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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009

7 - The perspective: a panorama of the Solar System


We review the basic properties of the bodies constituting the Solar System as a reference for understanding the properties of the increasing number of extrasolar planets and planetary systems discovered.


Space exploration has allowed us over the last 40 years to visit most of the different types of bodies that constitute the Solar System (which we define as comprising all those objects under the gravitational influence of the Sun). We have reached all the planets, except Pluto, and consequently most of their satellites, by means of fly-bys, orbital injection (Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), landing (the Moon, Venus, Mars and Titan) and probe sounding (Jupiter). We have sent vehicles to asteroids and comets (fly-bys), with impacts on the asteroid Eros and Comet Temple 1, and we have samples returned from the Moon, and from meteorites coming from Mars and the asteroid belt. All this has provided a large quantity of information, so the reader can find a large number of books dealing with the Solar System as a whole, or reviewing the properties of each individual constituent (Gehrels 1976, 1979; Burns 1977; Wilkening 1982; Morrison 1982; Hunten et al. 1983; Gehrels & Matthews 1984; Greenberg & Brahic 1984; Burns & Matthews 1986; Chamberlain & Hunten 1987; Kerridge & Matthews 1988; Vilas, Chapman & Matthews 1988; Atreya, Pollack & Matthews 1989; Binzel, Gehrels & Matthews 1989; Kieffer et al. 1992; Cruikshank 1995; Lewis 1997; Bougher, Hunten & Phillips 1997; Shirley & Fairbridge 1997; Beatty, Collins Petersen & Chaikin 1999; Weissman, McFadden & Johnson 1999; de Pater & Lissauer 2001; Cole &Woolfson 2002; Bertotti, Farinella & Vokrouhlicky 2003; McBride & Gilmour 2003; Encrenaz et al. 2004; Bagenal, Dowling & McKinnon 2004).

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