The Solar System is the gravitationally bound system comprising the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of those objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest eight are the planets, with the remainder being significantly smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. Of the objects that orbit the Sun indirectly, the moons, two are larger than the smallest planet, Mercury.
There are 140 known natural satellites, also called moons, in orbit around the various planets in our solar system, ranging from bodies larger than our own moon to small pieces of debris.
The principal component of the Solar System is the Sun, a G2 main-sequence star that contains 99.86% of the system’s known mass and dominates it gravitationally. The Sun’s four largest orbiting bodies, the giant planets, account for 99% of the remaining mass, with Jupiter and Saturn together comprising more than 90%. The remaining objects of the Solar System (including the four terrestrial planets, the dwarf planets, moons, asteroids,and comets) together comprise less than 0.002% of the Solar System’s total mass.
The overall structure of the charted regions of the Solar System consists of the Sun, four relatively small inner planets surrounded by a belt of mostly rocky asteroids, and four giant planets surrounded by the Kuiper belt of mostly icy objects. Astronomers sometimes informally divide this structure into separate regions. The inner Solar System includes the four terrestrial planets and the asteroid belt. The outer Solar System is beyond the asteroids, including the four giant planets. Since the discovery of the Kuiper belt, the outermost parts of the Solar System are considered a distinct region consisting of the objects beyond Neptune.
The four terrestrial or inner planets have dense, rocky compositions, few or no moons, and no ring systems. Three of the four inner planets (Venus, Earth and Mars) have atmospheres substantial enough to generate weather; all have impact craters and tectonic surface features, such as rift valleys and volcanoes. The term inner planet should not be confused with inferior planet, which designates those planets that are closer to the Sun than Earth is (i.e. Mercury and Venus).
- Mercury (0.4 AU from the Sun) is the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet in the Solar System (0.055 Earth masses). Mercury has no natural satellites.
Venus (0.7 AU from the Sun) is close in size to Earth (0.815 Earth masses) and, like Earth, has a thick silicate mantle around an iron core, a substantial atmosphere, and evidence of internal geological activity. It is much drier than Earth, and its atmosphere is ninety times as dense. Venus has no natural satellites. It is the hottest planet, with surface temperatures over 400 °C (752°F), most likely due to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Earth (1 AU from the Sun) is the largest and densest of the inner planets, the only one known to have current geological activity, and the only place where life is known to exist.Its liquid hydrosphere is unique among the terrestrial planets, and it is the only planet where plate tectonics has been observed. Earth’s atmosphere is radically different from those of the other planets, having been altered by the presence of life to contain 21% free oxygen. It has one natural satellite, the Moon, the only large satellite of a terrestrial planet in the Solar System.
Mars (1.5 AU from the Sun) is smaller than Earth and Venus (0.107 Earth masses). It has an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide with a surface pressure of 6.1 millibars (roughly 0.6% of that of Earth). Its surface, peppered with vast volcanoes, such as Olympus Mons, and rift valleys, such as Valles Marineris, shows geological activity that may have persisted until as recently as 2 million years ago. Its red colour comes from iron oxide (rust) in its soil. Mars has two tiny natural satellites (Deimos and Phobos) thought to be captured asteroids.
Jupiter (5.2 AU), at 318 Earth masses, is 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets put together. It is composed largely of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter’s strong internal heat creates semi-permanent features in its atmosphere, such as cloud bands and the Great Red Spot. Jupiter has 67 known satellites. The four largest, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa, show similarities to the terrestrial planets, such as volcanism and internal heating. Ganymede, the largest satellite in the Solar System, is larger than Mercury.
Saturn (9.5 AU), distinguished by its extensive ring system, has several similarities to Jupiter, such as its atmospheric composition and magnetosphere. Although Saturn has 60% of Jupiter’s volume, it is less than a third as massive, at 95 Earth masses. Saturn is the only planet of the Solar System that is less dense than water. The rings of Saturn are made up of small ice and rock particles. Saturn has 62 confirmed satellites composed largely of ice. Two of these, Titan and Enceladus, show signs of geological activity. Titan, the second-largest moon in the Solar System, is larger than Mercury and the only satellite in the Solar System with a substantial atmosphere.
- Uranus (19.2 AU), at 14 Earth masses, is the lightest of the outer planets. Uniquely among the planets, it orbits the Sun on its side; its axial tilt is over ninety degrees to the ecliptic. It has a much colder core than the other giant planets and radiates very little heat into space. Uranus has 27 known satellites, the largest ones being Titania,Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, and Miranda.
Neptune (30.1 AU), though slightly smaller than Uranus, is more massive (equivalent to 17 Earths) and hence more dense. It radiates more internal heat, but not as much as Jupiter or Saturn. Neptune has 14 known satellites. The largest, Triton, is geologically active, with geysers of liquid nitrogen.Triton is the only large satellite with a retrograde orbit. Neptune is accompanied in its orbit by several minor planets, termed Neptune trojans, that are in 1:1 resonance with it.
1. Which is the smallest planet ?
2. Which planet is the nearest to the Sun ?
3. Which Planet’s name has the meaning ‘Messenger of God’ in Roman?
4. How many Earth days are needed Mercury to orbits the Sun once ?
Answer: 88 days
5. Which planet was studied by Messenger Mission ?
6. Which planets in the Solar system are devoid of natural satellites?
Answer: Mercury, Venus
7. Which was the first spacecraft to visit Mercury ?
8. Which is the Hottest planet in the solar system ?
9. Which planet has the name of a Roman Goddess of love ?
10. Which is the First spacecraft to soft-land on Venus ?
Answer: Venera 7