Solar System – What does the Solar System consist of?

Sep 9, 2022 | Turito Team

As a child, you must have found the Moon and the stars up in the sky fascinating. But did you know that the sky you see is not just about the Moon, the stars, and the Sun? It is massive and enfolds a lot within its embrace. There are many planetary systems like our solar system in the universe. There are planets in those systems, too, that orbit a host star, just like our own planetary or solar system. The solar system gets its name from the Sun–a huge star around which other planets revolve. Let’s learn more about the fascinating solar system and what it consists of. 

The scale of the Solar System

Our solar system is humungous. It is nearly impossible to imagine its size employing units like feet or miles. You can get an idea from the following interesting measures:

  • The distance between  the Sun from Earth is 149 million kilometres or 93 million miles.
  • The distance between Earth and the farthest planet, Neptune, is 4.5 billion kilometres.

So, to explain the vastness of the solar system, astronomers use the distance between the Sun and Earth, i.e., 93 million miles, as a new unit of measure. It is called the Astronomical Unit. Now they define the distance between various planets and the Sun in astronomical units.

Components of the Solar System

The universe has many galaxies. We inhabit the Milky way galaxy. Our solar system orbits the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. 

The solar system comprises:

  • Eight planets
  • A huge star- the Sun
  • Numerous Moons
  • Dwarf planets like Ceres, Pluto, Makemake, Eris, and Haumea.  
  • Asteroids
  • Comets

8 Planets in the Solar System

The planets in our galaxy outnumber the stars. But the current count is eight. 

There are inner, rocky planets, including Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Jupiter and Saturn are the outer gas giants, while the ice giants are Uranus and Neptune.

Moving beyond Neptune, there are smaller or dwarf planets. Pluto, once considered a planet, is now excluded from the list of 8 planets in the solar system. Scientists call it an exoplanet. Here is the list of planets in the solar system in order.

Mercury

Mercury is the smallest planet in the entire solar system. It is also the closest planet to the Sun. The size of Mercury is slightly larger than the Moon of Earth. It is known as the fastest planet, as it rotates around the Sun within a time duration equal to 88 Earth days. So, a year on Mercury equals 88 days. 

Fascinating Facts About Mercury

  • Mercury has no moon. 
  • Mercury’s distance from the Sun is only 1/3 of Earth’s distance from the Sun. 
  • Mercury is barely bigger than our Moon.
  • It is not only the smallest, but it is also shrinking.
  • Mercury has the largest craters in the Solar System. The meteors striking its surface leave huge craters.
  • It has a weak atmosphere and extreme temperature changes. It can’t contain any heat coming from the Sun. 
  • Mercury rotates slowly around its axis. So, one day on Mercury takes almost 59 Earth days. 

Venus

Venus is a planet that spins in the opposite direction to most of the planets. It has a thick atmosphere that traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect. Hence, Venus remains the hottest planet in the entire solar system.

Fascinating Facts About Venus

  • Venus has no moon. 
  • Venus day is longer than a year. So, Venus takes longer to rotate once on its axis than a revolution around the Sun. It takes 243 Earth days to rotate once. Venus has the longest rotation in the Solar System.  
  • Although Mercury is closest to the Sun, Venus is hotter because of the high concentration of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. 
  • Venus is a unique planet that spins clockwise on its axis. 
  • Venus is the second brightest body in the night sky after the Moon. 
  • It is easy to spot with the naked eye. People on Earth can see it in the evenings and mornings, and so it is called an evening star.  

Earth

Earth, our home planet, is the only planet that supports life and thus provides habitats to different living things. It is known as the blue planet owing to its appearance in solar images. The blue colour is due to the presence of surface water in liquid form.

Fascinating Facts About the Earth

  • Earth has one Moon.
  • It is neither round nor perfectly flat. It is slightly flattened towards the poles.
  • The length of the Earth’s day is increasing. Initially, the Earth was roughly six hours longer when it was formed.
  • The Earth did not have several continents from the very beginning. About 250 million years ago, there was a single land mass or supercontinent called Pangaea.
  • Interestingly, the driest place on Earth—the Atacama Desert, lies next to the largest water body — the Pacific Ocean. 

Mars

Mars is a desert–cold and dusty. It has a very thin atmosphere. Evidence suggests that billions of years ago, there was a thicker atmosphere surrounding Mars. 

Fascinating Facts About Mars

  • Mars has two moons.
  • It’s called the Red Planet because it is covered by iron oxide that imparts a rusty red surface colour.
  • Its days are similar to Earth’s days. A day lasts 24 hours and 37 minutes.
  • Contrastingly, years on Mars are longer. It takes 687 days to complete a year. 
  • Mars has a thin atmosphere with a large concentration of carbon dioxide (up to 95.9%). 
  • Mars has weak gravity (37% less than Earth). So, you can jump 3x higher on Mars.
  • It has several craters, and the biggest is the  Borealis Basin. 
  • The Red Planet has the largest canyon in our solar system. 
  • It has a north and south poles, which are covered with a layer of frozen carbon dioxide or dry ice.
  • There is no evidence of life on Mars. Still, it is considered the most probable planet to support life. The discovery of water ice under the surface holds value.

Jupiter

This planet is the most interesting in terms of its size. Put together all planets and double their size, and then you will have one giant, Jupiter. It is the largest planet in the solar system. It has a famous Great Red spot on its surface, which is bigger than Earth.

Fascinating Facts About Jupiter

  • Jupiter has 79 moons. Fifty-three moons are confirmed, and 26 are provisional.
  • It has the largest planet in the solar system– Ganymede. It is bigger than Pluto and Mercury. 
  • It is the fastest-spinning planet in the solar system. 
  • It has beautiful whirling clouds, but they are only about 50 km thick.
  • When you think of a ring planet, Saturn is the first name that pops up. But Uranus and Jupiter have ring systems too. 
  • Jupiter’s magnetic field has 14 times stronger than Earth’s. 
  • It is the third brightest body in the solar system.

Saturn

Saturn is a unique planet, adorned with a vividly coloured complex ring system. Although other planets have rings, like Uranus, Saturn has the most spectacular icy rings.

Fascinating Facts About Saturn

  • Saturn has 82 moons. Out of these, 53 are confirmed, and 29 are provisional.
  • Saturn would float in water as it is composed mainly of gases.
  • Its beautiful rings are not solid but gas, ice, dust, and rock bits. 
  • You can’t stand on Saturn. 
  • Saturn is a very windy place. 
  • It goes around the Sun very slowly; a year is more than 29 Earth years.
  • On the contrary, it spins on its axis very fast, only about 10 hours and 14 minutes.
  • Saturday is named after Saturn.

Uranus

Seventh in position from the Sun— Uranus rotates at an almost 90-degree angle from the plane of its orbit. Its amazing tilt makes it appear as if it is spinning on its side.

Fascinating Facts About Uranus

  • It has 27 moons.
  • It is the coldest planet in the solar system. 
  • Uranus is the second least dense planet after Saturn. 
  • It has rings around it, and the atmosphere contains ice.

Neptune

Neptune is a cold and dark planet. It lies in the eighth position from the Sun. So, Neptune is the most distant planet orbiting the Sun. Also, Neptune was the first planet located via mathematical calculations.

Fascinating Facts About Neptune

  • Neptune has 14 moons that orbit it.
  • Its gravity is similar to that of the Earth.
  • It is the smallest of the gas giants.
  • Neptune has the strongest winds in the solar system. 

Conclusion

The solar system in order has Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune that orbit around the Sun. It also has dwarf planets like Pluto. Additionally, each planet has several moons orbiting it and millions of asteroids, meteoroids, and comets move around.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are comets?

Comets are cosmic snowballs. They comprise frozen gases, dust, and rock. Comets orbit the Sun. A frozen comet is about the size of a small town. 

Q2. What are asteroids?

Asteroids are small in size. They are rocky objects orbiting the Sun. An asteroid is similar to a planet in terms of its movement around the Sun. However, they are much smaller than planets.

Q3. What are meteoroids?

A meteoroid is a small lump of rock, usually metallic. It moves in the solar system and becomes a meteor if it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. 


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