.7 minutes of arc[4]

Adjectives

Solar

Orbital characteristics
Mean distance

2.71017 km

from Milky Way core 27,200 light-years


Galactic period
Velocity

(2.252.50)108 yr
220 km/s (orbit around the
center of the Milky Way)
20 km/s (relative to average
velocity of other stars in stellar
neighborhood)
370 km/s[5] (relative to
the cosmic microwave
background)

Physical characteristics
Equatorialradius

695,700 km[6]
109 Earth[7]

Equatorialcircumfere 4.379106 km[7]


nce

109 Earth[7]

Flattening

9106

Surface area

6.091012 km2[7]
12,000 Earth[7]

Volume

1.411018 km3[7]
1,300,000 Earth

Mass

(1.988550.00025)1030 kg[1]
333,000 Earth[1]

Averagedensity

1.408 g/cm3[1][7][8]
0.255 Earth[1][7]

Centerdensity(modele 162.2 g/cm3[1]


d)

12.4 Earth

Equatorialsurface

274.0 m/s2[1]

gravity

27.94 g

27,542.29 cgs
28 Earth[7]
Escape velocity

617.7 km/s[7]

(from the surface)

55 Earth[7]

Temperature

Center
(modeled): 1.57107 K[1]
Photosphere (effective): 5,772
K[1]
Corona: 5106 K

Luminosity(Lsol)

3.8281026 W[1]
3.751028 lm
98 lm/W efficacy

Meanradiance (Isol)

2.009107 Wm2sr1

Age

4.6 billion years[9][10]


Rotation characteristics

Obliquity

7.25[1]
(to the ecliptic)
67.23
(to the galactic plane)

Right ascension

286.13

of North pole[11]

19 h 4 min 30 s

Declination

+63.87

of North pole

63 52' North

Siderealrotation

25.05 d[1]

period
(at equator)
(at 16 latitude)

25.38 d[1]
25 d 9 h 7 min 12 s[11]

(at poles)

34.4 d[1]

Rotation velocity

7.189103 km/h[7]

(at equator)
Photospheric composition (by mass)

Hydrogen

73.46%[12]

Helium

24.85%

Oxygen

0.77%

Carbon

0.29%

Iron

0.16%

Neon

0.12%

Nitrogen

0.09%

Silicon

0.07%

Magnesium

0.05%

Sulfur

0.04%

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System and is by far the most important source
of energy for life on Earth. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma,[13][14] with
internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process.[15] Its diameter is
about 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth, accounting for
about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System.[16] About three quarters of the Sun's mass
consists of hydrogen; the rest is mostlyhelium, with much smaller quantities of heavier elements,
including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.[17]
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V) based on spectral class and it is informally referred
to as a yellow dwarf. It formed approximately 4.6 billion[a][9][18] years ago from the gravitational
collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the
center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System. The central
mass became increasingly hot and dense, eventually initiating nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought
that almost all stars form by this process.
The Sun is roughly middle aged and has not changed dramatically for over four billion [a] years, and
will remain fairly stable for more than another five billion years. However, after hydrogen fusion in its
core has stopped, the Sun will undergo severe changes and become a red giant. It is calculated that
the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits ofMercury, Venus, and possibly
Earth.
The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, and the Sun
has been regarded by some cultures as a deity. Earth's movement around the Sun is the basis of
the solar calendar, which is the predominant calendar in use today.

Contents
[hide]

1Name and etymology


o

1.1Religious aspects
2Characteristics

3Sunlight

4Composition
o

4.1Singly ionized iron-group elements

4.2Isotopic composition

5Structure
o

5.1Core

5.2Radiative zone

5.3Tachocline

5.4Convective zone

5.5Photosphere

5.6Atmosphere

5.7Photons and neutrinos

6Magnetism and activity


o

6.1Magnetic field

6.2Variation in activity

6.3Long-term change

7Life phases
o

7.1Formation

7.2Main sequence

7.3After core hydrogen exhaustion

8Motion and location


o

8.1Orbit in Milky Way

9Theoretical problems
o

9.1Coronal heating problem

9.2Faint young Sun problem

10History of observation
o

10.1Early understanding

10.2Development of scientific understanding

10.3Solar space missions

11Observation and effects

12See also

13Notes

14References

15Further reading

16External links

Name and etymology


The English proper noun Sun developed from Old English sunne and may be related to south.
Cognates to English sun appear in other Germanic languages, including Old
Frisian sunne, sonne, Old Saxon sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, modern Dutch zon, Old High
German sunna, modern German Sonne, Old Norse sunna, and Gothic sunn. All Germanic terms for
the Sun stem fromProto-Germanic *sunnn.[19][20]
The English weekday name Sunday stems from Old English (Sunnandg; "Sun's day", from before
700) and is ultimately a result of a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis, itself a translation of
the Greek (hmra hlou).[21] The Latin name for the Sun, Sol, is not common in
general English language use; the adjectival form is the related word solar.[22][23] The term solis also
used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on another planet, such
as Mars.[24] A mean Earthsolar day is approximately 24 hours, whereas a mean Martian 'sol' is 24
hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.[25]

Religious aspects
Main article: Solar deity
Solar deities and Sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms,
including the Egyptian Ra, the Hindu Surya, the Japanese Amaterasu, the Germanic Sl, and the
Aztec Tonatiuh, among others.

From at least the 4th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the Sun was worshipped as the god Ra, portrayed
as a falcon-headed divinity surmounted by the solar disk, and surrounded by a serpent. In the New
Empire period, the Sun became identified with the dung beetle, whose spherical ball of dung was
identified with the Sun. In the form of the Sun disc Aten, the Sun had a brief resurgence during
the Amarna Period when it again became the preeminent, if not only, divinity for
the Pharaoh Akhenaton.[26][27]
The Sun is viewed as a goddess in Germanic paganism, Sl/Sunna.[20] Scholars theorize that the
Sun, as a Germanic goddess, may represent an extension of an earlier Proto-Indo-European Sun
deity because of Indo-European linguistic connections between Old
Norse Sl, Sanskrit Surya, Gaulish Sulis, Lithuanian Saul, and Slavic Solntse.[20]
In ancient Roman culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. It was adopted as the Sabbath day
by Christians who did not have a Jewish background. The symbol of light was a pagan device
adopted by Christians, and perhaps the most important one that did not come from Jewish traditions.
In paganism, the Sun was a source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. It was the
center of a popular cult among Romans, who would stand at dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine
as they prayed. The celebration of the winter solstice (which influenced Christmas) was part of the
Roman cult of the unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus). Christian churches were built with an orientation
so that the congregation faced toward the sunrise in the East.[28]

Characteristics
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star that comprises about 99.86% of the mass of the Solar
System. The Sun has anabsolute magnitude of +4.83, estimated to be brighter than about 85% of
the stars in the Milky Way, most of which are red dwarfs.[29][30] The Sun is a Population I, or heavyelement-rich,[b] star.[31] The formation of the Sun may have been triggered by shockwaves from one
or more nearby supernovae.[32] This is suggested by a high abundance of heavy elements in the
Solar System, such as gold and uranium, relative to the abundances of these elements in socalled Population II, heavy-element-poor, stars. These elements could most plausibly have been
produced by endothermic nuclear reactions during a supernova, or bytransmutation through neutron
absorption within a massive second-generation star.[31]
The Sun is by far the brightest object in the sky, with an apparent magnitude of 26.74.[33][34] This is
about 13 billion times brighter than the next brightest star, Sirius, which has an apparent magnitude
of 1.46. The mean distance of the Sun's center to Earth's center is approximately 1 astronomical
unit (about 150,000,000 km; 93,000,000 mi), though the distance varies as Earth moves
from perihelion in January to aphelion in July.[35] At this average distance, light travels from the Sun's
horizon to Earth's horizon in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds, while light from the closest points of
the Sun and Earth takes about two seconds less. The energy of this sunlight supports almost all
life[c] on Earth byphotosynthesis,[36] and drives Earth's climate and weather.
The Sun does not have a definite boundary, and in its outer parts its density decreases exponentially
with increasing distance from its center.[37] For the purpose of measurement, however, the Sun's
radius is considered to be the distance from its center to the edge of the photosphere, the apparent
visible surface of the Sun.[38] By this measure, the Sun is a near-perfect sphere with
an oblateness estimated at about 9 millionths,[39] which means that its polar diameter differs from its
equatorial diameter by only 10 kilometres (6.2 mi).[40] The tidal effect of the planets is weak and does
not significantly affect the shape of the Sun.[41] The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its poles.
This differential rotation is caused by convective motion due to heat transport and the Coriolis
force due to the Sun's rotation. In a frame of reference defined by the stars, the rotational period is
approximately 25.6 days at the equator and 33.5 days at the poles. Viewed from Earth as it orbits
the Sun, the apparent rotational period of the Sun at its equator is about 28 days.[42]

Sunlight
Main article: Sunlight
The solar constant is the amount of power that the Sun deposits per unit area that is directly
exposed to sunlight. The solar constant is equal to approximately 1,368 W/m2 (watts per square
meter) at a distance of one astronomical unit (AU) from the Sun (that is, on or near Earth).
[43]
Sunlight on the surface of Earth is attenuated by Earth's atmosphere, so that less power arrives at
the surface (closer to 1,000 W/m2) in clear conditions when the Sun is near the zenith.[44] Sunlight at
the top of Earth's atmosphere is composed (by total energy) of about 50% infrared light, 40% visible
light, and 10% ultraviolet light.[45] The atmosphere in particular filters out over 70% of solar ultraviolet,
especially at the shorter wavelengths.[46] Solar ultraviolet radiation ionizes Earth's dayside upper
atmosphere, creating the electrically conducting ionosphere.[47]
The Sun's color is white, with a CIE color-space index near (0.3, 0.3), when viewed from space or
when the Sun is high in the sky. When measuring all the photons emitted, the Sun is actually
emitting more photons in the green portion of the spectrum than any other.[48][49] When the Sun is low
in the sky, atmospheric scattering renders the Sun yellow, red, orange, or magenta. Despite its
typical whiteness, most people mentally picture the Sun as yellow; the reasons for this are the
subject of debate.[50] The Sun is a G2V star, with G2 indicating its surface temperature of
approximately 5,778 K (5,505 C, 9,941 F), and V that it, like most stars, is a main-sequence star.[51]
[52]
The average luminance of the Sun is about 1.88 giga candela per square metre, but as viewed
through Earth's atmosphere, this is lowered to about 1.44 Gcd/m2.[d] However, the luminance is not
constant across the disk of the Sun (limb darkening).

Composition
See also: Molecules in stars
The Sun is composed primarily of the chemical elements hydrogen and helium; they account for
74.9% and 23.8% of the mass of the Sun in the photosphere, respectively.[53] All heavier elements,
called metals in astronomy, account for less than 2% of the mass, with oxygen (roughly 1% of the
Sun's mass), carbon (0.3%), neon (0.2%), and iron (0.2%) being the most abundant. [54]
The Sun inherited its chemical composition from the interstellar medium out of which it formed. The
hydrogen and helium in the Sun were produced by Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and the heavier
elements were produced by stellar nucleosynthesis in generations of stars that completed
their stellar evolution and returned their material to the interstellar medium before the formation of
the Sun.[55] The chemical composition of the photosphere is normally considered representative of
the composition of the primordial Solar System.[56] However, since the Sun formed, some of the
helium and heavy elements have gravitationally settled from the photosphere. Therefore, in today's
photosphere the helium fraction is reduced, and the metallicity is only 84% of what it was in
the protostellar phase (before nuclear fusion in the core started). The protostellar Sun's composition
is believed to have been 71.1% hydrogen, 27.4% helium, and 1.5% heavier elements. [53]
Today, nuclear fusion in the Sun's core has modified the composition by converting hydrogen into
helium, so the innermost portion of the Sun is now roughly 60% helium, with the abundance of
heavier elements unchanged. Because heat is transferred from the Sun's core by radiation rather
than by convection (see Radiative zone below), none of the fusion products from the core have risen
to the photosphere.[57]
The reactive core zone of "hydrogen burning", where hydrogen is converted into helium, is starting to
surround an inner core of "helium ash". This development will continue and will eventually cause the
Sun to leave the main sequence, to become a red giant.[58]
The solar heavy-element abundances described above are typically measured both
using spectroscopy of the Sun's photosphere and by measuring abundances in meteoritesthat have

never been heated to melting temperatures. These meteorites are thought to retain the composition
of the protostellar Sun and are thus not affected by settling of heavy elements. The two methods
generally agree well.[17]

Singly ionized iron-group elements


In the 1970s, much research focused on the abundances of iron-group elements in the Sun.[59]
[60]
Although significant research was done, until 1978 it was difficult to determine the abundances of
some iron-group elements (e.g. cobalt and manganese) via spectrography because of
their hyperfine structures.[59]
The first largely complete set of oscillator strengths of singly ionized iron-group elements were made
available in the 1960s,[61] and these were subsequently improved.[62] In 1978, the abundances of
singly ionized elements of the iron group were derived.[59]

Isotopic composition
Various authors have considered the existence of a gradient in the isotopic compositions of solar
and planetary noble gases,[63] e.g. correlations between isotopic compositions ofneon and xenon in
the Sun and on the planets.[64]
Prior to 1983, it was thought that the whole Sun has the same composition as the solar atmosphere.
[65]
In 1983, it was claimed that it was fractionation in the Sun itself that caused the isotopiccomposition relationship between the planetary and solar-wind-implanted noble gases. [65]

Structure
Core
Main article: Solar core

The structure of the Sun


The core of the Sun extends from the center to about 2025% of the solar radius. [66] It has a density
of up to 150 g/cm3[67][68] (about 150 times the density of water) and a temperature of close to 15.7
million kelvins (K).[68] By contrast, the Sun's surface temperature is approximately 5,800 K. Recent
analysis of SOHO mission data favors a faster rotation rate in the core than in the radiative zone
above.[66] Through most of the Sun's life, energy is produced by nuclear fusion in the core region
through a series of steps called the pp (protonproton) chain; this process
converts hydrogen into helium.[69] Only 0.8% of the energy generated in the Sun comes from
the CNO cycle, though this proportion is expected to increase as the Sun becomes older.[70]

The core is the only region in the Sun that produces an appreciable amount of thermal
energythrough fusion; 99% of the power is generated within 24% of the Sun's radius, and by 30% of
the radius, fusion has stopped nearly entirely. The remainder of the Sun is heated by this energy as
is transferred outwards through many successive layers, finally to the solar photosphere where it
escapes into space as sunlight or the kinetic energy of particles.[51][71]
The protonproton chain occurs around 9.21037 times each second in the core, converting about
3.71038 protons into alpha particles (helium nuclei) every second (out of a total of ~8.910 56 free
protons in the Sun), or about 6.21011 kg/s.[51] Fusing four free protons (hydrogen nuclei) into a
single alpha particle (helium nuclei) releases around 0.7% of the fused mass as energy,[72] so the
Sun releases energy at the massenergy conversion rate of 4.26 million metric tons per second, for
384.6 yottawatts(3.8461026 W),[1] or 9.1921010 megatons of TNT per second. Theoretical models of
the Sun's interior indicate a power density of approximately 276.5 W/m3,[73] a value that more nearly
approximates reptile metabolism than a thermonuclear bomb.[e]
The fusion rate in the core is in a self-correcting equilibrium: a slightly higher rate of fusion would
cause the core to heat up more and expand slightly against the weight of the outer layers, reducing
the density and hence the fusion rate and correcting the perturbation; and a slightly lower rate would
cause the core to cool and shrink slightly, increasing the density and increasing the fusion rate and
again reverting it to its present rate.[74][75]

Radiative zone
Main article: Radiative zone
From the core out to about 0.7 solar radii, thermal radiation is the primary means of energy transfer.
[76]
The transfer of energy through this zone is by radiation not by thermalconvection. The
temperature drops from approximately 7 million to 2 million kelvins with increasing distance from the
core.[68] This temperature gradient is less than the value of the adiabatic lapse rate and hence cannot
drive convection, hence, energy is transferred by radiation.
[68]
Ions of hydrogen and helium emit photons, which travel only a brief distance before being
reabsorbed by other ions.[76] The density drops a hundredfold (from 20 g/cm3 to only 0.2 g/cm3) from
0.25 solar radii to the 0.7 radii, the top of the radiative zone. [76]

Tachocline
Main article: Tachocline
The radiative zone and the convective zone are separated by a transition layer, the tachocline. This
is a region where the sharp regime change between the uniform rotation of the radiative zone and
the differential rotation of the convection zone results in a large shear between the twoa condition
where successive horizontal layers slide past one another.[77] The fluid motion of the convection zone
above, slowly disappears from the top of this layer to its bottom where it matches that of the radiative
zone. Presently, it is hypothesized (see Solar dynamo) that a magnetic dynamo within this layer
generates the Sun's magnetic field.[68]

Convective zone
Main article: Convection zone
The Sun's convection zone extends from 0.7 solar radii (200,000 km) to near the surface. In this
layer, the temperature is lower than in the radiative zone and heavier atoms are not fully ionized. As
a result, radiative heat transport is less effective and convection moves the Sun's energy outward
through this layer. The density of the plasma is low enough to allow convective currents to develop.
Material heated at the tachocline picks up heat and expands, thereby reducing its density and
allowing it to rise. As a result, an orderly motion of the mass develops into thermal cells that carry the
majority of the heat outward to the Sun's photosphere above. Once the material diffusively and
radiatively cools just beneath the photospheric surface, its density increases, and it sinks to the base
of the convection zone, where it again picks up heat from the top of the radiative zone and the

convective cycle continues. At the photosphere, the temperature has dropped to 5,700 K and the
density to only 0.2 g/m3 (about 1/6,000 the density of air at sea level).[68]
The thermal columns of the convection zone form an imprint on the surface of the Sun giving it a
granular appearance called the solar granulation at the smallest scale andsupergranulation at larger
scales. Turbulent convection in this outer part of the solar interior sustains "small-scale" dynamo
action over the near-surface volume of the Sun.[68]The Sun's thermal columns are Bnard cells and
take the shape of hexagonal prisms.[78]

Photosphere

The effective temperature, or black body temperature, of the Sun (5,777 K) is the
temperature a black body of the same size must have to yield the same total emissive
power.
Main article: Photosphere
The visible surface of the Sun, the photosphere, is the layer below which the Sun
becomes opaque to visible light.[79] Above the photosphere visible sunlight is free to propagate into
space, and its energy escapes the Sun entirely. The change in opacity is due to the decreasing
amount of H ions, which absorb visible light easily.[79] Conversely, the visible light we see is
produced as electrons react withhydrogen atoms to produce H ions.[80][81] The photosphere is tens to
hundreds of kilometers thick, and is slightly less opaque than air on Earth. Because the upper part of
the photosphere is cooler than the lower part, an image of the Sun appears brighter in the center
than on the edge or limb of the solar disk, in a phenomenon known as limb darkening.[79] The
spectrum of sunlight has approximately the spectrum of a black-body radiating at about 6,000 K,
interspersed with atomic absorption lines from the tenuous layers above the photosphere. The
photosphere has a particle density of ~1023 m3 (about 0.37% of the particle number per volume
of Earth's atmosphereat sea level). The photosphere is not fully ionizedthe extent of ionization is
about 3%, leaving almost all of the hydrogen in atomic form.[82]
During early studies of the optical spectrum of the photosphere, some absorption lines were found
that did not correspond to any chemical elements then known on Earth. In 1868, Norman
Lockyer hypothesized that these absorption lines were caused by a new element that he
dubbed helium, after the Greek Sun god Helios. Twenty-five years later, helium was isolated on
Earth.[83]

Atmosphere
See also: Corona and Coronal loop

During a total solar eclipse, the solarcorona can be seen with the naked eye, during the
brief period of totality.
During a total solar eclipse, when the disk of the Sun is covered by that of the Moon, parts of the
Sun's surrounding atmosphere can be seen. It is composed of four distinct parts: the chromosphere,
the transition region, the corona and the heliosphere.
The coolest layer of the Sun is a temperature minimum region extending to about 500 km above the
photosphere, and has a temperature of about 4,100 K.[79] This part of the Sun is cool enough to allow
the existence of simple molecules such as carbon monoxide and water, which can be detected via
their absorption spectra.[84]
The chromosphere, transition region, and corona are much hotter than the surface of the Sun. [79] The
reason is not well understood, but evidence suggests that Alfvn waves may have enough energy to
heat the corona.[85]
Above the temperature minimum layer is a layer about 2,000 km thick, dominated by a spectrum of
emission and absorption lines.[79] It is called the chromosphere from the Greek root chroma, meaning
color, because the chromosphere is visible as a colored flash at the beginning and end of total solar
eclipses.[76] The temperature of the chromosphere increases gradually with altitude, ranging up to
around20,000 K near the top.[79] In the upper part of the chromosphere helium becomes
partially ionized.[86]

Taken by Hinode's Solar Optical Telescope on 12 January 2007, this image of the Sun
reveals the filamentary nature of the plasma connecting regions of different magnetic
polarity.
Above the chromosphere, in a thin (about 200 km) transition region, the temperature rises rapidly
from around 20,000 K in the upper chromosphere to coronal temperatures closer to 1,000,000 K.
[87]
The temperature increase is facilitated by the full ionization of helium in the transition region,
which significantly reduces radiative cooling of the plasma. [86] The transition region does not occur at
a well-defined altitude. Rather, it forms a kind of nimbus around chromospheric features such
as spiculesand filaments, and is in constant, chaotic motion.[76] The transition region is not easily
visible from Earth's surface, but is readily observable from space by instruments sensitive to
the extreme ultraviolet portion of the spectrum.[88]
The corona is the next layer of the Sun. The low corona, near the surface of the Sun, has a particle
density around 1015 m3 to 1016 m3.[86][f] The average temperature of the corona and solar wind is
about 1,000,0002,000,000 K; however, in the hottest regions it is 8,000,00020,000,000 K.
[87]
Although no complete theory yet exists to account for the temperature of the corona, at least
some of its heat is known to be from magnetic reconnection.[87][89] The corona is the extended
atmosphere of the Sun, which has a volume much larger than the volume enclosed by the Sun's
photosphere. A flow of plasma outward from the Sun into interplanetary space is the solar wind.[89]
The heliosphere, the tenuous outermost atmosphere of the Sun, is filled with the solar wind plasma.
This outermost layer of the Sun is defined to begin at the distance where the flow of the solar
wind becomes superalfvnicthat is, where the flow becomes faster than the speed of Alfvn
waves,[90] at approximately 20 solar radii (0.1 AU). Turbulence and dynamic forces in the heliosphere
cannot affect the shape of the solar corona within, because the information can only travel at the
speed of Alfvn waves. The solar wind travels outward continuously through the heliosphere, [91]
[92]
forming the solar magnetic field into a spiral shape,[89] until it impacts the heliopause more than
50 AU from the Sun. In December 2004, the Voyager 1 probe passed through a shock front that is
thought to be part of the heliopause.[93] In late 2012 Voyager 1 recorded a marked increase in cosmic
ray collisions and a sharp drop in lower energy particles from the solar wind, which suggested that
the probe had passed through the heliopause and entered the interstellar medium.[94]

Photons and neutrinos


High-energy gamma-ray photons initially released with fusion reactions in the core are almost
immediately absorbed by the solar plasma of the radiative zone, usually after traveling only a few
millimeters. Re-emission happens in a random direction and usually at a slightly lower energy. With
this sequence of emissions and absorptions, it takes a long time for radiation to reach the Sun's
surface. Estimates of the photon travel time range between 10,000 and 170,000 years.[95] In contrast,
it takes only 2.3 seconds for theneutrinos, which account for about 2% of the total energy production
of the Sun, to reach the surface. Because energy transport in the Sun is a process that involves
photons in thermodynamic equilibrium with matter, the time scale of energy transport in the Sun is
longer, on the order of 30,000,000 years. This is the time it would take the Sun to return to a stable
state, if the rate of energy generation in its core were suddenly changed. [96]
Neutrinos are also released by the fusion reactions in the core, but, unlike photons, they rarely
interact with matter, so almost all are able to escape the Sun immediately. For many years
measurements of the number of neutrinos produced in the Sun were lower than theories
predicted by a factor of 3. This discrepancy was resolved in 2001 through the discovery of the effects
of neutrino oscillation: the Sun emits the number of neutrinos predicted by the theory, but neutrino
detectors were missing 23 of them because the neutrinos had changed flavor by the time they were
detected.[97]

Magnetism and activity


Magnetic field
See also: Stellar magnetic field, Sunspots, List of solar cycles, and Solar phenomena

Visible light photograph of sunspot, 13 December 2006

Butterfly diagram showing paired sunspot pattern. Graph is of sunspot area.

In this false-color ultraviolet image, the Sun shows a C3-class solar flare (white area on
upper left), a solar tsunami (wave-like structure, upper right) and multiple filaments
of plasmafollowing a magnetic field, rising from the stellar surface.

The heliospheric current sheetextends to the outer reaches of the Solar System, and results
from the influence of the Sun's rotating magnetic field on the plasma in the interplanetary
medium.[98]
The Sun has a magnetic field that varies across the surface of the Sun. Its polar field is 1
2 gauss (0.00010.0002 T), whereas the field is typically 3,000 gauss (0.3 T) in features on the Sun
called sunspots and 10100 gauss (0.0010.01 T) in solar prominences.[1]
The magnetic field also varies in time and location. The quasi-periodic 11-year solar cycle is the
most prominent variation in which the number and size of sunspots waxes and wanes. [15][99][100]
Sunspots are visible as dark patches on the Sun's photosphere, and correspond to concentrations of
magnetic field where the convective transport of heat is inhibited from the solar interior to the
surface. As a result, sunspots are slightly cooler than the surrounding photosphere, and, so, they
appear dark. At a typical solar minimum, few sunspots are visible, and occasionally none can be
seen at all. Those that do appear are at high solar latitudes. As the solar cycle progresses towards
its maximum, sunspots tend form closer to the solar equator, a phenomenon known as Sprer's law.
The largest sunspots can be tens of thousands of kilometers across.[101]
An 11-year sunspot cycle is half of a 22-year BabcockLeighton dynamo cycle, which corresponds
to an oscillatory exchange of energy between toroidal and poloidal solar magnetic fields. At solarcycle maximum, the external poloidal dipolar magnetic field is near its dynamo-cycle minimum
strength, but an internal toroidal quadrupolar field, generated through differential rotation within the
tachocline, is near its maximum strength. At this point in the dynamo cycle, buoyant upwelling within
the convective zone forces emergence of toroidal magnetic field through the photosphere, giving rise
to pairs of sunspots, roughly aligned eastwest and having footprints with opposite magnetic
polarities. The magnetic polarity of sunspot pairs alternates every solar cycle, a phenomenon known
as the Hale cycle.[102][103]
During the solar cycles declining phase, energy shifts from the internal toroidal magnetic field to the
external poloidal field, and sunspots diminish in number. At solar-cycle minimum, the toroidal field is,
correspondingly, at minimum strength, sunspots are relatively rare, and the poloidal field is at its
maximum strength. With the rise of the next 11-year sunspot cycle, differential rotation shifts
magnetic energy back from the poloidal to the toroidal field, but with a polarity that is opposite to the
previous cycle. The process carries on continuously, and in an idealized, simplified scenario, each
11-year sunspot cycle corresponds to a change, then, in the overall polarity of the Sun's large-scale
magnetic field.[104][105]
The solar magnetic field extends well beyond the Sun itself. The electrically conducting solar wind
plasma carries the Sun's magnetic field into space, forming what is called the interplanetary
magnetic field.[89] In an approximation known as ideal magnetohydrodynamics, plasma particles only
move along the magnetic field lines. As a result, the outward-flowing solar wind stretches the
interplanetary magnetic field outward, forcing it into a roughly radial structure. For a simple dipolar
solar magnetic field, with opposite hemispherical polarities on either side of the solar magnetic

equator, a thin current sheet is formed in the solar wind.[89] At great distances, the rotation of the Sun
twists the dipolar magnetic field and corresponding current sheet into an Archimedean
spiral structure called the Parker spiral.[89] The interplanetary magnetic field is much stronger than
the dipole component of the solar magnetic field. The Sun's dipole magnetic field of 50400 T (at
the photosphere) reduces with the inverse-cube of the distance to about 0.1 nT at the distance of
Earth. However, according to spacecraft observations the interplanetary field at Earth's location is
around 5 nT, about a hundred times greater.[106] The difference is due to magnetic fields generated by
electrical currents in the plasma surrounding the Sun.

Variation in activity

Measurements of solar cycle variation during the last 30 years


The Sun's magnetic field leads to many effects that are collectively called solar activity. Solar
flares and coronal-mass ejections tend to occur at sunspot groups. Slowly changing high-speed
streams of solar wind are emitted from coronal holes at the photospheric surface. Both coronal-mass
ejections and high-speed streams of solar wind carry plasma and interplanetary magnetic
field outward into the Solar System.[107] The effects of solar activity on Earth include auroras at
moderate to high latitudes and the disruption of radio communications and electric power. Solar
activity is thought to have played a large role in the formation and evolution of the Solar System.
With solar-cycle modulation of sunspot number comes a corresponding modulation of space
weather conditions, including those surrounding Earth where technological systems can be affected.

Long-term change
Long-term secular change in sunspot number is thought, by some scientists, to be correlated with
long-term change in solar irradiance,[108] which, in turn, might influence Earth's long-term climate.
[109]
For example, in the 17th century, the solar cycle appeared to have stopped entirely for several
decades; few sunspots were observed during a period known as the Maunder minimum. This
coincided in time with the era of the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold
temperatures.[110] Earlier extended minima have been discovered through analysis of tree rings and
appear to have coincided with lower-than-average global temperatures. [111]
A recent theory claims that there are magnetic instabilities in the core of the Sun that cause
fluctuations with periods of either 41,000 or 100,000 years. These could provide a better explanation
of the ice ages than the Milankovitch cycles.[112][113]

Life phases
Main articles: Formation and evolution of the Solar System and Stellar evolution
The Sun today is roughly halfway through the most stable part of its life. It has not changed
dramatically for over four billion[a] years, and will remain fairly stable for more than five billion more.
However, after hydrogen fusion in its core has stopped, the Sun will undergo severe changes, both
internally and externally.

Formation

The Sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago from the collapse of part of a giant molecular cloud that
consisted mostly of hydrogen and helium and that probably gave birth to many other stars. [114] This
age is estimated using computer models of stellar evolution and through nucleocosmochronology.
[9]
The result is consistent with the radiometric date of the oldest Solar System material, at 4.567
billion years ago.[115][116] Studies of ancient meteorites reveal traces of stable daughter nuclei of shortlived isotopes, such as iron-60, that form only in exploding, short-lived stars. This indicates that one
or more supernovae must have occurred near the location where the Sun formed. A shock
wave from a nearby supernova would have triggered the formation of the Sun by compressing the
matter within the molecular cloud and causing certain regions to collapse under their own gravity.
[117]
As one fragment of the cloud collapsed it also began to rotate because of conservation of angular
momentum and heat up with the increasing pressure. Much of the mass became concentrated in the
center, whereas the rest flattened out into a disk that would become the planets and other Solar
System bodies. Gravity and pressure within the core of the cloud generated a lot of heat as it
accreted more matter from the surrounding disk, eventually triggering nuclear fusion. Thus, the Sun
was born.

Main sequence

Evolution of the Sun's luminosity, radius and effective temperature compared to the present
Sun. After Ribas (2010)[118]
The Sun is about halfway through its main-sequence stage, during which nuclear fusion reactions in
its core fuse hydrogen into helium. Each second, more than four million tonnes of matter are
converted into energy within the Sun's core, producing neutrinos and solar radiation. At this rate, the
Sun has so far converted around 100 times the mass of Earth into energy, about 0.03% of the total
mass of the Sun. The Sun will spend a total of approximately 10 billion years as a main-sequence
star.[119] The Sun is gradually becoming hotter during its time on the main sequence, because the
helium atoms in the core occupy less volume than the hydrogen atoms that were fused. The core is
therefore shrinking, allowing the outer layers of the Sun to move closer to the centre and experience
a stronger gravitational force, according to the inverse-square law. This stronger force increases the
pressure on the core, which is resisted by a gradual increase in the rate at which fusion occurs. This
process speeds up as the core gradually becomes denser. It is estimated that the Sun has become
30% brighter in the last 4.5 billion years.[120] At present, it is increasing in brightness by about 1%
every 100 million years.[121]

After core hydrogen exhaustion

The size of the current Sun (now in the main sequence) compared to its estimated size
during its red-giant phase in the future
The Sun does not have enough mass to explode as a supernova. Instead it will exit the main
sequence in approximately 5 billion years and start to turn into a red giant.[122][123] As a red giant, the
Sun will grow so large that it will engulf Mercury, Venus, and probably Earth. [123][124]
Even before it becomes a red giant, the luminosity of the Sun will have nearly doubled, and Earth will
be hotter than Venus is today. Once the core hydrogen is exhausted in 5.4 billion years, the Sun will
expand into a subgiant phase and slowly double in size over about half a billion years. It will then
expand more rapidly over about half a billion years until it is over two hundred times larger than
today and a couple of thousand times more luminous. This then starts the red-giant-branch phase
where the Sun will spend around a billion years and lose around a third of its mass. [123]

Evolution of a Sun-like star. The track of a one solar mass star on the HertzsprungRussell
diagramis shown from the main sequence to the post-asymptotic-giant-branch stage.
After the red-giant branch the Sun has approximately 120 million years of active life left, but much
happens. First, the core, full of degeneratehelium ignites violently in the helium flash, where it is

estimated that 6% of the core, itself 40% of the Sun's mass, will be converted into carbon within a
matter of minutes through the triple-alpha process.[125] The Sun then shrinks to around 10 times its
current size and 50 times the luminosity, with a temperature a little lower than today. It will then have
reached the red clump or horizontal branch, but a star of the Sun's mass does not evolve blueward
along the horizontal branch. Instead, it just becomes moderately larger and more luminous over
about 100 million years as it continues to burn helium in the core. [123]
When the helium is exhausted, the Sun will repeat the expansion it followed when the hydrogen in
the core was exhausted, except that this time it all happens faster, and the Sun becomes larger and
more luminous. This is the asymptotic-giant-branch phase, and the Sun is alternately burning
hydrogen in a shell or helium in a deeper shell. After about 20 million years on the early asymptotic
giant branch, the Sun becomes increasingly unstable, with rapid mass loss and thermal pulses that
increase the size and luminosity for a few hundred years every 100,000 years or so. The thermal
pulses become larger each time, with the later pulses pushing the luminosity to as much as 5,000
times the current level and the radius to over 1 AU.[126]According to a 2008 model, Earth's orbit is
shrinking due to tidal forces (and, eventually, drag from the lower chromosphere), so that it is
engulfed by the Sun near the end of the asymptotic-giant-branch phase. Models vary depending on
the rate and timing of mass loss. Models that have higher mass loss on the red-giant branch
produce smaller, less luminous stars at the tip of the asymptotic giant branch, perhaps only 2,000
times the luminosity and less than 200 times the radius.[123] For the Sun, four thermal pulses are
predicted before it completely loses its outer envelope and starts to make aplanetary nebula. By the
end of that phase lasting approximately 500,000 years the Sun will only have about half of its
current mass.
The post-asymptotic-giant-branch evolution is even faster. The luminosity stays approximately
constant as the temperature increases, with the ejected half of the Sun's mass becoming ionised into
a planetary nebula as the exposed core reaches 30,000 K. The final naked core temperature will be
over 100,000 K, after which the remnant will cool towards a white dwarf that contains an estimated
54.05% of the Sun's present day mass.[123] The planetary nebula will disperse in about 10,000 years,
but the white dwarf will survive for trillions of years before fading to black.[127][128]

Motion and location


Orbit in Milky Way

Illustration of the Milky Way, showing the location of the Sun


The Sun lies close to the inner rim of the Milky Way's Orion Arm, in the Local Interstellar Cloud or
the Gould Belt, at a distance of 7.58.5kpc (25,00028,000 light-years) from the Galactic Center.[129]
[130] [131][132][133][134]
The Sun is contained within the Local Bubble, a space of rarefied hot gas, possibly
produced by the supernova remnant Geminga.[135] The distance between the local arm and the next

arm out, the Perseus Arm, is about 6,500 light-years.[136] The Sun, and thus the Solar System, is
found in what scientists call the galactic habitable zone. The Apex of the Sun's Way, or the solar
apex, is the direction that the Sun travels relative to other nearby stars. This motion is towards a
point in the constellation Hercules, near the star Vega. Of the 50 nearest stellar systems within 17
light-years from Earth (the closest being the red dwarf Proxima Centauri at approximately 4.2 lightyears), the Sun ranks fourth in mass.[137]
The sun is orbiting the center of the Milky Way, going in the direction of Cygnus. The Sun's orbit
around the Milky Way is expected to be roughly elliptical with the addition of perturbations due to the
galactic spiral arms and non-uniform mass distributions. In addition the Sun oscillates up and down
relative to the galactic plane approximately 2.7 times per orbit.[138] It has been argued that the Sun's
passage through the higher density spiral arms often coincides with mass extinctions on Earth,
perhaps due to increased impact events.[139] It takes the Solar System about 225250 million years
to complete one orbit through the Milky Way (a galactic year),[140] so it is thought to have completed
2025 orbits during the lifetime of the Sun. The orbital speed of the Solar System about the center of
the Milky Way is approximately 251 km/s (156 mi/s).[141] At this speed, it takes around 1,190 years for
the Solar System to travel a distance of 1 light-year, or 7 days to travel 1 AU.[142]
The Milky Way is moving with respect to the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in the
direction of the constellation Hydra with a speed of 550 km/s, and the Sun's resultant velocity with
respect to the CMB is about 370 km/s in the direction of Crater or Leo.[143]

Theoretical problems

Map of the full Sun by STEREO andSDO spacecraft

Coronal heating problem


Main article: Corona
The temperature of the photosphere is approximately 6,000 K, whereas the temperature of the
corona reaches 1,000,0002,000,000 K.[87] The high temperature of the corona shows that it is
heated by something other than direct heat conduction from the photosphere.[89]
It is thought that the energy necessary to heat the corona is provided by turbulent motion in the
convection zone below the photosphere, and two main mechanisms have been proposed to explain
coronal heating.[87] The first is wave heating, in which sound, gravitational or magnetohydrodynamic
waves are produced by turbulence in the convection zone. [87] These waves travel upward and
dissipate in the corona, depositing their energy in the ambient matter in the form of heat. [144] The
other is magnetic heating, in which magnetic energy is continuously built up by photospheric motion
and released through magnetic reconnection in the form of large solar flares and myriad similar but
smaller eventsnanoflares.[145]
Currently, it is unclear whether waves are an efficient heating mechanism. All waves except Alfvn
waves have been found to dissipate or refract before reaching the corona. [146]In addition, Alfvn
waves do not easily dissipate in the corona. Current research focus has therefore shifted towards
flare heating mechanisms.[87]

Faint young Sun problem


Main article: Faint young Sun paradox

Theoretical models of the Sun's development suggest that 3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago, during
the Archean period, the Sun was only about 75% as bright as it is today. Such a weak star would not
have been able to sustain liquid water on Earth's surface, and thus life should not have been able to
develop. However, the geological record demonstrates that Earth has remained at a fairly constant
temperature throughout its history, and that the young Earth was somewhat warmer than it is today.
The consensus among scientists is that the atmosphere of the young Earth contained much larger
quantities of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, methane and/or ammonia) than are
present today, which trapped enough heat to compensate for the smaller amount of solar
energy reaching it.[147]

History of observation
The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, and the Sun
has been regarded by some cultures as a deity.

Early understanding

The Trundholm sun chariot pulled by a horse is a sculpture believed to be illustrating an


important part of Nordic Bronze Age mythology. The sculpture is probably from around
1350 BC. It is displayed at the National Museum of Denmark.
See also: The Sun in culture
The Sun has been an object of veneration in many cultures throughout human history. Humanity's
most fundamental understanding of the Sun is as the luminous disk in the sky, whose presence
above the horizon creates day and whose absence causes night. In many prehistoric and ancient
cultures, the Sun was thought to be a solar deity or other supernatural entity. Worship of the
Sun was central to civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians, the Inca of South America and
the Aztecs of what is now Mexico. In religions such as Hinduism, the Sun is still considered a god.
Many ancient monuments were constructed with solar phenomena in mind; for example,
stone megalithsaccurately mark the summer or winter solstice (some of the most prominent
megaliths are located in Nabta Playa, Egypt; Mnajdra, Malta and at Stonehenge,
England); Newgrange, a prehistoric human-built mount in Ireland, was designed to detect the winter
solstice; the pyramid of El Castillo at Chichn Itz in Mexico is designed to cast shadows in the
shape of serpents climbing the pyramid at the vernal and autumn equinoxes.
The Egyptians portrayed the god Ra as being carried across the sky in a solar barque, accompanied
by lesser gods, and to the Greeks, he was Helios, carried by a chariot drawn by fiery horses. From
the reign of Elagabalus in the late Roman Empire the Sun's birthday was a holiday celebrated as Sol
Invictus (literally "Unconquered Sun") soon after the winter solstice, which may have been an
antecedent to Christmas. Regarding the fixed stars, the Sun appears from Earth to revolve once a
year along the ecliptic through the zodiac, and so Greek astronomers considered it to be one of the
seven planets (Greek planetes, wanderer), after which the seven days of the week are named in
some languages.[148][149][150]

Development of scientific understanding


In the early first millennium BC, Babylonian astronomers observed that the Sun's motion along the
ecliptic is not uniform, though they did not know why; it is today known that this is due to the
movement of Earth in an elliptic orbit around the Sun, with Earth moving faster when it is nearer to
the Sun at perihelion and moving slower when it is farther away ataphelion.[151]
One of the first people to offer a scientific or philosophical explanation for the Sun was
the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, who reasoned that it is a giant flaming ball of metal even larger
than the Peloponnesus rather than the chariot of Helios, and that the Moon reflected the light of the
Sun.[152] For teaching this heresy, he was imprisoned by the authorities and sentenced to death,
though he was later released through the intervention of Pericles. Eratosthenes estimated the
distance between Earth and the Sun in the 3rd century BC as "of stadia myriads 400 and 80000",
the translation of which is ambiguous, implying either 4,080,000 stadia (755,000 km) or 804,000,000
stadia (148 to 153 million kilometers or 0.99 to 1.02 AU); the latter value is correct to within a few
percent. In the 1st century AD, Ptolemy estimated the distance as 1,210 times the radius of Earth,
approximately 7.71 million kilometers (0.0515 AU).[153]
The theory that the Sun is the center around which the planets orbit was first proposed by the
ancient Greek Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BC, and later adopted bySeleucus of
Seleucia (see Heliocentrism). This view was developed in a more detailed mathematical model of a
heliocentric system in the 16th century by Nicolaus Copernicus.
Observations of sunspots were recorded during the Han Dynasty (206 BCAD 220) by Chinese
astronomers, who maintained records of these observations for centuries.Averroes also provided a
description of sunspots in the 12th century.[154] The invention of the telescope in the early 17th
century permitted detailed observations of sunspots byThomas Harriot, Galileo Galilei and other
astronomers. Galileo posited that sunspots were on the surface of the Sun rather than small objects
passing between Earth and the Sun.[155]
Arabic astronomical contributions include Albatenius' discovery that the direction of the
Sun's apogee (the place in the Sun's orbit against the fixed stars where it seems to be moving
slowest) is changing.[156] (In modern heliocentric terms, this is caused by a gradual motion of the
aphelion of the Earth's orbit). Ibn Yunus observed more than 10,000 entries for the Sun's position for
many years using a large astrolabe.[157]

Sol, the Sun, from a 1550 edition ofGuido Bonatti's Liber astronomiae.
From an observation of a transit of Venus in 1032, the Persian astronomer and
polymath Avicenna concluded that Venus is closer to Earth than the Sun.[158] In 1672 Giovanni
Cassini and Jean Richer determined the distance to Mars and were thereby able to calculate the
distance to the Sun.
In 1666, Isaac Newton observed the Sun's light using a prism, and showed that it is made up of light
of many colors.[159] In 1800, William Herschel discovered infrared radiation beyond the red part of the
solar spectrum.[160] The 19th century saw advancement in spectroscopic studies of the Sun; Joseph

von Fraunhofer recorded more than 600 absorption lines in the spectrum, the strongest of which are
still often referred to as Fraunhofer lines. In the early years of the modern scientific era, the source of
the Sun's energy was a significant puzzle.Lord Kelvin suggested that the Sun is a gradually cooling
liquid body that is radiating an internal store of heat. [161] Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz then
proposed a gravitational contraction mechanism to explain the energy output, but the resulting age
estimate was only 20 million years, well short of the time span of at least 300 million years
suggested by some geological discoveries of that time. [161] In 1890 Joseph Lockyer, who discovered
helium in the solar spectrum, proposed a meteoritic hypothesis for the formation and evolution of the
Sun.[162]
Not until 1904 was a documented solution offered. Ernest Rutherford suggested that the Sun's
output could be maintained by an internal source of heat, and suggestedradioactive decay as the
source.[163] However, it would be Albert Einstein who would provide the essential clue to the source of
the Sun's energy output with his mass-energy equivalence relation E = mc2.[164] In 1920, Sir Arthur
Eddington proposed that the pressures and temperatures at the core of the Sun could produce a
nuclear fusion reaction that merged hydrogen (protons) into helium nuclei, resulting in a production
of energy from the net change in mass.[165] The preponderance of hydrogen in the Sun was
confirmed in 1925 by Cecilia Payne using the ionization theory developed by Meghnad Saha, an
Indian physicist. The theoretical concept of fusion was developed in the 1930s by the
astrophysicists Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Hans Bethe. Hans Bethe calculated the details
of the two main energy-producing nuclear reactions that power the Sun. [166][167] In 1957, Margaret
Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, William Fowler and Fred Hoyle showed that most of the elements in
the universe have been synthesized by nuclear reactions inside stars, some like the Sun.[168]

Solar space missions


See also: Solar observatory

The Sun giving out a large geomagnetic storm on 1:29 pm, EST, 13 March 2012

A lunar transit of the Sun captured during calibration of STEREO B's ultraviolet imaging
cameras[169]
The first satellites designed to observe the Sun were NASA's Pioneers 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, which were
launched between 1959 and 1968. These probes orbited the Sun at a distance similar to that of
Earth, and made the first detailed measurements of the solar wind and the solar magnetic
field.Pioneer 9 operated for a particularly long time, transmitting data until May 1983. [170][171]
In the 1970s, two Helios spacecraft and the Skylab Apollo Telescope Mount provided scientists with
significant new data on solar wind and the solar corona. The Helios 1 and 2 probes were U.S.
German collaborations that studied the solar wind from an orbit carrying the spacecraft
insideMercury's orbit at perihelion.[172] The Skylab space station, launched by NASA in 1973,
included a solar observatory module called the Apollo Telescope Mount that was operated by
astronauts resident on the station.[88] Skylab made the first time-resolved observations of the solar
transition region and of ultraviolet emissions from the solar corona. [88] Discoveries included the first
observations of coronal mass ejections, then called "coronal transients", and of coronal holes, now
known to be intimately associated with the solar wind.[172]
In 1980, the Solar Maximum Mission was launched by NASA. This spacecraft was designed to
observe gamma rays, X-rays and UVradiation from solar flares during a time of high solar activity
and solar luminosity. Just a few months after launch, however, an electronics failure caused the
probe to go into standby mode, and it spent the next three years in this inactive state. In 1984 Space
Shuttle Challenger mission STS-41C retrieved the satellite and repaired its electronics before rereleasing it into orbit. The Solar Maximum Mission subsequently acquired thousands of images of
the solar corona before re-entering Earth's atmosphere in June 1989.[173]
Launched in 1991, Japan's Yohkoh (Sunbeam) satellite observed solar flares at X-ray wavelengths.
Mission data allowed scientists to identify several different types of flares, and demonstrated that the
corona away from regions of peak activity was much more dynamic and active than had previously
been supposed. Yohkoh observed an entire solar cycle but went into standby mode when an annular
eclipse in 2001 caused it to lose its lock on the Sun. It was destroyed by atmospheric re-entry in
2005.[174]
One of the most important solar missions to date has been the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory,
jointly built by the European Space Agency and NASA and launched on 2 December 1995.
[88]
Originally intended to serve a two-year mission, a mission extension through 2012 was approved
in October 2009.[175] It has proven so useful that a follow-on mission, the Solar Dynamics
Observatory (SDO), was launched in February 2010.[176] Situated at the Lagrangian point between
Earth and the Sun (at which the gravitational pull from both is equal), SOHO has provided a constant
view of the Sun at many wavelengths since its launch. [88] Besides its direct solar observation, SOHO
has enabled the discovery of a large number of comets, mostly tiny sungrazing comets that
incinerate as they pass the Sun.[177]

A solar prominence erupts in August 2012, as captured by SDO

All these satellites have observed the Sun from the plane of the ecliptic, and so have only observed
its equatorial regions in detail. The Ulysses probe was launched in 1990 to study the Sun's polar
regions. It first travelled to Jupiter, to "slingshot" into an orbit that would take it far above the plane of
the ecliptic. Once Ulysses was in its scheduled orbit, it began observing the solar wind and magnetic
field strength at high solar latitudes, finding that the solar wind from high latitudes was moving at
about 750 km/s, which was slower than expected, and that there were large magnetic waves
emerging from high latitudes that scattered galactic cosmic rays.[178]
Elemental abundances in the photosphere are well known from spectroscopic studies, but the
composition of the interior of the Sun is more poorly understood. A solar wind sample return
mission, Genesis, was designed to allow astronomers to directly measure the composition of solar
material.[179]
The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission was launched in October 2006. Two
identical spacecraft were launched into orbits that cause them to (respectively) pull further ahead of
and fall gradually behind Earth. This enablesstereoscopic imaging of the Sun and solar phenomena,
such as coronal mass ejections.[180][181]
The Indian Space Research Organisation has scheduled the launch of a 100 kg satellite
named Aditya for 201718. Its main instrument will be a coronagraph for studying the dynamics of
the Solar corona.[182]

Observation and effects

During certain atmospheric conditions, the Sun becomes clearly visible to the naked eye,
and can be observed without stress to the eyes. Click on this photo to see the full cycle of
a sunset, as observed from the high plains of the Mojave Desert.

The Sun, as seen from low Earth orbit overlooking the International Space Station. This
sunlight is not filtered by the lower atmosphere, which blocks much of the solar spectrum
The brightness of the Sun can cause pain from looking at it with the naked eye; however, doing so
for brief periods is not hazardous for normal non-dilated eyes.[183][184] Looking directly at the Sun

causes phosphene visual artifacts and temporary partial blindness. It also delivers about 4 milliwatts
of sunlight to the retina, slightly heating it and potentially causing damage in eyes that cannot
respond properly to the brightness.[185][186] UV exposure gradually yellows the lens of the eye over a
period of years, and is thought to contribute to the formation of cataracts, but this depends on
general exposure to solar UV, and not whether one looks directly at the Sun. [187] Long-duration
viewing of the direct Sun with the naked eye can begin to cause UV-induced, sunburn-like lesions on
the retina after about 100 seconds, particularly under conditions where the UV light from the Sun is
intense and well focused;[188][189] conditions are worsened by young eyes or new lens implants (which
admit more UV than aging natural eyes), Sun angles near the zenith, and observing locations at high
altitude.
Viewing the Sun through light-concentrating optics such as binoculars may result in permanent
damage to the retina without an appropriate filter that blocks UV and substantially dims the sunlight.
When using an attenuating filter to view the Sun, the viewer is cautioned to use a filter specifically
designed for that use. Some improvised filters that pass UV or IR rays, can actually harm the eye at
high brightness levels.[190] Herschel wedges, also called Solar Diagonals, are effective and
inexpensive for small telescopes. The sunlight that is destined for the eyepiece is reflected from an
unsilvered surface of a piece of glass. Only a very small fraction of the incident light is reflected. The
rest passes through the glass and leaves the instrument. If the glass breaks because of the heat, no
light at all is reflected, making the device fail-safe. Simple filters made of darkened glass allow the
full intensity of sunlight to pass through if they break, endangering the observer's eyesight. Unfiltered
binoculars can deliver hundreds of times as much energy as using the naked eye, possibly causing
immediate damage. It is claimed that even brief glances at the midday Sun through an unfiltered
telescope can cause permanent damage.[191]

Halo with sun dogs


Partial solar eclipses are hazardous to view because the eye's pupil is not adapted to the unusually
high visual contrast: the pupil dilates according to the total amount of light in the field of view, not by
the brightest object in the field. During partial eclipses most sunlight is blocked by theMoon passing
in front of the Sun, but the uncovered parts of the photosphere have the samesurface brightness as
during a normal day. In the overall gloom, the pupil expands from ~2 mm to ~6 mm, and each retinal
cell exposed to the solar image receives up to ten times more light than it would looking at the noneclipsed Sun. This can damage or kill those cells, resulting in small permanent blind spots for the
viewer.[192] The hazard is insidious for inexperienced observers and for children, because there is no
perception of pain: it is not immediately obvious that one's vision is being destroyed.

A sunrise
During sunrise and sunset, sunlight is attenuated because of Rayleigh scattering andMie
scattering from a particularly long passage through Earth's atmosphere, [193] and the Sun is
sometimes faint enough to be viewed comfortably with the naked eye or safely with optics (provided
there is no risk of bright sunlight suddenly appearing through a break between clouds). Hazy
conditions, atmospheric dust, and high humidity contribute to this atmospheric attenuation. [194]
An optical phenomenon, known as a green flash, can sometimes be seen shortly after sunset or
before sunrise. The flash is caused by light from the Sun just below the horizon being bent (usually
through a temperature inversion) towards the observer. Light of shorter wavelengths (violet, blue,
green) is bent more than that of longer wavelengths (yellow, orange, red) but the violet and blue light
is scattered more, leaving light that is perceived as green.[195]
Ultraviolet light from the Sun has antiseptic properties and can be used to sanitize tools and water. It
also causes sunburn, and has other medical effects such as the production of vitamin D. Ultraviolet
light is strongly attenuated by Earth's ozone layer, so that the amount of UV varies greatly
with latitude and has been partially responsible for many biological adaptations, including variations
in human skin color in different regions of the globe.[196]

Solar flare
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the class of stars that undergo similar phenomena, see flare star.
"Sun flare" redirects here. For the rose variety, see Rosa 'Sun Flare'.

On August 31, 2012 a long prominence/filament of solar material that had been hovering in
the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. Seen here from
the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the flare caused an aurora on Earth on September 3.
Heliophysics
Phenomena

Coronal mass ejection

Geomagnetic storm

Solar flare

Solar prominence

Solar proton event

Solar superstorm

Sunspot

Nuclear EMP

This box:
view
talk
edit

Solar flare and its prominence eruption recorded on June 7, 2011 by SDO in extreme
ultraviolet

Evolution of magnetism on the Sun.


A solar flare is a sudden flash of brightness observed near the Sun's surface. It involves a very
broad spectrum of emissions, requiring an energy release of typically 1 10 20 joules of energy, but
they can emit up to 1 1025 joules[1] (the latter is roughly the equivalent of 1 billion megatons of TNT,
or over 400 times more energy than released from the impact of Comet ShoemakerLevy 9with
Jupiter). Flares are often, but not always, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection.[2] The flare ejects
clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms through the corona of the sun into space. These clouds typically
reach Earth a day or two after the event.[3] The term is also used to refer to similar phenomena in
other stars, where the term stellar flare applies.
Solar flares affect all layers of the solar atmosphere (photosphere, chromosphere, and corona),
when the plasma medium is heated to tens of millions of Kelvin, while the cosmic-raylike electrons, protons, and heavier ions are accelerated to near the speed of light. They
produce radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum at all wavelengths, from radio
waves to gamma rays, although most of the energy is spread over frequencies outside the visual
range and for this reason the majority of the flares are not visible to the naked eye and must be
observed with special instruments. Flares occur in active regions around sunspots, where intense
magnetic fields penetrate the photosphere to link the corona to the solar interior. Flares are powered
by the sudden (timescales of minutes to tens of minutes) release of magnetic energy stored in the
corona. The same energy releases may produce coronal mass ejections(CME), although the relation
between CMEs and flares is still not well established.
X-rays and UV radiation emitted by solar flares can affect Earth's ionosphere and disrupt long-range
radio communications. Direct radio emission at decimetric wavelengths may disturb the operation of
radars and other devices that use those frequencies.

Solar flares were first observed on the Sun by Richard Christopher Carrington and independently by
Richard Hodgson in 1859[4] as localized visible brightenings of small areas within a sunspot group.
Stellar flares can be inferred by looking at the lightcurves produced from the telescope or satellite
data of variety of other stars.
The frequency of occurrence of solar flares varies, from several per day when the Sun is particularly
"active" to less than one every week when the Sun is "quiet", following the 11-year cycle (the solar
cycle). Large flares are less frequent than smaller ones.
On July 23, 2012, a massive, and potentially damaging, solar superstorm (solar flare, coronal mass
ejection, solar EMP) barely missed Earth, according to NASA.[5][6] According to NASA, there may be
as much as a 12% chance of a similar event occurring between 2012 and 2022, [5]although because
this particular figure was based on an extreme extrapolation of the calculated frequency of future
storms, the actual probability of this is almost certainly rather lower than 12 percent.

Contents
[hide]

1Cause

2Classification
o

2.1H-alpha classification

3Hazards

4Observations
o

4.1History

4.2Optical telescopes

4.3Radio telescopes

4.4Space telescopes

4.5Examples of large solar flares

5Flare spray

6Prediction

7See also

8References

9External links

Cause[edit]
Flares occur when sped up charged particles, mainly electrons, interact with the plasma medium.
Scientific research suggests that the phenomenon of magnetic reconnection leads to this copious
acceleration of charged particles.[7] On the Sun, magnetic reconnection may happen on solar
arcades a series of closely occurring loops of magnetic lines of force. These lines of force quickly
reconnect into a low arcade of loops leaving a helix of magnetic field unconnected to the rest of the
arcade. The sudden release of energy in this reconnection is the origin of the particle acceleration.
The unconnected magnetic helical field and the material that it contains may violently expand
outwards forming a coronal mass ejection.[8] This also explains why solar flares typically erupt from
what are known as the active regions on the Sun where magnetic fields are much stronger on
average.
Although there is a general agreement on the flares' causes, the details are still not well known. It is
not clear how the magnetic energy is transformed into the particle kinetic energy, nor is it known how
the particles are accelerated to energies as high as 10 MeV (mega electron volt) and beyond. There
are also some inconsistencies regarding the total number of accelerated particles, which sometimes
seems to be greater than the total number in the coronal loop. Scientists are unable to forecast
flares, even to this day.[citation needed]

Classification[edit]

Powerful X-class flares create radiation storms that produce auroras and can give airline
passengers flying over the poles small radiation doses.

On August 1, 2010, the Sun shows a C3-class solar flare (white area on upper left), a solar
tsunami (wave-like structure, upper right) and multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the
stellar surface.[9]

Multi-spacecraft observations of the March 20, 2014 X-class flare.


Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X according to the peak flux (in watts per square metre,
W/m2) of 100 to 800 picometre X-rays near Earth, as measured on the GOES spacecraft.

Classification

Peak Flux Range at 100-800 picometre


(watts/square metre)

< 107

107 106

106 105

105 104

> 104

Within a class there is a linear scale from 1 to 9.n (apart from X), so an X2 flare is twice as powerful
as an X1 flare, and is four times more powerful than an M5 flare.

H-alpha classification[edit]
An earlier flare classification is based on H spectral observations. The scheme uses both the
intensity and emitting surface. The classification in intensity is qualitative, referring to the flares as:
(f)aint, (n)ormal or (b)rilliant. The emitting surface is measured in terms of millionths of the
hemisphere and is described below. (The total hemisphere area AH = 15.5 1012 km2.)

Classification

Corrected Area
[millionths of hemisphere]

< 100

100 250

250 600

600 1200

> 1200

A flare then is classified taking S or a number that represents its size and a letter that represents its
peak intensity, v.g.: Sn is anormal sunflare.[10]

Hazards[edit]

Massive X6.9 class solar flare, August 9, 2011.

While this flare produced a coronal mass ejection (CME), this CME is not traveling towards
the Earth, and no local effects are expected. [11]

Solar flares strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth. They can produce
streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind, known as a solar proton event. These
particles can impact the Earth's magnetosphere (see main article atgeomagnetic storm), and
present radiation hazards to spacecraft and astronauts. Additionally, massive solar flares are
sometimes accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which can trigger geomagnetic
storms that have been known to disable satellites and knock out terrestrial electric power grids for
extended periods of time.
The soft X-ray flux of X class flares increases the ionization of the upper atmosphere, which can
interfere with short-wave radio communication and can heat the outer atmosphere and thus increase
the drag on low orbiting satellites, leading to orbital decay. Energetic particles in the magnetosphere
contribute to theaurora borealis and aurora australis. Energy in the form of hard x-rays can be
damaging to spacecraft electronics and are generally the result of large plasma ejection in the upper
chromosphere.
The radiation risks posed by solar flares are a major concern in discussions of a manned mission to
Mars, the Moon, or other planets. Energetic protons can pass through the human body,
causing biochemical damage,[12] presenting a hazard to astronauts during interplanetary travel.
Some kind of physical or magnetic shielding would be required to protect the astronauts. Most
proton storms take at least two hours from the time of visual detection to reach Earth's orbit. A solar
flare on January 20, 2005 released the highest concentration of protons ever directly measured,
[13]
giving astronauts as little as 15 minutes to reach shelter.

Observations[edit]
Flares produce radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, although with different intensity. They
are not very intense at white light, but they can be very bright at particular atomic lines. They
normally produce bremsstrahlung in X-rays and synchrotron radiation in radio.

History[edit]
Optical observations. Richard Carrington observed a flare for the first time on 1 September
1859 projecting the image produced by an optical telescope, without filters. It was an extraordinarily
intense white light flare. Since flares produce copious amounts of radiation at H, adding a narrow
( 1 ) passband filter centered at this wavelength to the optical telescope, allows the observation of
not very bright flares with small telescopes. For years H was the main, if not the only, source of
information about solar flares. Other passband filters are also used.
Radio observations. During World War II, on 25 and 26 February 1942, British radar operators
observed radiation that Stanley Hey interpreted as solar emission. Their discovery did not go public
until the end of the conflict. The same year Southworth also observed the Sun in radio, but as with
Hey, his observations were only known after 1945. In 1943 Grote Reber was the first to report
radioastronomical observations of the Sun at 160 MHz. The fast development
of radioastronomy revealed new peculiarities of the solar activity like storms and bursts related to the
flares. Today ground-based radiotelescopes observe the Sun from ~15 MHz up to 400 GHz.
Space telescopes. Since the beginning of space exploration, telescopes have been sent to space,
where they work at wavelengths shorter than UV, which are completely absorbed by the
atmosphere, and where flares may be very bright. Since the 1970s, the GOES series of satellites
observe the Sun in soft X-rays, and their observations became the standard measure of flares,
diminishing the importance of the H classification. Hard X-rays were observed by many different
instruments, the most important today being the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic
Imager (RHESSI). Nonetheless, UV observations are today the stars of solar imaging with their
incredible fine details that reveal the complexity of the solar corona. Spacecraft may also bring radio
detectors at extremely long wavelengths (as long as a few kilometers) that cannot propagate through
theionosphere.

Optical telescopes[edit]

Two successive photos of a solar flare phenomenon. The solar disc was blocked in these
photos for better visualization of the flare's accompanying protruding prominence.

Big Bear Solar Observatory Located in Big Bear Lake, California (USA) and operated by
the New Jersey Institute of Technology is a solar dedicated observatory with different
instruments, and has a huge data bank of full disk H images.

Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope Operated by the Institute for Solar Physics (Sweden), is
located in the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma (Spain).

McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope located at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, USA is
the world's largest solar telescope.

Radio telescopes[edit]

Nanay Radioheliographe (NRH) is an interferometer composed of 48 antennas observing at


meter-decimeter wavelengths. The radioheliographe is installed at the Nanay Radio
Observatory (France).

Owens Valley Solar Array (OVSA) is a radio interferometer operated by New Jersey Institute
of Technology consisting of 7 antenas observing from 1 to 18 GHz in both left and right circular
polarization. OVSA is located in Owens Valley, California, (USA). It is now being improved,
increasing to 15 the total number of antennas and upgrading its control system.

Nobeyama Radioheliograph (NoRH) is an interferometer installed at the Nobeyama Radio


Observatory (Japan) formed by 84 small (80 cm) antennas, with receivers at 17 GHz (left and
right polarization) and 34 GHz operating simultaneously. It continuously observes the Sun,
producing daily snapshots.(See link)

Siberian Solar Radio Telescope (SSRT) is a special-purpose solar radio telescope designed
for studying solar activity in the microwave range (5.7 GHz) where the processes occurring in
the solar corona are accessible to observation over the entire solar disk. It is a crossed
interferometer, consisting of two arrays of 128x128 parabolic antennas 2.5 meters in diameter
each, spaced equidistantly at 4.9 meters and oriented in the E-W and N-S directions. It
is located in a wooded picturesque valley separating two mountain ridges of the Eastern Sayan
Mountains and Khamar-Daban, 220 km from Irkutsk (Russia). Daily solar images are
available (See link)

Nobeyama Radio Polarimeters are a set of radio telescopes installed at the Nobeyama
Radio Observatory that continuously observes the full Sun (no images) at the frequencies of 1,
2, 3.75, 9.4, 17, 35, and 80 GHz, at left and right circular polarization.

Solar Submillimeter Telescope is a single dish telescope, that observes continuously the Sun
at 212 and 405 GHz. It is installed at Complejo Astronomico El Leoncito in Argentina. It has a
focal array composed by 4 beams at 212 GHz and 2 at 405 GHz, therefore it can
instantaneously locate the position of the emitting source[14] SST is the only solar submillimeter
telescope currently in operation.

Polarization Emission of Millimeter Activity at the Sun (POEMAS) is a system of two circular
polarization solar radio telescopes, for observations of the Sun at 45 and 90 GHz. The novel
characteristic of these instruments is the capability to measure circular right- and left-hand
polarizations at these high frequencies. The system is installed atComplejo Astronomico El
Leoncito in Argentina. It started operations in November 2011. In November 2013 it went offline
for repairs. It is expected to return to observing in January 2015.

Bleien Radio Observatory is a set of radio telescopes operating


near Grnichen (Switzerland). They continuously observe the solar flare radio emission from
10 MHz (ionospheric limit) to 5 GHz. The broadband spectrometers are known as Phoenix and
CALLISTO [1].

Space telescopes[edit]
The following spacecraft missions have flares as their main observation target.

Yohkoh The Yohkoh (originally Solar A) spacecraft observed the Sun with a variety of
instruments from its launch in 1991 until its failure in 2001. The observations spanned a period
from one solar maximum to the next. Two instruments of particular use for flare observations
were the Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT), a glancing incidence low energy X-ray telescope for
photon energies of order 1 keV, and the Hard X-ray Telescope (HXT), a collimation counting
instrument which produced images in higher energy X-rays (15-92 keV) by image synthesis.

WIND The Wind spacecraft is devoted to the study of the interplanetary medium. Since the
Solar Wind is its main driver, solar flares effects can be traced with the instruments aboard Wind.
Some of the WIND experiments are: a very low frequency spectrometer, (WAVES), particles
detectors (EPACT, SWE) and a magnetometer (MFI).

GOES The GOES spacecraft are satellites in geostationary orbits around the Earth that
have measured the soft X-ray flux from the Sun since the mid-1970s, following the use of similar
instruments on the Solrad satellites. GOES X-ray observations are commonly used to classify
flares, with A, B, C, M, and X representing different powers of ten an X-class flare has a peak
1-8 flux above 0.0001 W/m2.

RHESSI The Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectral Imager is designed to image
solar flares in energetic photons from soft X rays (~3 keV) to gamma rays (up to ~20 MeV) and
to provide high resolution spectroscopy up to gamma-ray energies of ~20 MeV. Furthermore, it
has the capability to perform spatially resolved spectroscopy with high spectral resolution.

SOHO The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is collaboration between


the ESA and NASA which is in operation since December 1995. It carries 12 different
instruments, among them the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), the Large Angle and

Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) and the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI). SOHO is in a
halo orbit around the earth-sun L1 point.

TRACE The Transition Region and Coronal Explorer is a NASA Small Explorer
program (SMEX) to image the solar corona and transition region at high angular and temporal
resolution. It has passband filters at 173 , 195 , 284 , 1600 with a spatial resolution of 0.5
arc sec, the best at these wavelengths.

SDO The Solar Dynamics Observatory is a NASA project composed of 3 different


instruments: the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), the Atmospheric Imaging
Assembly (AIA) and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE). It has been operating
since February 2010 in a geosynchronous earth orbit.[15]

Hinode The Hinode spacecraft, originally called Solar B, was launched by the Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency in September 2006 to observe solar flares in more precise detail.
Its instrumentation, supplied by an international collaboration including Norway, the U.K., the
U.S., and Africa focuses on the powerful magnetic fields thought to be the source of solar flares.
Such studies shed light on the causes of this activity, possibly helping to forecast future flares
and thus minimize their dangerous effects on satellites and astronauts.[16]

ACE The Advanced Composition Explorer was launched in 1997 into a halo orbit around
the earth-sun L1 point. It carries spectrometers, magnetometers and charged particle detectors
to analyze the solar wind. The Real Time Solar Wind (RTSW) beacon is continually monitored by
a network of NOAA-sponsored ground stations to provide early warning of earth-bound CMEs.

MAVEN The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission, which launched
from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on November 18, 2013, is the first mission devoted to
understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that
loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. The
Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) monitor on MAVEN is part of the Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW)
instrument and measures solar EUV input and variability, and wave heating of the Martian upper
atmosphere.[17]

Examples of large solar flares[edit]

Short narrated video aboutFermi's observations of the highest-energy light ever associated
with an eruption on the sun as of June 2012

Active Region 1515 released an X1.1 class flare from the lower right of the sun on July 6,
2012, peaking at 7:08 PM EDT. This flare caused a radio blackout, labeled as an R3 on the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations scale that goes from R1 to R5.

Space weatherMarch 2012.[18]


The most powerful flare ever observed was the first one to be observed, [19] on September 1, 1859,
and was reported by British astronomer Richard Carrington and independently by an observer
named Richard Hodgson. The event is named the Solar storm of 1859, or the "Carrington event".
The flare was visible to a naked eye (in white light), and produced stunning auroras down to tropical
latitudes such as Cuba or Hawaii, and set telegraph systems on fire.[20] The flare left a trace
in Greenland ice in the form of nitrates and beryllium-10, which allow its strength to be measured
today.[21] Cliver and Svalgaard[22] reconstructed the effects of this flare and compared with other
events of the last 150 years. In their words: While the 1859 event has close rivals or superiors in
each of the above categories of space weather activity, it is the only documented event of the last
150 years that appears at or near the top of all of the lists.
In modern times, the largest solar flare measured with instruments occurred on November 4, 2003.
This event saturated the GOES detectors, and because of this its classification is only approximate.
Initially, extrapolating the GOES curve, it was estimated to be X28.[23]Later analysis of the
ionospheric effects suggested increasing this estimate to X45.[24] This event produced the first clear
evidence of a new spectral component above 100 GHz.[25]
Other large solar flares also occurred on April 2, 2001 (X20),[26] October 28, 2003 (X17.2 and 10),
[27]
September 7, 2005 (X17),[26] February 17, 2011 (X2),[28][29][30] August 9, 2011 (X6.9),[11][31] March 7,
2012 (X5.4),[32][33] July 6, 2012 (X1.1).[34] On July 6, 2012, a solar storm hit just after midnight UK
time,[35] when an X1.1 solar flare fired out of the AR1515 sunspot. Another X1.4 solar flare from AR
1520 region of the Sun,[36] second in the week, reached the Earth on July 15, 2012 [37] with
a geomagnetic storm of G1G2 level.[38][39] A X1.8-class flare was recorded on October 24, 2012.
[40]
There has been major solar flare activity in early 2013, notably within a 48-hour period starting on
May 12, 2013, a total of four X-class solar flares were emitted ranging from an X1.2 and upwards of
an X3.2,[41] the latter of which was one of the largest year 2013 flares.[42][43] Departing sunspot
complex AR2035-AR2046 erupted on April 25, 2014 at 0032 UT, producing a strong X1.3-class solar
flare and an HF communications blackout on the dayside of Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics
Observatory recorded a flash of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the explosion.

Flare spray[edit]
Flare sprays are a type of eruption associated with solar flares.[44] They involve faster ejections of
material than eruptive prominences,[45] and reach velocities of 20 to 2000 kilometers per second. [46]

Prediction[edit]

Current methods of flare prediction are problematic, and there is no certain indication that an active
region on the Sun will produce a flare. However, many properties of sunspots and active regions
correlate with flaring. For example, magnetically complex regions (based on line-of-sight magnetic
field) called delta spots produce the largest flares. A simple scheme of sunspot classification due to
McIntosh, or related to fractal complexity .[47] is commonly used as a starting point for flare prediction.
[48]
Predictions are usually stated in terms of probabilities for occurrence of flares above M or X
GOES class within 24 or 48 hours. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA)issues forecasts of this kind.[49]

Aurora
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See also Aurora (disambiguation), Aurora Australis (disambiguation), or Aurora Borealis
(disambiguation).

Images of the aurora australis and aurora borealis from around the world, including those
with rarer red and blue lights

Aurora Australis
An aurora, sometimes referred to as a polar light, is a natural light display in the sky, predominantly
seen in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions.[a] Auroras are produced when
the magnetosphere is sufficiently disturbed by the solar wind that the trajectories of charged particles
in both solar wind andmagnetospheric plasma, mainly in the form of electrons and protons,
precipitate them into the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere), where their energy is lost.
The resulting ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents emits light of varying colour and
complexity. The form of the aurora, occurring within bands around both polar regions, is also
dependent on the amount of acceleration imparted to the precipitating particles. Precipitating protons
generally produce optical emissions as incident hydrogen atoms after gaining electrons from the
atmosphere. Proton auroras are usually observed at lower latitudes.[2]Different aspects of an aurora
are elaborated in various sections below.

Contents
[hide]

1Occurrence of terrestrial auroras


o

1.1Images

1.2Visual forms and colors

1.3Other auroral radiation

2Causes of auroras
o

2.1Auroral particles

2.2Auroras and the atmosphere

2.3Auroras and the ionosphere

3Interaction of the solar wind with Earth


o

3.1Magnetosphere

4Auroral particle acceleration

5Auroral events of historical significance

6Historical theories, superstition and mythology

7Planetary auroras

8See also

9Notes

10References

11Further reading

12External links

Occurrence of terrestrial auroras[edit]


Most auroras occur in a band known as the auroral zone,[3] which is typically 3 to 6 wide in latitude
and between 10 and 20 from the geomagnetic poles at all local times (or longitudes), most clearly
seen at night against a dark sky. A region that currently displays an aurora is called the auroral oval,
a band displaced towards the nightside of the Earth. Day-to-day positions of the auroral ovals are
posted on the internet.[4] A geomagnetic storm causes the auroral ovals (north and south) to expand,
and bring the aurora to lower latitudes. Early evidence for a geomagnetic connection comes from the
statistics of auroral observations. Elias Loomis (1860), and later Hermann Fritz (1881)[5] and S.
Tromholt (1882)[6] in more detail, established that the aurora appeared mainly in the "auroral zone", a
ring-shaped region with a radius of approximately 2500 km around the Earth's magnetic pole. It was
hardly ever seen near the geographic pole, which is about 2000 km away from the magnetic pole.
The instantaneous distribution of auroras ("auroral oval")[3] is slightly different, being centered about
35 degrees nightward of the magnetic pole, so that auroral arcs reach furthest toward the equator
when the magnetic pole in question is in between the observer and the Sun. The aurora can be seen
best at this time, which is called magnetic midnight.
In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named
after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas,
by Galileo in 1619.[7] Auroras seen within the auroral oval may be directly overhead, but from farther
away they illuminate the poleward horizon as a greenish glow, or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun
were rising from an unusual direction.
Its southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the southern lights), has features that are almost
identical to the aurora borealis and changes simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral
zone.[8] It is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand,
and Australia. Auroras also occur on other planets. Similar to the Earth's aurora, they are also visible
close to the planets magnetic poles. Auroras also occur poleward of the auroral zone as either
diffuse patches or arcs,[9] which can be sub-visual.

Video of the aurora australis taken by the crew ofExpedition 28 on board the International
Space Station, its sequence of shots was taken 17 September 2011 from 17:22:27 to
17:45:12 GMT, on an ascending pass from south of Madagascar to just north
ofAustralia over the Indian Ocean

Video of the aurora australis taken by the crew of Expedition 28 on board the International
Space Station, its sequence of shots was taken 7 September 2011 from 17:38:03 to
17:49:15 GMT, from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the South Indian Ocean to
southern Australia

Video of the aurora australis taken by the crew of Expedition 28 on board the International
Space Station, its sequence of shots was taken 11 September 2011 from 13:45:06 to

14:01:51 GMT, from a descending pass near eastern Australia, rounding about to an
ascending pass to the east of New Zealand

North America

Eurasia
These NOAA maps of North America and Eurasia show the local midnight equatorward
boundary of the aurora at different levels of geomagnetic activity; a Kp=3 corresponds to
low levels of geomagnetic activity, while Kp=9 represents high levels
Auroras are occasionally seen in latitudes below the auroral zone, when a geomagnetic storm
temporarily enlarges the auroral oval. Large geomagnetic storms are most common during the peak
of the eleven-year sunspot cycle or during the three years after the peak.[10][11] An aurora may appear
overhead as a "corona" of rays, radiating from a distant and apparent central location, which results
from perspective. An electron spirals (gyrates) about a field line at an angle that is determined by its
velocity vectors, parallel and perpendicular, respectively, to the local geomagnetic field vector B. This
angle is known as the pitch angle of the particle. The distance, or radius, of the electron from the
field line at any time is known as its Larmor radius. The pitch angle increases as the electron travels
to a region of greater field strength nearer to the atmosphere. Thus it is possible for some particles
to return, or mirror, if the angle becomes 90 degrees before entering the atmosphere to collide with
the denser molecules there. Other particles that do not mirror enter the atmosphere and contribute to
the auroral display over a range of altitudes. Other types of auroras have been observed from space,
e.g."poleward arcs" stretching sunward across the polar cap, the related "theta aurora", [12] and
"dayside arcs" near noon. These are relatively infrequent and poorly understood. There are other

interesting effects such as flickering aurora, "black aurora" and sub-visual red arcs. In addition to all
these, a weak glow (often deep red) observed around the two polar cusps, the field lines separating
the ones that close through the Earth from those that are swept into the tail and close remotely.

Images[edit]
The altitudes where auroral emissions occur were revealed by Carl Strmer and his colleagues who
used cameras to triangulate more than 12,000 auroras. [13] They discovered that most of the light is
produced between 90 and 150 km above the ground, while extending at times to more than
1000 km. Images of auroras are significantly more common today than in the past due to the
increase in use of digital cameras that have high enough sensitivities.[14] Film and digital exposure to
auroral displays is fraught with difficulties. Due to the different color spectrum present, and the
temporal changes occurring during the exposure, the results are somewhat unpredictable. Different
layers of the film emulsion respond differently to lower light levels, and choice of film can be very
important. Longer exposures superimpose rapidly changing features, and often blanket the dynamic
attribute of a display. Higher sensitivity creates issues with graininess.
David Malin pioneered multiple exposure using multiple filters for astronomical photography,
recombining the images in the laboratory to recreate the visual display more accurately.[15] For
scientific research, proxies are often used, such as ultra-violet, and color-correction to simulate the
appearance to humans. Predictive techniques are also used, to indicate the extent of the display, a
highly useful tool for aurora hunters.[16] Terrestrial features often find their way into aurora images,
making them more accessible and more likely to be published by major websites. [17] It is possible to
take excellent images with standard film (using ISO ratings between 100 and 400) and a single-lens
reflex camera with full aperture, a fast lens (f1.4 50 mm, for example), and exposures between 10
and 30 seconds, depending on the aurora's brightness.[18]
Early work on the imaging of the auroras was done in 1949 by the University of Saskatchewan using
the SCR-270 radar.

Aurora borealis from the International Space Station

Aurora during ageomagnetic storm that was most likely caused by a coronal mass
ejection from the Sun on 24 May 2010. Taken from the ISS

Diffuse aurora observed by DE-1 satellite from high Earth orbit

Visual forms and colors[edit]


The aurora frequently appears either as a diffuse glow or as "curtains" that extend approximately in
the east-west direction. At some times, they form "quiet arcs"; at others ("active aurora"), they evolve
and change constantly.
The most distinctive and brightest are the curtain-like auroral arcs. Each curtain consists of many
parallel rays, each lined up with the local direction of the magnetic field, consistent with auroras
being shaped by Earth's magnetic field. In-situ particle measurements confirm that auroral electrons
are guided by the geomagnetic field, and spiral around them while moving toward Earth. The
similarity of an auroral display to curtains is often enhanced by folds within the arcs. Arcs can
fragment or break-up into separate, at times rapidly changing, often rayed features that may fill the
whole sky. These are the discrete auroras, which are at times bright enough to read a newspaper
by at night.[19]and can display rapid sub-second variations in intensity. The diffuse aurora, on the
other hand, is a relatively featureless glow sometimes close to the limit of visibility.[20] It can be
distinguished from moonlit clouds by the fact that stars can be seen undiminished through the glow.
Diffuse auroras are often composed of patches whose brightness exhibits regular or near-regular
pulsations. The pulsation period can be typically many seconds, so is not always obvious. Often
there black aurora i.e. narrow regions in diffuse aurora with reduced luminosity. A typical auroral
display consists of these forms appearing in the above order throughout the night. [21]

Red: At the highest altitudes, excited atomic oxygen emits at 630.0 nm (red); low
concentration of atoms and lower sensitivity of eyes at this wavelength make this color visible
only under more intense solar activity. The low amount of oxygen atoms and their gradually
diminishing concentration is responsible for the faint appearance of the top parts of the
"curtains". Scarlet, crimson, and carmine are the most often-seen hues of red for the auroras.

Green: At lower altitudes the more frequent collisions suppress the 630.0 nm (red) mode:
rather the 557.7 nm emission (green) dominates. Fairly high concentration of atomic oxygen and
higher eye sensitivity in green make green auroras the most common. The excited molecular
nitrogen (atomic nitrogen being rare due to high stability of the N 2 molecule) plays a role here, as
it can transfer energy by collision to an oxygen atom, which then radiates it away at the green
wavelength. (Red and green can also mix together to produce pink or yellow hues.) The rapid
decrease of concentration of atomic oxygen below about 100 km is responsible for the abruptlooking end of the lower edges of the curtains. Both the 557.7 and 630.0 nm wavelengths
correspond to forbidden transitions of atomic oxygen, slow mechanism that is responsible for the
graduality (0.7 s and 107 s respectively) of flaring and fading.

Blue: At yet lower altitudes, atomic oxygen is uncommon, and molecular nitrogen and
ionized molecular nitrogen takes over in producing visible light emission; radiating at a large
number of wavelengths in both red and blue parts of the spectrum, with 428 nm (blue) being
dominant. Blue and purple emissions, typically at the lower edges of the "curtains", show up at

the highest levels of solar activity.[22] The molecular nitrogen transitions are much faster than the
atomic oxygen ones.

Ultraviolet: Ultraviolet light from auroras (within the optical window but not visible to virtually
all humans) has been observed with the requisite equipment. Ultraviolet auroras have also been
seen on Mars,[23] Jupiter and Saturn.

Infrared: Infrared light, in wavelengths that are within the optical window, is also part of many
auroras.[23][24]

Yellow and pink are a mix of red and green or blue. Other shades of red as well as orange
may be seen on rare occasions; yellow-green is moderately common. As red, green, and blue
are the primary colours of additive synthesis of colours, in theory practically any colour might be
possible but the ones mentioned in this article comprise a virtually exhaustive list.

A predominantly red aurora australis

Other auroral radiation[edit]


In addition, the aurora and associated currents produce a strong radio emission around 150 kHz
known as auroral kilometric radiation AKR, discovered in 1972.[25] Ionospheric absorption makes
AKR only observable from space. X-ray emissions, originating from the particles associated with
auroras, have also been detected.[26]

Causes of auroras[edit]
A full understanding of the physical processes which lead to different types of auroras is still
incomplete, but the basic cause involves the interaction of the solar wind with the Earths
magnetosphere. The varying intensity of the solar wind produces effects of different magnitudes, but
includes one or more of the following physical scenarios.
1. A quiescent solar wind flowing past the Earths magnetosphere steadily interacts with it and
can both inject solar wind particles directly onto the geomagnetic field lines that are open,
as opposed to being closed in the opposite hemisphere, and provide diffusion through
the bow shock. It can also cause particles already trapped in theradiation belts to precipitate
into the atmosphere. Once particles are lost to the atmosphere from the radiation belts,
under quiet conditions new ones replace them only slowly, and the loss-cone becomes
depleted. In the magnetotail, however, particle trajectories seem constantly to reshuffle,
probably when the particles cross the very weak magnetic field near the equator. As a result,
the flow of electrons in that region is nearly the same in all directions ("isotropic"), and
assures a steady supply of leaking electrons. The leakage of electrons does not leave the
tail positively charged, because each leaked electron lost to the atmosphere is replaced by a

low energy electron drawn upward from the ionosphere. Such replacement of "hot" electrons
by "cold" ones is in complete accord with the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The complete
process, which also generates an electric ring current around the Earth, is uncertain.
2. Geomagnetic disturbance from an enhanced solar wind causes distortions of
the magnetotail ("magnetic substorms"). These substorms tend to occur after prolonged
spells (hours) during which the interplanetary magnetic field has had an appreciable
southward component. This leads to a higher rate of interconnection between its field lines
and those of Earth. As a result, the solar wind moves magnetic flux (tubes of magnetic field
lines, locked together with their resident plasma) from the day side of Earth to the
magnetotail, widening the obstacle it presents to the solar wind flow and constricting the tail
on the night-side. Ultimately some tail plasma can separate ("magnetic reconnection"); some
blobs ("plasmoids") are squeezed downstream and are carried away with the solar wind;
others are squeezed toward Earth where their motion feeds strong outbursts of auroras,
mainly around midnight ("unloading process"). A geomagnetic storm resulting from greater
interaction adds many more particles to the plasma trapped around Earth, also producing
enhancement of the "ring current". Occasionally the resulting modification of the Earth's
magnetic field can be so strong that it produces auroras visible at middle latitudes, on field
lines much closer to the equator than those of the auroral zone.
3. Acceleration of auroral charged particles invariably accompanies a magnetospheric
disturbance that causes an aurora. This mechanism, which is believed to predominantly
arise from wave-particle interactions, raises the velocity of a particle in the direction of the
guiding magnetic field. The pitch angle is thereby decreased, and increases the chance of it
being precipitated into the atmosphere. Both electromagnetic and electrostatic waves,
produced at the time of greater geomagnetic disturbances, make a significant contribution to
the energising processes that sustain an aurora. Particle acceleration provides a complex
intermediate process for transferring energy from the solar wind indirectly into the
atmosphere.

Aurora australis (11 September 2005) as captured by NASA's IMAGEsatellite, digitally


overlaid onto The Blue Marble composite image. An animation created using the same
satellite data is also available
The details of these phenomena are not fully understood. However it is clear that the prime source of
auroral particles is the solar wind feeding the magnetosphere, the reservoir containing the radiation
zones, and temporarily magnetically trapped, particles confined by the geomagnetic field, coupled
with particle acceleration processes.[27]

Auroral particles[edit]
The immediate cause of the ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents leading to auroral
emissions was discovered in 1960, when a pioneering rocket flight from Fort Churchill in Canada
revealed a flux of electrons entering the atmosphere from above.[28] Since then an extensive
collection of measurements has been acquired painstakingly and with steadily improving resolution
since the 1960s by many research teams using rockets and satellites to traverse the auroral zone.
The main findings have been that auroral arcs and other bright forms are due to electrons that have
been accelerated during the final few 10,000 km or so of their plunge into the atmosphere.[29]These
electrons often, but not always, exhibit a peak in their energy distribution, and are preferentially
aligned along the local direction of the magnetic field. Electrons mainly responsible for diffuse and
pulsating auroras have, in contrast, a smoothly falling energy distribution, and an angular (pitchangle) distribution favouring directions perpendicular to the local magnetic field. Pulsations were
discovered to originate at or close to the equatorial crossing point of auroral zone magnetic field
lines.[30] Protons are also associated with auroras, both discrete and diffuse.

Auroras and the atmosphere[edit]


Auroras result from emissions of photons in the Earth's upper atmosphere, above 80 km (50 mi),
from ionized nitrogen atoms regaining an electron, and oxygen atoms andnitrogen based molecules
returning from an excited state to ground state.[31] They are ionized or excited by the collision of
particles precipitated into the atmosphere. Both incoming electrons and protons may be involved.
Excitation energy is lost within the atmosphere by the emission of a photon, or by collision with
another atom or molecule:
oxygen emissions
green or orange-red, depending on the amount of energy absorbed.
nitrogen emissions
blue or red; blue if the atom regains an electron after it has been ionized, red if returning
to ground state from an excited state.
Oxygen is unusual in terms of its return to ground state: it can take three quarters of a
second to emit green light and up to two minutes to emit red. Collisions with other atoms or
molecules absorb the excitation energy and prevent emission. Because the highest
atmosphere has a higher percentage of oxygen and is sparsely distributed such collisions
are rare enough to allow time for oxygen to emit red. Collisions become more frequent
progressing down into the atmosphere, so that red emissions do not have time to happen,
and eventually even green light emissions are prevented. This is why there is a color
differential with altitude; at high altitudes oxygen red dominates, then oxygen green and
nitrogen blue/red, then finally nitrogen blue/red when collisions prevent oxygen from emitting
anything. Green is the most common color. Then comes pink, a mixture of light green and
red, followed by pure red, then yellow (a mixture of red and green), and finally, pure blue.

Auroras and the ionosphere[edit]


Bright auroras are generally associated with Birkeland currents (Schield et al., 1969;
[32]
Zmuda and Armstrong, 1973[33]), which flow down into the ionosphere on one side of the
pole and out on the other. In between, some of the current connects directly through the
ionospheric E layer (125 km); the rest ("region 2") detours, leaving again through field lines
closer to the equator and closing through the "partial ring current" carried by magnetically
trapped plasma. The ionosphere is an ohmic conductor, so some consider that such
currents require a driving voltage, which an, as yet unspecified, dynamo mechanism can
supply. Electric field probes in orbit above the polar cap suggest voltages of the order of
40,000 volts, rising up to more than 200,000 volts during intense magnetic storms. In
another interpretation the currents are the direct result of electron acceleration into the
atmosphere by wave/particle interactions.

Ionospheric resistance has a complex nature, and leads to a secondary Hall current flow. By
a strange twist of physics, the magnetic disturbance on the ground due to the main current
almost cancels out, so most of the observed effect of auroras is due to a secondary current,
the auroral electrojet. An auroral electrojet index (measured in nanotesla) is regularly
derived from ground data and serves as a general measure of auroral activity. Kristian
Birkeland[34] deduced that the currents flowed in the east-west directions along the auroral
arc, and such currents, flowing from the dayside toward (approximately) midnight were later
named "auroral electrojets" (see also Birkeland currents).

Interaction of the solar wind with Earth[edit]


The Earth is constantly immersed in the solar wind, a rarefied flow of hot plasma (a gas of
free electrons and positive ions) emitted by the Sun in all directions, a result of the twomillion-degree temperature of the Sun's outermost layer, the corona. The solar wind reaches
Earth with a velocity typically around 400 km/s, a density of around 5 ions/cm3 and a
magnetic field intensity of around 25 nT (for comparison, Earth's surface field is typically
30,00050,000 nT). During magnetic storms, in particular, flows can be several times faster;
the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) may also be much stronger. Joan Feynman deduced
in the 1970s that the long-term averages of solar wind speed correlated with geomagnetic
activity.[35] Her work resulted from data collected by the Explorer 33 spacecraft. The solar
wind and magnetosphere consist of plasma (ionized gas), which conducts electricity. It is
well known (since Michael Faraday's work around 1830) that when an electrical conductor is
placed within a magnetic field while relative motion occurs in a direction that the conductor
cuts across (or is cut by), rather than along, the lines of the magnetic field, an electric
current is induced within the conductor. The strength of the current depends on a) the rate of
relative motion, b) the strength of the magnetic field, c) the number of conductors ganged
together and d) the distance between the conductor and the magnetic field, while
the direction of flow is dependent upon the direction of relative motion. Dynamos make use
of this basic process ("the dynamo effect"), any and all conductors, solid or otherwise are so
affected, including plasmas and other fluids. The IMF originates on the Sun, linked to
the sunspots, and its field lines (lines of force) are dragged out by the solar wind. That alone
would tend to line them up in the Sun-Earth direction, but the rotation of the Sun angles
them at Earth by about 45 degrees forming a spiral in the ecliptic plane), known as
the Parker spiral. The field lines passing Earth are therefore usually linked to those near the
western edge ("limb") of the visible Sun at any time.[36] The solar wind and the
magnetosphere, being two electrically conducting fluids in relative motion, should be able in
principle to generate electric currents by dynamo action and impart energy from the flow of
the solar wind. However, this process is hampered by the fact that plasmas conduct readily
along magnetic field lines, but less readily perpendicular to them. Energy is more effectively
transferred by temporary magnetic connection between the field lines of the solar wind and
those of the magnetosphere. Unsurprisingly this process is known as magnetic
reconnection. As already mentioned, it happens most readily when the interplanetary field is
directed southward, in a similar direction to the geomagnetic field in the inner regions of both
the north magnetic pole and south magnetic pole.

Schematic of Earth'smagnetosphere
Auroras are more frequent and brighter during the intense phase of the solar cycle
when coronal mass ejections increase the intensity of the solar wind.[37]

Magnetosphere[edit]
Earth's magnetosphere is shaped by the impact of the solar wind on the Earth's magnetic
field. This forms an obstacle to the flow, diverting it, at an average distance of about
70,000 km (11 Earth radii or Re),[38] producing a bow shock 12,000 km to 15,000 km (1.9 to
2.4 Re) further upstream. The width of the magnetosphere abreast of Earth, is typically
190,000 km (30 Re), and on the night side a long "magnetotail" of stretched field lines
extends to great distances (> 200 Re). The high latitude magnetosphere is filled with plasma
as the solar wind passes the Earth. The flow of plasma into the magnetosphere increases
with additional turbulence, density and speed in the solar wind. This flow is favoured by a
southward component of the IMF, which can then directly connect to the high latitude
geomagnetic field lines.[39] The flow pattern of magnetospheric plasma is mainly from the
magnetotail toward the Earth, around the Earth and back into the solar wind through
the magnetopause on the day-side. In addition to moving perpendicular to the Earth's
magnetic field, some magnetospheric plasma travels down along the Earth's magnetic field
lines, gains additional energy and loses it to the atmosphere in the auroral zones. The cusps
of the magnetosphere, separating geomagnetic field lines that close through the Earth from
those that close remotely allow a small amount of solar wind to directly reach the top of the
atmosphere, producing an auroral glow. On 26 February 2008, THEMIS probes were able to
determine, for the first time, the triggering event for the onset of magnetospheric substorms.
[40]
Two of the five probes, positioned approximately one third the distance to the moon,
measured events suggesting a magnetic reconnection event 96 seconds prior to auroral
intensification.[41]
Geomagnetic storms that ignite auroras may occur more often during the months around
the equinoxes. It is not well understood, but geomagnetic storms may vary with Earth's
seasons. Two factors to consider are the tilt of both the solar and Earths axis to the ecliptic
plane. As the Earth orbits throughout a year, it experiences an interplanetary magnetic field
(IMF) from different latitudes of the Sun, which is tilted at 8 degrees. Similarly, the 23 degree
tilt of the Earths axis about which the geomagnetic pole rotates with a diurnal variation,
changes the daily average angle that the geomagnetic field presents to the incident IMF
throughout a year. These factors combined can lead to minor cyclical changes in the
detailed way that the IMF links to the magnetosphere. In turn, this affects the average
probability of opening a door through which energy from the solar wind can reach the Earth's
inner magnetosphere and thereby enhance auroras.

Auroral particle acceleration[edit]

The electrons responsible for the brightest forms of aurora are well accounted for by their
acceleration in the dynamic electric fields of plasma turbulence encountered during
precipitation from the magnetosphere into the auroral atmosphere. In contrast, static electric
fields are unable to transfer energy to the electrons due to their conservative nature. [42] The
electrons and ions that cause the diffuse aurora appear not to be accelerated during
precipitation. The increase in strength of magnetic field lines towards the Earth creates a
magnetic mirror that turns back many of the downward flowing electrons. The bright forms
of auroras are produced when downward acceleration not only increases the energy of
precipitating electrons but also reduces their pitch angles (angle between electron velocity
and the local magnetic field vector). This greatly increases the rate of deposition of energy
into the atmosphere, and thereby the rates of ionisation, excitation and consequent emission
of auroral light. Acceleration also increases the electron current flowing between the
atmosphere and magnetosphere.
One early theory proposed for the acceleration of auroral electrons is based on an assumed
static, or quasi-static, electric field creating a uni-directional potential drop. [43] No mention is
provided of either the necessary space-charge or equi-potential distribution, and these
remain to be specified for the notion of acceleration by double layers to be credible.
Fundamentally, Poissons equation indicates that there can be no configuration of charge
resulting in a net potential drop. Inexplicably though, some authors [44][45] still invoke quasistatic parallel electric fields as net accelerators of auroral electrons, citing interpretations of
transient observations of fields and particles as supporting this theory as firm fact. In another
example,[46] there is little justification given for saying FAST observations demonstrate
detailed quantitative agreement between the measured electric potentials and the ion
beam energies...., leaving no doubt that parallel potential drops are a dominant source
of auroral particle acceleration.
Another theory is based on acceleration by Landau [47] resonance in the turbulent electric
fields of the acceleration region. This process is essentially the same as that employed in
plasma fusion laboratories throughout the world,[48] and appears well able to account in
principle for most if not all detailed properties of the electrons responsible for the
brightest forms of auroras, above, below and within the acceleration region. [49]

ISS Expedition 6 team, Lake Manicouagan is visible to the bottom left


Other mechanisms have also been proposed, in particular, Alfvn waves, wave modes
involving the magnetic field first noted by Hannes Alfvn (1942), which have been observed
in the laboratory and in space. The question is whether these waves might just be a different
way of looking at the above process, however, because this approach does not point out a
different energy source, and many plasma bulk phenomena can also be described in terms
of Alfvn waves.

Wikinews has related


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caused by electrical space


tornadoes
Other processes are also involved in the aurora, and much remains to be learned. Auroral
electrons created by large geomagnetic storms often seem to have energies below 1 keV,
and are stopped higher up, near 200 km. Such low energies excite mainly the red line of
oxygen, so that often such auroras are red. On the other hand, positive ions also reach the
ionosphere at such time, with energies of 2030 keV, suggesting they might be an
"overflow" along magnetic field lines of the copious "ring current" ions accelerated at such
times, by processes different from the ones described above. Some O+ ions ("conics") also
seem accelerated in different ways by plasma processes associated with the aurora. These
ions are accelerated by plasma waves in directions mainly perpendicular to the field lines.
They therefore start at their "mirror points" and can travel only upward. As they do so, the
"mirror effect" transforms their directions of motion, from perpendicular to the field line to a
cone around it, which gradually narrows down, becoming increasingly parallel at large
distances where the field is much weaker.

Auroral events of historical significance[edit]


The auroras that resulted from the "great geomagnetic storm" on both 28 August and 2
September 1859 are thought to be the most spectacular in recent recorded history. In a
paper to the Royal Society on 21 November 1861, Balfour Stewart described both auroral
events as documented by a self-recording magnetograph at the Kew Observatory and
established the connection between the 2 September 1859 auroral storm and
the Carrington-Hodgson flare event when he observed that, "It is not impossible to suppose
that in this case our luminary was taken in the act."[50] The second auroral event, which
occurred on 2 September 1859 as a result of the exceptionally intense Carrington-Hodgson
white light solar flare on 1 September 1859, produced auroras, so widespread and
extraordinarily bright, that they were seen and reported in published scientific
measurements, ship logs, and newspapers throughout the United States, Europe, Japan,
and Australia. It was reported by the New York Times that in Boston on Friday 2 September
1859 the aurora was "so brilliant that at about one o'clock ordinary print could be read by
the light".[51] One o'clock EST time on Friday 2 September, would have been 6:00 GMT and
the self-recording magnetograph at the Kew Observatory was recording the geomagnetic
storm, which was then one hour old, at its full intensity. Between 1859 and 1862, Elias
Loomis published a series of nine papers on the Great Auroral Exhibition of 1859 in
the American Journal of Science where he collected world-wide reports of the auroral event.
That aurora is thought to have been produced by one of the most intense coronal mass
ejections in history. It is also notable for the fact that it is the first time where the phenomena
of auroral activity and electricity were unambiguously linked. This insight was made possible
not only due to scientific magnetometer measurements of the era, but also as a result of a
significant portion of the 125,000 miles (201,000 km) of telegraph lines then in service being
significantly disrupted for many hours throughout the storm. Some telegraph lines, however,
seem to have been of the appropriate length and orientation to produce a
sufficient geomagnetically induced current from the electromagnetic field to allow for
continued communication with the telegraph operator power supplies switched off. The
following conversation occurred between two operators of the American Telegraph Line
between Boston and Portland, Maine, on the night of 2 September 1859 and reported in
the Boston Traveler:
Boston operator (to Portland operator): "Please cut off your battery [power source]
entirely for fifteen minutes."

Portland operator: "Will do so. It is now disconnected."


Boston: "Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you
receive my writing?"
Portland: "Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually."
Boston: "My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as
the aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too
strong at times for our relay magnets. Suppose we work without batteries while we are
affected by this trouble."
Portland: "Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?"
Boston: "Yes. Go ahead."
The conversation was carried on for around two hours using no battery power at all and
working solely with the current induced by the aurora, and it was said that this was the first
time on record that more than a word or two was transmitted in such manner.[51] Such events
led to the general conclusion that
The effect of the aurorae on the electric telegraph is generally to increase or diminish the
electric current generated in working the wires. Sometimes it entirely neutralizes them, so
that, in effect, no fluid is discoverable in them. The aurora borealis seems to be composed of
a mass of electric matter, resembling in every respect, that generated by the
electric galvanic battery. The currents from it change coming on the wires, and then
disappear: the mass of the aurora rolls from the horizon to the zenith. [52]

Historical theories, superstition and mythology[edit]


Magnetic control of the aurora was mentioned by Ancient
Greek explorer/geographer Pytheas, Hiorter, and Celsius described in 1741 evidence that
large magnetic fluctuations occurred whenever the aurora was observed overhead. It was
also later realized that large electric currents were associated with the aurora, flowing in the
region where auroral light originated. Multiple superstitions and obsolete theories explaining
the aurora have emerged over the centuries.[citation needed]

Seneca speaks diffusely on auroras in the first book of his Naturales Quaestiones,
drawing mainly from Aristotle; he classifies them "putei" or wells when they are circular
and "rim a large hole in the sky", "pithaei" when they look like casks, "chasmata" from
the same root of the English chasm, "pogoniae" when they are bearded, "cyparissae"
when they look like cypresses), describes their manifold colors and asks himself
whether they are above or below the clouds. He recalls that under Tiberius, an aurora
formed above Ostia, so intense and so red that a cohort of the army, stationed nearby
for fireman duty, galloped to the city.

Walter William Bryant wrote in his book Kepler (1920) that Tycho Brahe "seems to have
been something of a homopathist, for he recommends sulfur to cure infectious
diseases brought on by the sulphurous vapours of the Aurora Borealis." [53]

Benjamin Franklin theorized that the "mystery of the Northern Lights" was caused by a
concentration of electrical charges in the polar regions intensified by the snow and other
moisture.[54]

The northern lights have had a number of names throughout history. The Cree called the
phenomenon the "Dance of the Spirits". In Medieval Europe, the auroras were commonly
believed to be a sign from God.[55]
There is the claim from 1855 that in Norse mythology:

The Valkyrior are warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears.
/.../ When they ride forth on their errand, their armour sheds a strange flickering light, which
flashes up over the northern skies, making what Men call the "aurora borealis", or "Northern
Lights".[56]
While a striking notion, there is not a vast body of evidence in the Old Norse literature giving
this interpretation, or even much reference to auroras. Although auroral activity is common
over Scandinavia and Iceland today, it is possible that the Magnetic North Pole was
considerably farther away from this region during the relevant period of Norse mythology.
[57]
Today, the Northern Lights are visible in Iceland from September to April. [58]
The first Old Norse account of norrljs is found in the Norwegian chronicle Konungs
Skuggsj from AD 1230, (long after the Viking age). The chronicler has heard about this
phenomenon from compatriots returning from Greenland, and he gives three possible
explanations: that the ocean was surrounded by vast fires, that the sun flares could reach
around the world to its night side, or that glaciers could store energy so that they eventually
became fluorescent.[59]
In ancient Roman mythology, Aurora is the goddess of the dawn, renewing herself every
morning to fly across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun. The persona of Aurora the
goddess has been incorporated in the writings of Shakespeare, Lord Tennyson,
and Thoreau. The name Aurora, however, simply comes from the Latin word for the dawn.
The goddess was not associated with polar light phenomena, in Roman myth. [citation needed]
In the traditions of Aboriginal Australians, the Aurora Australis is commonly associated with
fire. For example, the Gunditjmara people of western Victoria called auroras "Puae buae",
meaning "ashes", while the Gunai people of eastern Victoria perceived auroras as bushfires
in the spirit world. When the Dieri people of South Australia said that an auroral display was
"Kootchee", an evil spirit creating a large fire. Similarly, the Ngarrindjeri people of South
Australia referred to auroras seen over Kangaroo Island as the campfires of spirits in the
Land of the Dead. Aboriginal people in southwest Queensland believed the auroras to be
the fires of the "Oola Pikka", ghostly spirits who spoke to the people through auroras.
Sacred law forbade anyone except male elders from watching or interpreting the messages
of ancestors they believed were transmitted through auroras.[60]

Frederic Edwin Church's 1865 painting "Aurora Borealis"


After the Battle of Fredericksburg, the lights could be seen from the battlefield that night.
The Confederate Army took it as a sign that God was on their side during the battle as it was
very rare that one could see the lights in Virginia. The painting Aurora Borealis (see Aurora
Borealis) (1865) by American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church is widely interpreted
to represent the conflict of the American Civil War.[61]

A variety of Native American myths surround the spectacle. Early European explorer Samuel
Hearne traveled with ChipewyanDene in 1771 and recorded their views on the aurora
borealis, or the "ed-thin", as they called it, meaning caribou. Dene experience was that
stroking caribou fur created sparks much like the aurora. They also believed that the lights
were the spirits of their departed friends dancing in the sky, and when the lights shined the
brightest it meant that their deceased friends were very happy.[62]

Planetary auroras[edit]

Jupiter aurora; the bright spot at far left connects magnetically to Io; spots at
bottom lead to Ganymede and Europa.

An aurora high above the northern part of Saturn; image taken by theCassini
spacecraft. A movie shows images from 81 hours of observations of Saturn's
aurora
Both Jupiter and Saturn have magnetic fields much stronger than Earth's (Jupiter's
equatorial field strength is 4.3 gauss, compared to 0.3 gauss for Earth), and both have
extensive radiation belts. Auroras have been observed on both, most clearly with theHubble
Space Telescope. Uranus and Neptune have also been observed to have auroras.[63]
The auroras on the gas giants seem, like Earth's, to be powered by the solar wind. In
addition, however, Jupiter's moons, especially Io, are powerful sources of auroras on Jupiter.
These arise from electric currents along field lines ("field aligned currents"), generated by a
dynamo mechanism due to the relative motion between the rotating planet and the moving
moon. Io, which has active volcanism and an ionosphere, is a particularly strong source, and
its currents also generate radio emissions, studied since 1955. Auroras also have been
observed on the surfaces of Io, Europa, and Ganymede, using the Hubble Space Telescope.
Auroras have also been observed on Venusand Mars. Because Venus has no intrinsic
(planetary) magnetic field, Venusian auroras appear as bright and diffuse patches of varying
shape and intensity, sometimes distributed across the full planetary disc. Venusian auroras
are produced by the impact of electrons originating from the solar wind and precipitating in
the night-side atmosphere. An aurora was detected on Mars, on 14 August 2004, by the
SPICAM instrument aboard Mars Express. The aurora was located at Terra Cimmeria, in the
region of 177 East, 52 South. The total size of the emission region was about 30 km

across, and possibly about 8 km high. By analyzing a map of crustal magnetic anomalies
compiled with data from Mars Global Surveyor, scientists observed that the region of the
emissions corresponded to an area where the strongest magnetic field is localized. This
correlation indicates that the origin of the light emission was a flux of electrons moving along
the crust magnetic lines and exciting the upper atmosphere of Mars.[63][64]
The brown dwarf star LSR J1835+3259 was discovered to have auroras in July 2015, the
first extra-solar auroras discovered.[65] The aurora is a million times brighter than the
Northern Lights, mainly red in colour, because the charged particles are interacting with
hydrogen in its atmosphere. It is not known what the cause is. Some have speculated that
material maybe being stripped off the surface of the brown dwarf via stellar winds to produce
its own electrons. Another possible explanation is an as-yet-undetected planet or moon
around the dwarf, which is throwing off material to light it up, as is the case with Jupiter and
its moon Io.[66]

See also[edit]

Planet
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Planets)
This article is about the astronomical object. For other uses, see Planet (disambiguation).

The eight planets of the Solar System

The terrestrial planets


Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars
The giant planets
Jupiter and Saturn (gas giants)
Uranus and Neptune (ice giants)
Shown in order from the Sun and in true
color. Sizes are not to scale.

A planet is an astronomical object orbiting a star or stellar remnant that

is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity,

is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and

has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.[a][1][2]

The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, astrology, science, mythology, and religion. Several
planets in the Solar Systemcan be seen with the naked eye. These were regarded by many early
cultures as divine, or as emissaries of deities. As scientific knowledge advanced, human perception
of the planets changed, incorporating a number of disparate objects. In 2006, theInternational
Astronomical Union (IAU) officially adopted a resolution defining planets within the Solar System.
This definition is controversial because it excludes many objects of planetary mass based on where
or what they orbit. Although eight of the planetary bodies discovered before 1950 remain "planets"
under the modern definition, some celestial bodies, such as Ceres,Pallas, Juno and Vesta (each an
object in the solar asteroid belt), and Pluto (the first trans-Neptunian object discovered), that were
once considered planets by the scientific community, are no longer viewed as such.

The planets were thought by Ptolemy to orbit Earth in deferent and epicycle motions. Although the
idea that the planets orbited the Sun had been suggested many times, it was not until the 17th
century that this view was supported by evidence from the firsttelescopic astronomical observations,
performed by Galileo Galilei. By careful analysis of the observation data, Johannes Keplerfound the
planets' orbits were not circular but elliptical. As observational tools improved, astronomers saw that,
like Earth, the planets rotated around tilted axes, and some shared such features as ice caps and
seasons. Since the dawn of the Space Age, close observation by space probes has found that Earth
and the other planets share characteristics such as volcanism,hurricanes, tectonics, and
even hydrology.
Planets are generally divided into two main types: large low-density giant planets, and smaller
rocky terrestrials. Under IAU definitions, there are eight planets in the Solar System. In order of
increasing distance from the Sun, they are the four terrestrials,Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars,
then the four giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Six of the planets are orbited by
one or more natural satellites.
More than two thousand planets around other stars ("extrasolar planets" or "exoplanets") have been
discovered in the Milky Way. As of 1 June 2016, 3422 known extrasolar planets in 2560 planetary
systems (including 582 multiple planetary systems), ranging in size from just above the size of the
Moon to gas giants about twice as large as Jupiter have been discovered, out of which more than
100 planets are the same size as Earth, nine of which are at the same relative distance from their
star as Earth from the Sun, i.e. in the habitable zone.[3][4] On December 20, 2011, the Kepler Space
Telescope team reported the discovery of the first Earth-sized extrasolar planets, Kepler20e[5] and Kepler-20f,[6] orbiting a Sun-like star, Kepler-20.[7][8][9] A 2012 study, analyzing gravitational
microlensing data, estimates an average of at least 1.6 bound planets for every star in the Milky
Way.[10]Around one in five Sun-like[b] stars is thought to have an Earth-sized[c] planet in its
habitable[d] zone.

Contents
[hide]

1History
o

1.1Babylon

1.2Greco-Roman astronomy

1.3India

1.4Medieval Muslim astronomy

1.5European Renaissance

1.619th century

1.720th century

1.821st century

1.8.1Extrasolar planets

1.8.22006 IAU definition of planet


1.9Objects formerly considered planets

2Mythology and naming

3Formation

4Solar System
4.1Planetary attributes

5Exoplanets

6Planetary-mass objects
o

6.1Rogue planets

6.2Sub-brown dwarfs

6.3Former stars

6.4Satellite planets and belt planets

6.5Captured planets

7Attributes
7.1Dynamic characteristics

7.1.1Orbit

7.1.2Axial tilt

7.1.3Rotation

7.1.4Orbital clearing
7.2Physical characteristics

7.2.1Mass

7.2.2Internal differentiation

7.2.3Atmosphere

7.2.4Magnetosphere
7.3Secondary characteristics

8See also

9Notes

10References

11External links

History[edit]
Further information: History of astronomy, Definition of planet and Timeline of Solar System
astronomy

Printed rendition of a geocentric cosmological model fromCosmographia, Antwerp, 1539


The word "planet" derives from the Ancient Greek astr plants,
or plns astr, which means "wandering star,"[11] and originally referred to those
objects in the night sky that moved relative to one another, as opposed to the "fixed stars", which
maintained a constant relative position in the sky.[12]
The idea of planets has evolved over its history, from the divine lights of antiquity to the earthly
objects of the scientific age. The concept has expanded to include worlds not only in the Solar
System, but in hundreds of other extrasolar systems. The ambiguities inherent in defining planets
have led to much scientific controversy.
The five classical planets, being visible to the naked eye, have been known since ancient times and
have had a significant impact onmythology, religious cosmology, and ancient astronomy. In ancient
times, astronomers noted how certain lights moved across the sky in relation to the other stars.
Ancient Greeks called these lights (plantes asteres, "wandering stars") or

simply (plantai, "wanderers"),[13] from which today's word "planet" was derived.[14]
[15]
In ancient Greece, China, Babylon, and indeed all pre-modern civilizations,[16][17] it was almost
universally believed that Earth was the center of the Universe and that all the "planets" circled Earth.
The reasons for this perception were that stars and planets appeared to revolve around Earth each
day[18] and the apparentlycommon-sense perceptions that Earth was solid and stable and that it was
not moving but at rest.

Babylon[edit]
Main article: Babylonian astronomy
The first civilization known to have a functional theory of the planets were the Babylonians, who lived
in Mesopotamia in the first and second millennia BC. The oldest surviving planetary astronomical
text is the Babylonian Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, a 7th-century BC copy of a list of observations of
the motions of the planet Venus, that probably dates as early as the second millennium BC.
[19]
The MUL.APIN is a pair of cuneiform tablets dating from the 7th century BC that lays out the
motions of the Sun, Moon and planets over the course of the year.[20] The Babylonian
astrologers also laid the foundations of what would eventually become Western astrology.
[21]
The Enuma anu enlil, written during theNeo-Assyrian period in the 7th century BC,[22] comprises a
list of omens and their relationships with various celestial phenomena including the motions of the
planets.[23][24]Venus, Mercury and the outer planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were all identified
by Babylonian astronomers. These would remain the only known planets until the invention of
the telescope in early modern times.[25]

Greco-Roman astronomy[edit]
See also: Greek astronomy

Ptolemy's 7 planetary spheres


1
Moon

2
Mercury

3
Venus

4
Sun

5
Mars

6
Jupiter

7
Saturn

The ancient Greeks initially did not attach as much significance to the planets as the Babylonians.
The Pythagoreans, in the 6th and 5th centuries BC appear to have developed their own independent
planetary theory, which consisted of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and planets revolving around a "Central
Fire" at the center of the Universe. Pythagoras or Parmenides is said to have been the first to
identify the evening star (Hesperos) and morning star (Phosphoros) as one and the same
(Aphrodite, Greek corresponding to Latin Venus).[26] In the 3rd century BC, Aristarchus of
Samos proposed a heliocentric system, according to which Earth and the planets revolved around
the Sun. The geocentric system remained dominant until the Scientific Revolution.
By the 1st century BC, during the Hellenistic period, the Greeks had begun to develop their own
mathematical schemes for predicting the positions of the planets. These schemes, which were
based on geometry rather than the arithmetic of the Babylonians, would eventually eclipse the
Babylonians' theories in complexity and comprehensiveness, and account for most of the
astronomical movements observed from Earth with the naked eye. These theories would reach their
fullest expression in the Almagest written byPtolemy in the 2nd century CE. So complete was the
domination of Ptolemy's model that it superseded all previous works on astronomy and remained the
definitive astronomical text in the Western world for 13 centuries.[19][27] To the Greeks and Romans
there were seven known planets, each presumed to be circling Earth according to the complex laws
laid out by Ptolemy. They were, in increasing order from Earth (in Ptolemy's order): the Moon,
Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.[15][27][28]

India[edit]
Main articles: Indian astronomy and Hindu cosmology
In 499 CE, the Indian astronomer Aryabhata propounded a planetary model that explicitly
incorporated Earth's rotation about its axis, which he explains as the cause of what appears to be an
apparent westward motion of the stars. He also believed that the orbits of planets are elliptical.
[29]
Aryabhata's followers were particularly strong in South India, where his principles of the diurnal
rotation of Earth, among others, were followed and a number of secondary works were based on
them.[30]
In 1500, Nilakantha Somayaji of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics, in
his Tantrasangraha, revised Aryabhata's model.[31] In his Aryabhatiyabhasya, a commentary on
Aryabhata's Aryabhatiya, he developed a planetary model where Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and
Saturn orbit the Sun, which in turn orbits Earth, similar to the Tychonic system later proposed
by Tycho Brahe in the late 16th century. Most astronomers of the Kerala school who followed him
accepted his planetary model.[31][32]

Medieval Muslim astronomy[edit]


Main articles: Astronomy in the medieval Islamic world and Cosmology in medieval Islam
In the 11th century, the transit of Venus was observed by Avicenna, who established that Venus was,
at least sometimes, below the Sun.[33] In the 12th century, Ibn Bajjahobserved "two planets as black
spots on the face of the Sun", which was later identified as a transit of Mercury and Venus by
the Maragha astronomer Qotb al-Din Shirazi in the 13th century.[34] Ibn Bajjah could not have
observed a transit of Venus, because none occurred in his lifetime. [35]

European Renaissance[edit]

Renaissance planets,
c. 1543 to 1610 and c. 1680 to 1781
1
Mercury

2
Venus

3
Earth

4
Mars

5
Jupiter

6
Saturn

See also: Heliocentrism


With the advent of the Scientific Revolution, use of the term "planet" changed from something that
moved across the sky (in relation to the star field); to a body that orbited Earth (or that were believed
to do so at the time); and by the 18th century to something that directly orbited the Sun when
the heliocentric model of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler gained sway.
Thus, Earth became included in the list of planets,[36] whereas the Sun and Moon were excluded. At
first, when the first satellites of Jupiter and Saturn were discovered in the 17th century, the terms
"planet" and "satellite" were used interchangeably although the latter would gradually become
more prevalent in the following century.[37] Until the mid-19th century, the number of "planets" rose
rapidly because any newly discovered object directly orbiting the Sun was listed as a planet by the
scientific community.

19th century[edit]

Eleven planets, 18071845

1
Mercury

2
Venus

3
Earth

4
Mars

5
Vesta

6
Juno

7
Ceres

8
Pallas

9
Jupiter

10
Saturn

11
Uranus

In the 19th century astronomers began to realize that recently discovered bodies that had been
classified as planets for almost half a century (such as Ceres, Pallas, and Vesta) were very different
from the traditional ones. These bodies shared the same region of space between Mars and Jupiter
(the asteroid belt), and had a much smaller mass; as a result they were reclassified as "asteroids". In
the absence of any formal definition, a "planet" came to be understood as any "large" body that
orbited the Sun. Because there was a dramatic size gap between the asteroids and the planets, and
the spate of new discoveries seemed to have ended after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, there
was no apparent need to have a formal definition. [38]

20th century[edit]

Planets 18541930, Solar planets 2006present


1
Mercury

2
Venus

3
Earth

4
Mars

5
Jupiter

6
Saturn

7
Uranus

8
Neptune

In the 20th century, Pluto was discovered. After initial observations led to the belief it was larger than
Earth,[39] the object was immediately accepted as the ninth planet. Further monitoring found the body
was actually much smaller: in 1936, Raymond Lyttleton suggested that Pluto may be an escaped
satellite of Neptune,[40] and Fred Whipplesuggested in 1964 that Pluto may be a comet.[41] As it was
still larger than all known asteroids and seemingly did not exist within a larger population, [42] it kept its
status until 2006.

(Solar) planets 19302006


1
Mercury

2
Venus

3
Earth

4
Mars

5
Jupiter

6
Saturn

7
Uranus

8
Neptune

9
Pluto

In 1992, astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of planets
around a pulsar,PSR B1257+12.[43] This discovery is generally considered to be the first definitive
detection of a planetary system around another star. Then, on October 6, 1995, Michel
Mayor and Didier Queloz of the Geneva Observatoryannounced the first definitive detection of an
exoplanet orbiting an ordinary main-sequence star (51 Pegasi).[44]
The discovery of extrasolar planets led to another ambiguity in defining a planet: the point at which a
planet becomes a star. Many known extrasolar planets are many times the mass of Jupiter,
approaching that of stellar objects known as brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are generally considered
stars due to their ability to fuse deuterium, a heavier isotope of hydrogen. Although objects more
massive than 75 times that of Jupiter fuse hydrogen, objects of only 13 Jupiter masses can fuse
deuterium. Deuterium is quite rare, and most brown dwarfs would have ceased fusing deuterium
long before their discovery, making them effectively indistinguishable from supermassive planets. [45]

21st century[edit]
With the discovery during the latter half of the 20th century of more objects within the Solar System
and large objects around other stars, disputes arose over what should constitute a planet. There
were particular disagreements over whether an object should be considered a planet if it was part of
a distinct population such as a belt, or if it was large enough to generate energy by
the thermonuclear fusion of deuterium.
A growing number of astronomers argued for Pluto to be declassified as a planet, because many
similar objects approaching its size had been found in the same region of the Solar System
(the Kuiper belt) during the 1990s and early 2000s. Pluto was found to be just one small body in a
population of thousands.
Some of them, such as Quaoar, Sedna, and Eris, were heralded in the popular press as the tenth
planet, failing to receive widespread scientific recognition. The announcement of Eris in 2005, an
object then thought of as 27% more massive than Pluto, created the necessity and public desire for
an official definition of a planet.
Acknowledging the problem, the IAU set about creating the definition of planet, and produced one in
August 2006. The number of planets dropped to the eight significantly larger bodies that had cleared
their orbit (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), and a new class
of dwarf planets was created, initially containing three objects (Ceres, Pluto and Eris).[46]

Extrasolar planets[edit]
There is no official definition of extrasolar planets. In 2003, the International Astronomical
Union (IAU) Working Group on Extrasolar Planets issued a position statement, but this position
statement was never proposed as an official IAU resolution and was never voted on by IAU
members. The positions statement incorporates the following guidelines, mostly focused upon the
boundary between planets and brown dwarfs:[2]
1. Objects with true masses below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium
(currently calculated to be 13 times the mass of Jupiter for objects with the sameisotopic
abundance as the Sun[47]) that orbit stars or stellar remnants are "planets" (no matter how
they formed). The minimum mass and size required for an extrasolar object to be
considered a planet should be the same as that used in the Solar System.
2. Substellar objects with true masses above the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of
deuterium are "brown dwarfs", no matter how they formed or where they are located.
3. Free-floating objects in young star clusters with masses below the limiting mass for
thermonuclear fusion of deuterium are not "planets", but are "sub-brown dwarfs" (or
whatever name is most appropriate).
This working definition has since been widely used by astronomers when publishing discoveries of
exoplanets in academic journals.[48] Although temporary, it remains an effective working definition
until a more permanent one is formally adopted. It does not address the dispute over the lower mass
limit,[49] and so it steered clear of the controversy regarding objects within the Solar System. This
definition also makes no comment on the planetary status of objects orbiting brown dwarfs, such
as 2M1207b.
One definition of a sub-brown dwarf is a planet-mass object that formed through cloud
collapse rather than accretion. This formation distinction between a sub-brown dwarf and a planet is
not universally agreed upon; astronomers are divided into two camps as whether to consider the
formation process of a planet as part of its division in classification.[50]One reason for the dissent is
that often it may not be possible to determine the formation process. For example, a planet formed

by accretion around a star may get ejected from the system to become free-floating, and likewise a
sub-brown dwarf that formed on its own in a star cluster through cloud collapse may get captured
into orbit around a star.
The 13 Jupiter-mass cutoff represents an average mass rather than a precise threshold value. Large
objects will fuse most of their deuterium and smaller ones will fuse only a little, and the 13 MJ value
is somewhere in between. In fact, calculations show that an object fuses 50% of its initial deuterium
content when the total mass ranges between 12 and 14 MJ.[51] The amount of deuterium fused
depends not only on mass but also on the composition of the object, on the amount
of helium and deuterium present.[52] TheExtrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia includes objects up to 25
Jupiter masses, saying, "The fact that there is no special feature around 13 MJ in the observed mass
spectrum reinforces the choice to forget this mass limit."[53] The Exoplanet Data Explorer includes
objects up to 24 Jupiter masses with the advisory: "The 13 Jupiter-mass distinction by the IAU
Working Group is physically unmotivated for planets with rocky cores, and observationally
problematic due to the sin i ambiguity."[54] The NASA Exoplanet Archive includes objects with a mass
(or minimum mass) equal to or less than 30 Jupiter masses.[55]
Another criterion for separating planets and brown dwarfs, rather than deuterium fusion, formation
process or location, is whether the core pressure is dominated by coulomb pressure or electron
degeneracy pressure.[56][57]

2006 IAU definition of planet[edit]


Main article: IAU definition of planet

Euler diagram showing the types of bodies in the Solar System.


The matter of the lower limit was addressed during the 2006 meeting of the IAU's General Assembly.
After much debate and one failed proposal, 232 members of the 10,000 member assembly, who
nevertheless constituted a large majority of those remaining at the meeting, voted to pass a
resolution. The 2006 resolution defines planets within the Solar System as follows: [1]
A "planet" [1] is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its selfgravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round)
shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
[1] The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Under this definition, the Solar System is considered to have eight planets. Bodies that fulfill the first
two conditions but not the third (such as Ceres, Pluto, and Eris) are classified as dwarf planets,

provided they are not also natural satellites of other planets. Originally an IAU committee had
proposed a definition that would have included a much larger number of planets as it did not include
(c) as a criterion.[58] After much discussion, it was decided via a vote that those bodies should instead
be classified as dwarf planets.[59]
This definition is based in theories of planetary formation, in which planetary embryos initially clear
their orbital neighborhood of other smaller objects. As described by astronomer Steven Soter:[60]
"The end product of secondary disk accretion is a small number of relatively large bodies
(planets) in either non-intersecting or resonant orbits, which prevent collisions between them.
Minor planets and comets, including KBOs [Kuiper belt objects], differ from planets in that
they can collide with each other and with planets."
Because it is not presently possible to determine directly whether an exoplanet has cleared its
orbit, a mathematical criterion has been proposed that approximately determines whether a
planet can clear its orbit during the lifetime of its star, based on the mass of the planet, its
semimajor axis, and the mass of its star.[61] This formula produces a value that is greater than
one for planets. The eight known planets and all known exoplanets have values above 100,
while Ceres, Pluto, and Eris have values of 0.1 or less. Objects with values of 1 or more are
also expected to be approximately spherical.[62]

Objects formerly considered planets[edit]


The table below lists Solar System bodies once considered to be planets.

Body

Current
classifica
tion

Sun

Star

Moon

Moon

Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto

Moons

Notes

Classified
as classical
planets (Ancient
Greek ,
wanderers)
in classical
antiquity and m
edieval Europe,
in accordance
with the nowdisproved geoce
ntric model.[63]

The four largest


moons
of Jupiter,
known as
the Galilean
moons after

their
discoverer Galil
eo Galilei. He
referred to
them as the
"Medicean
Planets" in
honor of
his patron,
the Medici
family. They
were known
as secondary
planets.[64]

Five of Saturn's
larger moons,
discovered
by Christiaan
Huygens and G
iovanni
Domenico
Cassini. As
with Jupiter's
major moons,
they were
known as
secondary
planets.[64]

Titan,[e] Iapetus,[f] Rhea,[f] Tethys,[g] andDione[g]

Moons

Pallas, Juno, and Vesta

Asteroids Regarded as

Ceres

Dwarf
planet
and
asteroid

planets from
their discoveries
between 1801
and 1807 until
they were
reclassified as
asteroids during
the 1850s.[66]
Ceres was
subsequently
classified as
a dwarf

planet in 2006.
More asteroids,
discovered
between 1845
and 1851. The
rapidly
expanding list
of bodies
Astraea, Hebe, Iris, Flora, Metis, Hygiea,Parthenope, Victor
between Mars
Asteroids and Jupiter
ia, Egeria, Irene, Eunomia
prompted their
reclassification
as asteroids,
which was
widely
accepted by
1854.[67]

Pluto

Dwarf
planet
andKuip
er
belt obje
ct

The first
known transNeptunian
object (i.e. min
or planet with
a semi-major
axis beyond Ne
ptune).
Regarded as a
planet from its
discovery in
1930 until it
was reclassified
as a dwarf
planet in 2006.

Beyond the scientific community, Pluto still holds cultural significance for many in the general
public due to its historical classification as a planet from 1930 to 2006. [68] A few astronomers,
such as Alan Stern, consider dwarf planets and the larger moons to be planets, based on a
purely geophysical definition of planet.[69]

Mythology and naming[edit]


See also: Weekday names and Naked-eye planet

The Greek gods ofOlympus, after whom theSolar System's Roman names of the
planets are derived
The names for the planets in the Western world are derived from the naming practices of the
Romans, which ultimately derive from those of the Greeks and the Babylonians. In ancient
Greece, the two great luminaries the Sun and the Moon were called Helios and Selene; the
farthest planet (Saturn) was called Phainon, the shiner; followed by Phaethon (Jupiter), "bright";
the red planet (Mars) was known as Pyroeis, the "fiery"; the brightest (Venus) was known
as Phosphoros, the light bringer; and the fleeting final planet (Mercury) was called Stilbon, the
gleamer. The Greeks also made each planet sacred to one among their pantheon of gods,
the Olympians: Helios and Selene were the names of both planets and gods; Phainon was
sacred to Cronus, the Titan who fathered the Olympians; Phaethon was sacred to Zeus,
Cronus's son who deposed him as king; Pyroeis was given to Ares, son of Zeus and god of war;
Phosphoros was ruled by Aphrodite, the goddess of love; and Hermes, messenger of the gods
and god of learning and wit, ruled over Stilbon.[19]
The Greek practice of grafting of their gods' names onto the planets was almost certainly
borrowed from the Babylonians. The Babylonians named Phosphoros after their goddess of
love, Ishtar; Pyroeis after their god of war, Nergal, Stilbon after their god of wisdom Nabu, and
Phaethon after their chief god, Marduk.[70] There are too many concordances between Greek
and Babylonian naming conventions for them to have arisen separately.[19] The translation was
not perfect. For instance, the Babylonian Nergal was a god of war, and thus the Greeks
identified him with Ares. Unlike Ares, Nergal was also god of pestilence and the underworld. [71]
Today, most people in the western world know the planets by names derived from the Olympian
pantheon of gods. Although modern Greeks still use their ancient names for the planets, other
European languages, because of the influence of the Roman Empire and, later, the Catholic
Church, use the Roman (Latin) names rather than the Greek ones. The Romans, who, like the
Greeks, were Indo-Europeans, shared with them acommon pantheon under different names but
lacked the rich narrative traditions that Greek poetic culture had given their gods. During the
later period of the Roman Republic, Roman writers borrowed much of the Greek narratives and
applied them to their own pantheon, to the point where they became virtually indistinguishable.
[72]
When the Romans studied Greek astronomy, they gave the planets their own gods'
names: Mercurius (for Hermes), Venus (Aphrodite), Mars (Ares), Iuppiter(Zeus)
and Saturnus (Cronus). When subsequent planets were discovered in the 18th and 19th
centuries, the naming practice was retained with Neptnus (Poseidon). Uranus is unique in that
it is named for a Greek deity rather than his Roman counterpart.

Some Romans, following a belief possibly originating in Mesopotamia but developed


in Hellenistic Egypt, believed that the seven gods after whom the planets were named took
hourly shifts in looking after affairs on Earth. The order of shifts went Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun,
Venus, Mercury, Moon (from the farthest to the closest planet).[73] Therefore, the first day was
started by Saturn (1st hour), second day by Sun (25th hour), followed by Moon (49th hour),
Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. Because each day was named by the god that started it, this
is also the order of the days of the week in the Roman calendar after the Nundinal cycle was
rejected and still preserved in many modern languages.[74]In English, Saturday,
Sunday, and Monday are straightforward translations of these Roman names. The other days
were renamed after Tiw (Tuesday), Wden (Wednesday),Thunor (Thursday), and Frge (Friday),
the Anglo-Saxon gods considered similar or equivalent to Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus,
respectively.
Earth is the only planet whose name in English is not derived from Greco-Roman mythology.
Because it was only generally accepted as a planet in the 17th century,[36] there is no tradition of
naming it after a god. (The same is true, in English at least, of the Sun and the Moon, though
they are no longer generally considered planets.) The name originates from the 8th
century Anglo-Saxon word erda, which means ground or soil and was first used in writing as the
name of the sphere of Earth perhaps around 1300.[75][76] As with its equivalents in the
other Germanic languages, it derives ultimately from the Proto-Germanic word ertho, "ground",
[76]
as can be seen in the English earth, the German Erde, the Dutch aarde, and the
Scandinavian jord. Many of the Romance languages retain the old Roman word terra (or some
variation of it) that was used with the meaning of "dry land" as opposed to "sea". [77] The nonRomance languages use their own native words. The Greeks retain their original name, (Ge).
Non-European cultures use other planetary-naming systems. India uses a system based on
the Navagraha, which incorporates the seven traditional planets (Surya for the Sun,Chandra for
the Moon, and Budha, Shukra, Mangala, Br haspati and Shani for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter
and Saturn) and the ascending and descending lunar nodes Rahuand Ketu. China and the
countries of eastern Asia historically subject to Chinese cultural influence (such as
Japan, Korea and Vietnam) use a naming system based on the five Chinese
elements: water (Mercury), metal (Venus), fire (Mars), wood (Jupiter) and earth (Saturn).[74] In
traditional Hebrew astronomy, the seven traditional planets have (for the most part) descriptive
names - the Sun is Hammah or "the hot one," the Moon is Levanah or "the white one,"
Venus is Kokhav Nogah or "the bright planet," Mercury is Kokhav or "the planet"
(given its lack of distinguishing features), Mars is Ma'adim or "the red one," and Saturn is
Shabbatai or "the resting one" (in reference to its slow movement compared to the other
visible planets).[78] The odd one out is Jupiter, called Tzedeq or "justice." Steiglitz suggests
that this may be aeuphemism for the original name of Kokhav Ba'al or "Baal's planet,"
seen as idolatrous and euphemized in a similar manner to Ishbosheth from II Samuel [78]

Formation[edit]
Main article: Nebular hypothesis

An artist's impression of protoplanetary disk


It is not known with certainty how planets are formed. The prevailing theory is that they are
formed during the collapse of anebula into a thin disk of gas and dust. A protostar forms at the
core, surrounded by a rotating protoplanetary disk. Throughaccretion (a process of sticky
collision) dust particles in the disk steadily accumulate mass to form ever-larger bodies. Local
concentrations of mass known as planetesimals form, and these accelerate the accretion
process by drawing in additional material by their gravitational attraction. These concentrations
become ever denser until they collapse inward under gravity to form protoplanets.[79] After a
planet reaches a mass somewhat larger than Mars' mass, it begins to accumulate an extended
atmosphere,[80] greatly increasing the capture rate of the planetesimals by means of atmospheric
drag.[81][82] Depending on the accretion history of solids and gas, a giant planet, an ice giant, or
a terrestrial planet may result.[83][84][85]

Asteroid collision - building planets (artist concept).


When the protostar has grown such that it ignites to form a star, the surviving disk is removed
from the inside outward by photoevaporation, the solar wind, PoyntingRobertson drag and
other effects.[86][87] Thereafter there still may be many protoplanets orbiting the star or each other,
but over time many will collide, either to form a single larger planet or release material for other
larger protoplanets or planets to absorb.[88] Those objects that have become massive enough will
capture most matter in their orbital neighbourhoods to become planets. Protoplanets that have
avoided collisions may become natural satellites of planets through a process of gravitational
capture, or remain in belts of other objects to become either dwarf planets or small bodies.
The energetic impacts of the smaller planetesimals (as well as radioactive decay) will heat up
the growing planet, causing it to at least partially melt. The interior of the planet begins to
differentiate by mass, developing a denser core.[89] Smaller terrestrial planets lose most of their
atmospheres because of this accretion, but the lost gases can be replaced by outgassing from
the mantle and from the subsequent impact of comets.[90] (Smaller planets will lose any
atmosphere they gain through various escape mechanisms.)
With the discovery and observation of planetary systems around stars other than the Sun, it is
becoming possible to elaborate, revise or even replace this account. The level ofmetallicityan

astronomical term describing the abundance of chemical elements with an atomic


number greater than 2 (helium)is now thought to determine the likelihood that a star will have
planets.[91] Hence, it is thought that a metal-rich population I star will likely have a more
substantial planetary system than a metal-poor, population II star.

Supernova remnant ejecta producing planet-forming material.

Solar System[edit]
Solar System sizes but not distances are to scale

The Sun and the eight planets of the Solar System

The inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars

The four giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, andNeptune against the Sun and
some sunspots
Main article: Solar System
See also: List of gravitationally rounded objects of the Solar System
There are eight planets in the Solar System, which are in increasing distance from the Sun:
1.

Mercury

2.

Venus

3.

Earth

4.

Mars

5.

Jupiter

6.

Saturn

7.

Uranus

8.

Neptune

Jupiter is the largest, at 318 Earth masses, whereas Mercury is the smallest, at 0.055 Earth
masses.
The planets of the Solar System can be divided into categories based on their composition:

Terrestrials: Planets that are similar to Earth, with bodies largely composed of rock:
Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. At 0.055 Earth masses, Mercury is the smallest terrestrial
planet (and smallest planet) in the Solar System. Earth is the largest terrestrial planet.

Giant planets (Jovians): Massive planets significantly more massive than the terrestrials:
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

Gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, are giant planets primarily composed of hydrogen
and helium and are the most massive planets in the Solar System. Jupiter, at 318 Earth
masses, is the largest planet in the Solar System, and Saturn is one third as massive, at
95 Earth masses.

Ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, are primarily composed of low-boiling-point


materials such as water, methane, and ammonia, with thick atmospheres of hydrogen
and helium. They have a significantly lower mass than the gas giants (only 14 and 17
Earth masses).

Planetary attributes[edit]

Eq
uat
N ori
a
al
m dia
e met
er

M
as
s
[h]

[h]

Se
mi
ma
jor
axi
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A
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)

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ty

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(d
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lt

R
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n
o

n CO2

M
er
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cu
ry

0.382

0.06

0.39

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58.64

0.04

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0.949

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0.72

0.62

3.86

0.007

243.

177.

min
ima
l

Eq
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as
s
[h]

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[h]

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)

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nu
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n

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3 es He

27

H2,
97.7 y
He,
7 es
CH4

4.

M
ars

Ro
tat
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ay
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Ur
7. an
us

0.532

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19.22 84.01

6.48

0.047

0.72

Eq
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as
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pt
8.
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30.06 164.8

Color legend:
terrestrial planets
absolute values in article Earth

Inc
lina
tio
n
to
Su
n's
equ
ato
r (
)

6.43

gas giants

Or
bita
l
ecc
ent
rici
ty

0.009

Ro
tat
io
n
pe
rio
d
(d
ay
s)

0.67

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ons
[i]

A
xi
al
ti
lt

14

H2,
28.3 y
He,
2 es
CH4

R
Atm
in
osph
g
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s

ice giants (both are giant planets). (a)Find

Exoplanets[edit]
Main article: Exoplanet

Exoplanets, by year of discovery, through September 2014.


An exoplanet (extrasolar planet) is a planet outside the Solar System. More than 2000 such
planets have been discovered[93][94][95] (3422 planets in 2560 planetary systems including
582 multiple planetary systems as of 1 June 2016).[4]
In early 1992, radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery
of two planets orbiting thepulsar PSR 1257+12.[43] This discovery was confirmed, and is
generally considered to be the first definitive detection of exoplanets. These pulsar planets are
believed to have formed from the unusual remnants of the supernova that produced the pulsar,

in a second round of planet formation, or else to be the remaining rocky cores of giant
planets that survived the supernova and then decayed into their current orbits.

Sizes of Kepler Planet Candidates based on 2,740 candidates orbiting 2,036 stars
as of 4 November 2013 (NASA).
The first confirmed discovery of an extrasolar planet orbiting an ordinary main-sequence star
occurred on 6 October 1995, when Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the University of
Geneva announced the detection of an exoplanet around 51 Pegasi. From then until the Kepler
mission most known extrasolar planets were gas giants comparable in mass to Jupiter or larger
as they were more easily detected. The catalog of Kepler candidate planets consists mostly of
planets the size of Neptune and smaller, down to smaller than Mercury.
There are types of planets that do not exist in the Solar System: super-Earths and miniNeptunes, which could be rocky like Earth or a mixture of volatiles and gas like Neptunea
radius of 1.75 times that of Earth is a possible dividing line between the two types of planet.
[96]
There are hot Jupiters that orbit very close to their star and may evaporate to
become chthonian planets, which are the leftover cores. Another possible type of planet
is carbon planets, which form in systems with a higher proportion of carbon than in the Solar
System.
A 2012 study, analyzing gravitational microlensing data, estimates an average of at least 1.6
bound planets for every star in the Milky Way.[10]
On December 20, 2011, the Kepler Space Telescope team reported the discovery of the
first Earth-size exoplanets, Kepler-20e[5] and Kepler-20f,[6] orbiting a Sun-like star, Kepler-20.[7][8][9]
Around 1 in 5 Sun-like[b] stars have an "Earth-sized"[c] planet in the habitable[d] zone, so the
nearest would be expected to be within 12 light-years distance from Earth. [97][98] The frequency of
occurrence of such terrestrial planets is one of the variables in the Drake equation, which
estimates the number of intelligent, communicating civilizations that exist in the Milky Way.[99]
There are exoplanets that are much closer to their parent star than any planet in the Solar
System is to the Sun, and there are also exoplanets that are much farther from their
star. Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun at 0.4 AU, takes 88-days for an orbit, but the shortest
known orbits for exoplanets take only a few hours, e.g. Kepler-70b. The Kepler-11 system has
five of its planets in shorter orbits than Mercury's, all of them much more massive than
Mercury. Neptune is 30 AU from the Sun and takes 165 years to orbit, but there are exoplanets
that are hundreds of AU from their star and take more than a thousand years to orbit,
e.g. 1RXS1609 b.

The next few space telescopes to study exoplanets are expected to be Gaia launched in
December 2013, CHEOPS in 2017, TESS in 2017, and the James Webb Space Telescope in
2018.

Planetary-mass objects[edit]

Artist's impression of a super-Jupiter around the brown dwarf 2M1207.[100]


See also: List of gravitationally rounded objects of the Solar System
A planetary-mass object (PMO), planemo[101] /plnmo/, or planetary body is a celestial
object with a mass that falls within the range of the definition of a planet: massive enough to
achieve hydrostatic equilibrium (to be rounded under its own gravity), but not enough to sustain
core fusion like a star.[102][103] By definition, all planets are planetary-mass objects, but the
purpose of this term is to refer to objects that do not conform to typical expectations for a planet.
These include dwarf planets, which are rounded by their own gravity but not massive enough
to clear their own orbit, the larger moons, and free-floating planemos, which may have been
ejected from a system (rogue planets) or formed through cloud-collapse rather than accretion
(sometimes called sub-brown dwarfs).

Rogue planets[edit]
Main article: Rogue planet
Several computer simulations of stellar and planetary system formation have suggested that
some objects of planetary mass would be ejected into interstellar space.[104] Some scientists
have argued that such objects found roaming in deep space should be classed as "planets",
although others have suggested that they should be called low-mass brown dwarfs. [105][106]

Sub-brown dwarfs[edit]
Main article: Sub-brown dwarf
Stars form via the gravitational collapse of gas clouds, but smaller objects can also form via
cloud-collapse. Planetary-mass objects formed this way are sometimes called sub-brown
dwarfs. Sub-brown dwarfs may be free-floating such as Cha 110913-773444[105] and OTS 44,
[107]
or orbiting a larger object such as 2MASS J04414489+2301513.
Binary systems of sub-brown dwarfs are theoretically possible; Oph 162225-240515 was initially
thought to be a binary system of a brown dwarf of 14 Jupiter masses and a sub-brown dwarf of 7

Jupiter masses, but further observations revised the estimated masses upwards to greater than
13 Jupiter masses, making them brown dwarfs according to the IAU working definitions. [108][109][110]

Former stars[edit]
In close binary star systems one of the stars can lose mass to a heavier companion. Accretionpowered pulsars may drive mass loss. The shrinking star can then become aplanetary-mass
object. An example is a Jupiter-mass object orbiting the pulsar PSR J1719-1438.[111] These
shrunken white dwarfs may become a helium planet or carbon planet.

Satellite planets and belt planets[edit]


Some large satellites are of similar size or larger than the planet Mercury, e.g. Jupiter's Galilean
moons and Titan. Alan Stern has argued that location should not matter and that only
geophysical attributes should be taken into account in the definition of a planet, and proposes
the term satellite planet for a planet-sized satellite. Likewise, dwarf planets in the asteroid
belt and Kuiper belt should be considered planets according to Stern.[69]

Captured planets[edit]
Free-floating planets in stellar clusters have similar velocities to the stars and so can be
recaptured. They are typically captured into wide orbits between 100 and 10 5 AU. The capture
efficiency decreases with increasing cluster volume, and for a given cluster size it increases with
the host/primary mass. It is almost independent of the planetary mass. Single and multiple
planets could be captured into arbitrary unaligned orbits, non-coplanar with each other or with
the stellar host spin, or pre-existing planetary system.[112]

Attributes[edit]
Although each planet has unique physical characteristics, a number of broad commonalities do
exist among them. Some of these characteristics, such as rings or natural satellites, have only
as yet been observed in planets in the Solar System, whereas others are also commonly
observed in extrasolar planets.

Dynamic characteristics[edit]
Orbit[edit]
Main articles: Orbit and Orbital elements
See also: Kepler's laws of planetary motion

The orbit of the planet Neptune compared to that ofPluto. Note the elongation of
Pluto's orbit in relation to Neptune's (eccentricity), as well as its large angle to the
ecliptic (inclination).

According to current definitions, all planets must revolve around stars; thus, any potential "rogue
planets" are excluded. In the Solar System, all the planets orbit the Sun in the same direction as
the Sun rotates (counter-clockwise as seen from above the Sun's north pole). At least one
extrasolar planet, WASP-17b, has been found to orbit in the opposite direction to its star's
rotation.[113] The period of one revolution of a planet's orbit is known as its sidereal period or year.
[114]
A planet's year depends on its distance from its star; the farther a planet is from its star, not
only the longer the distance it must travel, but also the slower its speed, because it is less
affected by its star's gravity. No planet's orbit is perfectly circular, and hence the distance of each
varies over the course of its year. The closest approach to its star is called
its periastron (perihelion in the Solar System), whereas its farthest separation from the star is
called its apastron (aphelion). As a planet approaches periastron, its speed increases as it
trades gravitational potential energy for kinetic energy, just as a falling object on Earth
accelerates as it falls; as the planet reaches apastron, its speed decreases, just as an object
thrown upwards on Earth slows down as it reaches the apex of its trajectory.[115]
Each planet's orbit is delineated by a set of elements:

The eccentricity of an orbit describes how elongated a planet's orbit is. Planets with low
eccentricities have more circular orbits, whereas planets with high eccentricities have more
elliptical orbits. The planets in the Solar System have very low eccentricities, and thus nearly
circular orbits.[114] Comets and Kuiper belt objects (as well as several extrasolar planets)
have very high eccentricities, and thus exceedingly elliptical orbits.[116][117]

Illustration of the semi-major axis


The semi-major axis is the distance from a planet to the half-way point along the longest
diameter of its elliptical orbit (see image). This distance is not the same as its apastron,
because no planet's orbit has its star at its exact centre. [114]

The inclination of a planet tells how far above or below an established reference plane its
orbit lies. In the Solar System, the reference plane is the plane of Earth's orbit, called
the ecliptic. For extrasolar planets, the plane, known as the sky plane or plane of the sky, is
the plane perpendicular to the observer's line of sight from Earth. [118] The eight planets of the
Solar System all lie very close to the ecliptic; comets and Kuiper belt objects like Pluto are at
far more extreme angles to it.[119] The points at which a planet crosses above and below its
reference plane are called its ascending anddescending nodes.[114] The longitude of the
ascending node is the angle between the reference plane's 0 longitude and the planet's
ascending node. The argument of periapsis (or perihelion in the Solar System) is the angle
between a planet's ascending node and its closest approach to its star.[114]

Axial tilt[edit]
Main article: Axial tilt

Earth's axial tilt is about 23.4. It oscillates between 22.1 and 24.5 on a 41,000year cycle and is currently decreasing.
Planets also have varying degrees of axial tilt; they lie at an angle to the plane of their stars'
equators. This causes the amount of light received by each hemisphere to vary over the course
of its year; when the northern hemisphere points away from its star, the southern hemisphere
points towards it, and vice versa. Each planet therefore has seasons, changes to the climate
over the course of its year. The time at which each hemisphere points farthest or nearest from its
star is known as its solstice. Each planet has two in the course of its orbit; when one hemisphere
has its summer solstice, when its day is longest, the other has its winter solstice, when its day is
shortest. The varying amount of light and heat received by each hemisphere creates annual
changes in weather patterns for each half of the planet. Jupiter's axial tilt is very small, so its
seasonal variation is minimal; Uranus, on the other hand, has an axial tilt so extreme it is
virtually on its side, which means that its hemispheres are either perpetually in sunlight or
perpetually in darkness around the time of its solstices.[120]Among extrasolar planets, axial tilts
are not known for certain, though most hot Jupiters are believed to have negligible to no axial tilt
as a result of their proximity to their stars.[121]

Rotation[edit]
The planets rotate around invisible axes through their centres. A planet's rotation period is
known as a stellar day. Most of the planets in the Solar System rotate in the same direction as
they orbit the Sun, which is counter-clockwise as seen from above the Sun's north pole, the
exceptions being Venus[122] and Uranus,[123] which rotate clockwise, though Uranus's extreme
axial tilt means there are differing conventions on which of its poles is "north", and therefore
whether it is rotating clockwise or anti-clockwise.[124] Regardless of which convention is used,
Uranus has a retrograde rotation relative to its orbit.
The rotation of a planet can be induced by several factors during formation. A net angular
momentum can be induced by the individual angular momentum contributions of accreted
objects. The accretion of gas by the giant planets can also contribute to the angular momentum.
Finally, during the last stages of planet building, a stochastic process of protoplanetary accretion
can randomly alter the spin axis of the planet.[125] There is great variation in the length of day
between the planets, with Venus taking 243 days to rotate, and the giant planets only a few
hours.[126] The rotational periods of extrasolar planets are not known. However, for "hot" Jupiters,
their proximity to their stars means that they are tidally locked (i.e., their orbits are in sync with
their rotations). This means, they always show one face to their stars, with one side in perpetual
day, the other in perpetual night.[127]

Orbital clearing[edit]
Main article: Clearing the neighbourhood
The defining dynamic characteristic of a planet is that it has cleared its neighborhood. A planet
that has cleared its neighborhood has accumulated enough mass to gather up or sweep away

all the planetesimals in its orbit. In effect, it orbits its star in isolation, as opposed to sharing its
orbit with a multitude of similar-sized objects. This characteristic was mandated as part of
the IAU's official definition of a planet in August, 2006. This criterion excludes such planetary
bodies as Pluto, Eris and Ceres from full-fledged planethood, making them instead dwarf
planets.[1] Although to date this criterion only applies to the Solar System, a number of young
extrasolar systems have been found in which evidence suggests orbital clearing is taking place
within their circumstellar discs.[128]

Physical characteristics[edit]
Mass[edit]
Main article: Planetary mass
A planet's defining physical characteristic is that it is massive enough for the force of its own
gravity to dominate over the electromagnetic forces binding its physical structure, leading to a
state of hydrostatic equilibrium. This effectively means that all planets are spherical or
spheroidal. Up to a certain mass, an object can be irregular in shape, but beyond that point,
which varies depending on the chemical makeup of the object, gravity begins to pull an object
towards its own centre of mass until the object collapses into a sphere. [129]
Mass is also the prime attribute by which planets are distinguished from stars. The upper mass
limit for planethood is roughly 13 times Jupiter's mass for objects with solar-typeisotopic
abundance, beyond which it achieves conditions suitable for nuclear fusion. Other than the Sun,
no objects of such mass exist in the Solar System; but there are exoplanets of this size. The 13Jupiter-mass limit is not universally agreed upon and the Extrasolar Planets
Encyclopaedia includes objects up to 20 Jupiter masses,[130] and theExoplanet Data Explorer up
to 24 Jupiter masses.[131]
The smallest known planet is PSR B1257+12A, one of the first extrasolar planets discovered,
which was found in 1992 in orbit around a pulsar. Its mass is roughly half that of the planet
Mercury.[4] The smallest known planet orbiting a main-sequence star other than the Sun
is Kepler-37b, with a mass (and radius) slightly higher than that of the Moon.

Internal differentiation[edit]
Main article: Planetary differentiation

Illustration of the interior of Jupiter, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep layer of
metallic hydrogen
Every planet began its existence in an entirely fluid state; in early formation, the denser, heavier
materials sank to the centre, leaving the lighter materials near the surface. Each therefore has
a differentiated interior consisting of a dense planetary core surrounded by a mantle that either is
or was a fluid. The terrestrial planets are sealed within hard crusts,[132] but in the giant planets the
mantle simply blends into the upper cloud layers. The terrestrial planets have cores of elements
such as iron and nickel, and mantles of silicates. Jupiter and Saturn are believed to have cores
of rock and metal surrounded by mantles of metallic hydrogen.[133] Uranus and Neptune, which

are smaller, have rocky cores surrounded by mantles of water, ammonia, methane and
other ices.[134] The fluid action within these planets' cores creates a geodynamo that generates
amagnetic field.[132]

Atmosphere[edit]
Main articles: Atmosphere and Extraterrestrial atmospheres
See also: Extraterrestrial skies

Earth's atmosphere
All of the Solar System planets except Mercury[135] have substantial atmospheres because their
gravity is strong enough to keep gases close to the surface. The larger giant planets are
massive enough to keep large amounts of the light gases hydrogen and helium, whereas the
smaller planets lose these gases into space.[136] The composition of Earth's atmosphere is
different from the other planets because the various life processes that have transpired on the
planet have introduced free molecular oxygen.[137]
Planetary atmospheres are affected by the varying insolation or internal energy, leading to the
formation of dynamic weather systemssuch as hurricanes, (on Earth), planet-wide dust
storms (on Mars), a greater-than-Earth-sized anticyclone on Jupiter (called the Great Red Spot),
and holes in the atmosphere (on Neptune).[120] At least one extrasolar planet, HD 189733 b, has
been claimed to have such a weather system, similar to the Great Red Spot but twice as large.
[138]

Hot Jupiters, due to their extreme proximities to their host stars, have been shown to be losing
their atmospheres into space due to stellar radiation, much like the tails of comets. [139][140] These
planets may have vast differences in temperature between their day and night sides that
produce supersonic winds,[141] although the day and night sides of HD 189733 b appear to have
very similar temperatures, indicating that that planet's atmosphere effectively redistributes the
star's energy around the planet.[138]

Magnetosphere[edit]
Main article: Magnetosphere

Earth's magnetosphere (diagram)

One important characteristic of the planets is their intrinsic magnetic moments, which in turn give
rise to magnetospheres. The presence of a magnetic field indicates that the planet is still
geologically alive. In other words, magnetized planets have flows of electrically
conducting material in their interiors, which generate their magnetic fields. These fields
significantly change the interaction of the planet and solar wind. A magnetized planet creates a
cavity in the solar wind around itself called magnetosphere, which the wind cannot penetrate.
The magnetosphere can be much larger than the planet itself. In contrast, non-magnetized
planets have only small magnetospheres induced by interaction of the ionosphere with the solar
wind, which cannot effectively protect the planet.[142]
Of the eight planets in the Solar System, only Venus and Mars lack such a magnetic field. [142] In
addition, the moon of Jupiter Ganymedealso has one. Of the magnetized planets the magnetic
field of Mercury is the weakest, and is barely able to deflect the solar wind. Ganymede's
magnetic field is several times larger, and Jupiter's is the strongest in the Solar System (so
strong in fact that it poses a serious health risk to future manned missions to its moons). The
magnetic fields of the other giant planets are roughly similar in strength to that of Earth, but their
magnetic moments are significantly larger. The magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune are
strongly tilted relative the rotational axis and displaced from the centre of the planet.[142]
In 2004, a team of astronomers in Hawaii observed an extrasolar planet around the star HD
179949, which appeared to be creating a sunspot on the surface of its parent star. The team
hypothesized that the planet's magnetosphere was transferring energy onto the star's surface,
increasing its already high 7,760 C temperature by an additional 400 C.[143]

Secondary characteristics[edit]
Main articles: Natural satellite and Planetary ring

The rings of Saturn


Several planets or dwarf planets in the Solar System (such as Neptune and Pluto) have orbital
periods that are in resonance with each other or with smaller bodies (this is also common in
satellite systems). All except Mercury and Venus have natural satellites, often called "moons".
Earth has one, Mars has two, and the giant planets have numerous moons in complex
planetary-type systems. Many moons of the giant planets have features similar to those on the
terrestrial planets and dwarf planets, and some have been studied as possible abodes of life
(especiallyEuropa).[144][145][146]
The four giant planets are also orbited by planetary rings of varying size and complexity. The
rings are composed primarily of dust or particulate matter, but can host tiny 'moonlets' whose
gravity shapes and maintains their structure. Although the origins of planetary rings is not
precisely known, they are believed to be the result of natural satellites that fell below their parent
planet's Roche limit and were torn apart by tidal forces.[147][148]
No secondary characteristics have been observed around extrasolar planets. The sub-brown
dwarf Cha 110913-773444, which has been described as a rogue planet, is believed to be

orbited by a tiny protoplanetary disc[105] and the sub-brown dwarf OTS 44 was shown to be
surrounded by a substantial protoplanetary disk of at least 10 Earth masses. [107]

Dwarf planet
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Dwarf planets)
Not to be confused with Minor planet.

|Four notable dwarf planets (clockwise from top left):

Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft. It is the


only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt.

Pluto as viewed by New Horizons space probe on


13 July 2015.

Makemake and its moon S/2015 (136472)


1 viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Eris and its moon Dysnomia viewed by the Hubble


Space Telescope.

(See full list of likeliest possible dwarf planets.)


A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that is neither a planet nor a natural satellite. That is, it is
in direct orbit of the Sun, and is massive enough for its gravity to crush itself into a hydrostatic
equilibrium shape (usually a spheroid), but has not cleared the neighborhood of other material
around its orbit.[1][2]
The term dwarf planet was adopted in 2006 as part of a three-way categorization of bodies orbiting
the Sun,[1] brought about by an increase in discoveries of objects farther away from the Sun than
Neptune that rivaled Pluto in size, and finally precipitated by the discovery of an even more massive
object, Eris.[3] The exclusion of dwarf planets from the roster of planets by the IAU has been both
praised and criticized; it was said to be the "right decision" by astronomer Mike Brown,[4][5][6] who
discovered Eris and other new dwarf planets, but has been rejected by Alan Stern,[7][8] who had
coined the term dwarf planet in April 1991.[9]
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) currently recognizes five dwarf
planets: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, andEris.[10] Brown criticizes this official recognition: "A
reasonable person might think that this means that there are five known objects in the solar system
which fit the IAU definition of dwarf planet, but this reasonable person would be nowhere close to
correct."[11]
It is suspected that another hundred or so known objects in the Solar System are dwarf planets.
[12]
Estimates are that up to 200 dwarf planets may be found when the entire region known as
the Kuiper belt is explored, and that the number may exceed 10,000 when objects scattered outside
the Kuiper belt are considered.[13] Individual astronomers recognize several of these,[12] and in August
2011 Mike Brown published a list of 390 candidate objects, ranging from "nearly certain" to
"possible" dwarf planets.[11] Brown currently identifies eleven known objectsthe five accepted by
the IAU plus 2007 OR10,Quaoar, Sedna, Orcus, (307261) 2002 MS4 and Salaciaas "virtually
certain", with another dozen highly likely.[12] Stern states that there are more than a dozen known
dwarf planets.[13]
However, only two of these bodies, Ceres and Pluto, have been observed in enough detail to
demonstrate that they actually fit the IAU's definition. The IAU accepted Eris as a dwarf planet
because it is more massive than Pluto. They subsequently decided that unnamed trans-Neptunian
objects with an absolute magnitude brighter than +1 (and hence a diameter of 838 km assuming
a geometric albedo of 1)[14] are to be named under the assumption that they are dwarf planets.
[15]
The only two such objects known at the time, Makemake and Haumea, went through this naming
procedure and were declared to be dwarf planets. The question of whether other likely objects are
dwarf planets has never been addressed by the IAU.
The classification of bodies in other planetary systems with the characteristics of dwarf planets has
not been addressed.[16]

Contents
[hide]

1History of the concept

2Name

3Characteristics
o

3.1Orbital dominance

3.2Hydrostatic equilibrium

4Dwarf planets and possible dwarf planets

5Exploration

6Contention

7Planetary-mass moons

8See also

9Notes

10References

11External links

History of the concept[edit]


Main article: IAU definition of planet
Starting in 1801, astronomers discovered Ceres and other bodies between Mars and Jupiter which
were for some decades considered to be planets. Between then and around 1851, when the number
of planets had reached 23, astronomers started using the word asteroid for the smaller bodies and
then stopped naming or classifying them as planets.[17]
With the discovery of Pluto in 1930, most astronomers considered the Solar System to have nine
planets, along with thousands of significantly smaller bodies (asteroids andcomets). For almost
50 years Pluto was thought to be larger than Mercury,[18][19] but with the discovery in 1978 of Pluto's
moon Charon, it became possible to measure Pluto's mass accurately and to determine that it was
much smaller than in initial estimates.[20] It was roughly one-twentieth the mass of Mercury, which
made Pluto by far the smallest planet. Although it was still more than ten times as massive as the
largest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres, it was one-fifth that of Earth's Moon.[21] Furthermore, having
some unusual characteristics, such as large orbital eccentricity and a high orbital inclination, it
became evident it was a completely different kind of body from any of the other planets. [22]
In the 1990s, astronomers began to find objects in the same region of space as Pluto (now known as
the Kuiper belt), and some even farther away.[23] Many of these shared several of Pluto's key orbital
characteristics, and Pluto started being seen as the largest member of a new class of
objects, plutinos. This led some astronomers to stop referring to Pluto as a planet. Several terms,

including subplanet and planetoid, started to be used for the bodies now known as dwarf planets.[24]
[25]
By 2005, three trans-Neptunian objects comparable in size to Pluto (Quaoar, Sedna, and Eris)
had been reported.[26] It became clear that either they would also have to be classified as planets, or
Pluto would have to be reclassified.[27] Astronomers were also confident that more objects as large
as Pluto would be discovered, and the number of planets would start growing quickly if Pluto were to
remain a planet.[28]
Eris (then known as 2003 UB313) was discovered in January 2005,[29] which was thought to be slightly
larger than Pluto, and some reports informally referred to it as the tenth planet.[30] As a consequence,
the issue became a matter of intense debate during the IAU General Assembly in August 2006.
[31]
The IAU's initial draft proposal included Charon, Eris, and Ceres in the list of planets. After many
astronomers objected to this proposal, an alternative was drawn up by Uruguayan astronomer Julio
ngel Fernndez, in which he created a median classification for objects large enough to be round
but that had not cleared their orbits of planetesimals. Dropping Charon from the list, the new
proposal also removed Pluto, Ceres, and Eris, because they have not cleared their orbits. [32]
The IAU's final Resolution 5A preserved this three-category system for the celestial bodies orbiting
the Sun. It reads:
The IAU ... resolves that planets and other bodies, except satellites, in our Solar System be defined
into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A planet1 is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its selfgravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes ahydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round)
shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for
its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly
round) shape,2 (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects,3 except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small
Solar System Bodies."

Footnotes:
1
The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus,
and Neptune.
2
An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects either dwarf planet or
other status.
3
These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian
Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.
Although concerns were raised about the classification of planets orbiting other
stars,[16] the issue was not resolved; it was proposed instead to decide this only
when such objects start being observed.[32]

Name[edit]

Euler diagram showing the types of bodies in the Solar System.


The term dwarf planet has itself been somewhat controversial, as it implies that
these bodies are planets, much asdwarf stars are stars.[33] This is the conception of
the Solar System that Stern promoted when he coined the phrase. The older
word planetoid ("having the form of a planet") has no such connotation, and is also
used by astronomers for bodies that fit the IAU definition. [34] Brown states
that planetoid is "a perfectly good word" that has been used for these bodies for
years, and that the use of the term dwarf planet for a non-planet is "dumb", but that
it was motivated by an attempt by the IAU division III plenary session to reinstate
Pluto as a planet in a second resolution.[35] Indeed, the draft of Resolution 5A had
called these median bodies planetoids,[36][37] but the plenary session voted
unanimously to change the name to dwarf planet.[1] The second resolution, 5B,
defined dwarf planets as a subtype ofplanet, as Stern had originally intended,
distinguished from the other eight that were to be called "classical planets". Under
this arrangement, the twelve planets of the rejected proposal were to be preserved
in a distinction between eight classical planets and four dwarf planets. However,
Resolution 5B was defeated in the same session that 5A was passed.[35] Because of
the semantic inconsistency of a dwarf planet not being a planet due to the failure of
Resolution 5B, alternative terms such as nanoplanet and subplanet were discussed,
but there was no consensus among the CSBN to change it. [38]
In most languages equivalent terms have been created by translating dwarf
planet more-or-less literally: Frenchplante naine, Spanish planeta enano,
German Zwergplanet, Russian karlikovaya planeta ( ),
Arabic kaukab qazm () , Chinese ixngxng (),
Korean waesohangseong (;), but Japanese and Latin are
exceptions: In Japanese they are calledjunwakusei () meaning "subplanets"
or "almost-planets", and the modern Latin name, planetula (or planetion following
the Greek), is a diminutive derivation of planeta, hence also meaning something
less than a planet.
IAU Resolution 6a of 2006[39] recognizes Pluto as "the prototype of a new category
of trans-Neptunian objects". The name and precise nature of this category were not
specified but left for the IAU to establish at a later date; in the debate leading up to
the resolution, the members of the category were variously referred to
as plutons and plutonian objectsbut neither name was carried forward, perhaps due

to objections from geologists that this would create confusion with their pluton.[1] On
June 11, 2008, the IAU Executive Committee announced a name, plutoid, and a
definition: all trans-Neptunian dwarf planets are plutoids,[15] though "in part because
of an email miscommunication, the WG-PSN [Working Group for Planetary System
Nomenclature] was not involved in choosing the word plutoid. ... In fact, a vote taken
by the WG-PSN subsequent to the Executive Committee meeting has rejected the
use of that specic term",[40] and it has not come into common use among
astronomers.

Characteristics[edit]
Planetary discriminants[41]
Body

M (1)

(2)

(3)

Mercury

0.055

1.95 103

9.1 104

Venus

0.815

1.66 105

1.35 106

Earth

1.53 105

1.7 106

Mars

0.107

9.42 102

1.8 105

Ceres

0.00015

8.32 104

0.33

Jupiter

317.7

1.30 109

6.25 105

Saturn

95.2

4.68 107

1.9 105

Uranus

14.5

3.85 105

2.9 104

Neptune

17.1

2.73 105

2.4 104

Pluto

0.0022

2.95 103

0.077

Eris

0.0028

2.13 103

0.10

Sedna

0.00022

3.64 107

<0.07[42]

Showing the planets and the largest known sub-planetary objects


(purple) covering the orbital zones containing likely dwarf planets. All
known possible dwarf planets have smaller discriminants than those
shown for that zone.
(1)

M Earth mass is the unit of mass equal to that of Earth (5.97


1024 kg).

(2)

is the capacity to clear the neighbourhood(greater than 1


for planets). = k M2 a3/2, where k = 0.0043 for units

Planetary discriminants[41]
Body

M (1)

(2)

(3)

of Yg and AU.[43]
(3)

is Soter's planetary discriminant (greater than 100 for


planets). = M/m, where M is the mass of the body, and m is
the aggregate mass of all the other bodies that share its
orbital zone.

Orbital dominance[edit]
Main article: Clearing the neighbourhood
Alan Stern and Harold F. Levison introduced a parameter (lambda), expressing
the likelihood of an encounter resulting in a given deflection of orbit. [43] The value of
this parameter in Stern's model is proportional to the square of the mass and
inversely proportional to the period. This value can be used to estimate the capacity
of a body to clear the neighbourhood of its orbit, where > 1 will eventually clear it.
A gap of five orders of magnitude in was found between the smallest terrestrial
planets and the largest asteroids and Kuiper belt objects.[41]
Using this parameter, Steven Soter and other astronomers argued for a distinction
between planets and dwarf planets based on the inability of the latter to "clear the
neighbourhood around their orbits": planets are able to remove smaller bodies near
their orbits by collision, capture, or gravitational disturbance (or establish orbital
resonances that prevent collisions), whereas dwarf planets lack the mass to do so.
[43]
Soter went on to propose a parameter he called the planetary discriminant,
designated with the symbol (mu), that represents an experimental measure of the
actual degree of cleanliness of the orbital zone (where is calculated by dividing
the mass of the candidate body by the total mass of the other objects that share its
orbital zone), where > 100 is deemed to be cleared. [41] There are several other
schemes that try to differentiate between planets and dwarf planets,[7] but the 2006
definition uses this concept.[1]

Hydrostatic equilibrium[edit]
Main article: Hydrostatic equilibrium
Sufficient internal pressure, caused by the body's gravitation, will turn a body plastic,
and sufficient plasticity will allow high elevations to sink and hollows to fill in, a
process known as gravitational relaxation. Bodies smaller than a few kilometers are
dominated by non-gravitational forces and tend to have an irregular shape. Larger
objects, where gravitation is significant but not dominant, are "potato" shaped; the
more massive the body is, the higher its internal pressure and the more rounded its
shape, until the pressure is sufficient to overcome its internal compressive
strength and it achieves hydrostatic equilibrium. At this point a body is as round as it
is possible to be, given its rotation and tidal effects, and is an ellipsoid in shape.
This is the defining limit of a dwarf planet.[44]
When an object is in hydrostatic equilibrium, a global layer of liquid covering its
surface would form a liquid surface of the same shape as the body, apart from
small-scale surface features such as craters and fissures. If the body does not
rotate, it will be a sphere, but the faster it does rotate, the more oblate or
even scalene it becomes. However, if such a rotating body were to be heated until it
melted, its overall shape would not change when liquid. The extreme example of a

non-spherical body in hydrostatic equilibrium is Haumea, which is twice as long


along its major axis as it is at the poles. If the body has a massive nearby
companion, then tidal forces come into effect as well, distorting it into a prolate
spheroid. An example of this is Jupiter's moon Io, which is the most volcanically
active body in the Solar System due to effects of tidal heating. Tidal forces also
cause a body's rotation to gradually become tidally locked, such that it always
presents the same face to its companion. An extreme example of this is the Pluto
Charon system, where both bodies are tidally locked to each other. Earth's Moon is
also tidally locked, as are many satellites of the gas giants.

The masses of the IAU-recognized dwarf planets plus Charon relative to the
Moon. The mass of Makemake is a rough estimate. (See plutoid for a graph
of several additional likely dwarf planets without Ceres.)
The upper and lower size and mass limits of dwarf planets have not been specified
by the IAU. There is no defined upper limit, and an object larger or more massive
than Mercury that has not "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit" would be
classified as a dwarf planet.[45] The lower limit is determined by the requirements of
achieving a hydrostatic equilibrium shape, but the size or mass at which an object
attains this shape depends on its composition and thermal history. The original draft
of the 2006 IAU resolution redefined hydrostatic equilibrium shape as applying "to
objects with mass above 51020 kg and diameter greater than 800 km",[16] but this
was not retained in the final draft.[1]
Empirical observations suggest that the lower limit will vary according to the
composition and thermal history of the object. For a body made of rigid silicates,
such as the stony asteroids, the transition to hydrostatic equilibrium should occur at
a diameter of approximately 600 km and a mass of some 3.41020 kg. For a body
made of less rigid water ice, the limit should be about 320 km and 1019 kg.[46] In the
asteroid belt, Ceres is the only body that clearly surpasses the silicaceous limit
(though it is actually a rockyicy body), and its shape is an equilibrium spheroid. 2
Pallas and 4 Vesta, however, are rocky and are just below the limit. Pallas, at 525
560 km and 1.852.41020 kg, is "nearly round" but still somewhat irregular. Vesta,
at 530 km and 2.61020 kg, deviates from an ellipsoid shape primarily due to a large
impact basin at its pole.

Dwarf planets and possible dwarf planets[edit]

Illustration of the relative sizes, albedos, and colours of the largest transNeptunian objects
Main article: List of possible dwarf planets
Many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) are thought to have icy cores and therefore
would require a diameter of perhaps 400 km (250 mi)only about 3% of that of
Earthto relax into gravitational equilibrium.[47] As of January 2015, about 150
known TNOs are thought to be probably dwarf planets, although only rough
estimates of the diameters of most of these objects are available.[12] A team is
investigating thirty of these, and think that the number will eventually prove to be
around 200 in the Kuiper belt, with thousands more beyond. [47]
The IAU has recognized five bodies as dwarf planets since 2008: Ceres, Pluto, Eris,
Haumea, and Makemake.[48] Ceres and Pluto are known to be dwarf planets through
direct observation.[49] Eris is recognized as a dwarf planet because it is more
massive than Pluto (measurements by New Horizonsindicate that Pluto's diameter
is larger than that of Eris), whereas Haumea and Makemake qualify based on their
absolute magnitudes.[10][39] In relative distance from the Sun, the five are:
1. Ceres discovered on January 1, 1801, 45 years before Neptune.
Considered a planet for half a century before reclassification as an asteroid.
Accepted as a dwarf planet by the IAU on September 13, 2006.
2. Pluto discovered on February 18, 1930. Classified as a planet for
76 years. Reclassified as a dwarf planet by the IAU on August 24, 2006.
3. Haumea discovered on December 28, 2004. Accepted by the IAU as a
dwarf planet on September 17, 2008.
4. Makemake discovered on March 31, 2005. Accepted by the IAU as a
dwarf planet on July 11, 2008.
5. Eris discovered on January 5, 2005. Called the "tenth planet" in media
reports. Accepted by the IAU as a dwarf planet on September 13, 2006.
Mike Brown considers an additional six trans-Neptunian objects to be "nearly
certainly"[12] dwarf planets with diameters at or above 900 kilometers. These objects
are:

1. Orcus discovered on February 17, 2004


2. 2002 MS4 discovered on 18 June 2002
3. Salacia discovered on September 22, 2004
4. Quaoar discovered on June 5, 2002
5. 2007 OR10 discovered on July 17, 2007
6. Sedna discovered on November 14, 2003
Tancredi et al. advised the IAU to officially accept Orcus, Sedna and Quaoar. In
addition, Gonzalo Tancredi considers the five TNOs Varuna, Ixion, 2003 AZ84, 2004
GV9, and2002 AW197 to be dwarf planets as well.[49] These objects are also
recognized by Mike Brown and classified as "highly likely". An extensive
table compares the dwarf planet candidates of the two planetary astronomers in
detail.

Objects recognized by the IAU as dwarf planets

Orbital attribut
Name

Region of the
Solar System

Orbital
radius (AU)

Orbital period
(years)

Ceres

Asteroid belt

2.77

4.60

Pluto

Kuiper belt (plutino)

39.48

248.09

Haumea

Kuiper belt (12:7)

43.13

283.28

Makemak
e

Kuiper belt (cubewano)

45.79

309.9

Eris

Scattered disc

67.67

557

Physical attribu

Name

Diameter
relative to
the Moon

Diameter
(km)

Mass
relative to
the Moon

Mass
(1021 kg)

Density
(g/cm3)

Surface
gravity
(m/s2)

Ceres

27%

946

1.3%

0.94

2.17

0.29

Pluto

68%

23722

17.8%

13.05

1.87

0.58

E
ve
(k

Haumea

36%

1240+69

Makemake

41%

143014

> 1.4[51]

Eris

67%

232612

22.7%

16.7

2.5

5.5%

58

4.010.04 2.63.3 (?)

0.44

0.8

Additional objects recognized by Brown and Tancredi as dwarf


planets
Orbital attributes[50]
Name

Region of the
Solar System

Orbital
radius (AU)

Orbital period
(years)

Orcus

Kuiper belt (plutino)

39.17

245.18

2002 MS4

Kuiper belt (cubewano)

41.931

271.53

Salacia

Kuiper belt (cubewano)

42.1889

274.03

Quaoar

Kuiper belt (cubewano)

43.405

285.97

2007 OR10

Scattered disc (10:3)

67.21

550.98

Sedna

Detached

518.57

11,400

Me
spe

Physical attributes

Name

Diameter
relative to
the Moon

Diameter
(km)

Mass
relative to
the Moon

Mass
(1021 kg)

Orcus

26%

91725

0.9%

0.63

2002 MS4

27%

93447

Salacia

25%

85445

0.6%

0.45

Quaoar

32%

11105

1.82.0%

1.40.1

2007 OR10

44%

1535+75

Sedna

30%

99580

Density
(g/cm3)

?
1.16+0.59
0.36

225

1.4%

Vesta, the next-most-massive body in the asteroid belt after Ceres, is roughly
spherical, deviating mainly because of massive impacts that

Surface Escap
gravity velocit
(m/s2)
(km/s

formed Rheasilvia and Veneneia crater after it solidified.[53] Furthermore, its triaxial
dimensions are not consistent with hydrostatic equilibrium.[54][55] Triton is thought to
be a captured dwarf planet.[56] Phoebe is a captured body that, like Vesta, is no
longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, but is thought to have been so early in its history.[57]

Exploration[edit]
On March 6, 2015, the Dawn spacecraft began to orbit Ceres, becoming the first
spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet.[58] On 14 July 2015, the New Horizons space
probe flew byPluto and its five moons. Dawn has also explored the former dwarf
planet, Vesta. Phoebe has been explored by Cassini (most recently) and Voyager 2,
which also explored Triton. These three are thought to be former dwarf planets and
therefore their exploration helps in the study of the evolution of dwarf planets.

Contention[edit]
In the immediate aftermath of the IAU definition of dwarf planet, a number of
scientists expressed their disagreement with the IAU resolution. [7] Campaigns
included car bumper stickers and T-shirts.[59] Mike Brown (the discoverer of Eris)
agrees with the reduction of the number of planets to eight. [60]
NASA has announced that it will use the new guidelines established by the IAU.
[61]
However, Alan Stern, the director of NASA's mission to Pluto, rejects the current
IAU definition of planet, both in terms of defining dwarf planets as something other
than a type of planet, and in using orbital characteristics (rather than intrinsic
characteristics) of objects to define them as dwarf planets.[62] Thus, in 2011, he still
referred to Pluto as a planet,[63] and accepted other dwarf planets such as Ceres
and Eris, as well as the larger moons, as additional planets.[64] Several years before
the IAU definition, he used orbital characteristics to separate "berplanets" (the
dominant eight) from "unterplanets" (the dwarf planets), considering both types
"planets".[43]

Planetary-mass moons[edit]
See also: List of natural satellites
Nineteen moons are known to be massive enough to have relaxed into a rounded
shape under their own gravity, and seven of them are more massive than either Eris
or Pluto. They are not physically distinct from the dwarf planets, but are not dwarf
planets because they do not directly orbit the Sun. The seven that are more
massive than Eris are theMoon, the four Galilean moons of Jupiter
(Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto), one moon of Saturn (Titan), and one moon of
Neptune (Triton). The others are six moons of Saturn
(Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, and Iapetus), five moons of Uranus
(Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon), and one moon of Pluto (Charon).
There are additional possibilities among TNOs, including Dysnomia orbiting Eris.
Alan Stern calls these moons "satellite planets", one of three categories of planet
together with dwarf planets and classical planets.[64] The term planemo ("planetarymass object") covers all three.[65]
In a draft resolution for the IAU definition of planet, both Pluto and Charon would
have been considered dwarf planets in a binary system, given that they both
satisfied the mass and shape requirements for dwarf planets and revolved around a
common center of mass located between the two bodies (rather than within one of
the bodies).[note 1][16] The IAU currently states that Charon is not considered to be a

dwarf planet and is just a satellite of Pluto, although the idea that Charon might
qualify to be a dwarf planet in its own right may be considered at a later date. [66] The
location of the barycenter depends not only on the relative masses of the bodies,
but also on the distance between them; the barycenter of the SunJupiter orbit, for
example, lies outside the Sun.

Asteroid belt
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the album by Velvet Chain, see Asteroid Belt (album).

The asteroids of the inner Solar System and Jupiter: The donut-shaped asteroid belt is
located between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.
Sun
Jupiter trojans
Orbits of planets

Asteroid belt
Hilda asteroids (Hildas)
Near-Earth objects (selection)

The relative masses of the top twelve asteroids known compared to the remaining mass of
all the other asteroids in the belt.

By far the largest object within the belt is Ceres. The total mass of the asteroid belt is
significantly less than Pluto's, and approximately twice that of Pluto's moon Charon.
The asteroid belt is the circumstellar disc in the Solar System located roughly between the orbits of
the planets Mars andJupiter. It is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies
called asteroids or minor planets. The asteroid belt is also termed the main asteroid belt or main
belt to distinguish it from other asteroid populations in the Solar System such asnear-Earth
asteroids and trojan asteroids.[1] About half the mass of the belt is contained in the four largest
asteroids: Ceres,Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea.[1] The total mass of the asteroid belt is approximately 4%
that of the Moon, or 22% that of Pluto, and roughly twice that of Pluto's moon Charon (whose
diameter is 1200 km).
Ceres, the asteroid belt's only dwarf planet, is about 950 km in diameter, whereas Vesta, Pallas, and
Hygiea have mean diameters of less than 600 km.[2][3][4][5] The remaining bodies range down to the
size of a dust particle. The asteroid material is so thinly distributed that numerous unmanned
spacecraft have traversed it without incident.[6] Nonetheless, collisions between large asteroids do
occur, and these can form an asteroid family whose members have similar orbital characteristics and
compositions. Individual asteroids within the asteroid belt are categorized by their spectra, with most
falling into three basic groups: carbonaceous (C-type), silicate (S-type), and metal-rich (M-type).
The asteroid belt formed from the primordial solar nebula as a group of planetesimals.
[7]
Planetesimals are the smaller precursors of the protoplanets. Between Mars and Jupiter,
however, gravitational perturbations from Jupiter imbued the protoplanets with too much orbital
energy for them to accrete into a planet.[7][8] Collisions became too violent, and instead of fusing
together, the planetesimals and most of the protoplanets shattered. As a result, 99.9% of the
asteroid belt's original mass was lost in the first 100 million years of the Solar System's history.
[9]
Some fragments eventually found their way into the inner Solar System, leading to meteorite
impacts with the inner planets. Asteroid orbits continue to be appreciably perturbedwhenever their
period of revolution about the Sun forms an orbital resonance with Jupiter. At these orbital distances,
aKirkwood gap occurs as they are swept into other orbits.[10]
Classes of small Solar System bodies in other regions are the near-Earth objects, the centaurs,
the Kuiper belt objects, thescattered disc objects, the sednoids, and the Oort cloud objects.
On 22 January 2014, ESA scientists reported the detection, for the first definitive time, of water
vapor on Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt.[11] The detection was made by using the far-

infrared abilities of the Herschel Space Observatory.[12]The finding was unexpected because comets,
not asteroids, are typically considered to "sprout jets and plumes". According to one of the scientists,
"The lines are becoming more and more blurred between comets and asteroids." [12]

Contents
[hide]

1History of observation

2Origin
o

2.1Formation

2.2Evolution

3Characteristics
o

3.1Composition

3.2Main-belt comets

3.3Orbits
3.3.1Kirkwood gaps

4Collisions
o

4.1Meteorites
5Families and groups

5.1Periphery

5.2New families

6Exploration

7See also

8References

9Further reading

10External links

History of observation[edit]
See also: Definition of planet and List of minor planets

Giuseppe Piazzi, discoverer of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. For several
decades after its discovery Ceres was known as a planet, after which it was reclassified as
asteroid number 1. In 2006 it was recognized to be a dwarf planet.
In an anonymous footnote to his 1766 translation of Charles Bonnet's Contemplation de la Nature,
[13]
the astronomer Johann Daniel Titius ofWittenberg[14][15] noted an apparent pattern in the layout of
the planets. If one began a numerical sequence at 0, then included 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, etc., doubling
each time, and added four to each number and divided by 10, this produced a remarkably close
approximation to the radii of the orbits of the known planets as measured in astronomical units. This
pattern, now known as the TitiusBode law, predicted the semi-major axes of the six planets of the
time (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) provided one allowed for a "gap" between the
orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In his footnote Titius declared, "But should the Lord Architect have left that
space empty? Not at all."[14] In 1768, the astronomer Johann Elert Bode made note of Titius's
relationship in his Anleitung zur Kenntniss des gestirnten Himmels (English: Instruction for the
Knowledge of the Starry Heavens) but did not credit Titius until later editions. It became known as
"Bode's law".[15] When William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781, the planet's orbit matched the
law almost perfectly, leading astronomers to conclude that there had to be a planet between the
orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
In 1800 the astronomer Baron Franz Xaver von Zach recruited 24 of his fellows into a club,
the Vereinigte Astronomische Gesellschaft ("United Astronomical Society") which he informally
dubbed the "Lilienthal Society"[16] for its meetings in Lilienthal. Lilienthal is a town near Bremen,
Germany that was home to a prominent telescope at the time. Determined to bring the Solar System
to order, the group became known as the "Himmelspolizei", or Celestial Police. Notable members
included Herschel, the British astronomer royal, Nevil Maskelyne, Charles Messier, andHeinrich
Olbers.[17] The society assigned to each astronomer a 15 region of the zodiac to search for the
missing planet.[18]
Only a few months later, a non-member of the Celestial Police confirmed their expectations. On
January 1, 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi, chair of astronomy at the University of Palermo, Sicily, found a
tiny moving object in an orbit with exactly the radius predicted by the TitiusBode law. He dubbed it
"Ceres", after the Roman goddess of the harvest and patron of Sicily. Piazzi initially believed it to be
a comet, but its lack of a comasuggested it was a planet.[17] Fifteen months later, Olbers discovered a
second object in the same region, Pallas. Unlike the other known planets, the objects remained

points of light even under the highest telescope magnifications instead of resolving into discs. Apart
from their rapid movement, they appeared indistinguishable from stars. Accordingly, in 1802, William
Herschel suggested they be placed into a separate category, named "asteroids", after
the Greek asteroeides, meaning "star-like".[19][20] Upon completing a series of observations of Ceres
and Pallas, he concluded,[21]
Neither the appellation of planets, nor that of comets, can with any propriety of language be given to
these two stars ... They resemble small stars so much as hardly to be distinguished from them. From
this, their asteroidal appearance, if I take my name, and call them Asteroids; reserving for myself
however the liberty of changing that name, if another, more expressive of their nature, should occur.
Despite Herschel's coinage, for several decades it remained common practice to refer to these
objects as planets.[13] By 1807, further investigation revealed two new objects in the region: 3
Juno and 4 Vesta.[22] The burning of Lilienthal in the Napoleonic wars brought this first period of
discovery to a close,[22] and only in 1845 did astronomers detect another object (5 Astraea). Shortly
thereafter, new objects were found at an accelerating rate, and counting them among the planets
became increasingly cumbersome. Eventually, they were dropped from the planet list as first
suggested by Alexander von Humboldt in the early 1850s, and Herschel's choice of nomenclature,
"asteroids", gradually came into common use.[13]
The discovery of Neptune in 1846 led to the discrediting of the TitiusBode law in the eyes of
scientists, because its orbit was nowhere near the predicted position. To date, there is no scientific
explanation for the law, and astronomers' consensus regards it as a coincidence. [23]
The expression "asteroid belt" came into use in the very early 1850s, although it is hard to pinpoint
who coined the term. The first English use seems to be in the 1850 translation (by E. C. Ott) of
Alexander von Humboldt's Cosmos:[24] "[...] and the regular appearance, about the 13th of November
and the 11th of August, of shooting stars, which probably form part of a belt of asteroids intersecting
the Earth's orbit and moving with planetary velocity". Other early appearances occur in Robert
James Mann's A Guide to the Knowledge of the Heavens,[25] "The orbits of the asteroids are placed
in a wide belt of space, extending between the extremes of [...]". The American astronomer Benjamin
Peirceseems to have adopted that terminology and to have been one of its promoters. [26] One
hundred asteroids had been located by mid-1868, and in 1891 the introduction
ofastrophotography by Max Wolf accelerated the rate of discovery still further.[27] A total of 1,000
asteroids had been found by 1921,[28] 10,000 by 1981,[29] and 100,000 by 2000.[30] Modern asteroid
survey systems now use automated means to locate new minor planets in ever-increasing
quantities.

Origin[edit]

The asteroid belt showing the orbital inclinations versus distances from the Sun, with
asteroids in the core region of the asteroid belt in red and other asteroids in blue

Formation[edit]
In 1802, shortly after discovering Pallas, Olbers suggested to Herschel that Ceres and Pallas
were fragments of a much larger planet that once occupied the MarsJupiter region, this planet
having suffered an internal explosion or a cometary impact many million years before. [31] Over time,
however, this hypothesis has fallen from favor. The large amount of energy required to destroy a
planet, combined with the belt's low combined mass, which is only about 4% of the mass of
the Moon,[2]do not support the hypothesis. Further, the significant chemical differences between the
asteroids become difficult to explain if they come from the same planet. [32] Today, most scientists
accept that, rather than fragmenting from a progenitor planet, the asteroids never formed a planet at
all.
In general, in the Solar System, planetary formation is thought to have occurred via a process
comparable to the long-standing nebular hypothesis: a cloud of interstellar dust and gas collapsed
under the influence of gravity to form a rotating disc of material that then further condensed to form
the Sun and planets.[33] During the first few million years of the Solar System's history,
an accretion process of sticky collisions caused the clumping of small particles, which gradually
increased in size. Once the clumps reached sufficient mass, they could draw in other bodies through
gravitational attraction and becomeplanetesimals. This gravitational accretion led to the formation of
the planets.
Planetesimals within the region which would become the asteroid belt were too strongly perturbed by
Jupiter's gravity to form a planet. Instead they continued to orbit the Sun as before, occasionally
colliding.[34] In regions where the average velocity of the collisions was too high, the shattering of
planetesimals tended to dominate over accretion,[35] preventing the formation of planet-sized
bodies. Orbital resonances occurred where the orbital period of an object in the belt formed an
integer fraction of the orbital period of Jupiter, perturbing the object into a different orbit; the region
lying between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter contains many such orbital resonances. As Jupiter
migrated inward following its formation, these resonances would have swept across the asteroid
belt, dynamically exciting the region's population and increasing their velocities relative to each
other.[36]
During the early history of the Solar System, the asteroids melted to some degree, allowing
elements within them to be partially or completely differentiated by mass. Some of the progenitor
bodies may even have undergone periods of explosive volcanism and formed magma oceans.
However, because of the relatively small size of the bodies, the period of melting was necessarily
brief (compared to the much larger planets), and had generally ended about 4.5 billion years ago, in
the first tens of millions of years of formation.[37] In August 2007, a study of zircon crystals in an
Antarctic meteorite believed to have originated from 4 Vesta suggested that it, and by extension the
rest of the asteroid belt, had formed rather quickly, within ten million years of the Solar System's
origin.[38]

Evolution[edit]
The asteroids are not samples of the primordial Solar System. They have undergone considerable
evolution since their formation, including internal heating (in the first few tens of millions of years),
surface melting from impacts, space weathering from radiation, and bombardment
by micrometeorites.[39] Although some scientists refer to the asteroids as residual planetesimals,
[40]
other scientists consider them distinct.[41]
The current asteroid belt is believed to contain only a small fraction of the mass of the primordial
belt. Computer simulations suggest that the original asteroid belt may have contained mass
equivalent to the Earth.[42] Primarily because of gravitational perturbations, most of the material was

ejected from the belt within about a million years of formation, leaving behind less than 0.1% of the
original mass.[34] Since their formation, the size distribution of the asteroid belt has remained
relatively stable: there has been no significant increase or decrease in the typical dimensions of the
main-belt asteroids.[43]
The 4:1 orbital resonance with Jupiter, at a radius 2.06 AU, can be considered the inner boundary of
the asteroid belt. Perturbations by Jupiter send bodies straying there into unstable orbits. Most
bodies formed inside the radius of this gap were swept up by Mars (which has an aphelion at
1.67 AU) or ejected by its gravitational perturbations in the early history of the Solar System.
[44]
The Hungaria asteroids lie closer to the Sun than the 4:1 resonance, but are protected from
disruption by their high inclination.[45]
When the asteroid belt was first formed, the temperatures at a distance of 2.7 AU from the Sun
formed a "snow line" below the freezing point of water. Planetesimals formed beyond this radius
were able to accumulate ice.[46][47] In 2006 it was announced that a population of comets had been
discovered within the asteroid belt beyond the snow line, which may have provided a source of water
for Earth's oceans. According to some models, there was insufficient outgassing of water during the
Earth's formative period to form the oceans, requiring an external source such as a cometary
bombardment.[48]

Characteristics[edit]

951 Gaspra, the first asteroid imaged by a spacecraft, as viewed during Galileo's 1991
flyby; colors are exaggerated

Fragment of the Allende meteorite, a carbonaceous chondrite that fell to Earth in Mexico in
1969
Contrary to popular imagery, the asteroid belt is mostly empty. The asteroids are spread over such a
large volume that it would be improbable to reach an asteroid without aiming carefully. Nonetheless,
hundreds of thousands of asteroids are currently known, and the total number ranges in the millions
or more, depending on the lower size cutoff. Over 200 asteroids are known to be larger than 100 km,
[49]
and a survey in the infrared wavelengths has shown that the asteroid belt has 0.71.7 million

asteroids with a diameter of 1 km or more.[50] Theapparent magnitudes of most of the known


asteroids are 1119, with the median at about 16. [51]
The total mass of the asteroid belt is estimated to be 2.81021 to 3.21021 kilograms, which is just 4%
of the mass of the Moon.[3] The four largest objects, Ceres, 4 Vesta, 2 Pallas, and 10 Hygiea,
account for half of the belt's total mass, with almost one-third accounted for by Ceres alone. [4][5]

Composition[edit]
The current belt consists primarily of three categories of asteroids: C-type or carbonaceous
asteroids, S-type or silicate asteroids, and M-type or metallic asteroids.
Carbonaceous asteroids, as their name suggests, are carbon-rich and dominate the belt's outer
regions.[52] Together they comprise over 75% of the visible asteroids. They are more red in hue than
the other asteroids and have a very low albedo. Their surface composition is similar
to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. Chemically, their spectra match the primordial composition of
the early Solar System, with only the lighter elements and volatiles removed.
S-type (silicate-rich) asteroids are more common toward the inner region of the belt, within 2.5 AU of
the Sun.[52][53] The spectra of their surfaces reveal the presence of silicates and some metal, but no
significant carbonaceous compounds. This indicates that their materials have been significantly
modified from their primordial composition, probably through melting and reformation. They have a
relatively high albedo, and form about 17% of the total asteroid population.
M-type (metal-rich) asteroids form about 10% of the total population; their spectra resemble that of
iron-nickel. Some are believed to have formed from the metallic cores of differentiated progenitor
bodies that were disrupted through collision. However, there are also some silicate compounds that
can produce a similar appearance. For example, the large M-type asteroid 22 Kalliope does not
appear to be primarily composed of metal.[54] Within the asteroid belt, the number distribution of Mtype asteroids peaks at a semi-major axis of about 2.7 AU.[55] It is not yet clear whether all M-types
are compositionally similar, or whether it is a label for several varieties which do not fit neatly into the
main C and S classes.[56]

Hubble views extraordinary multi-tailed asteroid P/2013 P5.[57]


One mystery of the asteroid belt is the relative rarity of V-type, or basaltic asteroids.[58] Theories of
asteroid formation predict that objects the size of Vesta or larger should form crusts and mantles,
which would be composed mainly of basaltic rock, resulting in more than half of all asteroids being
composed either of basalt or olivine. Observations, however, suggest that 99 percent of the
predicted basaltic material is missing.[59] Until 2001, most basaltic bodies discovered in the asteroid
belt were believed to originate from the asteroid Vesta (hence their name V-type). However, the
discovery of the asteroid 1459 Magnya revealed a slightly different chemical composition from the
other basaltic asteroids discovered until then, suggesting a different origin. [59] This hypothesis was
reinforced by the further discovery in 2007 of two asteroids in the outer belt, 7472
Kumakiri and (10537) 1991 RY16, with differing basaltic composition that could not have originated
from Vesta. These latter two are the only V-type asteroids discovered in the outer belt to date. [58]

The temperature of the asteroid belt varies with the distance from the Sun. For dust particles within
the belt, typical temperatures range from 200 K (73 C) at 2.2 AU down to 165 K (108 C) at
3.2 AU[60] However, due to rotation, the surface temperature of an asteroid can vary considerably as
the sides are alternately exposed to solar radiation and then to the stellar background.

Main-belt comets[edit]
Main article: Main-belt comet
Several otherwise unremarkable bodies in the outer belt show cometary activity. Because their orbits
cannot be explained through capture of classical comets, it is thought that many of the outer
asteroids may be icy, with the ice occasionally exposed to sublimation through small impacts. Mainbelt comets may have been a major source of the Earth's oceans, because the deuteriumhydrogen
ratio is too low for classical comets to have been the principal source. [61]

Orbits[edit]

The asteroid belt (showing eccentricities), with the asteroid belt in red and blue ("core"
region in red)
Most asteroids within the asteroid belt have orbital eccentricities of less than 0.4, and an inclination
of less than 30. The orbital distribution of the asteroids reaches a maximum at an eccentricity of
around 0.07 and an inclination below 4.[51] Thus although a typical asteroid has a relatively circular
orbit and lies near the plane of the ecliptic, some asteroid orbits can be highly eccentric or travel well
outside the ecliptic plane.
Sometimes, the term main belt is used to refer only to the more compact "core" region where the
greatest concentration of bodies is found. This lies between the strong 4:1 and 2:1 Kirkwood gaps at
2.06 and 3.27 AU, and at orbital eccentricities less than roughly 0.33, along with
orbital inclinations below about 20. This "core" region contains approximately 93.4% of all
numbered minor planets within the Solar System.[62]

Kirkwood gaps[edit]
Main article: Kirkwood gap

This chart shows the distribution of asteroid semi-major axes in the "core" of the asteroid
belt. Black arrows point to the Kirkwood gaps, where orbital resonances
with Jupiter destabilize orbits.
The semi-major axis of an asteroid is used to describe the dimensions of its orbit around the Sun,
and its value determines the minor planet's orbital period. In 1866, Daniel Kirkwood announced the
discovery of gaps in the distances of these bodies' orbits from the Sun. They were located at
positions where their period of revolution about the Sun was an integer fraction of Jupiter's orbital
period. Kirkwood proposed that the gravitational perturbations of the planet led to the removal of
asteroids from these orbits.[63]
When the mean orbital period of an asteroid is an integer fraction of the orbital period of Jupiter,
a mean-motion resonancewith the gas giant is created that is sufficient to perturb an asteroid to
new orbital elements. Asteroids that become located in the gap orbits (either primordially because of
the migration of Jupiter's orbit,[64] or due to prior perturbations or collisions) are gradually nudged into
different, random orbits with a larger or smaller semi-major axis.
The gaps are not seen in a simple snapshot of the locations of the asteroids at any one time
because asteroid orbits are elliptical, and many asteroids still cross through the radii corresponding
to the gaps. The actual spatial density of asteroids in these gaps does not differ significantly from the
neighboring regions.[65]
The main gaps occur at the 3:1, 5:2, 7:3, and 2:1 mean-motion resonances with Jupiter. An asteroid
in the 3:1 Kirkwood gap would orbit the Sun three times for each Jovian orbit, for instance. Weaker
resonances occur at other semi-major axis values, with fewer asteroids found than nearby. (For
example, an 8:3 resonance for asteroids with a semi-major axis of 2.71 AU.) [66]
The main or core population of the asteroid belt is sometimes divided into three zones, based on the
most prominent Kirkwood gaps. Zone I lies between the 4:1 resonance (2.06 AU) and 3:1 resonance
(2.5 AU) Kirkwood gaps. Zone II continues from the end of Zone I out to the 5:2 resonance gap (2.82
AU). Zone III extends from the outer edge of Zone II to the 2:1 resonance gap (3.28 AU). [67]
The asteroid belt may also be divided into the inner and outer belts, with the inner belt formed by
asteroids orbiting nearer to Mars than the 3:1 Kirkwood gap (2.5 AU), and the outer belt formed by
those asteroids closer to Jupiter's orbit. (Some authors subdivide the inner and outer belts at the 2:1
resonance gap (3.3 AU), whereas others suggest inner, middle, and outer belts.)

Collisions[edit]

The zodiacal light, a minor part of which is created by dust from collisions in the asteroid
belt
The high population of the asteroid belt makes for a very active environment, where collisions
between asteroids occur frequently (on astronomical time scales). Collisions between main-belt
bodies with a mean radius of 10 km are expected to occur about once every 10 million years. [68] A
collision may fragment an asteroid into numerous smaller pieces (leading to the formation of a
new asteroid family).[69]Conversely, collisions that occur at low relative speeds may also join two
asteroids. After more than 4 billion years of such processes, the members of the asteroid belt now
bear little resemblance to the original population.
Along with the asteroid bodies, the asteroid belt also contains bands of dust with particle radii of up
to a few hundred micrometres. This fine material is produced, at least in part, from collisions
between asteroids, and by the impact of micrometeorites upon the asteroids. Due to the Poynting
Robertson effect, the pressure of solar radiation causes this dust to slowly spiral inward toward
the Sun.[70]
The combination of this fine asteroid dust, as well as ejected cometary material, produces
the zodiacal light. This faint auroral glow can be viewed at night extending from the direction of
the Sun along the plane of the ecliptic. Asteroid particles that produce the visible zodiacal light
average about 40 m in radius. The typical lifetimes of main-belt zodiacal cloud particles are about
700,000 years. Thus, to maintain the bands of dust, new particles must be steadily produced within
the asteroid belt.[70] It was once thought that collisions of asteroids form a major component of
the zodiacal light. However, computer simulations by Nesvorn and colleagues attributed 85 percent
of the zodiacal-light dust to fragmentations of Jupiter-family comets, rather than to comets and
collisions between asteroids in the asteroid belt. At most 10 percent of the dust is attributed to the
asteroid belt.[71]

Meteorites[edit]
Some of the debris from collisions can form meteoroids that enter the Earth's atmosphere.[72] Of the
50,000 meteorites found on Earth to date, 99.8 percent are believed to have originated in the
asteroid belt.[73]

Families and groups[edit]


Main article: Asteroid family

This plot of orbital inclination (ip) versus eccentricity (ep) for the numbered main-belt
asteroids clearly shows clumpings representing asteroid families.
In 1918, the Japanese astronomer Kiyotsugu Hirayama noticed that the orbits of some of the
asteroids had similar parameters, forming families or groups.[74]
Approximately one-third of the asteroids in the asteroid belt are members of an asteroid family.
These share similar orbital elements, such as semi-major axis, eccentricity, and orbital inclination as
well as similar spectral features, all of which indicate a common origin in the breakup of a larger
body. Graphical displays of these elements, for members of the asteroid belt, show concentrations
indicating the presence of an asteroid family. There are about 2030 associations that are almost
certainly asteroid families. Additional groupings have been found that are less certain. Asteroid
families can be confirmed when the members display common spectral features. [75] Smaller
associations of asteroids are called groups or clusters.
Some of the most prominent families in the asteroid belt (in order of increasing semi-major axes) are
the Flora, Eunoma,Koronis, Eos, and Themis families.[55] The Flora family, one of the largest with
more than 800 known members, may have formed from a collision less than a billion years ago.
[76]
The largest asteroid to be a true member of a family (as opposed to an interloper in the case of
Ceres with the Gefion family) is 4 Vesta. The Vesta family is believed to have formed as the result of
a crater-forming impact on Vesta. Likewise, the HED meteorites may also have originated from
Vesta as a result of this collision.[77]
Three prominent bands of dust have been found within the asteroid belt. These have similar orbital
inclinations as the Eos, Koronis, and Themis asteroid families, and so are possibly associated with
those groupings.[78]

Periphery[edit]
Skirting the inner edge of the belt (ranging between 1.78 and 2.0 AU, with a mean semi-major axis of
1.9 AU) is the Hungaria family of minor planets. They are named after the main member, 434
Hungaria; the group contains at least 52 named asteroids. The Hungaria group is separated from the
main body by the 4:1 Kirkwood gap and their orbits have a high inclination. Some members belong
to the Mars-crossing category of asteroids, and gravitational perturbations by Mars are likely a factor
in reducing the total population of this group.[79]
Another high-inclination group in the inner part of the asteroid belt is the Phocaea family. These are
composed primarily of S-type asteroids, whereas the neighboring Hungaria family includes some Etypes.[80] The Phocaea family orbit between 2.25 and 2.5 AU from the Sun.

Skirting the outer edge of the asteroid belt is the Cybele group, orbiting between 3.3 and 3.5 AU.
These have a 7:4 orbital resonance with Jupiter. The Hilda family orbit between 3.5 and 4.2 AU, and
have relatively circular orbits and a stable 3:2 orbital resonance with Jupiter. There are few asteroids
beyond 4.2 AU, until Jupiter's orbit. Here the two families of Trojan asteroids can be found, which, at
least for objects larger than 1 km, are approximately as numerous as the asteroids of the asteroid
belt.[81]

New families[edit]
Some asteroid families have formed recently, in astronomical terms. The Karin Cluster apparently
formed about 5.7 million years ago from a collision with a progenitor asteroid 33 km in radius.
[82]
The Veritas family formed about 8.3 million years ago; evidence includes interplanetary dust
recovered from ocean sediment.[83]
More recently, the Datura cluster appears to have formed about 450 thousand years ago from a
collision with a main-belt asteroid. The age estimate is based on the probability of the members
having their current orbits, rather than from any physical evidence. However, this cluster may have
been a source for some zodiacal dust material.[84] Other recent cluster formations, such as
the Iannini cluster (circa 15 million years ago), may have provided additional sources of this
asteroid dust.[85]

Exploration[edit]

Artist's concept of the Dawnspacecraft with Vesta and Ceres


The first spacecraft to traverse the asteroid belt was Pioneer 10, which entered the region on 16 July
1972. At the time there was some concern that the debris in the belt would pose a hazard to the
spacecraft, but it has since been safely traversed by 12 spacecraft without incident. Pioneer
11, Voyagers 1 and 2 and Ulysses passed through the belt without imaging any
asteroids. Galileo imaged 951 Gaspra in 1991 and 243 Ida in 1993, NEAR imaged 253 Mathilde in
1997, Cassini imaged 2685 Masursky in 2000, Stardust imaged 5535 Annefrankin 2002, New
Horizons imaged 132524 APL in 2006, Rosetta imaged 2867 teins in September 2008 and 21
Lutetia in July 2010, andDawn orbited Vesta between July 2011 and September 2012 and has
orbited Ceres since March 2015.[86] On its way to Jupiter, Junotraversed the asteroid belt without
collecting science data.[87] Due to the low density of materials within the belt, the odds of a probe
running into an asteroid are now estimated at less than one in a billion. [88]
Most belt asteroids imaged to date have come from brief flyby opportunities by probes headed for
other targets. Only the Dawn, NEAR and Hayabusa missions have studied asteroids for a protracted
period in orbit and at the surface. Dawn explored Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012, and has
been orbiting Ceres since March 2015.

Kuiper belt
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Known objects in the Kuiper belt beyond the orbit of Neptune. (Scale in AU; epoch as of
January 2015.)
Sun
Jupiter trojans
Giant planets: J S U N
Centaurs

Kuiper belt
Scattered disc
Neptune trojans

Distances but not sizes are to scale


Source: Minor Planet Center, www.cfeps.net and others

Types of distant minor planets

Cis-Neptunian objects

Centaurs

Neptune trojans

Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs)

Kuiper belt objects (KBOs)

Classical KBOs (cubewanos)

Resonant KBOs

Plutinos (2:3 resonance)


Scattered disc objects (SDOs)

Resonant SDOs

Detached objects

Sednoids

Oort cloud objects (OCOs)

Trans-Neptunian dwarf planets are


called "plutoids"

v
t
e
The Kuiper belt /kapr/ or Dutch pronunciation: ['kypr],[1] sometimes called the Edgeworth
Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the Solar System beyond the planets, extending from
the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from theSun.[2] It is similar to the asteroid
belt, but it is far larger20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive.[3][4] Like the asteroid belt, it
consists mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the Solar System's formation. Although many
asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely
of frozen volatiles (termed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water. The Kuiper belt is home to
three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, andMakemake. Some of the Solar
System's moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn's Phoebe, are also thought to have originated
in the region.[5][6]
The Kuiper belt was named after Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, though he did not
actually predict its existence. In 1992, 1992 QB1 was discovered, the first Kuiper belt object (KBO)
since Pluto.[7] Since its discovery, the number of known KBOs has increased to over a thousand, and
more than 100,000 KBOs over 100 km (62 mi) in diameter are thought to exist.[8] The Kuiper belt was
initially thought to be the main repository for periodic comets, those with orbits lasting less than 200
years. However, studies since the mid-1990s have shown that the belt is dynamically stable, and
that comets' true place of origin is the scattered disc, a dynamically active zone created by the
outward motion of Neptune 4.5 billion years ago;[9]scattered disc objects such as Eris have
extremely eccentric orbits that take them as far as 100 AU from the Sun.[nb 1]

The Kuiper belt should not be confused with the theorized Oort cloud, which is a thousand times
more distant and is mostly spherical. The objects within the Kuiper belt, together with the members
of the scattered disc and any potential Hills cloud or Oort cloud objects, are collectively referred to
as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs).[12]
Pluto is the largest and most-massive member of the Kuiper belt and the largest and the secondmost-massive known TNO, surpassed only by Eris in the scattered disc.[nb 1] Originally considered a
planet, Pluto's status as part of the Kuiper belt caused it to be reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.
It is compositionally similar to many other objects of the Kuiper belt, and its orbital period is
characteristic of a class of KBOs, known as "plutinos", that share the same 2:3 resonance with
Neptune.

Contents
[hide]

1History
o

1.1Hypotheses

1.2Discovery

1.3Name

2Structure
o

2.1Classical belt

2.2Resonances

2.3"Kuiper cliff"

3Origin

4Composition

5Mass and size distribution

6Scattered objects
o

6.1Triton
7Largest KBOs

7.1Pluto

7.2Satellites

8Exploration

9Extrasolar Kuiper belts

10See also

11Notes

12References

13External links and data sources

History[edit]
After the discovery of Pluto in 1930, many speculated that it might not be alone. The region now
called the Kuiper belt was hypothesized in various forms for decades. It was only in 1992 that the
first direct evidence for its existence was found. The number and variety of prior speculations on the
nature of the Kuiper belt have led to continued uncertainty as to who deserves credit for first
proposing it.

Hypotheses[edit]
The first astronomer to suggest the existence of a trans-Neptunian population was Frederick C.
Leonard. Soon after Pluto's discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, Leonard pondered whether it
was "not likely that in Pluto there has come to light the first of a series of ultra-Neptunian bodies, the
remaining members of which still await discovery but which are destined eventually to be detected".
[13]
That same year, astronomer Armin O. Leuschner suggested that Pluto "may be one of many longperiod planetary objects yet to be discovered."[14]

Astronomer Gerard Kuiper, after whom the Kuiper belt is named


In 1943, in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Kenneth Edgeworth hypothesized
that, in the region beyond Neptune, the material within the primordial solar nebula was too widely
spaced to condense into planets, and so rather condensed into a myriad of smaller bodies. From this
he concluded that "the outer region of the solar system, beyond the orbits of the planets, is occupied

by a very large number of comparatively small bodies"[15] and that, from time to time, one of their
number "wanders from its own sphere and appears as an occasional visitor to the inner solar
system",[16] becoming a comet.
In 1951, in an article for the journal Astrophysics, Gerard Kuiper speculated on a similar disc having
formed early in the Solar System's evolution; however, he did not think that such a belt still existed
today. Kuiper was operating on the assumption common in his time that Pluto was the size of Earth
and had therefore scattered these bodies out toward the Oort cloud or out of the Solar System. Were
Kuiper's hypothesis correct, there would not be a Kuiper belt today.[17]
The hypothesis took many other forms in the following decades. In 1962, physicist Al G.W.
Cameron postulated the existence of "a tremendous mass of small material on the outskirts of the
solar system".[18] In 1964, Fred Whipple, who popularised the famous "dirty snowball" hypothesis for
cometary structure, thought that a "comet belt" might be massive enough to cause the purported
discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus that had sparked the search for Planet X, or, at the very least,
massive enough to affect the orbits of known comets. [19] Observation, however, ruled out this
hypothesis.[18]
In 1977, Charles Kowal discovered 2060 Chiron, an icy planetoid with an orbit between Saturn and
Uranus. He used a blink comparator, the same device that had allowed Clyde Tombaugh to
discover Pluto nearly 50 years before.[20] In 1992, another object, 5145 Pholus, was discovered in a
similar orbit.[21] Today, an entire population of comet-like bodies, called the centaurs, is known to
exist in the region between Jupiter and Neptune. The centaurs' orbits are unstable and have
dynamical lifetimes of a few million years.[22] From the time of Chiron's discovery in 1977,
astronomers have speculated that the centaurs therefore must be frequently replenished by some
outer reservoir.[23]
Further evidence for the existence of the Kuiper belt later emerged from the study of comets. That
comets have finite lifespans has been known for some time. As they approach the Sun, its heat
causes their volatile surfaces to sublimate into space, gradually dispersing them. In order for comets
to continue to be visible over the age of the Solar System, they must be replenished frequently.
[24]
One such area of replenishment is the Oort cloud, a spherical swarm of comets extending beyond
50,000 AU from the Sun first hypothesised by Dutch astronomer Jan Oort in 1950.[25] The Oort cloud
is thought to be the point of origin of long-period comets, which are those, like HaleBopp, with
orbits lasting thousands of years.
There is, however, another comet population, known as short-period or periodic comets, consisting
of those comets that, like Halley's Comet, have orbital periods of less than 200 years. By the 1970s,
the rate at which short-period comets were being discovered was becoming increasingly inconsistent
with their having emerged solely from the Oort cloud.[26] For an Oort cloud object to become a shortperiod comet, it would first have to be captured by the giant planets. In 1980, in the Monthly Notices
of the Royal Astronomical Society, Uruguayan astronomer Julio Fernndez stated that for every
short-period comet to be sent into the inner Solar System from the Oort cloud, 600 would have to be
ejected into interstellar space. He speculated that a comet belt from between 35 and 50 AU would
be required to account for the observed number of comets.[27]Following up on Fernndez's work, in
1988 the Canadian team of Martin Duncan, Tom Quinn and Scott Tremaine ran a number of
computer simulations to determine if all observed comets could have arrived from the Oort cloud.
They found that the Oort cloud could not account for all short-period comets, particularly as shortperiod comets are clustered near the plane of the Solar System, whereas Oort-cloud comets tend to
arrive from any point in the sky. With a "belt", as Fernndez described it, added to the formulations,
the simulations matched observations.[28] Reportedly because the words "Kuiper" and "comet belt"
appeared in the opening sentence of Fernndez's paper, Tremaine named this hypothetical region
the "Kuiper belt".[29]

Discovery[edit]

The array of telescopes atop Mauna Kea, with which the Kuiper belt was discovered
In 1987, astronomer David Jewitt, then at MIT, became increasingly puzzled by "the apparent
emptiness of the outer Solar System".[7] He encouraged then-graduate student Jane Luu to aid him
in his endeavour to locate another object beyond Pluto's orbit, because, as he told her, "If we don't,
nobody will."[30] Using telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and the Cerro
Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, Jewitt and Luu conducted their search in much the same
way as Clyde Tombaugh and Charles Kowal had, with a blink comparator.[30] Initially, examination of
each pair of plates took about eight hours,[31] but the process was sped up with the arrival of
electronic charge-coupled devices or CCDs, which, though their field of view was narrower, were not
only more efficient at collecting light (they retained 90% of the light that hit them, rather than the 10%
achieved by photographs) but allowed the blinking process to be done virtually, on a computer
screen. Today, CCDs form the basis for most astronomical detectors.[32] In 1988, Jewitt moved to the
Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. Luu later joined him to work at the University of
Hawaii's 2.24 m telescope at Mauna Kea.[33] Eventually, the field of view for CCDs had increased to
1024 by 1024 pixels, which allowed searches to be conducted far more rapidly.[34] Finally, after five
years of searching, on August 30, 1992, Jewitt and Luu announced the "Discovery of the candidate
Kuiper belt object" (15760) 1992 QB1.[7] Six months later, they discovered a second object in the
region, (181708) 1993 FW.[35]
Studies conducted since the trans-Neptunian region was first charted have shown that the region
now called the Kuiper belt is not the point of origin of short-period comets, but that they instead
derive from a linked population called the scattered disc. The scattered disc was created when
Neptune migrated outward into the proto-Kuiper belt, which at the time was much closer to the Sun,
and left in its wake a population of dynamically stable objects that could never be affected by its orbit
(the Kuiper belt proper), and a population whose perihelia are close enough that Neptune can still
disturb them as it travels around the Sun (the scattered disc). Because the scattered disc is
dynamically active and the Kuiper belt relatively dynamically stable, the scattered disc is now seen
as the most likely point of origin for periodic comets.[9]

Name[edit]
Astronomers sometimes use the alternative name EdgeworthKuiper belt to credit Edgeworth, and
KBOs are occasionally referred to as EKOs. However, Brian G. Marsdenclaims that neither deserves
true credit: "Neither Edgeworth nor Kuiper wrote about anything remotely like what we are now
seeing, but Fred Whipple did".[36] David Jewitt comments: "If anything ... Fernndez most nearly
deserves the credit for predicting the Kuiper Belt."[17]
KBOs are sometimes called kuiperoids, a name suggested by Clyde Tombaugh.[37] The term transNeptunian object (TNO) is recommended for objects in the belt by several scientific groups
because the term is less controversial than all othersit is not an exact synonym though, as TNOs
include all objects orbiting the Sun past the orbit of Neptune, not just those in the Kuiper belt.

Structure[edit]

Dust in the Kuiper belt creates a faint infrared disc


At its fullest extent, including its outlying regions, the Kuiper belt stretches from roughly 30 to 55 AU.
However, the main body of the belt is generally accepted to extend from the 2:3 mean-motion
resonance (see below) at 39.5 AU to the 1:2 resonance at roughly 48 AU.[38] The Kuiper belt is quite
thick, with the main concentration extending as much as ten degrees outside the ecliptic plane and a
more diffuse distribution of objects extending several times farther. Overall it more resembles
a torus or doughnut than a belt.[39] Its mean position is inclined to the ecliptic by 1.86 degrees.[40]
The presence of Neptune has a profound effect on the Kuiper belt's structure due to orbital
resonances. Over a timescale comparable to the age of the Solar System, Neptune's gravity
destabilises the orbits of any objects that happen to lie in certain regions, and either sends them into
the inner Solar System or out into the scattered disc or interstellar space. This causes the Kuiper belt
to have pronounced gaps in its current layout, similar to the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid belt. In the
region between 40 and 42 AU, for instance, no objects can retain a stable orbit over such times, and
any observed in that region must have migrated there relatively recently.[41]

Classical belt[edit]
Main article: Classical Kuiper belt object
Between the 2:3 and 1:2 resonances with Neptune, at approximately 4248 AU, the gravitational
influence of Neptune is negligible, and objects can exist with their orbits essentially unaltered. This
region is known as the classical Kuiper belt, and its members comprise roughly two thirds of KBOs
observed to date.[42][43] Because the first modern KBO discovered, (15760) 1992 QB1, is considered
the prototype of this group, classical KBOs are often referred to as cubewanos ("Q-B-1-os").[44]
[45]
The guidelines established by the IAU demand that classical KBOs be given names of
mythological beings associated with creation.[46]
The classical Kuiper belt appears to be a composite of two separate populations. The first, known as
the "dynamically cold" population, has orbits much like the planets; nearly circular, with an orbital
eccentricity of less than 0.1, and with relatively low inclinations up to about 10 (they lie close to the
plane of the Solar System rather than at an angle). The cold population also contain a concentration
of objects, referred to as the kernel, with semi-major axes at 4444.5 AU. [47] The second, the
"dynamically hot" population, has orbits much more inclined to the ecliptic, by up to 30. The two
populations have been named this way not because of any major difference in temperature, but from
analogy to particles in a gas, which increase their relative velocity as they become heated up. [48] Not
only are the two populations in different orbits, the cold population also differs in color and albedo,
being redder and brighter, has a larger fraction of binary objects,[49] has a different size distribution,
[50]
and lacks very large objects.[51] The difference in colors may be a reflection of different
compositions, which suggests they formed in different regions. The hot population is proposed to
have formed near Jupiter, and to have been ejected out by movements among the giant planets. The
cold population, on the other hand, has been proposed to have formed more or less in its current
position. Although it has been suggested that the cold population was also swept outwards by
Neptune during its migration,[3][52] particularly if Neptune's eccentricity was transiently increased,
[53]
the loose binaries among the cold population are unlikely to survive encounters with Neptune
during this migration. Although the Nice model appears to be able to at least partially explain a

compositional difference, it has also been suggested the color difference may reflect differences in
surface evolution.[53]

Resonances[edit]
Main article: Resonant trans-Neptunian object

Distribution of cubewanos (blue),Resonant trans-Neptunian objects (red) and scattered


objects (grey).

Orbit classification (schematic ofsemi-major axes)


When an object's orbital period is an exact ratio of Neptune's (a situation called a mean-motion
resonance), then it can become locked in a synchronised motion with Neptune and avoid being
perturbed away if their relative alignments are appropriate. If, for instance, an object orbits the Sun
twice for every three Neptune orbits, and if it reaches perihelion with Neptune a quarter of an orbit
away from it, then whenever it returns to perihelion, Neptune will always be in about the same
relative position as it began, because it will have completed1 12 orbits in the same time. This is
known as the 2:3 (or 3:2) resonance, and it corresponds to a characteristic semi-major axis of about
39.4 AU. This 2:3 resonance is populated by about 200 known objects,[54] including Pluto together
with its moons. In recognition of this, the members of this family are known as plutinos. Many
plutinos, including Pluto, have orbits that cross that of Neptune, though their resonance means they
can never collide. Plutinos have high orbital eccentricities, suggesting that they are not native to their
current positions but were instead thrown haphazardly into their orbits by the migrating Neptune.
[55]
IAU guidelines dictate that all plutinos must, like Pluto, be named for underworld deities. [46] The
1:2 resonance (whose objects complete half an orbit for each of Neptune's) corresponds to semimajor axes of ~47.7AU, and is sparsely populated.[56] Its residents are sometimes referred to
as twotinos. Other resonances also exist at 3:4, 3:5, 4:7 and 2:5.[57] Neptune has a number of trojan
objects, which occupy its Lagrangian points, gravitationally stable regions leading and trailing it in its
orbit. Neptune trojans are in a 1:1 mean-motion resonance with Neptune and often have very stable
orbits.
Additionally, there is a relative absence of objects with semi-major axes below 39 AU that cannot
apparently be explained by the present resonances. The currently accepted hypothesis for the cause
of this is that as Neptune migrated outward, unstable orbital resonances moved gradually through
this region, and thus any objects within it were swept up, or gravitationally ejected from it. [58]

"Kuiper cliff"[edit]

Histogram of the semi-major axes of Kuiper belt objects with inclinations above and below 5
degrees. Spikes from the plutinos and the 'kernel' are visible at 3940 AU and 44 AU.
The 1:2 resonance appears to be an edge beyond which few objects are known. It is not clear
whether it is actually the outer edge of the classical belt or just the beginning of a broad gap. Objects
have been detected at the 2:5 resonance at roughly 55 AU, well outside the classical belt; however,
predictions of a large number of bodies in classical orbits between these resonances have not been
verified through observation.[55]
Based on estimations of the primordial mass required to form Uranus and Neptune, as well as
bodies as large as Pluto (see below), earlier models of the Kuiper belt had suggested that the
number of large objects would increase by a factor of two beyond 50 AU, [59] so this sudden drastic
falloff, known as the "Kuiper cliff", was completely unexpected, and its cause, to date, is unknown. In
2003, Bernstein and Trilling et al. found evidence that the rapid decline in objects of 100 km or more
in radius beyond 50 AU is real, and not due to observational bias. Possible explanations include that
material at that distance was too scarce or too scattered to accrete into large objects, or that
subsequent processes removed or destroyed those that did.[60] Patryk Lykawka of Kobe
University has claimed that the gravitational attraction of an unseen large planetary object, perhaps
the size of Earth or Mars, might be responsible.[61][62]

Origin[edit]

Simulation showing outer planets and Kuiper belt: a) before Jupiter/Saturn 2:1 resonance,
b) scattering of Kuiper belt objects into the Solar System after the orbital shift of Neptune, c)
after ejection of Kuiper belt bodies by Jupiter
The precise origins of the Kuiper belt and its complex structure are still unclear, and astronomers are
awaiting the completion of several wide-field survey telescopes such as Pan-STARRS and the
future LSST, which should reveal many currently unknown KBOs. These surveys will provide data
that will help determine answers to these questions. [3]
The Kuiper belt is thought to consist of planetesimals, fragments from the original protoplanetary
disc around the Sun that failed to fully coalesce into planets and instead formed into smaller bodies,
the largest less than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) in diameter. Studies of the crater counts on Pluto
and Charon suggest that such objects formed directly as sizeable objects in the range of tens of

kilometers in diameter rather than being accreted from much smaller, roughly kilometer scale bodies.
[63]
Hypothetical mechanisms for the formation of these larger bodies include the gravitational
collapse of clouds of pebbles concentrated between eddies in a turbulent protoplanetary disk [64][65] or
in streaming instabilities.[66] These collapsing clouds may fragment, forming binaries. [67]
Modern computer simulations show the Kuiper belt to have been strongly influenced
by Jupiter and Neptune, and also suggest that neither Uranus nor Neptune could have formed in
their present positions, because too little primordial matter existed at that range to produce objects of
such high mass. Instead, these planets are estimated to have formed closer to Jupiter. Scattering of
planetesimals early in the Solar System's history would have led to migration of the orbits of the
giant planets: Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune drifted outwards, whereas Jupiter drifted inwards.
Eventually, the orbits shifted to the point where Jupiter and Saturn reached an exact 2:1 resonance;
Jupiter orbited the Sun twice for every one Saturn orbit. The gravitational repercussions of such a
resonance ultimately destabilized the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, causing them to be scattered
outward onto high-eccentricity orbits that crossed the primordial planetesimal disc. [53][68][69] While
Neptune's orbit was highly eccentric, its mean-motion resonances overlapped and the orbits of the
planetesimals evolved chaotically, allowing planetesimals to wander outward as far as Neptune's 2:1
resonance to form a dynamically cold belt of low-inclination objects. Later, after its eccentricity
decreased, Neptune's orbit expanded outward toward its current position. Many planetesimals were
captured into and remain in resonances during this migration, others evolved onto higher-inclination
and lower-eccentricity orbits and escaped from the resonances onto stable orbits. [70] Many more
planetesimals were scattered inward, with small fractions being captured as Jupiter trojans, as
irregular satellites orbiting the giant planets, and as outer belt asteroids. The remainder were
scattered outward again by Jupiter and in most cases ejected from the Solar System reducing the
primordial Kuiper belt population by 99% or more.[53]
While the original version of the currently most popular model, the "Nice model", reproduces many
characteristics of the Kuiper belt such as the "cold" and "hot" populations, resonant objects, and a
scattered disc, it still fails to account for some of the characteristics of their distributions. The model
predicts a higher average eccentricity in classical KBO orbits than is observed (0.100.13 versus
0.07) and its predicted inclination distribution contains too few high inclination objects. [53] In addition,
the frequency of binary objects in the cold belt, many of which are far apart and loosely bound, also
poses a problem for the model. These are predicted to have been separated during encounters with
Neptune,[71] leading some to propose that the cold disc formed at its current location. [72]
A recent modification of the Nice model has the Solar System begin with five giant planets, including
an additional ice giant, in a chain of mean-motion resonances. About 400 million years after the
formation of the Solar System the resonance chain is broken. Instead of being scattered into the
disc, the ice giants first migrate outward several AU.[73]This divergent migration eventually leads to a
resonance crossing, destabilizing the orbits of the planets. The extra ice giant encounters Saturn and
is scattered inward onto a Jupiter-crossing orbit and after a series of encounters is ejected from the
Solar System. The remaining planets then continue their migration until the planetesimal disc in
nearly depleted with small fractions remaining in various locations.[73]
As in the original Nice model, objects are captured into resonances with Neptune during its outward
migration. Some remain in the resonances, others evolve onto higher-inclination, lower-eccentricity
orbits, and are released onto stable orbits forming the dynamically hot classical belt. The hot belt's
inclination distribution can be reproduced if Neptune migrated from 24 AU to 30 AU on a 30 Myr
timescale.[74] When Neptune migrates to 28 AU, it has a gravitational encounter with the extra ice
giant. Objects captured from the cold belt into the 2:1 mean-motion resonance with Neptune are left
behind as a local concentration at 44 AU when this encounter causes Neptune's semi-major axis to
jump outward.[75] If Neptune's eccentricity remains small during this encounter the chaotic evolution
of orbits of the original Nice model is avoided and a primordial cold belt is preserved. [76] In the later
phases of Neptune's migration a slow sweeping of mean-motion resonances removes the highereccentricity objects from the cold belt truncating its eccentricity distribution. [77]

Composition[edit]

The infrared spectra of both Eris and Pluto, highlighting their common methane absorption
lines
Being distant from the Sun and major planets, Kuiper belt objects are thought to be relatively
unaffected by the processes that have shaped and altered other Solar System objects; thus,
determining their composition would provide substantial information on the makeup of the earliest
Solar System.[78] However, due to their small size and extreme distance from Earth, the chemical
makeup of KBOs is very difficult to determine. The principal method by which astronomers determine
the composition of a celestial object is spectroscopy. When an object's light is broken into its
component colors, an image akin to a rainbow is formed. This image is called a spectrum. Different
substances absorb light at different wavelengths, and when the spectrum for a specific object is
unravelled, dark lines (called absorption lines) appear where the substances within it have absorbed
that particular wavelength of light. Every element or compound has its own unique spectroscopic
signature, and by reading an object's full spectral "fingerprint", astronomers can determine what it is
made of.
Analysis indicates that Kuiper belt objects are composed of a mixture of rock and a variety of ices
such as water, methane, and ammonia. The temperature of the belt is only about 50 K,[79] so many
compounds that would be gaseous closer to the Sun remain solid. The densities and rockice
fractions are known for only a small number of objects for which the diameters and the masses have
been determined. The diameter can be determined by imaging with a high-resolution telescope such
as the Hubble Space Telescope, by the timing of an occultation when an object passes in front of a
star, or, most commonly, by using the albedo of an object calculated from its infrared emissions. The
masses are determined using the semi-major axes and periods of satellites, which are therefore
known only for a few binary objects. The densities range from less than 0.4 to 2.6 g/cm 3. The least
dense objects are thought to be largely composed of ice and have significant porosity. The densest
objects are likely composed of rock with a thin crust of ice. There is a trend of low densities for small
objects and high densities for the largest objects. One possible explanation for this trend is that ice
was lost from the surface layers when differentiated objects collided to form the largest objects. [78]
Initially, detailed analysis of KBOs was impossible, and so astronomers were only able to determine
the most basic facts about their makeup, primarily their color.[80] These first data showed a broad
range of colors among KBOs, ranging from neutral grey to deep red. [81] This suggested that their
surfaces were composed of a wide range of compounds, from dirty ices to hydrocarbons. [81] This
diversity was startling, as astronomers had expected KBOs to be uniformly dark, having lost most of
the volatile ices from their surfaces to the effects of cosmic rays.[82] Various solutions were suggested
for this discrepancy, including resurfacing by impacts or outgassing.[80] However, Jewitt and Luu's
spectral analysis of the known Kuiper belt objects in 2001 found that the variation in color was too
extreme to be easily explained by random impacts.[83] The radiation from the Sun is thought to have

chemically altered methane on the surface of KBOs, producing products such as tholins. Makemake
has been shown to possess a number of hydrocarbons derived from the radiation-processing of
methane, including ethane, ethylene and acetylene.[78]
Although to date most KBOs still appear spectrally featureless due to their faintness, there have
been a number of successes in determining their composition.[79] In 1996, Robert H. Brown et al.
acquired spectroscopic data on the KBO 1993 SC, which revealed that its surface composition is
markedly similar to that of Pluto, as well as Neptune's moonTriton, with large amounts
of methane ice.[84] For the smaller objects only colors and in some cases the albedos have been
determined. These objects largely fall into two classes: gray with low albedos, or very red with higher
albedos. The difference in colors and albedos is hypothesized to be due to the presence of methanol
on the surfaces of the bright red objects which formed beyond the methanol ice line. [85]
The largest KBOs, such as Pluto and Quaoar, have surfaces rich in volatile compounds such as
methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide; the presence of these molecules is likely due to their
moderate vapor pressure in the 3050 K temperature range of the Kuiper belt. This allows them to
occasionally boil off their surfaces and then fall again as snow, whereas compounds with higher
boiling points would remain solid. The relative abundances of these three compounds in the largest
KBOs is directly related to their surface gravity and ambient temperature, which determines which
they can retain.[78] Water ice has been detected in several KBOs, including members of the Haumea
family such as 1996 TO66,[86] mid-sized objects such as 38628 Huya and 20000 Varuna,[87] and also
on some small objects.[78] The presence of crystalline ice on large and mid-sized objects,
including 50000 Quaoar where ammonia hydrate has also been detected,[79] may indicate past
tectonic activity aided by melting point lowering due to the presence of ammonia. [78]

Mass and size distribution[edit]

Illustration of the power law


Despite its vast extent, the collective mass of the Kuiper belt is relatively low. The total mass is
estimated to range between 1/25th and 1/10th the mass of the Earth. [88] Conversely, models of the
Solar System's formation predict a collective mass for the Kuiper belt of 30 Earth masses. [3] This
missing >99% of the mass can hardly be dismissed, because it is required for the accretion of any
KBOs larger than 100 km (62 mi) in diameter. If the Kuiper belt had always had its current low
density these large objects simply could not have formed by the collision and mergers of smaller
planetesimals.[3] Moreover, the eccentricity and inclination of current orbits makes the encounters
quite "violent" resulting in destruction rather than accretion. It appears that either the current
residents of the Kuiper belt have been created closer to the Sun or some mechanism dispersed the
original mass. Neptune's current influence is too weak to explain such a massive "vacuuming",

though the Nice model proposes that it could have been the cause of mass removal in the past.
Although the question remains open, the conjectures vary from a passing star scenario to grinding of
smaller objects, via collisions, into dust small enough to be affected by solar radiation. [52] The extent
of mass loss by collisional grinding, however, is limited by the presence of loosely bound binaries in
the cold disk, which are likely to be disrupted in collisions.[89]
Bright objects are rare compared with the dominant dim population, as expected from accretion
models of origin, given that only some objects of a given size would have grown further. This
relationship between N(D) (the number of objects of diameter greater than D) and D, referred to as
brightness slope, has been confirmed by observations. The slope is inversely proportional to some
power of the diameter D:
where the current measures[60] give q = 4 0.5.
This implies (assuming q is not 1) that
(The constant may be non-zero only if the power law doesn't apply at high values of D.)
Less formally, if q is 4, for example, there are 8 (=23) times more objects in the 100200 km
range than in the 200400 km range, and for every object with a diameter between 1000
and 1010 km there should be around 1000 (=103) objects with diameter of 100 to 101 km.
If q is 1 or less, the law implies an infinite number and mass of large objects in the Kuiper
belt. If 1<q4 there will be a finite number of objects greater than a given size, but
theexpected value of their combined mass would be infinite. If q is 4 or more, the law would
imply an infinite mass of small objects. More accurate models find that the "slope"
parameter q is in effect greater at large diameters and lesser at small diameters.[60] It seems
that Pluto is somewhat unexpectedly large, having several percent of the total mass of the
Kuiper belt. It is not expected that anything larger than Pluto exists in the Kuiper belt, and in
fact most of the brightest (largest) objects at inclinations less than 5 have probably been
found.[60]
Of course, only the absolute magnitude is actually known, the size is inferred assuming a
given albedo (not a safe assumption for larger objects).
Recent research has revealed that the size distributions of the hot classical and cold
classical objects have differing slopes. The slope for the hot objects is q = 5.3 at large
diameters and q = 2.0 at small diameters with the change in slope at 110 km. The slope for
the cold objects is q = 8.2 at large diameters and q = 2.9 at small diameters with a change in
slope at 140 km.[50] The size distributions of the scattering objects, the plutinos, and the
Neptune trojans have slopes similar to the other dynamically hot populations, but may
instead have a divot, a sharp decrease in the number of objects below a specific size. This
divot is hypothesized to be due to either the collisional evolution of the population, or to be
due to the population having formed with no objects below this size, with the smaller objects
being fragments of the original objects.[90][91]
As of December 2009, the smallest Kuiper belt object detected is 980 m across. It is too dim
(magnitude 35) to be seen by Hubble directly, but it was detected by Hubble's star tracking
system when it occulted a star.[92]

Scattered objects[edit]

Comparison of the orbits of scattered disc objects (black), classical KBOs (blue),
and 2:5 resonant objects (green). Orbits of other KBOs are gray. (Orbital axes have
been aligned for comparison.)
Main articles: Scattered disc and Centaur (minor planet)
The scattered disc is a sparsely populated region, overlapping with the Kuiper belt but
extending to beyond 100 AU. Scattered disc objects (SDOs) have very elliptical orbits, often
also very inclined to the ecliptic. Most models of Solar System formation show both KBOs
and SDOs first forming in a primordial belt, with later gravitational interactions, particularly
with Neptune, sending the objects outward, some into stable orbits (the KBOs) and some
into unstable orbits, the scattered disc.[9] Due to its unstable nature, the scattered disc is
suspected to be the point of origin of many of the Solar System's short-period comets. Their
dynamic orbits occasionally force them into the inner Solar System, first becoming centaurs,
and then short-period comets.[9]
According to the Minor Planet Center, which officially catalogues all trans-Neptunian objects,
a KBO, strictly speaking, is any object that orbits exclusively within the defined Kuiper belt
region regardless of origin or composition. Objects found outside the belt are classed as
scattered objects.[93] However, in some scientific circles the term "Kuiper belt object" has
become synonymous with any icy minor planet native to the outer Solar System assumed to
have been part of that initial class, even if its orbit during the bulk of Solar System history
has been beyond the Kuiper belt (e.g. in the scattered-disc region). They often describe
scattered disc objects as "scattered Kuiper belt objects".[94] Eris, which is known to be more
massive than Pluto, is often referred to as a KBO, but is technically an SDO. [93]A consensus
among astronomers as to the precise definition of the Kuiper belt has yet to be reached, and
this issue remains unresolved.
The centaurs, which are not normally considered part of the Kuiper belt, are also thought to
be scattered objects, the only difference being that they were scattered inward, rather than
outward. The Minor Planet Center groups the centaurs and the SDOs together as scattered
objects.[93]

Triton[edit]
Main article: Triton (moon)

Neptune's moon Triton


During its period of migration, Neptune is thought to have captured a large KBO, Triton,
which is the only large moon in the Solar System with aretrograde orbit (it orbits opposite to
Neptune's rotation). This suggests that, unlike the large moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and
Uranus, which are thought to have coalesced from rotating discs of material around their
young parent planets, Triton was a fully formed body that was captured from surrounding
space. Gravitational capture of an object is not easy: it requires some mechanism to slow
down the object enough to be caught by the larger object's gravity. A possible explanation is
that Triton was part of a binary when it encountered Neptune. (Many KBOs are members of
binaries. See below.) Ejection of the other member of the binary by Neptune could then
explain Triton's capture.[95] Triton is only 14% larger than Pluto, and spectral analysis of both
worlds shows that their surfaces are largely composed of similar materials, such
as methane and carbon monoxide. All this points to the conclusion that Triton was once a
KBO that was captured by Neptune during its outward migration.[96]

Largest KBOs[edit]
See also: List of the brightest KBOs

Artistic comparison of Pluto, Eris, Makemake,Haumea, Sedna, 2007


OR10, Quaoar, Orcus, and Earthalong with the Moon.
[

Since 2000, a number of KBOs with diameters of between 500 and 1,500 km (932 mi), more
than half that of Pluto (diameter 2370 km), have been discovered. 50000 Quaoar, a classical
KBO discovered in 2002, is over 1,200 km across.Makemake and Haumea, both announced
on July 29, 2005, are larger still. Other objects, such as 28978 Ixion (discovered in 2001)
and 20000 Varuna (discovered in 2000) measure roughly 500 km (311 mi) across.[3]

Pluto[edit]
Main article: Pluto
The discovery of these large KBOs in similar orbits to Pluto led many to conclude that, aside
from its relative size, Pluto was not particularly different from other members of the Kuiper
belt. Not only are these objects similar to Pluto in size, but many also have satellites, and
are of similar composition (methane and carbon monoxide have been found both on Pluto
and on the largest KBOs).[3] Thus, just as Ceres was considered a planet before the
discovery of its fellow asteroids, some began to suggest that Pluto might also be
reclassified.
The issue was brought to a head by the discovery of Eris, an object in the scattered disc far
beyond the Kuiper belt, that is now known to be 27% more massive than Pluto. [97] (Eris was
originally thought to be larger than Pluto by volume, but theNew Horizons mission found this
not to be the case.) In response, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), was forced
to define what a planet is for the first time, and in so doing included in their definition that a
planet must have "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit".[98] As Pluto shared its orbit
with so many KBOs, it was deemed not to have cleared its orbit, and was thus reclassified
from a planet to a member of the Kuiper belt.
Although Pluto is currently the largest known KBO, there is at least one known larger object
currently outside the Kuiper belt that probably originated in it: Neptune's moon Triton(which,
as explained above, is probably a captured KBO).
As of 2008, only five objects in the Solar System (Ceres, Eris, and the KBOs Pluto,
Makemake and Haumea) are listed as dwarf planets by the IAU. However, 90482 Orcus,
28978 Ixion and many other Kuiper-belt objects are large enough to be in hydrostatic
equilibrium; most of them will probably qualify when more is known about them. [99][100][101]

Satellites[edit]
Of the four largest TNOs, three (Eris, Pluto, and Haumea) have satellites, and two have
more than one. A higher percentage of the larger KBOs have satellites than the smaller
objects in the Kuiper belt, suggesting that a different formation mechanism was responsible.
[102]
There are also a high number of binaries (two objects close enough in mass to be
orbiting "each other") in the Kuiper belt. The most notable example is the PlutoCharon
binary, but it is estimated that around 11% of KBOs exist in binaries.[103]

Exploration[edit]
Main article: New Horizons

Kuiper belt objectpossible target of New Horizons spacecraft (artist's concept). [104]

The KBO 2014 MU69 (green circles), the selected target for the New
HorizonsKuiper belt object mission

Diagram showing the location of2014 MU69 and trajectory for rendezvous
On 19 January 2006, the first spacecraft to explore the Kuiper belt, New Horizons, was
launched, which flew by Pluto on 14 July 2015.
Scientists awaited data from the Pan-STARRS survey project to ensure as wide a field of
options as possible.[105] The Pan-STARRS project, partially operational since May 2010,
[106]
will, when fully online, survey the entire sky with four 1.4 gigapixel digital cameras to
detect any moving objects, from near-Earth objects to KBOs.[107] To speed up the detection
process, the New Horizons team established Ice Hunters, a citizen science project that
allowed members of the public to participate in the search for suitable KBO targets; [108][109]
[110]
the project has subsequently been transferred to another site, Ice Investigators,
[111]
produced by CosmoQuest.[112]
On 15 October 2014, it was revealed that Hubble's search had uncovered three potential
targets,[104][113][114][115][116] provisionally designated PT1 ("potential target 1"), PT2 and PT3 by
theNew Horizons team. All are objects with estimated diameters in the 3055 km range, too
small to be seen by ground telescopes, at distances from the Sun of 4344 AU, which would

put the encounters in the 20182019 period.[113] The initial estimated probabilities that these
objects are reachable within New Horizons' fuel budget are 100%, 7%, and 97%,
respectively.[113] All are members of the "cold" (low-inclination, low-eccentricity)classical
Kuiper belt, and thus very different from Pluto. PT1 (given the temporary designation
"1110113Y" on the HST web site[117]), the most favorably situated object, is magnitude 26.8,
3045 km in diameter, and will be encountered around January 2019.[118] A course to reach it
will require about 35% of New Horizons' available trajectory-adjustment fuel supply. A
mission to PT3 was in some ways preferable, in that it is brighter and therefore probably
larger than PT1, but the greater fuel requirements to reach it would have left less for
maneuvering and unforeseen events.[113] Once sufficient orbital information was provided,
the Minor Planet Center gave official designations to the three target KBOs: 2014
MU69 (PT1), 2014 OS393 (PT2), and 2014 PN70 (PT3). By the fall of 2014, a possible
fourth target, 2014 MT69, had been eliminated by follow-up observations. PT2 was out of
the running before the Pluto flyby.[119][120]
On 26 August 2015, the first target, 2014 MU69, was chosen. Course adjustment took place
in late October and early November 2015, leading to a flyby in January 2019. [121] In order to
complete the mission, funding will need to be secured following a senior review of planetary
science missions in 2016, with the results of that review to be announced in August or
September 2016.[122]
On 2 December 2015, New Horizons detected 1994 JR1 from 270 million kilometres
(170106 mi) away, and the photographs show the shape of the object and one or two
details.[123]

Extrasolar Kuiper belts[edit]


Main article: Debris disc

Debris discs around the stars HD 139664and HD 53143 black circle


from camerahides star to display discs.
By 2006, astronomers had resolved dust discs thought to be Kuiper belt-like structures
around nine stars other than the Sun. They appear to fall into two categories: wide belts,
with radii of over 50 AU, and narrow belts (tentatively like that of the Solar System) with radii
of between 20 and 30 AU and relatively sharp boundaries.[124] Beyond this, 1520% of solartype stars have an observedinfrared excess that is suggestive of massive Kuiper-belt-like
structures.[125] Most known debris discs around other stars are fairly young, but the two
images on the right, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in January 2006, are old enough
(roughly 300 million years) to have settled into stable configurations. The left image is a "top
view" of a wide belt, and the right image is an "edge view" of a narrow belt. [124][126] Computer
simulations of dust in the Kuiper belt suggest that when it was younger, it may have
resembled the narrow rings seen around younger stars.[127]

Kuiper belt
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Known objects in the Kuiper belt beyond the orbit of Neptune. (Scale in AU; epoch as of
January 2015.)
Sun
Jupiter trojans
Giant planets: J S U N
Centaurs

Kuiper belt
Scattered disc
Neptune trojans

Distances but not sizes are to scale


Source: Minor Planet Center, www.cfeps.net and others

Types of distant minor planets

Cis-Neptunian objects

Centaurs

Neptune trojans
Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs)

Kuiper belt objects (KBOs)

Classical KBOs (cubewanos)

Resonant KBOs

Plutinos (2:3 resonance)


Scattered disc objects (SDOs)

Resonant SDOs

Detached objects

Sednoids

Oort cloud objects (OCOs)

Trans-Neptunian dwarf planets are


called "plutoids"

v
t
e
The Kuiper belt /kapr/ or Dutch pronunciation: ['kypr],[1] sometimes called the Edgeworth
Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the Solar System beyond the planets, extending from
the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from theSun.[2] It is similar to the asteroid
belt, but it is far larger20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive.[3][4] Like the asteroid belt, it
consists mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the Solar System's formation. Although many
asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely
of frozen volatiles (termed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water. The Kuiper belt is home to
three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, andMakemake. Some of the Solar
System's moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn's Phoebe, are also thought to have originated
in the region.[5][6]
The Kuiper belt was named after Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, though he did not
actually predict its existence. In 1992, 1992 QB1 was discovered, the first Kuiper belt object (KBO)
since Pluto.[7] Since its discovery, the number of known KBOs has increased to over a thousand, and
more than 100,000 KBOs over 100 km (62 mi) in diameter are thought to exist.[8] The Kuiper belt was
initially thought to be the main repository for periodic comets, those with orbits lasting less than 200
years. However, studies since the mid-1990s have shown that the belt is dynamically stable, and

that comets' true place of origin is the scattered disc, a dynamically active zone created by the
outward motion of Neptune 4.5 billion years ago;[9]scattered disc objects such as Eris have
extremely eccentric orbits that take them as far as 100 AU from the Sun.[nb 1]
The Kuiper belt should not be confused with the theorized Oort cloud, which is a thousand times
more distant and is mostly spherical. The objects within the Kuiper belt, together with the members
of the scattered disc and any potential Hills cloud or Oort cloud objects, are collectively referred to
as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs).[12]
Pluto is the largest and most-massive member of the Kuiper belt and the largest and the secondmost-massive known TNO, surpassed only by Eris in the scattered disc.[nb 1] Originally considered a
planet, Pluto's status as part of the Kuiper belt caused it to be reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.
It is compositionally similar to many other objects of the Kuiper belt, and its orbital period is
characteristic of a class of KBOs, known as "plutinos", that share the same 2:3 resonance with
Neptune.

Contents
[hide]

1History
o

1.1Hypotheses

1.2Discovery

1.3Name

2Structure
o

2.1Classical belt

2.2Resonances

2.3"Kuiper cliff"

3Origin

4Composition

5Mass and size distribution

6Scattered objects
o

6.1Triton
7Largest KBOs

7.1Pluto

7.2Satellites

8Exploration

9Extrasolar Kuiper belts

10See also

11Notes

12References

13External links and data sources

History[edit]
After the discovery of Pluto in 1930, many speculated that it might not be alone. The region now
called the Kuiper belt was hypothesized in various forms for decades. It was only in 1992 that the
first direct evidence for its existence was found. The number and variety of prior speculations on the
nature of the Kuiper belt have led to continued uncertainty as to who deserves credit for first
proposing it.

Hypotheses[edit]
The first astronomer to suggest the existence of a trans-Neptunian population was Frederick C.
Leonard. Soon after Pluto's discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, Leonard pondered whether it
was "not likely that in Pluto there has come to light the first of a series of ultra-Neptunian bodies, the
remaining members of which still await discovery but which are destined eventually to be detected".
[13]
That same year, astronomer Armin O. Leuschner suggested that Pluto "may be one of many longperiod planetary objects yet to be discovered."[14]

Astronomer Gerard Kuiper, after whom the Kuiper belt is named

In 1943, in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Kenneth Edgeworth hypothesized
that, in the region beyond Neptune, the material within the primordial solar nebula was too widely
spaced to condense into planets, and so rather condensed into a myriad of smaller bodies. From this
he concluded that "the outer region of the solar system, beyond the orbits of the planets, is occupied
by a very large number of comparatively small bodies"[15] and that, from time to time, one of their
number "wanders from its own sphere and appears as an occasional visitor to the inner solar
system",[16] becoming a comet.
In 1951, in an article for the journal Astrophysics, Gerard Kuiper speculated on a similar disc having
formed early in the Solar System's evolution; however, he did not think that such a belt still existed
today. Kuiper was operating on the assumption common in his time that Pluto was the size of Earth
and had therefore scattered these bodies out toward the Oort cloud or out of the Solar System. Were
Kuiper's hypothesis correct, there would not be a Kuiper belt today.[17]
The hypothesis took many other forms in the following decades. In 1962, physicist Al G.W.
Cameron postulated the existence of "a tremendous mass of small material on the outskirts of the
solar system".[18] In 1964, Fred Whipple, who popularised the famous "dirty snowball" hypothesis for
cometary structure, thought that a "comet belt" might be massive enough to cause the purported
discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus that had sparked the search for Planet X, or, at the very least,
massive enough to affect the orbits of known comets. [19] Observation, however, ruled out this
hypothesis.[18]
In 1977, Charles Kowal discovered 2060 Chiron, an icy planetoid with an orbit between Saturn and
Uranus. He used a blink comparator, the same device that had allowed Clyde Tombaugh to
discover Pluto nearly 50 years before.[20] In 1992, another object, 5145 Pholus, was discovered in a
similar orbit.[21] Today, an entire population of comet-like bodies, called the centaurs, is known to
exist in the region between Jupiter and Neptune. The centaurs' orbits are unstable and have
dynamical lifetimes of a few million years.[22] From the time of Chiron's discovery in 1977,
astronomers have speculated that the centaurs therefore must be frequently replenished by some
outer reservoir.[23]
Further evidence for the existence of the Kuiper belt later emerged from the study of comets. That
comets have finite lifespans has been known for some time. As they approach the Sun, its heat
causes their volatile surfaces to sublimate into space, gradually dispersing them. In order for comets
to continue to be visible over the age of the Solar System, they must be replenished frequently.
[24]
One such area of replenishment is the Oort cloud, a spherical swarm of comets extending beyond
50,000 AU from the Sun first hypothesised by Dutch astronomer Jan Oort in 1950.[25] The Oort cloud
is thought to be the point of origin of long-period comets, which are those, like HaleBopp, with
orbits lasting thousands of years.
There is, however, another comet population, known as short-period or periodic comets, consisting
of those comets that, like Halley's Comet, have orbital periods of less than 200 years. By the 1970s,
the rate at which short-period comets were being discovered was becoming increasingly inconsistent
with their having emerged solely from the Oort cloud.[26] For an Oort cloud object to become a shortperiod comet, it would first have to be captured by the giant planets. In 1980, in the Monthly Notices
of the Royal Astronomical Society, Uruguayan astronomer Julio Fernndez stated that for every
short-period comet to be sent into the inner Solar System from the Oort cloud, 600 would have to be
ejected into interstellar space. He speculated that a comet belt from between 35 and 50 AU would
be required to account for the observed number of comets.[27]Following up on Fernndez's work, in
1988 the Canadian team of Martin Duncan, Tom Quinn and Scott Tremaine ran a number of
computer simulations to determine if all observed comets could have arrived from the Oort cloud.
They found that the Oort cloud could not account for all short-period comets, particularly as shortperiod comets are clustered near the plane of the Solar System, whereas Oort-cloud comets tend to
arrive from any point in the sky. With a "belt", as Fernndez described it, added to the formulations,
the simulations matched observations.[28] Reportedly because the words "Kuiper" and "comet belt"

appeared in the opening sentence of Fernndez's paper, Tremaine named this hypothetical region
the "Kuiper belt".[29]

Discovery[edit]

The array of telescopes atop Mauna Kea, with which the Kuiper belt was discovered
In 1987, astronomer David Jewitt, then at MIT, became increasingly puzzled by "the apparent
emptiness of the outer Solar System".[7] He encouraged then-graduate student Jane Luu to aid him
in his endeavour to locate another object beyond Pluto's orbit, because, as he told her, "If we don't,
nobody will."[30] Using telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and the Cerro
Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, Jewitt and Luu conducted their search in much the same
way as Clyde Tombaugh and Charles Kowal had, with a blink comparator.[30] Initially, examination of
each pair of plates took about eight hours,[31] but the process was sped up with the arrival of
electronic charge-coupled devices or CCDs, which, though their field of view was narrower, were not
only more efficient at collecting light (they retained 90% of the light that hit them, rather than the 10%
achieved by photographs) but allowed the blinking process to be done virtually, on a computer
screen. Today, CCDs form the basis for most astronomical detectors.[32] In 1988, Jewitt moved to the
Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. Luu later joined him to work at the University of
Hawaii's 2.24 m telescope at Mauna Kea.[33] Eventually, the field of view for CCDs had increased to
1024 by 1024 pixels, which allowed searches to be conducted far more rapidly.[34] Finally, after five
years of searching, on August 30, 1992, Jewitt and Luu announced the "Discovery of the candidate
Kuiper belt object" (15760) 1992 QB1.[7] Six months later, they discovered a second object in the
region, (181708) 1993 FW.[35]
Studies conducted since the trans-Neptunian region was first charted have shown that the region
now called the Kuiper belt is not the point of origin of short-period comets, but that they instead
derive from a linked population called the scattered disc. The scattered disc was created when
Neptune migrated outward into the proto-Kuiper belt, which at the time was much closer to the Sun,
and left in its wake a population of dynamically stable objects that could never be affected by its orbit
(the Kuiper belt proper), and a population whose perihelia are close enough that Neptune can still
disturb them as it travels around the Sun (the scattered disc). Because the scattered disc is
dynamically active and the Kuiper belt relatively dynamically stable, the scattered disc is now seen
as the most likely point of origin for periodic comets.[9]

Name[edit]
Astronomers sometimes use the alternative name EdgeworthKuiper belt to credit Edgeworth, and
KBOs are occasionally referred to as EKOs. However, Brian G. Marsdenclaims that neither deserves
true credit: "Neither Edgeworth nor Kuiper wrote about anything remotely like what we are now
seeing, but Fred Whipple did".[36] David Jewitt comments: "If anything ... Fernndez most nearly
deserves the credit for predicting the Kuiper Belt."[17]
KBOs are sometimes called kuiperoids, a name suggested by Clyde Tombaugh.[37] The term transNeptunian object (TNO) is recommended for objects in the belt by several scientific groups
because the term is less controversial than all othersit is not an exact synonym though, as TNOs
include all objects orbiting the Sun past the orbit of Neptune, not just those in the Kuiper belt.

Structure[edit]

Dust in the Kuiper belt creates a faint infrared disc


At its fullest extent, including its outlying regions, the Kuiper belt stretches from roughly 30 to 55 AU.
However, the main body of the belt is generally accepted to extend from the 2:3 mean-motion
resonance (see below) at 39.5 AU to the 1:2 resonance at roughly 48 AU.[38] The Kuiper belt is quite
thick, with the main concentration extending as much as ten degrees outside the ecliptic plane and a
more diffuse distribution of objects extending several times farther. Overall it more resembles
a torus or doughnut than a belt.[39] Its mean position is inclined to the ecliptic by 1.86 degrees.[40]
The presence of Neptune has a profound effect on the Kuiper belt's structure due to orbital
resonances. Over a timescale comparable to the age of the Solar System, Neptune's gravity
destabilises the orbits of any objects that happen to lie in certain regions, and either sends them into
the inner Solar System or out into the scattered disc or interstellar space. This causes the Kuiper belt
to have pronounced gaps in its current layout, similar to the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid belt. In the
region between 40 and 42 AU, for instance, no objects can retain a stable orbit over such times, and
any observed in that region must have migrated there relatively recently.[41]

Classical belt[edit]
Main article: Classical Kuiper belt object
Between the 2:3 and 1:2 resonances with Neptune, at approximately 4248 AU, the gravitational
influence of Neptune is negligible, and objects can exist with their orbits essentially unaltered. This
region is known as the classical Kuiper belt, and its members comprise roughly two thirds of KBOs
observed to date.[42][43] Because the first modern KBO discovered, (15760) 1992 QB1, is considered
the prototype of this group, classical KBOs are often referred to as cubewanos ("Q-B-1-os").[44]
[45]
The guidelines established by the IAU demand that classical KBOs be given names of
mythological beings associated with creation.[46]
The classical Kuiper belt appears to be a composite of two separate populations. The first, known as
the "dynamically cold" population, has orbits much like the planets; nearly circular, with an orbital
eccentricity of less than 0.1, and with relatively low inclinations up to about 10 (they lie close to the
plane of the Solar System rather than at an angle). The cold population also contain a concentration
of objects, referred to as the kernel, with semi-major axes at 4444.5 AU. [47] The second, the
"dynamically hot" population, has orbits much more inclined to the ecliptic, by up to 30. The two
populations have been named this way not because of any major difference in temperature, but from
analogy to particles in a gas, which increase their relative velocity as they become heated up. [48] Not
only are the two populations in different orbits, the cold population also differs in color and albedo,
being redder and brighter, has a larger fraction of binary objects,[49] has a different size distribution,
[50]
and lacks very large objects.[51] The difference in colors may be a reflection of different
compositions, which suggests they formed in different regions. The hot population is proposed to
have formed near Jupiter, and to have been ejected out by movements among the giant planets. The
cold population, on the other hand, has been proposed to have formed more or less in its current
position. Although it has been suggested that the cold population was also swept outwards by
Neptune during its migration,[3][52] particularly if Neptune's eccentricity was transiently increased,
[53]
the loose binaries among the cold population are unlikely to survive encounters with Neptune
during this migration. Although the Nice model appears to be able to at least partially explain a

compositional difference, it has also been suggested the color difference may reflect differences in
surface evolution.[53]

Resonances[edit]
Main article: Resonant trans-Neptunian object

Distribution of cubewanos (blue),Resonant trans-Neptunian objects (red) and scattered


objects (grey).

Orbit classification (schematic ofsemi-major axes)


When an object's orbital period is an exact ratio of Neptune's (a situation called a mean-motion
resonance), then it can become locked in a synchronised motion with Neptune and avoid being
perturbed away if their relative alignments are appropriate. If, for instance, an object orbits the Sun
twice for every three Neptune orbits, and if it reaches perihelion with Neptune a quarter of an orbit
away from it, then whenever it returns to perihelion, Neptune will always be in about the same
relative position as it began, because it will have completed1 12 orbits in the same time. This is
known as the 2:3 (or 3:2) resonance, and it corresponds to a characteristic semi-major axis of about
39.4 AU. This 2:3 resonance is populated by about 200 known objects,[54] including Pluto together
with its moons. In recognition of this, the members of this family are known as plutinos. Many
plutinos, including Pluto, have orbits that cross that of Neptune, though their resonance means they
can never collide. Plutinos have high orbital eccentricities, suggesting that they are not native to their
current positions but were instead thrown haphazardly into their orbits by the migrating Neptune.
[55]
IAU guidelines dictate that all plutinos must, like Pluto, be named for underworld deities. [46] The
1:2 resonance (whose objects complete half an orbit for each of Neptune's) corresponds to semimajor axes of ~47.7AU, and is sparsely populated.[56] Its residents are sometimes referred to
as twotinos. Other resonances also exist at 3:4, 3:5, 4:7 and 2:5.[57] Neptune has a number of trojan
objects, which occupy its Lagrangian points, gravitationally stable regions leading and trailing it in its
orbit. Neptune trojans are in a 1:1 mean-motion resonance with Neptune and often have very stable
orbits.
Additionally, there is a relative absence of objects with semi-major axes below 39 AU that cannot
apparently be explained by the present resonances. The currently accepted hypothesis for the cause
of this is that as Neptune migrated outward, unstable orbital resonances moved gradually through
this region, and thus any objects within it were swept up, or gravitationally ejected from it. [58]

"Kuiper cliff"[edit]

Histogram of the semi-major axes of Kuiper belt objects with inclinations above and below 5
degrees. Spikes from the plutinos and the 'kernel' are visible at 3940 AU and 44 AU.
The 1:2 resonance appears to be an edge beyond which few objects are known. It is not clear
whether it is actually the outer edge of the classical belt or just the beginning of a broad gap. Objects
have been detected at the 2:5 resonance at roughly 55 AU, well outside the classical belt; however,
predictions of a large number of bodies in classical orbits between these resonances have not been
verified through observation.[55]
Based on estimations of the primordial mass required to form Uranus and Neptune, as well as
bodies as large as Pluto (see below), earlier models of the Kuiper belt had suggested that the
number of large objects would increase by a factor of two beyond 50 AU, [59] so this sudden drastic
falloff, known as the "Kuiper cliff", was completely unexpected, and its cause, to date, is unknown. In
2003, Bernstein and Trilling et al. found evidence that the rapid decline in objects of 100 km or more
in radius beyond 50 AU is real, and not due to observational bias. Possible explanations include that
material at that distance was too scarce or too scattered to accrete into large objects, or that
subsequent processes removed or destroyed those that did.[60] Patryk Lykawka of Kobe
University has claimed that the gravitational attraction of an unseen large planetary object, perhaps
the size of Earth or Mars, might be responsible.[61][62]

Origin[edit]

Simulation showing outer planets and Kuiper belt: a) before Jupiter/Saturn 2:1 resonance,
b) scattering of Kuiper belt objects into the Solar System after the orbital shift of Neptune, c)
after ejection of Kuiper belt bodies by Jupiter
The precise origins of the Kuiper belt and its complex structure are still unclear, and astronomers are
awaiting the completion of several wide-field survey telescopes such as Pan-STARRS and the
future LSST, which should reveal many currently unknown KBOs. These surveys will provide data
that will help determine answers to these questions. [3]
The Kuiper belt is thought to consist of planetesimals, fragments from the original protoplanetary
disc around the Sun that failed to fully coalesce into planets and instead formed into smaller bodies,
the largest less than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) in diameter. Studies of the crater counts on Pluto
and Charon suggest that such objects formed directly as sizeable objects in the range of tens of

kilometers in diameter rather than being accreted from much smaller, roughly kilometer scale bodies.
[63]
Hypothetical mechanisms for the formation of these larger bodies include the gravitational
collapse of clouds of pebbles concentrated between eddies in a turbulent protoplanetary disk [64][65] or
in streaming instabilities.[66] These collapsing clouds may fragment, forming binaries. [67]
Modern computer simulations show the Kuiper belt to have been strongly influenced
by Jupiter and Neptune, and also suggest that neither Uranus nor Neptune could have formed in
their present positions, because too little primordial matter existed at that range to produce objects of
such high mass. Instead, these planets are estimated to have formed closer to Jupiter. Scattering of
planetesimals early in the Solar System's history would have led to migration of the orbits of the
giant planets: Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune drifted outwards, whereas Jupiter drifted inwards.
Eventually, the orbits shifted to the point where Jupiter and Saturn reached an exact 2:1 resonance;
Jupiter orbited the Sun twice for every one Saturn orbit. The gravitational repercussions of such a
resonance ultimately destabilized the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, causing them to be scattered
outward onto high-eccentricity orbits that crossed the primordial planetesimal disc. [53][68][69] While
Neptune's orbit was highly eccentric, its mean-motion resonances overlapped and the orbits of the
planetesimals evolved chaotically, allowing planetesimals to wander outward as far as Neptune's 2:1
resonance to form a dynamically cold belt of low-inclination objects. Later, after its eccentricity
decreased, Neptune's orbit expanded outward toward its current position. Many planetesimals were
captured into and remain in resonances during this migration, others evolved onto higher-inclination
and lower-eccentricity orbits and escaped from the resonances onto stable orbits. [70] Many more
planetesimals were scattered inward, with small fractions being captured as Jupiter trojans, as
irregular satellites orbiting the giant planets, and as outer belt asteroids. The remainder were
scattered outward again by Jupiter and in most cases ejected from the Solar System reducing the
primordial Kuiper belt population by 99% or more.[53]
While the original version of the currently most popular model, the "Nice model", reproduces many
characteristics of the Kuiper belt such as the "cold" and "hot" populations, resonant objects, and a
scattered disc, it still fails to account for some of the characteristics of their distributions. The model
predicts a higher average eccentricity in classical KBO orbits than is observed (0.100.13 versus
0.07) and its predicted inclination distribution contains too few high inclination objects. [53] In addition,
the frequency of binary objects in the cold belt, many of which are far apart and loosely bound, also
poses a problem for the model. These are predicted to have been separated during encounters with
Neptune,[71] leading some to propose that the cold disc formed at its current location. [72]
A recent modification of the Nice model has the Solar System begin with five giant planets, including
an additional ice giant, in a chain of mean-motion resonances. About 400 million years after the
formation of the Solar System the resonance chain is broken. Instead of being scattered into the
disc, the ice giants first migrate outward several AU.[73]This divergent migration eventually leads to a
resonance crossing, destabilizing the orbits of the planets. The extra ice giant encounters Saturn and
is scattered inward onto a Jupiter-crossing orbit and after a series of encounters is ejected from the
Solar System. The remaining planets then continue their migration until the planetesimal disc in
nearly depleted with small fractions remaining in various locations.[73]
As in the original Nice model, objects are captured into resonances with Neptune during its outward
migration. Some remain in the resonances, others evolve onto higher-inclination, lower-eccentricity
orbits, and are released onto stable orbits forming the dynamically hot classical belt. The hot belt's
inclination distribution can be reproduced if Neptune migrated from 24 AU to 30 AU on a 30 Myr
timescale.[74] When Neptune migrates to 28 AU, it has a gravitational encounter with the extra ice
giant. Objects captured from the cold belt into the 2:1 mean-motion resonance with Neptune are left
behind as a local concentration at 44 AU when this encounter causes Neptune's semi-major axis to
jump outward.[75] If Neptune's eccentricity remains small during this encounter the chaotic evolution
of orbits of the original Nice model is avoided and a primordial cold belt is preserved. [76] In the later
phases of Neptune's migration a slow sweeping of mean-motion resonances removes the highereccentricity objects from the cold belt truncating its eccentricity distribution. [77]

Composition[edit]

The infrared spectra of both Eris and Pluto, highlighting their common methane absorption
lines
Being distant from the Sun and major planets, Kuiper belt objects are thought to be relatively
unaffected by the processes that have shaped and altered other Solar System objects; thus,
determining their composition would provide substantial information on the makeup of the earliest
Solar System.[78] However, due to their small size and extreme distance from Earth, the chemical
makeup of KBOs is very difficult to determine. The principal method by which astronomers determine
the composition of a celestial object is spectroscopy. When an object's light is broken into its
component colors, an image akin to a rainbow is formed. This image is called a spectrum. Different
substances absorb light at different wavelengths, and when the spectrum for a specific object is
unravelled, dark lines (called absorption lines) appear where the substances within it have absorbed
that particular wavelength of light. Every element or compound has its own unique spectroscopic
signature, and by reading an object's full spectral "fingerprint", astronomers can determine what it is
made of.
Analysis indicates that Kuiper belt objects are composed of a mixture of rock and a variety of ices
such as water, methane, and ammonia. The temperature of the belt is only about 50 K,[79] so many
compounds that would be gaseous closer to the Sun remain solid. The densities and rockice
fractions are known for only a small number of objects for which the diameters and the masses have
been determined. The diameter can be determined by imaging with a high-resolution telescope such
as the Hubble Space Telescope, by the timing of an occultation when an object passes in front of a
star, or, most commonly, by using the albedo of an object calculated from its infrared emissions. The
masses are determined using the semi-major axes and periods of satellites, which are therefore
known only for a few binary objects. The densities range from less than 0.4 to 2.6 g/cm 3. The least
dense objects are thought to be largely composed of ice and have significant porosity. The densest
objects are likely composed of rock with a thin crust of ice. There is a trend of low densities for small
objects and high densities for the largest objects. One possible explanation for this trend is that ice
was lost from the surface layers when differentiated objects collided to form the largest objects. [78]
Initially, detailed analysis of KBOs was impossible, and so astronomers were only able to determine
the most basic facts about their makeup, primarily their color.[80] These first data showed a broad
range of colors among KBOs, ranging from neutral grey to deep red. [81] This suggested that their
surfaces were composed of a wide range of compounds, from dirty ices to hydrocarbons. [81] This
diversity was startling, as astronomers had expected KBOs to be uniformly dark, having lost most of
the volatile ices from their surfaces to the effects of cosmic rays.[82] Various solutions were suggested
for this discrepancy, including resurfacing by impacts or outgassing.[80] However, Jewitt and Luu's
spectral analysis of the known Kuiper belt objects in 2001 found that the variation in color was too
extreme to be easily explained by random impacts.[83] The radiation from the Sun is thought to have

chemically altered methane on the surface of KBOs, producing products such as tholins. Makemake
has been shown to possess a number of hydrocarbons derived from the radiation-processing of
methane, including ethane, ethylene and acetylene.[78]
Although to date most KBOs still appear spectrally featureless due to their faintness, there have
been a number of successes in determining their composition.[79] In 1996, Robert H. Brown et al.
acquired spectroscopic data on the KBO 1993 SC, which revealed that its surface composition is
markedly similar to that of Pluto, as well as Neptune's moonTriton, with large amounts
of methane ice.[84] For the smaller objects only colors and in some cases the albedos have been
determined. These objects largely fall into two classes: gray with low albedos, or very red with higher
albedos. The difference in colors and albedos is hypothesized to be due to the presence of methanol
on the surfaces of the bright red objects which formed beyond the methanol ice line. [85]
The largest KBOs, such as Pluto and Quaoar, have surfaces rich in volatile compounds such as
methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide; the presence of these molecules is likely due to their
moderate vapor pressure in the 3050 K temperature range of the Kuiper belt. This allows them to
occasionally boil off their surfaces and then fall again as snow, whereas compounds with higher
boiling points would remain solid. The relative abundances of these three compounds in the largest
KBOs is directly related to their surface gravity and ambient temperature, which determines which
they can retain.[78] Water ice has been detected in several KBOs, including members of the Haumea
family such as 1996 TO66,[86] mid-sized objects such as 38628 Huya and 20000 Varuna,[87] and also
on some small objects.[78] The presence of crystalline ice on large and mid-sized objects,
including 50000 Quaoar where ammonia hydrate has also been detected,[79] may indicate past
tectonic activity aided by melting point lowering due to the presence of ammonia. [78]

Mass and size distribution[edit]

Illustration of the power law


Despite its vast extent, the collective mass of the Kuiper belt is relatively low. The total mass is
estimated to range between 1/25th and 1/10th the mass of the Earth. [88] Conversely, models of the
Solar System's formation predict a collective mass for the Kuiper belt of 30 Earth masses. [3] This
missing >99% of the mass can hardly be dismissed, because it is required for the accretion of any
KBOs larger than 100 km (62 mi) in diameter. If the Kuiper belt had always had its current low
density these large objects simply could not have formed by the collision and mergers of smaller
planetesimals.[3] Moreover, the eccentricity and inclination of current orbits makes the encounters
quite "violent" resulting in destruction rather than accretion. It appears that either the current
residents of the Kuiper belt have been created closer to the Sun or some mechanism dispersed the
original mass. Neptune's current influence is too weak to explain such a massive "vacuuming",

though the Nice model proposes that it could have been the cause of mass removal in the past.
Although the question remains open, the conjectures vary from a passing star scenario to grinding of
smaller objects, via collisions, into dust small enough to be affected by solar radiation. [52] The extent
of mass loss by collisional grinding, however, is limited by the presence of loosely bound binaries in
the cold disk, which are likely to be disrupted in collisions.[89]
Bright objects are rare compared with the dominant dim population, as expected from accretion
models of origin, given that only some objects of a given size would have grown further. This
relationship between N(D) (the number of objects of diameter greater than D) and D, referred to as
brightness slope, has been confirmed by observations. The slope is inversely proportional to some
power of the diameter D:
where the current measures[60] give q = 4 0.5.
This implies (assuming q is not 1) that
(The constant may be non-zero only if the power law doesn't apply at high values of D.)
Less formally, if q is 4, for example, there are 8 (=23) times more objects in the 100200 km
range than in the 200400 km range, and for every object with a diameter between 1000
and 1010 km there should be around 1000 (=103) objects with diameter of 100 to 101 km.
If q is 1 or less, the law implies an infinite number and mass of large objects in the Kuiper
belt. If 1<q4 there will be a finite number of objects greater than a given size, but
theexpected value of their combined mass would be infinite. If q is 4 or more, the law would
imply an infinite mass of small objects. More accurate models find that the "slope"
parameter q is in effect greater at large diameters and lesser at small diameters.[60] It seems
that Pluto is somewhat unexpectedly large, having several percent of the total mass of the
Kuiper belt. It is not expected that anything larger than Pluto exists in the Kuiper belt, and in
fact most of the brightest (largest) objects at inclinations less than 5 have probably been
found.[60]
Of course, only the absolute magnitude is actually known, the size is inferred assuming a
given albedo (not a safe assumption for larger objects).
Recent research has revealed that the size distributions of the hot classical and cold
classical objects have differing slopes. The slope for the hot objects is q = 5.3 at large
diameters and q = 2.0 at small diameters with the change in slope at 110 km. The slope for
the cold objects is q = 8.2 at large diameters and q = 2.9 at small diameters with a change in
slope at 140 km.[50] The size distributions of the scattering objects, the plutinos, and the
Neptune trojans have slopes similar to the other dynamically hot populations, but may
instead have a divot, a sharp decrease in the number of objects below a specific size. This
divot is hypothesized to be due to either the collisional evolution of the population, or to be
due to the population having formed with no objects below this size, with the smaller objects
being fragments of the original objects.[90][91]
As of December 2009, the smallest Kuiper belt object detected is 980 m across. It is too dim
(magnitude 35) to be seen by Hubble directly, but it was detected by Hubble's star tracking
system when it occulted a star.[92]

Scattered objects[edit]

Comparison of the orbits of scattered disc objects (black), classical KBOs (blue),
and 2:5 resonant objects (green). Orbits of other KBOs are gray. (Orbital axes have
been aligned for comparison.)
Main articles: Scattered disc and Centaur (minor planet)
The scattered disc is a sparsely populated region, overlapping with the Kuiper belt but
extending to beyond 100 AU. Scattered disc objects (SDOs) have very elliptical orbits, often
also very inclined to the ecliptic. Most models of Solar System formation show both KBOs
and SDOs first forming in a primordial belt, with later gravitational interactions, particularly
with Neptune, sending the objects outward, some into stable orbits (the KBOs) and some
into unstable orbits, the scattered disc.[9] Due to its unstable nature, the scattered disc is
suspected to be the point of origin of many of the Solar System's short-period comets. Their
dynamic orbits occasionally force them into the inner Solar System, first becoming centaurs,
and then short-period comets.[9]
According to the Minor Planet Center, which officially catalogues all trans-Neptunian objects,
a KBO, strictly speaking, is any object that orbits exclusively within the defined Kuiper belt
region regardless of origin or composition. Objects found outside the belt are classed as
scattered objects.[93] However, in some scientific circles the term "Kuiper belt object" has
become synonymous with any icy minor planet native to the outer Solar System assumed to
have been part of that initial class, even if its orbit during the bulk of Solar System history
has been beyond the Kuiper belt (e.g. in the scattered-disc region). They often describe
scattered disc objects as "scattered Kuiper belt objects".[94] Eris, which is known to be more
massive than Pluto, is often referred to as a KBO, but is technically an SDO. [93]A consensus
among astronomers as to the precise definition of the Kuiper belt has yet to be reached, and
this issue remains unresolved.
The centaurs, which are not normally considered part of the Kuiper belt, are also thought to
be scattered objects, the only difference being that they were scattered inward, rather than
outward. The Minor Planet Center groups the centaurs and the SDOs together as scattered
objects.[93]

Triton[edit]
Main article: Triton (moon)

Neptune's moon Triton


During its period of migration, Neptune is thought to have captured a large KBO, Triton,
which is the only large moon in the Solar System with aretrograde orbit (it orbits opposite to
Neptune's rotation). This suggests that, unlike the large moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and
Uranus, which are thought to have coalesced from rotating discs of material around their
young parent planets, Triton was a fully formed body that was captured from surrounding
space. Gravitational capture of an object is not easy: it requires some mechanism to slow
down the object enough to be caught by the larger object's gravity. A possible explanation is
that Triton was part of a binary when it encountered Neptune. (Many KBOs are members of
binaries. See below.) Ejection of the other member of the binary by Neptune could then
explain Triton's capture.[95] Triton is only 14% larger than Pluto, and spectral analysis of both
worlds shows that their surfaces are largely composed of similar materials, such
as methane and carbon monoxide. All this points to the conclusion that Triton was once a
KBO that was captured by Neptune during its outward migration.[96]

Largest KBOs[edit]
See also: List of the brightest KBOs

Artistic comparison of Pluto, Eris, Makemake,Haumea, Sedna, 2007


OR10, Quaoar, Orcus, and Earthalong with the Moon.
[

Since 2000, a number of KBOs with diameters of between 500 and 1,500 km (932 mi), more
than half that of Pluto (diameter 2370 km), have been discovered. 50000 Quaoar, a classical
KBO discovered in 2002, is over 1,200 km across.Makemake and Haumea, both announced
on July 29, 2005, are larger still. Other objects, such as 28978 Ixion (discovered in 2001)
and 20000 Varuna (discovered in 2000) measure roughly 500 km (311 mi) across.[3]

Pluto[edit]
Main article: Pluto
The discovery of these large KBOs in similar orbits to Pluto led many to conclude that, aside
from its relative size, Pluto was not particularly different from other members of the Kuiper
belt. Not only are these objects similar to Pluto in size, but many also have satellites, and
are of similar composition (methane and carbon monoxide have been found both on Pluto
and on the largest KBOs).[3] Thus, just as Ceres was considered a planet before the
discovery of its fellow asteroids, some began to suggest that Pluto might also be
reclassified.
The issue was brought to a head by the discovery of Eris, an object in the scattered disc far
beyond the Kuiper belt, that is now known to be 27% more massive than Pluto. [97] (Eris was
originally thought to be larger than Pluto by volume, but theNew Horizons mission found this
not to be the case.) In response, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), was forced
to define what a planet is for the first time, and in so doing included in their definition that a
planet must have "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit".[98] As Pluto shared its orbit
with so many KBOs, it was deemed not to have cleared its orbit, and was thus reclassified
from a planet to a member of the Kuiper belt.
Although Pluto is currently the largest known KBO, there is at least one known larger object
currently outside the Kuiper belt that probably originated in it: Neptune's moon Triton(which,
as explained above, is probably a captured KBO).
As of 2008, only five objects in the Solar System (Ceres, Eris, and the KBOs Pluto,
Makemake and Haumea) are listed as dwarf planets by the IAU. However, 90482 Orcus,
28978 Ixion and many other Kuiper-belt objects are large enough to be in hydrostatic
equilibrium; most of them will probably qualify when more is known about them. [99][100][101]

Satellites[edit]
Of the four largest TNOs, three (Eris, Pluto, and Haumea) have satellites, and two have
more than one. A higher percentage of the larger KBOs have satellites than the smaller
objects in the Kuiper belt, suggesting that a different formation mechanism was responsible.
[102]
There are also a high number of binaries (two objects close enough in mass to be
orbiting "each other") in the Kuiper belt. The most notable example is the PlutoCharon
binary, but it is estimated that around 11% of KBOs exist in binaries.[103]

Exploration[edit]
Main article: New Horizons

Kuiper belt objectpossible target of New Horizons spacecraft (artist's concept). [104]

The KBO 2014 MU69 (green circles), the selected target for the New
HorizonsKuiper belt object mission

Diagram showing the location of2014 MU69 and trajectory for rendezvous
On 19 January 2006, the first spacecraft to explore the Kuiper belt, New Horizons, was
launched, which flew by Pluto on 14 July 2015.
Scientists awaited data from the Pan-STARRS survey project to ensure as wide a field of
options as possible.[105] The Pan-STARRS project, partially operational since May 2010,
[106]
will, when fully online, survey the entire sky with four 1.4 gigapixel digital cameras to
detect any moving objects, from near-Earth objects to KBOs.[107] To speed up the detection
process, the New Horizons team established Ice Hunters, a citizen science project that
allowed members of the public to participate in the search for suitable KBO targets; [108][109]
[110]
the project has subsequently been transferred to another site, Ice Investigators,
[111]
produced by CosmoQuest.[112]
On 15 October 2014, it was revealed that Hubble's search had uncovered three potential
targets,[104][113][114][115][116] provisionally designated PT1 ("potential target 1"), PT2 and PT3 by
theNew Horizons team. All are objects with estimated diameters in the 3055 km range, too
small to be seen by ground telescopes, at distances from the Sun of 4344 AU, which would

put the encounters in the 20182019 period.[113] The initial estimated probabilities that these
objects are reachable within New Horizons' fuel budget are 100%, 7%, and 97%,
respectively.[113] All are members of the "cold" (low-inclination, low-eccentricity)classical
Kuiper belt, and thus very different from Pluto. PT1 (given the temporary designation
"1110113Y" on the HST web site[117]), the most favorably situated object, is magnitude 26.8,
3045 km in diameter, and will be encountered around January 2019.[118] A course to reach it
will require about 35% of New Horizons' available trajectory-adjustment fuel supply. A
mission to PT3 was in some ways preferable, in that it is brighter and therefore probably
larger than PT1, but the greater fuel requirements to reach it would have left less for
maneuvering and unforeseen events.[113] Once sufficient orbital information was provided,
the Minor Planet Center gave official designations to the three target KBOs: 2014
MU69 (PT1), 2014 OS393 (PT2), and 2014 PN70 (PT3). By the fall of 2014, a possible
fourth target, 2014 MT69, had been eliminated by follow-up observations. PT2 was out of
the running before the Pluto flyby.[119][120]
On 26 August 2015, the first target, 2014 MU69, was chosen. Course adjustment took place
in late October and early November 2015, leading to a flyby in January 2019. [121] In order to
complete the mission, funding will need to be secured following a senior review of planetary
science missions in 2016, with the results of that review to be announced in August or
September 2016.[122]
On 2 December 2015, New Horizons detected 1994 JR1 from 270 million kilometres
(170106 mi) away, and the photographs show the shape of the object and one or two
details.[123]

Extrasolar Kuiper belts[edit]


Main article: Debris disc

Debris discs around the stars HD 139664and HD 53143 black circle


from camerahides star to display discs.
By 2006, astronomers had resolved dust discs thought to be Kuiper belt-like structures
around nine stars other than the Sun. They appear to fall into two categories: wide belts,
with radii of over 50 AU, and narrow belts (tentatively like that of the Solar System) with radii
of between 20 and 30 AU and relatively sharp boundaries.[124] Beyond this, 1520% of solartype stars have an observedinfrared excess that is suggestive of massive Kuiper-belt-like
structures.[125] Most known debris discs around other stars are fairly young, but the two
images on the right, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in January 2006, are old enough
(roughly 300 million years) to have settled into stable configurations. The left image is a "top
view" of a wide belt, and the right image is an "edge view" of a narrow belt. [124][126] Computer
simulations of dust in the Kuiper belt suggest that when it was younger, it may have
resembled the narrow rings seen around younger stars.[127]