If you’re looking to learn a little more about the planets that orbit around the Sun, then you’re in the right place. The different planets and how they work is one of the most interesting things to learn about our existence, and it really puts the Earth into perspective when you know there’s another planet with more than 300x the Earth’s mass (yes, it’s Jupiter!). Let’s look at some more facts about the planets.
Facts about the planets
- There are eight main planets in our solar system. Originally, astronomers classified Pluto as a planet too. However, Pluto is now classified as a dwarf planet.
- We split the planets into three separate categories – the Ice Giants, which is Uranus and Neptune; the Gas Giants, which is Jupiter and Saturn; and the terrestrial planets, which is Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
- Of these planets, the coldest planet on average is Neptune. However, Uranus has had colder temperatures than Neptune due to it’s composition and atmosphere.
- The hottest of all the planets is Venus, even though it’s further out from the Sun than Mercury. It’s atmosphere acts like a greenhouse, and doesn’t let the heat out, making it even hotter.
- The largest moon of any of the planets belongs to Jupiter – the moons name is Ganymede. There are hundreds of other moons out there.
- Four planets have their own ring system; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Of these, Saturn has the most pronounced system.
- The planet with the highest speed winds of the planets is Neptune, where speeds can be in excess of 2,000kmph.
- Whilst 6 of the planets spin in a prograde (counter-clockwise) direction, Uranus and Venus spin in a retrograde (clockwise) direction.
- In 2015, astronomers discovered a potential ninth planet in the outer realms of the solar system.
- In terms of location, we’re very far from the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The Eight Planets
The smallest planet, Mercury, is also the closest to the Sun. It has a short year, completely a full lap around the Sun within just 88 days. It’s gravity is also less than 40% of the gravity on Earth, meaning you’d only weigh 40% as much!
The hottest planet in our solar system, Venus retains the Sun’s heat more than any other. It’s so hot that it rains sulfuric acid; however by the time the acid gets to the surface, it will have already evaporated!
Our planet Earth might seem a little bit boring to us, but the reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Earth is as interesting as any other planet – did you know that there’s a crater on our surface that’s over 300km in diameter?
One of the most researched areas of space in recent years, Mars looks to be the most likely next move for humankind when the Earth burns to a crisp (don’t worry, it’s not gonna be any time soon). Mars has hundreds of thousands of craters on its surface.
We all know Jupiter as being the biggest planet in our solar system – but did you know it’s bigger than the rest of the planets combined? Jupiter’s atmosphere is made up primarily of hydrogen, too.
The ringed planet that has a larger number of moons orbiting it (Jupiter and Saturn are always switching planes), Jupiter is the second biggest planet, yet the lightest planet too. It’s gravity is quite similar to ours on Earth, too – though you could never stand on it’s gas surface!
Uranus is far enough away from the Sun that it’s now classified as an ice giant as opposed to a gas giant – largely because the planet is made up of flowing ice! Uranus is unique, as it’s the only planet that spins on its side.
The furthest planet away from the Sun, Neptune is more than 30x the distance between the Sun and the Earth. It takes 165 years for it to make it the full way around the Sun, and this planet has the strongest winds in our entire solar system.
Planet Size Comparisons
Sometimes, it can be difficult to put the solar system into perspective. The planets are so massive oin comparison to what we know, that it’s difficult to compare them to each other in terms of size. However, we can use fruits to show a basic, rough estimate of how the planets are sized in comparison to each other.
As you can see, Jupiter is actually bigger than all of the other planets combined. However in comparison to the Sun, the planets and everything else in our solar system is tiny. The Sun’s mass makes up 99.8% of the mass of our whole solar system!
So, that’s it! The planets that are in our solar system may be unique – although other solar systems out there do have stars with planets orbiting them, there’s no way of us knowing whether they’ve managed to form life like our planet Earth. All we can do for now is sit back and study them!