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Learn About the Planets, Moons, and Other Objects in Our Solar System

Learn About the Planets, Moons, and Other Objects in Our Solar System

Discover more about the planets, moons and other objects of our Solar System by exploring astronomical events at their sites of occurrence and playing games to better comprehend space. Discover how long days last on other planets as well as why Mars’ two small, potato-shaped moons are not round; discover other facts and figures about this mysterious red planet which has captured scientists, movie-makers and storytellers everywhere!

What is the Solar System?

The Solar System comprises everything that revolves around our Sun like moons and planets that orbit them, as well as smaller objects that are held by gravity. Space probes launched by Earth and astronauts have collected a wealth of information about these bodies, which is then thoroughly studied to understand their origins and the evolution of these bodies.

Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars make up what are known as the inner or terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars have atmospheres, but no rings or natural satellites. Beyond them is the Asteroid Belt with millions of small chunks of rock and metal left over from planet formation 4.5 billion years ago; additionally thousands of asteroids that range in size from pebbles to hundreds of miles across also orbit around the Sun; often called minor planets.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are four gas giants found within our Solar System that are much bigger than Earth yet relatively lightweight due to being made up mainly of hydrogen and helium atoms. Each has their own ring system as well as many moons. 

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Neptune is farthest away with many distant moons orbiting it; and there is also the Kuiper belt which contains numerous icy objects including Pluto; it was previously considered part of this group but scientists eventually decided it should be classified as dwarf planet rather.

Solar System objects include planets, dwarf planets, asteroids and comets as well as interstellar objects passing through it – perhaps most famous among them being Comet ‘Oumuamua, which had an unusual cigar or pancake shape likely composed of nitrogen ice.

At the center of our Solar System lies our star, the Sun; an orange star of moderate size which accounts for 99 percent of its mass. Its gravity holds and shapes the inner planets into orbit around itself and influences their movement; its light, heat, and radiation provide energy for our entire system, as well as providing essential life-giving radiation here on Earth.

What are the Planets?

People have long observed points of light moving across the sky. Ancient Greeks named these objects “planets”, from Latin for “wanderers.” Planets travel constantly within our solar system, exerting gravitational pull and radiating radiant heat into space. 

Our Sun dominates their orbits by accounting for 99 percent of their mass; its light provides life on Earth and elsewhere – among which, Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto. Mercury lacks rings while all but Jupiter-Neptune have moons.

Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – collectively referred to as terrestrial planets – are all rocky planets close to the Sun that contain liquid water on their surfaces in some regions. 

Mars hosts Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in our solar system; Valles Marineris system of valleys named after Mariner probes first returned close-up views in the 1960s and 1970s; however despite having half the diameter of Earth, Mars has captured human imagination since discovering liquid water beneath its crust in the 1990s.

As with Earth, Mars also features a tilt in its axis relative to the Sun that causes some areas of its surface to receive more sunlight than others and creates seasons on this red planet. Polar ice caps made from water ice and frozen carbon dioxide help regulate climate. Astronomers are currently investigating whether any signs of life exist on this Red Planet.

Jupiter and Saturn boast beautiful rings of icy water, age-old storm clouds, and numerous other fascinating features. Uranus stands out due to its unusual rotation and is home to long periods of day and night on its moons – similar to what Neptune offers us! And finally there is Neptune: our most distant blue planet which even our most powerful space telescopes cannot reach!

What are the Moons?

Moons are natural satellites of our solar system that orbit planets with irregular orbits. While moons come in all sizes and shapes, all are solid bodies without atmospheres and most likely formed from debris ejected from parent planets by violent collision. Earth’s moon is believed to have come into being due to an impact from a Mars-sized object striking our surface about 4.5 billion years ago.

Astronomers have identified 293 moons in our solar system: one for Earth and two for Mars; 95 at Jupiter; 146 at Saturn; 28 at Uranus; 16 at Neptune and five on Pluto – several of these moons being volcanically active, spewing out lava or ice from cracks on their surfaces.

A moon’s shape is determined by gravity, which causes it to deform over time as its gravity tugs at it and deforms it, known as tidal locking. We can observe its changes through its monthly phases.

Lunar phases refer to the proportion of moon surface illuminated by sunlight. At its highest illumination level – 100% at Full Moon – 100% of moon’s surface will be illuminated. Moon cycles complete themselves every 354 days or 11 days short of an entire year cycle of phases.

Most moons feature smooth surfaces without much visual detail; however, some have quite rugged features. Enceladus on Jupiter stands out as an icy body covered in snowfall which may contain an ocean. Furthermore, Europa, another Jupiter satellite displays signs of geologic activity.

Many moons feature an elaborate ring system surrounding them, often composed of material ejected into orbit by their parent planet’s impact zone or through collision with other material. Once on orbit, these particles are captured by gravity and brought towards the edge of the Moon where they accumulate until eventually, this material causes its size to expand slightly over time.

What is Mars?

Mars, commonly referred to as the “dry” planet due to its limited water surface area, is also a cold desert planet with winds and violent dust storms which cover it quickly in mere days. At only half the size of Earth and with an atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon (a combination which would make life impossible), humans would likely not survive living there for too long.

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Mars’ atmosphere is extremely sparse, which allows heat from the Sun to easily escape into space and cause its surface to change due to winds shifting sand and rocks across it. Because this heat escapes so readily into space, temperatures on Mars vary depending on where its source comes from – making its equator cold while poles hot! 

Also, winds move sand and rocks constantly across its surface which leads to its surface continually shifting with wind currents moving sand around and shifting rocks from place to place on this unpredictable world planet!

Scientists have recently discovered evidence that water once existed on Mars as liquid form, suggesting it might have contributed to life formation on its surface. Furthermore, canyons, plains, and channels carved by flowing water billions of years ago exist on its surface.

Iron, nickel and sulfur form the planet’s dense core. Surrounding it is an aluminum mantle composed of magnesium, calcium and potassium; on top is an iron-nickel-cobalt alloy crust which forms its outer boundary.

Mars boasts two small moons named Phobos and Deimos that orbit it every 24 hours and 37 minutes respectively, passing close enough for anyone standing on its surface at noon to see them pass in front of them. These moons make an appearance every 24 hours and 37 minutes.

Mars shares similar seasons as Earth due to an axis of rotation that is tilted 25 degrees off of its orbital plane. Seasons on Mars tend to last about three months longer as it takes longer for Mars’ perihelion point (closest point to it) to rotate to opposite side as its aphelion point (furthest point away from it).

Mars’ surface is a cold, rocky desert planet dotted with deep craters that reach up to 40 miles wide in some cases. Additionally, volcanoes dot its landscape, including Olympus Mons – our Solar System’s tallest mountain and largest volcano.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mars is a cold, dry planet without an atmosphere and sufficient liquid water to support life as we know it, yet scientists continue to study Mars to gain more knowledge of its history and look for signs that it still may contain life forms.

Mars stands out in space by appearing reddish-orange due to its dusty atmosphere. Depending on which minerals are present, certain parts of its surface could appear golden, brown, tan or even greenish-brown depending on where you look from space.

Mars differs significantly from Earth by not possessing a magnetic field to shield it from harmful solar radiation, making its thin atmosphere–consisting of 96% carbon dioxide and only 0.2% oxygen–unable to retain heat and temperatures can rapidly fluctuate between day and night.

The planet’s surface is marked with numerous large impact craters, particularly in the southern hemisphere. Many feature deposits resembling mudflows, suggesting wetter past conditions; valley networks and outflow channels also hint at this fact.

Due to Mars’ thin atmosphere and greater distance from the sun, its surface temperature is considerably colder than Earth. Seasons vary greatly across its landscape with snowfall at both poles leading up to summer temperatures reaching 70 degrees Fahrenheit at midday at its equator.

Mars has an extremely low surface pressure – one-thousandth that of Earth – due to not possessing either a magnetic field to shield its atmosphere from solar wind or global water cycle to recycle its atmospheric gases.

Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System, its scorching surface temperature due to a runaway greenhouse effect caused by its thick predominately carbon dioxide atmosphere which traps sunlight while permitting little infrared radiation escape, creating an environment which traps infrared radiation and causes the planet’s temperature to spike dramatically.

At Earth’s surface, atmospheric pressure measures 101.3 kPa (the unit for atmospheric pressure is known as bar or Pascal; we prefer using kPa since it fits better within SI).

Mercury boasts the hottest surface temperature of all planets in our Solar System, reaching 700 Kelvin (-427 Celsius) during daytime hours and dropping as low as -290 degrees Fahrenheit during night time. Due to this intense heat, special equipment must be used to study Mercury such as infrared cameras capable of protecting spacecrafts from disturbance, as well as spectrometers capable of working across visible light wavelengths down into ultraviolet regions.

Venus boasts an average surface pressure of approximately 93 bar or 1,350 psi, which corresponds to pressure found 900 meters (3,000 feet) underwater on Earth.


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