The Solar System

in Cornerstone

The Formation of the Solar System

The solar system can seem like a vast, confusing array of planets and projectiles moving by some unseen, mystical force.

Early humans thought along those lines, or ignored the problem entirely by claiming it was a “painted ceiling”.

It’s really quite an easy to understand system

This system is predominantly governed by the force we call gravity.

Gravitational relationships are defined by “Newtons Law of Universal Gravitation”

Thus the farther two objects are away from each other, the weaker the force they exert on each other. The heavier the two objects are, the more force they exert on each other.

There’s an interesting outcome of this

Every single object in the universe exerts a force of some magnitude on every other object within the universe. That’s staggering.

Unseen planetoids, moons and suns outside the observable universe that you’ll never comprehend are exerting a force on you now, as you read this.

I visualize it as the waves of the ocean. The motions of anything within the ocean through the movement of water, exert a force in the form of waves and currents over every other thing in the ocean.

However the force diminishes significantly as distance increases. This is why we’re bound to our planetary home and not pulled in towards some distant supermassive object like the sun.

Further as Newtons Third Law tells us “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.

So equal to the force these, beyond distant objects are exerting on you, is the force YOU are exerting on them. In some miniscule way, you are attracting every single object in existence.

Gravity has some pretty cool implications

When the Big Bang happened, matter started moving. That matter was primarily vast clouds of gas. This gas eddied and swirled and eventually came to form among other things, the first stars.

The largest of these stars eventually reached old age and went supernova. 4.6 billion years ago, it’s theorized that one of these supernovas disturbed the gas and dust that was squeezed and compressed to become our early solar system.

This early formation was known as a “solar nebula”.

The Universe Formed

As the disk spun faster and faster it began to flatten and expand outward. The burning hot middle radiating heat while the outer edges remained cool.

Matter jostled and competed and began to clump and collide. The larger objects would win and steal the matter of the smaller.

The gas collected in the center and formed the supermassive object that is todays sun.

The hot inner core temperatures hovered around 2000 Kelvin caused the closer planetoids to become rocky. The outer planets, in a frigid 50 Kelvin environment, remained cool and expansive as the Gas Giants.

Two large planetoids collided and the ejecta of the smaller began orbiting the larger known today as “The Moon”.

Gravity causes all of this; from the initial clumping of gas, to the collisions and competition that came to form our planets.

Orbits are just constant sideways motion, moment to moment, which over time forms a somewhat rounded shape.

Orbits are rarely perfect circles. As can be seen below they can take many different shapes and orientations around a body.

Now imagine the sun as the center point of this diagram. The planets orbit the sun, and the moons orbit the planets. The comets, asteroids and other bodies within the solar system usually have eclectic orbits around different bodies.

The chaos of the solar system then is just a big picture of rings within rings all controlled by the force of gravity.

Pretty neat stuff

The features of the planets like their different length years, is just a feature of their distance from the sun and orbiting speed when formed.

It’s interesting because these planets are still moving in pretty much the same way as when they were formed. All of this time and not much has changed.

That’s sort of a big feature of the universe. Things only change when energy is exerted to change them. Otherwise like our planets, they just sort of keep going with nothing to stop them.

That’s why intelligence is so exciting

The forces governing our universe don’t “decide” to act in a certain way. They’re indifferent and constant.

Humans are not. We imagine things within our minds and exert energy with intention to create them. That’s a STAGGERING change from the way the universe has trundled on for it’s 13+ billion year lifespan.

That seems insignificant now because our access to energy is so limited. The Kardashev Scale categorizes planetary civilizations by how much energy they can harness. Humanity is low. We can’t even fully harness the energy of our own sun, let alone the galaxy.

But unlike the universe, we progress. We learn. We change. We’re dynamic and evolve our methods over time. Whereas the universe keeps on moving along.

Through a process known as entropy the amount of heat in a given system, of which our universe is one, cannot increase from inside the system. We’re not getting any more fuel in our cosmic oven.

Energy can neither be destroyed, nor created then only converted

Our universe is constantly expanding. Or more accurately, space between objects is constantly being created, most apparent on a galactic level. Without new energy in this space, eventually the energy will be spread so thin nothing will ever happen again.

This state is our universes most likely end and is known as “The Big Freeze”

In “The Last Question” Asimov explores how the Big Bang and this outcome fit together. But I think we can go further than that.

Our universe is one of many

Constantly being born, expanding and either contracting or halting movement entirely depending upon the inborn strength of gravity which is defined by some variable during that universes creation.

Other variables within these universes change as well, and ours happens to have the variables set right for life and subsequently intelligence to be birthed.

We can break the chains. People can change this. We, intelligence, humanity can be what stops this indifferent cycle of bubbles popping and forming in the stormy foam of the multiverse.

We may not know WHY it all exists, or if we were created by some intelligence beyond our comprehension. But as it stands – we’re it.

Nothing more or less

We are the only thing capable of turning the universe into something more. Of creating structures that last beyond our meager lifetimes. That last beyond our universe. Of making humanity’s shout into the cosmos be heard for longer than the heartbeat of our existence.

Fight for something, fight for more.

The only thing holding us back is our belief in ourselves.


Written by Andrew Walls

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