planetary system

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planetary system,

a starstar,
hot incandescent sphere of gas, held together by its own gravitation, and emitting light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation whose ultimate source is nuclear energy.
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 and all the celestial bodies bound to it by gravity, especially planetsplanet
[Gr.,=wanderer], a large nonluminous body of rock or gas that orbits the sun or another star, has a rounded shape due to gravity, and has cleared its orbit of smaller objects.
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 and their natural satellitessatellite, natural,
celestial body orbiting a planet, dwarf planet, asteroid, or star of a larger size. The most familiar natural satellite is the earth's moon; thus, satellites of other planets are often referred to as moons.
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. Until the last decade of the 20th cent., the only planetary system known was the solar systemsolar system,
the sun and the surrounding planets, natural satellites, dwarf planets, asteroids, meteoroids, and comets that are bound by its gravity. The sun is by far the most massive part of the solar system, containing almost 99.9% of the system's total mass.
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, which comprises the sun and the surrounding planets, natural satellites, asteroidsasteroid,
or minor planet,
small body orbiting the sun. More than 300,000 asteroids have been identified and cataloged; more than a million are believed to exist in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, with many more in the Kuiper belt
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, meteoroids (see meteormeteor,
appearance of a small particle flying through space that interacts with the earth's upper atmosphere. While still outside the atmosphere, the particle is known as a meteoroid. Countless meteoroids of varying sizes are moving about the solar system at any time.
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), cometscomet
[Gr.,=longhaired], a small celestial body consisting mostly of dust and gases that moves in an elongated elliptical or nearly parabolic orbit around the sun or another star. Comets visible from the earth can be seen for periods ranging from a few days to several months.
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, and other celestial bodies. Speculation that other planetary systems exist dates back to antiquity, and through the years ever increasing numbers of astronomers searched for earthlike planets circling sunlike stars. The breakthrough came in 1992, when radio astronomers detected three planets orbiting a pulsarpulsar,
in astronomy, a neutron star that emits brief, sharp pulses of energy instead of the steady radiation associated with other natural sources. The study of pulsars began when Antony Hewish and his students at Cambridge built a primitive radio telescope to study a
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; however, because pulsars are not normal stars, this was not considered a true planetary system. The first detection of an extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, around a normal star, 51 Pegasi, was made in 1995. This was quickly followed by the detection of a number of single exoplanets orbiting normal stars, and in 1999 the first discovery of multiple exoplanets orbiting a sunlike star, Upsilon Andromedae, was announced. By 2016 more than 550 multiplanet systems had been identified.

Because the solar system was the only planetary system known, all models of planetary systems were based on its characteristics—several small planets close to the star, several large planets at greater distances, and circular planetary orbits. Most of the extrasolar planets discovered so far, however, are larger than earth, and many of those are much larger than Jupiter, the largest of the solar planets; many of the rocky planets are much larger than earth, often up to 10 times more massive (one, Kepler 10c, is 17 times as massive); many orbit their star at distances less than that of Mercury, the solar planet closest to the sun—in one system found by the Kepler space telescope, five planets orbit a star more closely than Mercury does the sun—though a few planets orbit their star at many times the distance of Pluto from the sun; and many have elliptical rather than circular orbits. Planets have also been found orbiting binary stars. All of this has caused planetary scientists to revisit accepted theories of planetary formation. Future theories will be measured against stars surrounded by a ring of gas and dust, such as Beta Pictoris, which are thought to be young adult stars with a planetary system forming around them.

An increasing number of planets with masses between one and seven times the earth's have been found in the 21st cent. In 2013 it was announced that astronomers reviewing the data from the Kepler space telescope had identified a planetary system (Kepler 37) that included a planet (Kepler 37c) somewhat smaller than the earth and another (Kepler 37b) that was smaller than Mercury. Kepler 37b is the smallest extrasolar planet discovered so far; neither of the two planets was in the habitable zone. In 2014, Kepler scientists announced the discovery of a habitable-zone planet (Kepler 186f) with a radius estimated to be 10% larger than the earth's, that orbited a cool dwarf star with four other planets; because of its size, Kepler 186f was believed to be a rocky planet with the potential to have liquid water. The Trappist-1 system, whose discovery by astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile was first announced in 2016, is now known to contain at least seven earth-sized plants, three of which are definitely in the habitable zone. It is possible that some of the bodies that have been discovered are not planets in the solar-system sense but a new class of celestial bodies or even brown dwarfsbrown dwarf,
in astronomy, celestial body that is larger than a planet but does not have sufficient mass to convert hydrogen into helium via nuclear fusion as stars do. Also called "failed stars," brown dwarfs form in the same way as true stars (by the contraction of a swirling
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Because stars are so distant and bright and an extrasolar planet, no matter how large, is relatively small and dim, it cannot be seen or photographed directly in visible light. Several techniques have been used to infer the presence of such planets. Astrometry is based on the slight gravitational disturbance, or wobble, that the planet causes in the motion of the star. Photometry, also called the transit method, is to measure the distinct dimming of light from the star as the planet's orbit brings it between the star and the earth. Using photometric techniques it also has been possible to photograph extrasolar planets in infrared light. Doppler spectroscopy is based on the fact that a planet periodically pulls its star closer to and farther from the earth as it orbits the star; this motion has a measurable effect on the spectrum of light coming from the star. In pulsar timing, planets orbiting a pulsarpulsar,
in astronomy, a neutron star that emits brief, sharp pulses of energy instead of the steady radiation associated with other natural sources. The study of pulsars began when Antony Hewish and his students at Cambridge built a primitive radio telescope to study a
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 can be detected by measuring the periodic variation in the pulse arrival time; however, because the planets are orbiting a pulsar, a "dead" star, rather than a main-sequence star like the sun, this tends to be of less interest in the search for an earthlike extrasolar planet.


See A. Boss, Looking for Earths: The Race to Find New Solar Systems (1998); J. K. Beatty, ed., The New Solar System (1999).

planetary system

A system of planets and other bodies, such as comets and meteoroids, that orbits a star. The Sun and its planetary system together comprise the Solar System. Planetary systems may be common in the Galaxy, being formed along with stars from the gravitational contraction of interstellar clouds of gas and dust. See also planet pulsar; protoplanet.
References in classic literature ?
They considered the moon alone to be inhabited: they imagined it was the real heart of the universe or planetary system, on which the genuine Cosmopolites, or citizens of the world, dwelt.
Your readers will possibly comprehend that the Atlantic, in this parable, stands for the mighty ocean of ether through which we drift and that the bunch of corks represents the little and obscure planetary system to which we belong.
Washington, Jan 7 ( ANI ): Planetary systems with very distant binary stars are particularly susceptible to violent disruptions, more so than if they had stellar companions with tighter orbits around them, astrophysicists have found.
The Origins of Solar Systems program supports scientific investigations related to understanding the formation and early evolution of planetary systems, and to provide the fundamental research and analysis necessary to detect and characterize other planetary systems.
Detailed analyses of the complex dance between the rings and the moons may uncover clues to an even bigger puzzle: how planetary systems form.
The discovery of the planets, together with another one found in October, encouraged scientists in their growing belief that the solar system is anything but unique and that other planetary systems may be fairly common.
TPF, one of several linked space science missions in NASA's Origins program, will use a suite of precision optical and spectroscopy instruments to search out, detect and characterize "Earth-like" planetary systems around the brightest 1,000 stars in our solar "neighborhood.
Washington, November 28 ( ANI ): Astronomers have discovered vast belts of comets surrounding two nearby planetary systems known to host nothing larger than Earth-to-Neptune-mass worlds, using ESA's Herschel space observatory.
This is an exciting discovery and an exciting time for studying the formation of planetary systems," says Saumon.
A powerful, scalable solution, the Carnegie Alpha Cluster is being used to help discover facts about the formation and evolution of planetary systems capable of supporting life.
Compared with other planetary systems in the Milky Way, is the solar system an oddball?