The path through the solar system is a real bumpy road.
Asteroids, comets, planets and moons and all kinds of small bodies of rocks, metals, minerals and ice are in constant motion as they orbit the sun. As Nicholas LePan points out, from Visual Capitalist, unlike the simple diagrams we are used to seeing, our solar system is a surprisingly crowded place.
In this amazing visualization, the biologist Eleanor Lutz has carefully mapped all known objects in the Earth’s solar system (> 10 km in diameter), in the hopes of helping you on your next space trip.
Data-driven solar system
This particular visualization combines five different datasets from NASA:
Source: Tabletop Whale
Using this data, Lutz mapped all the orbits of more than 18,000 asteroids in the solar system, including 10,000 with a diameter of at least 10 km, and about 8,000 objects of unknown size.
This map shows the position of each asteroid on the eve of New Year’s Eve 1999.
The pull of gravity
When graphing objects, Lutz observed that the solar system is not arranged in linear distances. It is rather logarithmic, with an exponential number of objects located near the sun. Lutz used this observation to space the different orbits of the 18,000 objects on his map.
What she visualizes is the attraction of the sun, because the majority of objects tend to gravitate towards the inner part of the solar system. It is the same observation that Sir Isaac Newton used to develop the concept of gravity, stating that heavier objects produce greater gravitational pull than lighter ones. As the sun is the largest object in our solar system, it is the sun with the greatest gravitational pull.
If the sun pulls continuously on the planets, why don’t they all fall into the sun? This is because the planets move sideways at the same time.
Without this lateral movement, the objects would fall in the center – and without the pull towards the center, they would fly away in a straight line.
This explains the grouping of forms in the solar systems and why the further we travel in the solar system, the greater the distance and the fewer objects there are.
The ten main non-planets in the solar system
We all know that the sun and the planets are the largest objects in our corner of the universe, but there are also many remarkable objects.
Although the map only shows objects over 10 kilometers in diameter, there are also many small objects to watch out for.
A space atlas
This map is one of many space-related visualizations of Lutz. She is also creating a space atlas to showcase her work.
As we move farther and farther away from Earth, his work could prove useful the next time you take a wrong turn toward Mars and find yourself lost in an asteroid belt.
“I knew I should have taken this left turn at Albuquerque! “