If you believed that the Earth and the other planets revolved around the Solar System, this animation shows you that you were wrong.
Models help us understand more simply a part of reality that would otherwise be very difficult to explain.
One of the models that we know best since childhood is the Solar system– Animations, videos, models, and other illustrations present the Sun as the center around which the other planets orbit, all driven by gravity.
This scheme is repeated on a smaller scale with each of the planets: from Jupiter and its 79 known satellites, to Earth and the Moon, we tend to think that the smallest stars orbit exactly around the center of the largest.
However, the movements that describe the planets and other stars are complex and, as far as we know, the gravitational center of our Solar System is not in the middle of the Sun, but in a invisible point near it called a barycenter.
So … where is the true center of the Solar System?
James O’Donoghue is a planetary scientist at the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) who a few days ago shared a video on his Twitter account, where he explained where the center of mass of the Solar System is, pointing with a green star to the barycenter:
Did you know planets don’t technically orbit the Sun? Instead, everything orbits the Solar System center of mass, even the Sun! While the Sun contains 99.8% of the Solar System’s mass Jupiter holds most of the rest (Saturn is 2nd), so the Sun actually orbits Jupiter slightly – pic.twitter.com/npZ8OaIFWB
– Dr James O’Donoghue (@physicsJ) July 3, 2020
Did you know that planets technically do not orbit around the Sun? Actually, everything revolves around the center of mass of the Solar System, including the Sun! While the Sun contains 99.8% of the mass of the Solar System, Jupiter contains most of the rest, so the Sun also slightly orbits Jupiter, “James shared on his Twitter account.
The barycenter is the center of gravity where the masses of two or more objects orbiting each other are balanced. It is the shared center of masses, which makes possible the movement of planetary systems with harmonic worlds that revolve around its main star, as is the case of the Solar System.
This point is located closer to the stars with the greatest mass and in the case of our cosmic neighborhood, it is the true center of the Solar System from which all the stars (including the Sun) orbit.
According to NASA, “the barycenter of our Solar System constantly changes position. Their position depends on where the planets are in their orbits. The barycenter of the solar system may be near the center of the Sun and outside the surface of the Sun. When the Sun orbits this mobile barycenter, it wobbles. “
O’Donoghue also shared some videos of the different barycenters, such as the one located between Earth and the Moon, and that of Jupiter and the Sun to better exemplify the concept:
The Earth & Moon orbit their common center of mass (barycenter) which is always just below Earth’s surface: Earth is ~ 4,750 km away from the barycenter due to the Moon’s influence. Here’s our path over the next few years in 3d – everything’s to scale * except * Earth – Moon distance pic.twitter.com/CZpHOZjpkV
– Dr James O’Donoghue (@physicsJ) July 4, 2020
Knowing in detail the Solar System beyond the explanatory models helps us to better understand the laws of the Universe and the movement of the planets with respect to our Sun.
Astronomers capture the first photograph in the history of a Solar System like ours
Animation shows how planets rotate in the Solar System