Q:

Why do the planets orbit the sun?

A:

Quick Answer

The orbit of the planets around the sun is a result of two opposing forces that are held in perfect balance. Planetary inertia serves to carry the planets on a course that would send them out of the solar system were it not for the gravitational attraction of the sun.

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Full Answer

The solar system was created from a vast cloud of spinning dust and gas. As this spinning cloud began to collapse under the weight of its own gravity, it began to flatten out, forming a disk. The sun, the most massive object within the solar system, formed at the center of this gas cloud. Particles within the outer portions of this accretion disk began to collide, creating larger and larger objects until eventually they formed into the planets of the solar system.

The inertia of the planets is derived from the spinning motion of the accretion disk which formed the solar system. This sideways momentum serves to counteract the pull of the sun's gravity, and without it there would be nothing to keep the planets from falling inward and being consumed by the sun. Without an outside force to counteract their inertia, the planets continue to orbit the sun uninterrupted.

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