Why is the Solar System Flat?

The Earth certainly isn’t flat, but the solar system it lives in very largely is. Our solar system formed from a giant ball of gas and dust billions of years ago, so what caused it to flatten out over time? The short answer is a combination of two factors: collisions and angular momentum. As the giant cloud of material contracts due to gravity, overall angular momentum must be conserved, causing the whole cloud on average to spin. As collisions occur, all of the motion not along this spinning plane tends to cancel itself out, leaving behind the flat disk structure we see today. Very similar mechanics are also present in the formation of other stellar objects like galaxies and planetary rings. To better explain this phenomenon, below is a video from the ever-excellent YouTube channelĀ Minute Physics:

Video Source

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One thought on “Why is the Solar System Flat?

  1. This video was so great. I had not thought about what would happen to our solar system in a four dimensional world. That fact that it would not become a flat plane is something I would like to look more into.

    Like

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