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Our understanding and our modern perception of our solar system the Milky Way has been drastically reshaped from the corresponding perception of only a few hundred years ago Our Solar System the Milky Way is probably about 4-5 billion years old Only in the last 400 years or so have we realized that the earth is not the center and that in the Universe alone there is an immense 200 billion Suns in a galaxy like our own Although the origin of the solar system is uncertain most scientists believe that it began to develop about 4 12 billion years ago from a large cloud of gas and dust The Sun is the largest celestial body in the Milky Way Solar System with more than 1000 times the mass of everything else added together Its the Suns huge gravity that keeps all of the nine planets their moons the asteroids the comets and the dust between the planets all orbiting the Sun It would take more than 100 Earths placed side-by-side to go from one edge of the Sun to the other and can hold 13 million Earths The Sun is a star and shines because it generates light and heat by nuclear reactions in its core Mercury even though 36 million miles away from the sun is still closest to the sun out of all the other planets and is difficult to observe from the Earth because it rises and sets within two hours of the sun Mercurys surface has several different types of terrain Some regions on Mercury are heavily creatored suggesting that they are very old surfaces that were probably formed about 4 billion years ago Between these regions are areas of gently rolling plains that may have been smoothed by volcanic lava flows or by accumulated deposits of fine accumulated a large number of impact craters Elsewhere on the planet are smooth flat plains with few craters These plains are probably
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