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40. Overview Solar System
40. Overview Solar System

With the exception of outermost Pluto, the nine planets orbit the Sun in nearly the same plane, as shown in this oblique view of the solar system. The solar system is also populated by numerous small bodies, including asteroids and comets, that circle the Sun like a swarm of bees. The highly elliptical orbits of three representative comets, Hale-Bopp (toward bottom), Halley (toward lower right), and Grigg-Skjellurup (toward left) are shown. Hale-Bopp is a long-period comet with a period of 4000 years or so. Halley is a short-period comet with an orbital period of 76 years and an orbit that extends out to Neptune. Grigg-Skjellurup is a short-period comet (period of 5 years) whose orbit is influenced by the planet Jupiter. Comets are composed of rock and ices and probably originated from beyond Neptune before being deflected into the inner solar system. Pluto probably represents the largest member of a newly discovered but previously predicted class of small bodies, called Kuiper Belt objects, that orbit beyond Neptune. In this view, all the orbits are shown to scale but the images of the planets are greatly enlarged.

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