Further written content providing an overview of the planets we have in our own solar system.
Mercury, the smallest of all planets is also the closest to the sun. Similar in appearance to the Moon, it has a heavily cratered surface. However Mercury has no moons of its own and so small is it that some other planets moons actually exceed it in size! Named by the Romans after the messenger of the gods due to its speed, it moves at speeds of up to 50km a second and can orbit the sun in a mere 88 days!
Venus is the second planet closest to the sun. As the brightest of all planets it was named by the Romans after their goddess of love and beauty. Sometimes visible during the day it has the nicknames Morning Star and Evening star. The surface is covered with volcanic domes and a thick layer of carbon dioxide, making it the hottest planet in the solar system! Unlike other the planets in the solar system, Venus rotates from East to West instead of West to East.
Earth, our own planet is situated third from the Sun. It is the densest planet and the largest of the four terrestrial planets. Like the other planets named from classical mythology, earth is sometimes referred to as ‘Terra’, coming from the word ‘Tellus’ who was the goddess of the Earth. Unique in that it is the only planet with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, the surface is covered by 70% water and has one moon. Our planet is the only planet so far known to harbor intelligent life.
Often described as the “Red Planet” due to the iron oxide dust surface, Mars has two moons and was named after the Roman god of war. Full of volcanoes, valleys and areas that appear to have once been flooded plains, although scientists have not yet found water as liquid. Water does exists on Mars however, in both frozen and vapor form. Frozen due to the extremely cold temperatures on the planet.
Jupiter, the largest of all planets, is larger than all the other planets combined! Named after the King of the gods in Roman mythology, it has 63 known moons. Comprised of gas, it is the gases that give Jupiter it’s beautiful swirling stripes effectively making it a giant storm! On earth, hurricanes disperse due to friction as they move across solid land but this isn’t possible on Jupiter as there is no solid landmass.
Named after the Roman god of agriculture, Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system and the furthest planet that can be seen with the naked eye. An impressive sight, Saturn has nine rings, which are comprised of a sheet of ice and rocky fragments. Sixty-two known moons currently orbit Saturn and it is the remnants of an old moon that the ring debris is thought to be.
Originally named in honor of King George III of England, the planet was eventually renamed Uranus, after the ancient Greek god of the Heavens. With the most featureless and smooth exterior of all the known planets, it appears as a soft blue- green ball and was the first planet discovered that had not been known during ancient times. Unlike most other moons, which are named after Greek mythological characters, the 27 known moons of Uranus are each named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Although the planet is not the farthest from the Sun, it is still the coldest planet in the Solar System and one of the least dense.
Named after the god of the sea in Roman Mythology, Neptune has an extremely dynamic weather system and stronger winds than any other planet. It has 13 moons and much like Jupiter’s Red spot, the most prominent feature on Neptune is the Great Dark Spot – an earth sized hurricane! A set of four thin and faint rings circle Neptune, however these are circular unlike Uranus’s elliptical system. A thick methane atmosphere covers Neptune giving the illusion of its blue colouring.
The moon is one of earth’s satellites and the fifth largest satellite in the solar system. First visited in 1969 is the only extraterrestrial body to have ever been walked on by us humans and did you know, it is the gravitational forces of the moon that cause tides in the earths oceans?