Structure and composition

The principal component of the Solar System is the Sun, a G2 main-sequence star that contains 99.86 percent of the system's known mass and dominates it gravitationally.[8] The Sun's four largest orbiting bodies, the gas giants, account for 99 percent of the remaining mass, with Jupiter and Saturn together comprising more than 90 percent.[d] Most large objects in orbit around the Sun lie near the plane of Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic. The planets are very close to the ecliptic while comets and Kuiper belt objects are frequently at significantly greater angles to it.[9][10] All the planets and most other objects orbit the Sun in the same direction that the Sun is rotating (counter-clockwise, as viewed from above the Sun's north pole).[11] There are exceptions, such as Halley's Comet. The overall structure of the charted regions of the Solar System consists of the Sun, four relatively small inner planets surrounded by a belt of rocky asteroids, and four gas giants surrounded by the Kuiper belt of icy objects. Astronomers sometimes informally divide this structure into separate regions. The inner Solar System includes the four terrestrial planets and the asteroid belt. The outer Solar System is beyond the asteroids, including the four gas giants.[12] Since the discovery of the Ku

per belt, the outermost parts of the Solar System are considered a distinct region consisting of the objects beyond Neptune.[13] Most of the planets in the Solar System possess secondary systems of their own, being orbited by planetary objects called natural satellites, or moons (two of which are larger than the planet Mercury), or, in the case of the four gas giants, by planetary rings; thin bands of tiny particles that orbit them in unison. Most of the largest natural satellites are in synchronous rotation, with one face permanently turned toward their parent. Kepler's laws of planetary motion describe the orbits of objects about the Sun. Following Kepler's laws, each object travels along an ellipse with the Sun at one focus. Objects closer to the Sun (with smaller semi-major axes) travel more quickly, as they are more affected by the Sun's gravity. On an elliptical orbit, a body's distance from the Sun varies over the course of its year. A body's closest approach to the Sun is called its perihelion, while its most distant point from the Sun is called its aphelion. The orbits of the planets are nearly circular, but many comets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects follow highly elliptical orbits. The positions of the bodies in the Solar System can be predicted using numerical models.