I’ve said several times that if I was born with a scientific mind, I’d want to be an astronomer. I love learning about space and our Solar System and the thought that there might be life out there in the universe is both fascinating and terrifying to me.
Sometimes when I’m bored or can’t fall asleep, I’ll just stumble various space sites and learn about the planets that make up our Solar System. Much like researching the Jon Benet Ramsey case at 2 am looking for the clue that will crack the case, part of me thinks maybe, just MAYBE, I’ll stumble upon something, well, out of this world.
One article I found particularly interesting was that the planets don’t rotate around the sun like they’re on a racing track, as some TV shows and pictures would have you believe…they actually move in interesting oval patterns, with poor Pluto just on a path all it’s own:
White is Mercury, light blue is Venus, brown is Earth, purple is Mars, grey is Jupiter, red is Saturn, yellow is Uranus, green is Neptune, dark blue is Pluto
If you also love learning about the vastness of our amazing Solar System, check out these fun facts about the planets.
67 Fun Facts about the Planets
Here’s a picture of Mercury compared to Earth:
Mercury does not have any moons or rings.
A year on Mercury takes 88 Earth days.
The diameter of Mercury is about 3,031 miles, making it the smallest planet in our Solar System.
The surface of Mercury that faces the sun sees temperatures upwards of 800 degrees F, while the other side of the planet can see temperatures as low as -280 degrees F.
Despite being the closest planet to the sun, Mercury is the second-hottest planet, with Venus having a hotter surface temperature than Mercury.
Mercury is also the most cratered planet in the Solar System. It does not possess the ability to “self-heal” like other planets.
Because it’s so close to the sun, Mercury is a hard planet for us to visit. Only two space crafts have ever visited: the Mariner 10 in 1974 and 1975 and the Messenger probe in 2004.
The Hubble Space Telescope cannot view Mercury. This is because Mercury is too close to the Sun and the brightness would harm the electrical components of the telescope.
Here’s a picture of Venus compared to Earth:
Venus is often called Earths “sister planet” due to their proximity in size.
The rotation of Venus is so slow that it travels around the sun quicker than it can make one rotation on its axis. This means that Venus has a longer day than it does a year.
Venus is the brightest object in our night sky after our Moon.
Like Mercury, Venus is also void of moons and rings.
Venus rotates in the opposite direction of most planets, known as retrograde rotation. A possible reason might be a collision with an asteroid or other object that caused the planet to alter its rotational path.
Even though it’s not the closest planet to the sun, it’s certainly the hottest. The average surface temperature of Venus is about 863 degrees F.
The rotation of the Earth is gradually slowing, at about 17 milliseconds per one hundred years. This has the effect of lengthening our days, but it happens so slowly that it could take as long as 140 million years before the length of a day increases to 25 hours.
The Earth is the densest planet in the Solar System.
Earth is also the only planet not named after a mythical god.
Scientists have estimated that there are nearly 2 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone.
According to scientists, the Earth is about 4.6 billion years old.
The average temperature of Earth is about 55 degrees F.
Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface, meaning much of the planet has never even been explored.
Due to our distance from the sun, it takes about 8 minutes for light to reach our planet.
Here’s a picture of Mars compared to Earth:
Mars is home to the tallest mountain in the Solar System: Olympus Mons. This volcano is 13 miles high and 373 miles in diameter. Scientists believe it could still be active.
As of September 2014, there have been more than 40 missions to Mars, 18 of which have been successful.
Mars also has the largest dust storms in the Solar System. They can last for months and cover the entire planet.
Mars rests comfortably 35 million miles away from us.
There are signs of liquid water on Mars, meaning life could – in some way, shape, or form – exist there.
Here’s a picture of Jupiter compared to Earth:
Jupiter is two and a half times more massive than all the other planets in the Solar System COMBINED.
Despite its size, Jupiter has the shortest day of all the planets. It turns on its axis once every 9 hours and 55 minutes.
Jupiter orbits the sun once every 11.8 Earth years.
The big red spot on Jupiter is actually a storm that has been raging for at least 350 years. It’s so large that three Earths could fit inside it.
Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System, clocking in at about 3,200 miles in diameter, bigger than Mercury.
If Earth was the size of a nickel, Jupiter would be about as big as a basketball.
The volume of Jupiter is great enough to hold 1,300 Earths.
Jupiter also has the most moons in the Solar System, housing 67 that we know of.
Here’s a picture of Saturn compared to Earth:
Saturn is the most distant planet that can be seen with the naked eye.
Saturn is mostly made up of hydrogen. Deep inside the planet, the hydrogen becomes metallic and there is a hot core in the center of the planet.
The famous Saturn rings are made mostly of chunks of ice and small amounts of carbonaceous dust. The rings stretch out to more than 75,000 miles from the planet and are incredibly thin, only about 65 feet thick.
Saturn is also the only planet in the Solar System that is less dense than water…meaning that if there was a body of water large enough to hold it, the planet would float.
Saturn’s moon, Titan, is the only body in our Solar System beyond Earth that is known to have water on the surface.
Here’s a picture of Uranus compared to Earth:
Uranus was the first planet discovered with the use of a telescope.
It also is tipped over on its side, with an axial tilt of 98 degrees. It’s often described as “rolling around the Sun on its side”.
Uranus makes one trip around the sun every 84 Earth years.
The upper atmosphere of the planet is made of water, ammonia and methane ice crystals, giving it the pale blue color it’s known for.
The only space craft to fly by Uranus was the Voyager 2 in 1986.
Like Venus, Uranus also spins opposite to the rest of the planets in the Solar System.
Uranus also has 13 unique rings.
Due to the fashion in which it spins, portions of Uranus can have nights that last more than 40 years.
Here’s a picture of Neptune compared to Earth:
It’s thought that Neptune actually formed much closer to the Sun before migrating to where it is now.
Neptune is not a solid planet, so it spins on its axis very rapidly (about takes about 18 hours to make one rotation).
Neptune holds the record for the strongest winds in our Solar System. Wind speeds have gotten up to 1,300 mph.
“The Scooter” is a cloud that moves around Neptune about every 16 hours.
Neptune is so far from Earth that it took the Voyager 2 TWELVE YEARS to get there.
In 2006, Pluto was demoted to “dwarf planet”, meaning it is a planetary-mass object being neither a planet nor a satellite (moon).
From the time Pluto was labeled as a planet, then demoted to a dwarf planet status (about 76 years), it never even completed a full rotation around the sun.
As a matter of fact, one journey around the sun for this dwarf planet takes 248 Earth years. This means that since its discovery in 1930, it has yet to complete a full orbit.
Pluto is smaller than our moon.
According to some astronomers, Pluto may have once been one of Neptune’s moons, but somehow broke out of the orbit.
One of the reasons Pluto was declassified as a planet was because there are asteroids in the Solar System that are bigger than Pluto.
Since its declassification, Pluto’s technical name is now 134340.
Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!