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a guide to things orbiting our sun

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a guide to things orbiting our sun

the solar system is made up of the sun and everything that orbits around it, including planets, moons, asteroids, comets and meteoroids. it extends from the sun, called sol by the ancient romans, and goes past the four inner planets, through the asteroid belt to the four gas giants and on to the disk-shaped kuiper belt and far beyond to the giant, spherical oort cloud and the teardrop-shaped heliopause. scientists estimate that the edge of the solar system is about 9 billion miles (15 billion kilometers) from the sun.  discovery for millennia, astronomers have followed points of light that seemed to move among the stars. the ancient greeks named these planets, meaning "wanderers." mercury, venus, mars, jupiter and saturn were known in antiquity, and the invention of the telescope added the asteroid belt, uranus, neptune, pluto and many of these worlds' moons. the dawn of the space age saw dozens of probes launched to explore our system, an adventure that continues today. only one spacecraft so far, voyager 1, has crossed the threshold into interstellar space.  the discovery of eris kicked off a rash of new discoveries of dwarf planets, and eventually led to the international astronomical union revising the definition of a "planet." the revision changed pluto's status from planet to dwarf planet in 2006, a decision that remains controversial – especially after the new horizons mission found immense geological variety on the world in 2015. [infographi...