• On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union officially defined the term "planet.” A planet orbits a star and is large enough to form itself into a nearly round shape (due to gravity). A planet must also “clear the neighborhood” of space debris in its orbital zone. Our solar system has eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Astronomers have also identified nearly a thousand planets outside our solar system, called extrasolar planets.

    Celestial bodies that have not “cleared the neighborhood” are called “dwarf planets.” Dwarf planets in our solar system include Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake. Hundreds of more distant objects may still be classified as dwarf planets in the future.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    debris Noun

    remains of something broken or destroyed; waste, or garbage.

    gravity Noun

    physical force by which objects attract, or pull toward, each other.

    orbit Noun

    path of one object around a more massive object.

    planet Noun

    large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

    Encyclopedic Entry: planet
    solar system Noun

    the sun and the planets, asteroids, comets, and other bodies that orbit around it.

    star Noun

    large ball of gas and plasma that radiates energy through nuclear fusion, such as the sun.

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