How do the planets look? Many spacecraft send back pictures some of which are colourful some of which are grey. Some of these pictures are altered to enhance the subtle differences between them. Some pictures even depict a planet with a rock surface like Mars or Venus. But in truth the colours of the planets are much less important than their physical properties. So what is the answer to the question of how do the planets look like?
Saturn has a ring
The rings of Saturn are composed of thousands of small ringlets and are incredibly large – spanning 170000 miles. The rings are not solid but they are made up of millions of tiny particles of rock and ice that orbit the planet at different speeds. To help us understand the rings’ formation we need to first know that Saturn has seven main rings. These rings are roughly 50 meters thick and each is composed of a variety of materials ranging from dust to boulders.
The rings of Saturn are about as old as the planet itself and they may be remnants of a nebula that burned up long ago. In April 2017 NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its Grand Finale mission by passing between Saturn and its rings 22 times. This data confirmed that the rings formed more than 100 million years ago. Although scientists have not been able to directly observe the rings Cassini has provided many details that have helped them understand how the rings formed.
Venus has white clouds
Scientists have long wondered why Venus has white clouds. Venus’s atmosphere is incredibly thick and is 900 degrees Fahrenheit on its surface. At 33 to 39 miles above the surface however Venus’s clouds are surprisingly temperate. In fact scientists have noted that Venus’ clouds contain acidic compounds which should destroy phosphine. However there’s another explanation for Venus’ white clouds. Scientists believe that the planet may harbor life.
In the absence of sunlight the planet is permanently obscured by a thick layer of sulphuric acid and water droplets. Because Venus’s atmosphere contains so much sulfur it is unable to produce rain. The atmosphere on Venus is so dense that 100 pounds of air would weigh only 91 pounds on Venus. Because Venus is the only planet named after a goddess the name is also symbolic of the female gender. The clouds on Venus are the result of the sulphuric acid on the planet’s surface.
Uranus and Neptune are mostly hydrogen and helium
Although both planets are composed primarily of hydrogen and helium their composition differs notably. While Jupiter and Saturn are composed mostly of hydrogen and helium Uranus is composed primarily of ice. In fact both Uranus and Neptune are classified as ‘ice giants’ with rocky cores that are proportionally larger than their gas content.
The atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune are nearly identical but Uranus is tipped on its side. The planet’s rotational axis is inclined 98 degrees indicating that it was once in a collision with a larger body. The moons of both planets bear evidence of a violent event. The composition of their atmospheres makes them appear different in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum which is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.
Both planets are mainly hydrogen and helium and they are both about 19 AU from the Sun. As such Uranus’ atmosphere receives 360 times less heat and light from the Sun than the atmosphere of Earth. The atmospheres of these two planets are cold with temperatures around -214C at one bar of pressure. These temperatures are equivalent to the air pressure on Earth at sea level.
Pluto is unobservable to the naked eye
While Pluto is invisible to the naked eye the spacecraft is capable of observing it. Despite its unobservable appearance Pluto is just a few degrees warmer than the temperature of the Earth. The surface of Pluto is also far too cold to sustain life as we know it. In fact Pluto is a mere forty degrees Celsius warmer than the Earth’s Moon. Its name was first proposed by 11-year-old Venetia Burney. In 2006 the planet was downgraded to a dwarf planet and made the internet a tidal wave with memes. While Pluto is unobservable to the naked eye the images from the New Horizons spacecraft reveal a heart-shaped feature on the surface.
It was named after the Greek god of the underworld Pluto. When the planet first entered the solar system no one knew what it would be called. Astronomers began predicting the existence of a ninth planet but were unable to see it themselves. In 1930 astronomer Clyde Tombaugh was the first to spot Pluto and it took the world by storm when it was discovered.
Jupiter is closest to the sun
The composition and density of Jupiter is similar to the Sun’s. Jupiter contains approximately 73% hydrogen and 24% helium making it nearly the same mass as the Sun. Because it is so similar to the Sun it is also called a failed star. While Jupiter may have formed outside of the Sun’s molecular nitrogen (HN) snowline it is far enough away from the Sun to be an inner planet. It would have migrated inwards over about 700 million years to reach its current position in our solar system.
The Sun’s distance from the planet Jupiter is 484 million miles (75 million kilometers) or 69911 kilometers. In comparison the Earth is approximately one billion kilometers away. This distance makes Jupiter the fifth planet in our solar system. Its outer atmosphere has cloud bands and its internal heat has created a large storm on Jupiter known as the Great Red Spot that has lasted for 300 years. Jupiter is also surrounded by dozens of moons including four giant satellites called Galilean satellites. Jupiter’s rings though faint are made of dust.
Saturn is in retrograde motion
If your birth chart shows Saturn in Retrograde Motion you should be aware of the signs it affects. Saturn in Retrograde Motion causes people to become shy and lack confidence. They may become secretive and may believe that the forces of the Universe are conspiring against them. The good news is that Saturn in Retrograde Motion doesn’t affect every sign. However people with Cancer Virgo Pisces and Aquarius rising signs should take special note of the effects Saturn in retrograde motion can have on their birth charts.
This transit is especially bad for those with big decisions to make. When Saturn is in your 8th or 9th house your actions and work may be delayed. Be especially cautious with finances as sudden problems may arise. Foreign dealings may benefit you while success in legal matters is possible. In general you should avoid making major decisions when Saturn is in Retrograde Motion as it can bring unexpected contracts and controversies.
Uranus is covered in lava
We know that the gas planets of Saturn Neptune and Uranus are covered in lava but the other planets are icy and probably don’t have any volcanoes. Saturn’s lava is a mixture of water ammonia and other dissolved substances. It is difficult to determine whether or not the lava on these planets is still active but scientists believe it does.
The planet Uranus is not actually a gas giant but is an ice-giant which means it has an icy and inhospitable atmosphere. It is 99% water while only 2% of its outer atmosphere is made of helium. However methane makes up around 2% of its atmosphere. Methane freezes out at very low temperatures forming a thick cloud layer that absorbs red light. Other minor constituents such as carbon dioxide nitrogen sulfur and nitrous oxide also play a role in the planet’s hazes.
Pluto is a gas giant
Although the outer planets are soups of gas Pluto has a solid surface made of ice. It has five known moons the largest of which is called Charon. Pluto’s other two moons Nix and Hydra were discovered in 2005 by the Hubble Space Telescope team. Together they make up one of the largest planets in our solar system. The icy worlds are located 4 billion miles from the sun.
In addition to being gas giants the other three planets have rings. These rings are believed to protect them from radiation. Pluto is made up of 97 percent nitrogen ice and carbon monoxide and some of its surface is made of liquid water. However scientists have not yet been able to determine whether Pluto has liquid water under its surface. Scientists have largely agreed that Pluto has an atmosphere which could explain the rings.
Venus is a drab grey kind of lava
If you’ve ever wondered why Venus is a drab grey colour look no further than the surface. Venus’ surface is covered in white clouds and looks orange but in reality the drab grey lava beneath the clouds is a drab grey hue. This is because clouds obscure the reddish glow that would give the surface its dazzling orange color. However the reddish glow reflected off the cloudy surface is actually a grey lava that hasn’t been effected by any of the planet’s atmosphere.
While most other planets have shield volcanoes and widespread lava flows Venus has unique volcanic formations. These domes which are hundreds of kilometres across are made of individual lava flows piled on top of each other in a radial pattern. These domes are thought to have been created by large amounts of magma that formed beneath Venus’ surface and accumulated above it.