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Geometry of intricately fabricated glass makes light trap itself

Laser light traveling through ornately microfabricated glass has been shown to interact with itself to form self-sustaining wave patterns called solitons. The intricate design fabricated in the glass is a type of "photonic ...

In planet formation, it's location, location, location

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are finding that planets have a tough time forming in the rough-and-tumble central region of the massive, crowded star cluster Westerlund 2. Located 20,000 light-years away, ...

Beta Cephei-type pulsations detected in V453 Cygni

Using NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), astronomers have detected Beta Cephei-type pulsations in an eclipsing binary system known as V453 Cygni. The finding, detailed in a paper published May 15 on arXiv.org, ...

Coming to a sky near you: Comet SWAN at its best

Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN), perhaps the brightest comet we will see this year, is at its best from now until mid-June. It should be visible in from the UK in the northwestern sky after sunset, close to the horizon.

Laser-powered rover to explore moon's dark shadows

A laser light shone through the dark could power robotic exploration of the most tantalizing locations in our solar system: the permanently-shadowed craters around the moon's poles, believed to be rich in water ice and other ...

The discovery of Comet SWAN by solar-watcher SOHO

Currently crossing the skies above Earth, Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) has the potential to become a more prominent naked eye object by late May or early June. Yet it wasn't discovered by someone looking up at the night sky. Instead, ...

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Solar System

The Solar System[a] consists of the Sun and those celestial objects bound to it by gravity, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The Sun's retinue of objects circle it in a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic plane, most of the mass of which is contained within eight relatively solitary planets whose orbits are almost circular. The four smaller inner planets; Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, also called the terrestrial planets, are primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, also called the gas giants, are composed largely of hydrogen and helium and are far more massive than the terrestrials.

The Solar System is also home to two main belts of small bodies. The asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is similar to the terrestrial planets as it is composed mainly of rock and metal. The Kuiper belt (and its subpopulation, the scattered disc), which lies beyond Neptune's orbit, is composed mostly of ices such as water, ammonia and methane. Within these belts, five individual objects, Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris, are recognised to be large enough to have been rounded by their own gravity, and are thus termed dwarf planets. The hypothetical Oort cloud, which acts as the source for long-period comets, may also exist at a distance roughly a thousand times beyond these regions.

Within the Solar System, various populations of small bodies, such as comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust, freely travel between these regions, while the solar wind, a flow of plasma from the Sun, creates a bubble in the interstellar medium known as the heliosphere, which extends out to the edge of the scattered disc.

Six of the planets and three of the dwarf planets are orbited by natural satellites, usually termed "moons" after Earth's Moon. Each of the outer planets is encircled by planetary rings of dust and other particles.

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