Dynamical Evolution of the Solar System

The Solar System was formed in a state which differs from that observed today by 4.5 billion years of dynamical evolution. By studying the details of this evolution, we can learn more about the condition of the Solar System shortly after its formation. We can also understand our Solar System better by studying the evolution of others like it. The following striking example shows that solar perturbations acting on planetary satellites on polar orbits rapidly destabilize the orbits. If the moon's orbit were inclined by 90 degrees out of the ecliptic, it would crash into the Earth in about 6.5 years! It is perhaps not coincidental that no satellites in the Solar System have such highly-inclined orbits! Similar dynamics causes some comets to become Sun-grazing and allows Oort cloud objects to enter the inner solar system. Explore orbits like these with the interactive Planetary Satellite Integrator.

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