Why study the solar system?

Planetary science, or planetology, is one of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of scientific research. Europe is playing a leading role in the field.

Our knowledge of the Solar System – how it was formed and how it has evolved – is increasing dramatically as technology improves, telescopes become more powerful and more robotic spacecraft visit more planets, moons, comets and asteroids. All this information helps us understand more about our own planet and answer important questions, such as how global warming will affect us or how life originated on Earth.

The Solar System contains a dazzling variety of objects: the Sun, our nearest star; the rocky inner planets; the gas giants with their multitudes of moons; the smaller “dwarf” planets, such as Pluto; as well as comets and asteroids. Each of these objects has its own unique composition and story of how it has formed and evolved. By studying and comparing these objects, and by looking at interactions between them, we can find out more about the dynamic system in which we live.