A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System
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A Map of Every Object in Our Solar System
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The path through the solar system is a rocky road.
Asteroids, comets, planets and moons and all kinds of small bodies of rock, metals, minerals and ice are continually moving as they orbit the sun. In contrast to the simple diagrams we’re used to seeing, our solar system is a surprisingly crowded place.
In this stunning visualization, biologist Eleanor Lutz painstakingly mapped out every known object in Earth’s solar system (>10km in diameter), hopefully helping you on your next journey through space.
Data-Driven Solar System
This particular visualization combines five different data sets from NASA:
Source: Tabletop Whale
From this data, Lutz mapped all the orbits of over 18,000 asteroids in the solar system, including 10,000 that were at least 10km in diameter, and about 8,000 objects of unknown size.
This map shows each asteroid’s position on New Year’s Eve 1999.
The Pull of Gravity
When plotting the objects, Lutz observed that the solar system is not arranged in linear distances. Rather, it is logarithmic, with exponentially more objects situated close to the sun. Lutz made use of this observation to space out their various orbits of the 18,000 objects in her map.
What she is visualizing is the pull of the sun, as the majority of objects tend to gravitate towards the inner part of the solar system. This is the same observation Sir Isaac Newton used to develop the concept of gravity, positing that heavier objects produce a bigger gravitational pull than lighter ones. Since the sun is the largest object in our solar system, it has the strongest gravitational pull.
If the sun is continually pulling at the planets, why don’t they all fall into the sun? It’s because the planets are moving sideways at the same time.
Without that sideways motion, the objects would fall to the center – and without the pull toward the center, it would go flying off in a straight line.
This explains the clustering of patterns in solar systems, and why the farther you travel through the solar system, the bigger the distance and the fewer the objects.
The Top Ten Non-Planets in the Solar System
We all know that the sun and the planets are the largest objects in our corner of the universe, but there are many noteworthy objects as well.
|1||Ganymede||3,273 mi (5,268 km)||Jupiter's largest moon|
|2||Titan||3,200 mi (5,151 km)||Saturn's largest moon|
|3||Callisto||2,996 mi (4,821 km)||Jupiter's second largest moon|
|4||Io||2,264 mi (3,643 km)||Moon orbiting Jupiter|
|5||Moon||2,159 mi (3,474 km)||Earth's only moon|
|6||Europa||1,940 mi (3,122 km)||Moon orbiting Jupiter|
|7||Triton||1,680 mi (2,710 km)||Neptune's largest moon|
|8||Pluto||1,476 mi (2,376 km)||Dwarf planet|
|9||Eris||1,473 mi (2,372 km)||Dwarf planet|
|10||Titania||981 mi (1,578 km)||Uranus' largest moon|
While the map only shows objects greater than 10 kilometers in diameter, there are plenty of smaller objects to watch out for as well.
An Atlas of Space
This map is one among many of Lutz’s space related visualizations. She is also in the process of creating an Atlas of Space to showcase her work.
As we reach further and further beyond the boundaries of earth, her work may come in handy the next time you make a wrong turn at Mars and find yourself lost in an asteroid belt.
“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!”
The Celestial Zoo: A Map of 200+ Objects in Our Universe
This detailed map highlights 200+ celestial objects that astronomers have discovered about our universe and provides facts about each one.
The Celestial Zoo: A Map of 200+ Objects in our Universe
Humans have been observing the universe for thousands of years.
And while we haven’t figured out all the answers quite yet, we’ve made some remarkable discoveries when it comes to learning about outer space.
What are some of the most notable observations that scientists have discovered so far? This map of outer space by Pablo Carlos Budassi highlights more than 200 celestial objects in our universe and provides details and facts about each one.
The Types of Celestial Objects Mapped
To create this graphic, Budassi used a combination of logarithmic astronomical maps from Princeton University, as well as images from NASA.
The visualization highlights 216 different celestial objects that are color-coded and organized into five overarching categories:
- Moons and Asteroids
- Star System
- Great Scales/Superclusters
At the center of the map is the Sun, which is the largest object in our Solar System. According to NASA, the Sun’s volume is equivalent to 1.3 million Earths. The Sun is the powerhouse of life here on Earth—its energy provides our planet with a mild, warm climate that keeps us alive, keeping the Earth from becoming a frozen rock.
While the Sun is the only star in the Solar System, there is a neighboring star system called Alpha Centauri that’s approximately 4.37 light-years away. It’s made up of three stars—Proxima Centauri, Alpha Centauri A, and Alpha Centauri B.
Proxima Centauri, as the Latin name indicates, is the closest of the three to Earth and has an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone.
The Life of a Star
In a star’s early stages, it’s powered by hydrogen. However, when its hydrogen stores are depleted, some stars are able to fuse helium or even heavier elements.
Stars similar to the size of the Sun will grow, cool down, and eventually transform into a red giant. The Sun has about 5,000 million more years before it reaches its red giant stage, but when that happens, it will likely expand to the point where it swallows up the Earth.
While stars emit energy for years, it’s important to note that they don’t shine for eternity. Their exact life span depends on their size, with bigger stars burning out faster than their smaller counterparts.
But as light from distant objects millions of light-years away takes a long time to reach us here on Earth, the largest of stars shine for hundreds of millions of years after they die.
Just How Big is Our Universe?
Some experts believe that the universe is infinite, while others argue that we can’t yet know for certain because current measurements aren’t accurate enough.
However, scientists believe that our observable universe extends about 46 billion light-years in every direction, giving it a diameter of roughly 93 billion light-years.
But just how much of the universe extends beyond what we can see? We may never find out.
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