People have always been fascinated by space and all the secrets it’s waiting to share. However, before we set our sights too far ahead, we must first learn about the celestial neighbors with whom we share the same solar system—our neighboring planets.
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Let’s start with some amazing facts about the planets you might not know yet.
Facts about Mercury
- Mercury was named after the Roman messenger god because of how fast it goes around the sun. Since it has the smallest orbit of all the planets in the solar system, it only takes Mercury 88 Earth days to complete one revolution (or 1 Mercury year).
- Mercury’s days are longer than its years. While it takes 88 Earth days for Mercury to revolve around the sun entirely, it takes 176 Earth days to rotate around its own axis.
- Mercury might be extremely hot because of its proximity to the sun but it still has ice. NASA’s Messenger spacecraft discovered ice on the planet’s surface in permanently shadowed craters. These areas never saw the light, so they remained cold enough for ice to stay frozen.
- Both Mercury and Venus do not have any moons.
Facts About Venus
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- Because of its thick atmosphere, heat is trapped on the planet’s surface. This leads to temperature reaching 900 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the hottest planet in the solar system.
- Venus is named after the Roman god of beauty since it beautifully shines in the night sky. The planet is the brightest object in the sky after the moon (and the sun, obviously).
- Venus rotates very slowly. One Venus day equals 243 Earth days, while one Venus year takes 225 Earth days.
- Venus spins the other way—from East to West.
Facts About Earth
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- It is the only planet not named after a Roman god. Its name comes from the Germanic and Old English word “ground.”
- It is the only planet in the solar system where water exists in liquid form, enabling life to thrive and take on many forms.
- It takes light from the sun approximately 8 minutes to reach Earth.
- The Earth’s tilt of 23 degrees is what causes the seasons.
- The Earth has a moon, and tides change because of this moon.
Facts About Mars
- Mars is named after the Roman God of war.
- Mars most likely had a thicker atmosphere before. Gullies on the surface of the red planet suggest that liquid water once flowed on its surface. For this to happen, a thick atmosphere would be needed to prevent liquid water from evaporating too quickly, proving that there once was a thicker atmosphere on Mars.
- Mars has two moons – Phobos and Deimos.
- The planet’s peculiar red surface is caused by the oxidation of iron in its soil (rusting).
- Mars has the largest volcano known in the solar system – Olympus Mons (Mount Olympus). This volcano is at least three times taller than Mount Everest.
Facts About Jupiter
- Because it is the largest planet in the solar system, it was named after the King of the Roman gods. It could fit 11 Earths inside of it.
- Jupiter might have shielded Earth before from other celestial bodies like comets. Due to its massive size, the planet’s gravitational pull draws in anything that passes nearby. Even the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 got caught in its gravity and broke into pieces in 1994. Scientists estimated that If not for this, the comet would have come dangerously too close to Earth.
- Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a massive storm that is believed to be at least 357 years old (based on earliest records dating as far back as 1665).
- The planet only has the shortest day in the solar system—10 hours.
- Despite its huge size, Jupiter is still a gas planet, and scientists believe that if the planet has a solid inner core, it is most likely small – probably the same size as Earth.
Facts About Saturn
- Saturn has seven visible rings of rocks, ice, and dust.
- The particles making up Saturn’s rings come in different sizes. Some are as small as grains, while others can be as big as houses.
- If Saturn can be set in a giant pool of water, it will float.
- It has 82 moons.
- You don’t need any special equipment to see Saturn. If you know the right time and place to look, all you will need is just a telescope.
Facts About Uranus
- The methane atmosphere of Uranus makes it appear blue-green in color.
- It rotates from east to west like Venus and on its side.
- Uranus has rings – two sets totaling 13 in all.
- Its moons are not named after mythical characters but from William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope’s works—Oberon, Titania, Juliet, and Puck.
- Uranus was the first planet to be discovered using a telescope.
Facts About Neptune
- Neptune has a bluish color because of its methane-filled atmosphere. This bluish color is probably why it was named after the god of the sea.
- It cannot be seen with the naked eye. However, the presence of Uranus was predicted by mathematical calculations before scientists even saw it.
- Neptune is the windiest planet in the solar system. It has winds reaching up to 1200 miles per hour. This is almost five times stronger than the strongest storm winds on Earth.
- Neptune takes 165 Earth years to complete one cycle around the sun, so technically, it’s only been 1 Neptune year since it was discovered.
- Neptune is extremely cold because it is far from the sun, but scientists believe there might be a hot ocean below its atmosphere.
Frequently Asked Questions on Planets
Why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?
According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), Pluto is considered a dwarf planet instead of a major one because it has failed to clear its neighboring region of other objects. Its size and gravitational field are not enough to pull and absorb all the space rocks and debris along its path, unlike the other eight planets.
What is the oldest planet?
According to studies done in space and on the ground, Jupiter is the oldest of the planets in the solar system. It is estimated to have formed 3 million years after the solar system’s birth. Its size indicates that it was the first to gather particles still scattered after the sun stabilized, which is why it is the largest.
How old is Earth?
The Earth is estimated to be around 4.5 billion years old. This is the result of Carbon dating the oldest known rocks.