Animated gifs are a great way to show off a variety of subjects. Space is no exception.
In a recent Twitter animation, planetary scientist James O’Donoghue from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows us how Earth, our solar system and the galaxy are moving through space at different speeds.
The Sun is a central component of our solar system, revolving around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It’s a luminous ball of heat and magnetic fields that radiates its energy from an interior core.
The Sun has billions of stars surrounding it, and their combined gravity keeps it in orbit around the galactic center. The Sun’s motion around the galactic center is a complex process that takes about 230 million years to complete at a speed of about 137 miles per second, or 460 kilometers per hour.
As it orbits the galactic center, the Sun traces a pattern of orbits that’s shaped like a flat circle in one plane. It bobs up and down about 200 or so light years from the midplane of the galaxy’s disk, but it stays well inside that disk, which is 1000 light years thick.
Interestingly, this pattern of orbits is a bit different from what you see in the first video/gif that won the hearts of space buffs on Twitter. The gif was made by a man named Sadhu who, in the words of astronomy writer Phil Plait, “has a little bit of a helix madness.”
His video is more or less accurate. It’s got a nice waving pattern, more or less what you would expect from a planet’s orbit and the Sun’s galactic motion in tandem.
However, it has a few serious flaws. He tries to show the Sun tracing a helix with his animation, but it’s just a fancy 3D illustration.
He also makes the Sun tracing a corkscrew pattern as it orbits the galaxy, which is a really bad idea. That’s akin to what you might expect from a carousel, where you might see a horse circling its center with some spinning wheels along the way.
The most likely explanation for this helix-like pattern is precession. It’s a kind of planetary motion that causes the Earth to wobble from side to side once every 26,000 years or so.
There’s not much scientific evidence that the sun tracing a helix is actually possible, but it’s still fun to watch. Besides, it’s a cool GIF, and most people will probably be more interested in watching it than in its actual accuracy.
The Moon is one of our planet’s closest neighbors, so it’s no surprise that it gets a lot of attention from space fans. So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen a viral gif about how the planets “revolve” around the Sun go viral twice in five years (and that’s not counting all the other space-themed GIFs out there).
The Earth-Moon system is tidally locked, meaning only one side of the Moon ever faces the Earth. That’s what gives this image taken by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera on NASA’s DSCOVR satellite a stunning, almost-full-circle quality, allowing you to see the Moon’s shadow sliding across the face of our planet.
As the gif shows, the Earth is one-fourth the size of the Moon. This is because the camera’s focal length manipulated the perspective, making the planet look smaller than it actually is.
However, it’s also worth noting that the distance between the two planets is incredibly small — only a few hundred miles, in fact. This is because the Moon’s orbit varies so little over time that it takes just a few seconds to change its distance from the Earth.
This particular lunar transit, observed by SDO on March 6, 2019, appears to have two different speeds because of the way that both the Sun and the Moon move relative to each other. That’s because the Sun moves at 1.9 miles per second perpendicular to the line between the Earth and the Moon, while the Moon varies its speed by just 0.6 miles per second.
SDO was watching the lunar transit on March 6 and captured the two different speeds of the Moon, resulting in this amazing freeze-frame image, which appears to have been “slowed down” by the Earth’s gravity. The effect is similar to retrograde motion, a common phenomenon in which celestial objects appear to “backtrack” because of how they move at different points in their orbits.
It’s a beautiful image that showcases how the Earth-Moon system looks at night. The Moon is a truly stunning object, no matter how dim it is against our planet’s bright glow.
The Earth is a spherical planet that revolves around the Sun. Its closest point to the Sun is called perihelion (around January 3) and its farthest is aphelion (around July 4).
The Moon orbits in a nearly circular path about 384,400 kilometers (235,900 miles) from the Earth. It has a diameter of about one-fourth the size of Earth.
Its rotation causes it to be tilted slightly inward toward the Sun. This tilt is caused by the planet’s gravity, which attracts particles to its center and slows them as they move outward.
Like the Sun, the Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere of gases and liquids that shield it from solar radiation. It also has a magnetic field that affects the behaviour of charged particles from the Sun.
Scientists have discovered that our planet’s magnetic field is not only useful for regulating electrical activity on the surface of the Earth, but also for affecting the behavior of objects in the outer solar system. For example, a solar wind of charged particles hurled out from the Sun can cause our planet to glow with auroras, bright light displays that are visible in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
The Earth’s magnetic field is a key factor in the evolution of life on our planet, and it has helped shape the planet’s geological history and its surface features. The solar wind is another important source of energy for the Earth, as it flows from the Sun and hits the ionized gas in our atmosphere.
As a result, it has influenced our planet’s climate and helped determine the types of organisms we have on Earth. These processes are explored in biology, and the role of these organisms in controlling Earth’s environment is analyzed in ecology.
While scientists aren’t completely sure how long it took for Earth to form, they think the first stages of its formation were around 4.6 billion years ago. This was during the time when the early sun was a much more active star than it is today.
These intense rays of sunlight would have heated the early Earth to a very high temperature. This heat melted the rocks that formed its crust and core, allowing some of them to sink down to the bottom and become metals.
If you’re a space fan, you may have seen the popular animated gif that shows the solar system “through space.” It’s beautiful, and I would love to see it used in the classroom to help kids learn about how our solar system is moving around the Sun. But the gif’s two biggest problems are that it’s not entirely accurate, scientifically, and its creator is aiming to illustrate a decidedly un-scientific point of view about the solar system and the Universe as a whole.
The most important piece of information you need to know is that our solar system is not traveling through space like it does in the gif (see Parts 1 and 2 below). It’s moving in a plane, with no “dragging” or “vortex” patterns emerging.
It’s actually going a little faster than you might think, thanks to its orbital speed being inversely proportional to the square root of its distance from the Sun. That’s because the closer you are to the big gravitational object, the more you need to move to escape its gravity.
That’s why the smallest planet in our solar system, Mercury, travels at the fastest speed, while the largest planet, Jupiter, travels the slowest.
While the speed of our solar system isn’t terribly different from that of our galaxy, the Milky Way, it’s still very fast! It travels 600 kilometers (373 miles) every second, which is about a billion times the speed of the Earth.
The reason our planets have an orbit around the Sun is because they were formed in a region of space that was swarming with smaller objects like asteroids, comets and meteoroids. As the large planets began to interact with these objects, they scattered most of them outward. This process eventually created the Kuiper Belt, which consists of objects that aren’t in our solar system but that were once orbiting it.
Another big factor in why the planetary system is so chaotic is because it is constantly being bombarded by small objects from all angles. This makes it hard for us to predict the future of our planets, which is why scientists need to be on the lookout for potential threats.
The solar system is a collection of planets, moons, asteroids and other objects orbiting the Sun. It formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a massive molecular cloud.
The Sun is the center of our solar system and its eight planets orbit around it. It also consists of smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and moons.
The sun at the center of our solar system is a luminous ball of plasma heated to incandescence by nuclear fusion reactions in its core. It formed about 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter in a region of molecular cloud.
It fuses hydrogen to helium, furnishing the universe with more than 80 elements that make up most of life on Earth. It’s also the best source of energy for our planet.
The solar system orbits around the galaxy, a flat disk about 100,000 light years across with a central bulge of stars that keeps us in the middle. The plane of the orbits of all the planets is tipped with respect to the galaxy by about a 60deg angle.
If you’re a fan of outer space, you may have seen the viral GIF that shows our solar system traveling through space. It depicts corkscrew “vortex” paths around a line-driving Sun — and it’s got the internet swooning.
This particular gif isn’t a CGI animation, it actually comes from a camera onboard NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. The satellite, which orbits 1 million miles above Earth, monitors real-time solar wind for NOAA.
The DSCOVR satellite is also the best place to snap this incredibly rare view of the moon’s elusive “dark side.” That’s a term for its rarely-seen far side.
The DSCOVR’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera takes 10 separate monochrome images — from ultraviolet to near infrared — in quick succession. Because there is about 30 seconds elapsed between each visible color image, the gif has a slight green cast on the moon’s leading edge.
The Earth, the third planet from the sun in our solar system, is made of rocky materials. Its surface is covered with oceans that are a rich source of water, and it also has an atmosphere.
About 4.6 billion years ago, the Earth and the rest of the solar system formed from a disk of gas and dust that revolved around the sun. The dense center of this disk grew hot, heating up the rest of the cloud and causing it to form into planets, asteroids, and moons.
In the early days, these gas and dust particles drifted within the sun’s atmosphere at different speeds. Some of them bumped into each other, forming larger objects called planetesimals. These larger objects also had strong enough gravity to attract other planetesimals and pull them out of their orbits.
If you’re a space fan, you might have seen this gif circulating the internet — it shows the planets moving in corkscrew “vortex” paths around the Sun. While it’s an interesting, mesmerizing illustration of our solar system and outer space, the animation has some big problems.
The first problem is that it’s wrong, scientifically. The planets don’t orbit the sun like that — they rotate on their axes, revolving around a common center of gravity called the barycenter.
They also don’t orbit the galaxy, as the gif depicts. Instead, they move through the galaxy with about a 60-degree tilt to the galactic plane, which means that they can sometimes be ahead of or behind the sun.
The GIF was originally posted on Twitter by Roberto Alonso Gonzalez Lezcano, a teacher at San Pablo CEU University in Spain. It has since gone viral, gaining more than 8,600 retweets and 21,000 likes as of Monday. But it’s not all that accurate — and it’s going to prove hard for a lot of people to understand.