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9 - Types of Planetary System

from Part III - Planetary Systems and Life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Wallace Arthur
Affiliation:
National University of Ireland, Galway
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Summary

Here, I inspect the layout of our own solar system, and consider the extent to which other planetary systems are similar or different. Discoveries so far show that there are many possible layouts, and suggest that quasi-replicates of our system, with four inner rocky planets and four outer giant planets (gaseous or icy) are rare. Every system is different from every other one. This is a consequence of the chaotic process of collisions that leads from a protoplanetary disc to planets. Planets can be found orbiting large, medium, and small stars – with consequences for their maximum lifespans. Some planets are found in binary systems and even in systems with more than two stars. The nearest system to ours – Alpha Centauri – has three stars. This system has at least one planet, which orbits the smallest of the three stars. Planetary systems are also thought to typically contain smaller bodies than planets, as seen in the solar system – moons, minor planets, asteroids, and comets. Life is most likely to occur on planets, but life on moons is also possible. Finally, there are some lone planets that do not orbit a star at all. These are the least probable homes for life.

Type
Chapter
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The Biological Universe
Life in the Milky Way and Beyond
, pp. 137 - 149
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Types of Planetary System
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.013
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  • Types of Planetary System
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.013
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Types of Planetary System
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.013
Available formats
×