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PLANETS

A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to
be roundedby its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared
its neighbouring region of planetesimals.

Planets are generally divided into two main types: large low-density giant planets, and smaller
rocky terrestrials. There are eight planets in the Solar System. In order of increasing distance from
the Sun, they are the four terrestrials, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, then the four giant
planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Six of the planets are orbited by one or more natural
satellites.

There are more planets than stars in our galaxy. The current count orbiting our star: eight.

The inner, rocky planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The outer planets are gas
giants Jupiter and Saturn and ice giants Uranus and Neptune.

Beyond Neptune, a newer class of smaller worlds called dwarf planets reign, including perennial
favorite Pluto.
1. MERCURY

The smallest planet in our solar system and nearest to the Sun, Mercury is only slightly larger than
Earth's Moon.
From the surface of Mercury, the Sun would appear more than three times as large as it does when
viewed from Earth, and the sunlight would be as much as seven times brighter. Despite its proximity
to the Sun, Mercury is not the hottest planet in our solar system – that title belongs to nearby Venus,
thanks to its dense atmosphere.

On March 18, 2011, MESSENGER made history by becoming the


first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury. Eleven days later, the
spacecraft captured the first image ever obtained from Mercury
orbit, shown here on the left. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of
Washington

In mercury , has no moons . Mercury is a rocky planet, also known as a terrestrial planet. Mercury has
a solid, cratered surface, much like the Earth's moon.

Did You Know?

Because of Mercury's elliptical—egg-shaped—orbit and sluggish rotation, the morning Sun appears to
rise briefly, set and rise again from some parts of the planet's surface. The same thing happens in
reverse at sunset.
PLANETS

2. Venus

A Japanese research group has identified


a giant streak structure among the clouds
covering Venus based on observation from
the spacecraft Akatsuki.

The team also revealed the origins of this


structure using large-scale climate
simulations. The group was led by Project
Assistant Professor Hiroki Kashimura
(Kobe University, Graduate School of
Science) and these findings were
published on January 9 in Nature
Communications.

Second planet from the Sun and our


closest planetary neighbor, Venus is similar in structure and size to Earth, but it is now a very different
world. Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction most planets do. Its thick atmosphere traps heat in
a runaway greenhouse effect, making it the hottest planet in our solar system—with surface
temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Glimpses below the clouds reveal volcanoes and deformed
mountains.

After acquiring hundreds of


high-resolution images during close approach to Venus, MESSENGER turned its wide-angle camera
back to the planet and acquired a departure sequence.

10 Need-to-Know Things About Venus

1. EARTH-SIZED

If the sun were as tall as a typical front door, the Earth and Venus would each be about the size of a
nickel.

2. SECOND ROCK
PLANETS

Venus orbits our Sun, a star. Venus is the second closest planet to the sun at a distance of about 67
million miles (108 million km).

3. A DAY LONGER THAN A YEAR

One day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days because Venus spins backwards, with its sun rising in the west
and setting in the east.

4. DIVERSE TERRAIN

Venus' solid surface is a volcanic landscape covered with extensive plains featuring high volcanic
mountains and vast ridged plateaus.

5. MOONLESS AND RINGLESS

Venus has no moons and no rings.

6. GREENHOUSE EFFECT

The planet’s surface temperature is about 900 degrees Fahrenheit (465 degrees Celsius)—hot enough
to melt lead.

7. WATER ON VENUS

Many scientists believe water once existed on the surface. Future Venus explorers will search for
evidence of an ancient ocean.

8. MANY VISITORS

More than 40 spacecraft have explored Venus. The ‘90s Magellan mission mapped the planet's surface
and Akatsuki is currently orbiting Venus.

9. LIFE ON VENUS

Venus’ extreme temperatures and acidic clouds make it an unlikely place for life as we know it.

10. SUPER ROTATING ATMOSPHERE

While the surface rotates slowly, the winds blow at hurricane force, sending clouds completely around
the planet every five days.

Did You Know?

The Soviet Union’s Venera 13 survived the intense heat and crushing pressure of Venus’ surface for
more than two hours. Engineers from several nations are currently studying methods to extend the life
of robotic spacecraft in the extreme environment.

3. Earth
PLANETS

Our home planet is the third planet from the Sun, and the only place we know of so far that’s inhabited
by living things.

While Earth is only the fifth largest planet in the solar system, it is the only world in our solar system
with liquid water on the surface. Just slightly larger than nearby Venus, Earth is the biggest of the four
planets closest to the Sun, all of which are made of rock and metal.

The name Earth is at least 1,000 years old. All of the planets, except for Earth, were named after
Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. However, the name Earth is a Germanic word, which simply
means “the ground.”

10 Need-to-Know Things About Our Home Planet

1. MEASURING UP

If the Sun were as tall as a typical front door, Earth would be the size of a nickel.

2. THIRD ROCK

Earth orbits our Sun, a star. Earth is the third planet from the Sun at a distance of about 93 million
miles (150 million km).

3. AS THE WORLD TURNS

A day on Earth is 24 hours. Earth makes a complete orbit around the sun (a year in Earth time) in
about 365 days.

4. WE'RE ON IT

Earth is a rocky planet with a solid and dynamic surface of mountains, canyons, plains and more.
Most of our planet is covered in water.

5. BREATHE EASY

Earth's atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 1 percent other ingredients—the
perfect balance to breathe and live.

6. OUR COSMIC COMPANION

Earth has one moon.

7. RINGLESS

Earth has no rings.

8. ORBITAL SCIENCE

Many orbiting spacecraft study the


Earth from above as a whole system—
observing the atmosphere, ocean,
glaciers, and the solid earth.
PLANETS

9. HOME, SWEET HOME

Earth is the perfect place for life as we know it.

10. PROTECTIVE
SHIELD

Our atmosphere protects us


from incoming meteoroids,
most of which break up in
our atmosphere before they
can strike the surface.

Did You Know?

The first being to travel to


outer space was a female
part-Samoyed terrier
originally named
Kudryavka (Little Curly)
but later renamed Laika
(Barker). She weighed about 6 kg. Image Credit: National Space Science Data Center

Laika the dog was the first Earthling to orbit Earth aboard the Soviet Union's Sputnik 2 in 1957. She
did not survive the trip. A few years later, the next two Soviet space dogs—Belka and Strelka—
became the first living creatures to return from space alive—paving the way for future human
explorers.

4.MARS

The fourth planet from the Sun, Mars is a


dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin
atmosphere.

This dynamic planet has seasons, polar ice


caps and weather and canyons and extinct
volacanoes, evidence of an even more
active past.

Mars is one of the most explored bodies in


our solar system, and it's the only planet
where we've sent rovers to roam the alien
landscape. NASA currently has three
spacecraft in orbit, one rover and one
lander on the surface and another rover
under construction here on Earth. India and
ESA also have spacecraft in orbit above Mars.
PLANETS

These robotic explorers have found lots of evidence that Mars was much wetter and warmer, with a
thicker atmosphere, billions of years ago.

5. JUPITER

Jupiter has a long history surprising


scientists—all the way back to 1610 when
Galileo Galilei found the first moons beyond
Earth. That discovery changed the way we
see the universe.

Fifth in line from the Sun, Jupiter is, by far,


the largest planet in the solar system – more
than twice as massive as all the other planets
combined.

Jupiter's familiar stripes and swirls are


actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and
water, floating in an atmosphere of
hydrogen and helium. Jupiter’s iconic Great
Red Spot is a giant storm bigger than Earth
that has raged for hundreds of years.

One spacecraft — NASA's Juno orbiter — is currently exploring this giant world.

Did You Know?

There are no rockets powerful enough to hurl a spacecraft into the outer solar system and beyond. In
1962, scientists calculated how to use Jupiter's intense gravity to hurl spacecraft into the farthest
regions of the solar system. We've been traveling farther and faster ever since.

6. SATURN
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in our solar system.
Adorned with thousands of beautiful
ringlets, Saturn is unique among the planets.
It is not the only planet to have rings—made
of chunks of ice and rock—but none are as
spectacular or as complicated as Saturn's.

Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a


massive ball made mostly of hydrogen and
helium.

Did You Know?

Twice every 29 and a half years the great planet Saturn appears ringless.
PLANETS

In one of nature's most dramatic examples


of "now-you see-them, now-you-don't,"
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured
Saturn as the planet's magnificent ring system turned edge-on. Credit: NASA/JPL/STScI

This is an optical illusion:

Earthlings cannot see Saturn's rings when the rings are edge-on as viewed from the Earth. They are
barely visible through powerful telescopes.

In April 2017, a global research team found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people
avoid, in Uranus’ cloud tops—a striking difference from the gas giant planets located closer to the
Sun.

The first planet found with the aid of a telescope, Uranus was discovered in 1781 by astronomer
William Herschel, although he originally thought it was either a comet or a star. It was two years later
that the object was universally accepted as a new planet, in part because of observations by
astronomer Johann Elert Bode. Herschel tried unsuccessfully to name his discovery Georgium Sidus
after King George III. Instead the planet was named for Uranus, the Greek god of the sky, as
suggested by Johann Bode.

Did You Know?

Uranus' unique sideways rotation makes for weird seasons. The planet's north pole experiences 21
years of nighttime in winter, 21 years of daytime in summer and 42 years of day and night in the
spring and fall.

7. Neptune
PLANETS

Dark, cold and whipped by supersonic winds, ice giant Neptune is the eighth and most distant planet
in our solar system.

More than 30 times as far from the Sun as


Earth, Neptune is the only planet in our solar
system not visible to the naked eye and the
first predicted by mathematics before its
discovery. In 2011 Neptune completed its
first 165-year orbit since its discovery in
1846.

NASA's Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to


have visited Neptune up close. It flew past in
1989 on its way out of the solar system.

Did You Know?

Neptune is our solar system's windiest world. Winds whip clouds of frozen methane across the planet
at speeds of more than 2,000 km/h (1,200 mph)—close to the top speed of a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet
fighter jet. Earth's most powerful winds hit only about 400 km/h (250 mph).