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The Question

(Submitted June 09, 1997)

Can you describe two or more aspects of the solar system that are not common knowledge?

The Answer

Depending on how you define 'commonly known' there are a lot of interesting things about the solar system that fit into this category. Did you know, for example, that the rotation of the planet Mars has been found to be chaotic over the lifetime of the Solar System? What about the fact that the tidal interaction between the Earth and the Moon is causing the Moon to slowly spiral farther away from Earth? Long ago, the Moon was much closer to the Earth, and looked larger in the sky. Did you know that the Sun contains 98% of the entire mass of the Solar System? Did you know that the planet Jupiter's atmosphere contains a Great Red Spot: a storm system that has remained remarkably stable since the first astronomers observed it with a telescope in the early 17th century?

Regards,

Padi Boyd and Jeff Silvis
for the Ask an Astrophysicist Team

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