MAR 23, 2020 4:33 PM PDT

Here's Why the Planets Orbit the Sun How They Do

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

All the solar system’s planets follow nearly the same plane and direction as they orbit the Sun, and this is something that has fascinated astronomers for eons. That said, is it possible to explain why this happens?

As it turns out, this was no mistake; this setup is common in stellar systems all throughout the universe, and this fact alone speaks volumes about the puzzling circumstances. To better understand why each of the planets follow the same plane and direction while orbiting the Sun, one must think back to a time long before the solar system came into existence.

Just as the solar system was beginning to form, there was no rhyme or reason to the dust and gas particles as they swirled around in their happy little nebula. At some point, however, these particles would begin clumping together, forming a protostar and a plethora of other smaller clumps in the process. These smaller clumps would orbit the protostar randomly, without any rhyme or reason.

Over time, clumps moving in opposing directions would slam into one another, breaking apart and leaving just those that moved harmoniously in the same direction. Those that broke apart would eventually create a planetary disk, orbiting the protostar in the same direction as the harmonious objects. All the while, matter from this disk would both fall into the protostar and begin clumping again – this made the protostar bigger and more gravitationally-influential, while other bits clumped together to form planets.

The cycle would only continue to repeat, just on a smaller scale as smaller disks formed around the planets. Keeping in sync with the existing motions, these disks would go on to form moons around those planets, orbiting in exactly the same plane and direction as the planets around the star.

There are only a few exceptions to this idea, such as captured objects, which originate from outside of our solar system and get snatched by a large planet’s gravity. Another is where substantial collisions severely impact an object's orbital trajectory. These objects may orbit planets in strange ways that don’t match the models described, much like Neptune's moon Triton does.

Related: Do dust traps make planetary formation possible?

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What Dragonfly Will Do Upon Arriving At Titan
MAR 09, 2020
What Dragonfly Will Do Upon Arriving At Titan
There’s so much happening by way of Martian exploration that it can be easy to forget all the other missions that ...
APR 05, 2020
Microbiology
How Life Beneath the Sea Informs the Search for Life on Mars
APR 05, 2020
How Life Beneath the Sea Informs the Search for Life on Mars
Single-celled microbes that live beneath the floor of the ocean have provided insight into how scientists might be able ...
MAY 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How the Hubble Space Telescope Transformed Astronomy
MAY 03, 2020
How the Hubble Space Telescope Transformed Astronomy
The Hubble Space Telescope has officially spent three decades in outer space, making it one of the most renowned space o ...
JUN 25, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Did Scientists Just Discover the Smallest Black Hole Known to Man?
JUN 25, 2020
Did Scientists Just Discover the Smallest Black Hole Known to Man?
An array of antennas in the US and Italy, known as the International LIGO-Virgo Collaboration, received some unusual rea ...
JUL 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
JUL 06, 2020
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
Fast radio bursts are intense pulses of energy that come from light years away, popping fir a few milliseconds before di ...
JUL 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Mammalian Cells May Have Trouble Fighting Space Bugs
JUL 25, 2020
Mammalian Cells May Have Trouble Fighting Space Bugs
New research has suggested that humans and other terrestrial mammals might have trouble identifying and responding to mi ...
Loading Comments...