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CHAPTER 7: PLANETARY FACTS (MAJOR PLANETS) sign that Mercury has been geologically

dormant for billions of years.

The planets fall into 2 categories:
• The planet makes three complete rotations on
 Terrestrial planets (Inner Planets) its axis per every two orbital revolutions.
Including Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars – these • The surface temperature of Mercury ranges
planets are closest to the Sun. They are from -173 to 427°C. (-279 to 800°F).
characterized by their dense, rocky composition.
• Mercury is the second densest planet after
 Gas Giants (Outer Planets) Earth.
Including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune – these • Mercury is only the second hottest planet.
planets are found in the outer solar system. They
are characterized by their massiveness and gaseous • It’s orbit is an ellipse, rather than circular.
• Does not experience any season.
• Mercury’s interior is composed of crust,
• Mercury has been known to humanity since mantle, and core.
ancient times, and although its discovery date is
unknown, the first mentions of the planet are • Has a high eccentricity.
believed to be around 3000 BC by the • Mercury’s surface is much hotter at perihelion
Sumerians. than at aphelion.
• Mercury is often identified with the Greek god • Has a thin atmosphere.
Hermes, the messenger of the gods in Roman
mythology. • Mercury's atmosphere contains small amounts
of hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It also has
• Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar even tinier amounts of sodium, potassium,
System with a diameter of 4,879 km (3,031 calcium, and magnesium
• The orbital speed of Mercury is 47.8 km/sec
(29.7 miles/sec). • The orbital speed of Venus is 35 km per
second (78,292 mi/hr)
• Mercury has no atmosphere and no known
satellites, perhaps because of its proximity to • Maximum distance of Venus from the Sun
the Sun. is 109 million km (68 million miles)

• Mercury has no moons or rings. • Minimum distance of Venus from the Earth
is 40 million km (25 million miles)
• Mercury orbits the sun once every 87.97 Earth
Days. • Venus is the hottest planet in the Solar
• A day on Mercury is equivalent to 176 Earth
Days. • Venus is one of the brightest objects in the
sky, next to the Sun and Moon.
• Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, the
maximum distance from the Sun = 70 million • It takes 243 days for Venus to rotate on its
km (43.5 million miles). axis. And a year in Venus is equivalent to
224 earth days.
• Mercury’s minimum distance from Earth = 77
million km (48 million miles). • Venus’ eccentricity is .00678, its orbit is
• Mercury is known as a terrestrial planet
consisting of about 70% metallic and 30% • If you weigh 100 lbs, your weight on Venus
silicate material would be 88 lbs. (multiply your actual
weight by 0.88)
• First it was Copernicus who noticed orbiting
planet in the early 16th century; and then • Aside from planet Earth, Venus is the most
Galileo was the first to observe Mercury during explored planet.
the 17th century.
• The clouds surrounding Venus are
• If you weigh 100 lbs, your weight on Mercury comprised mostly of sulfuric acid.
would be 38 lbs. (Multiply your actual weight
by 0.38). • Planet Venus is named after the Roman
goddess of love and beauty.
• The surface of the planet is covered in craters
much like those seen on Earth’s moon. This is a
• Venus is the second closest planet to the • The Earth is the densest planet in the Solar
Sun. System.

• The diameter of Venus is 12,100 km (7,522 • Its axis of rotation is tilted 23.4º.
• Earth has an average surface temperature
• The interior of Venus is composed of a of 13°C (55.4°F).
central iron core and a molten rocky
mantle, similar to the composition of Earth. • The Earth is not perfectly round, rather it is
an oblate spheroid. This is due to the
• The surface of Venus is very dry with flat planet’s equatorial bulge.
plains, highland regions, and depressions.
• Earth’s distance from the Sun – Min. 146
• Venus is the sixth largest planet in the Solar million km (91million miles) Max. 152
System. million km (94.5 million miles).

• The atmosphere of Venus is primarily • It takes about 8 minutes and 19 seconds for
composed of carbon dioxide (96%) and light to reach the planet from the Sun.
nitrogen (3%), with traces of other gases
and little to no water vapor. • Earth is composed of: iron (32%), oxygen
(30%), silicon (15%), magnesium (14%),
• Similar in size, density, and mass, Venus and sulfur (3%), nickel (2%), calcium (1.5%),
Earth often referred to as sister planets. aluminum (1.4%) and the remainder made
up of other elements.
• It rotates from East to West.
• Earths main tectonic plates: African plate,
• Venus has a mountain named Maat Mon Antarctic plate, Indo-Australian Plate,
that is more than 5 miles high (26,400 feet). Eurasian Plate, North American Plate, South
• Venus has an atmospheric pressure that is American Plate, and the Pacific Plate.
92 times that of planet Earth. • Earth has several layers with unique
EARTH chemical and seismic properties: Crust (0-40
km), upper mantle (40-400 km), transition
• The Earth is around 4.6 billion years old region (400-650 km), lower mantle (650-
according to scientists. 2700 km), D layer (2700-2890 km), outer
core (2890-5150 km), and the inner core
• Earth is derived from the Old English word (5150-6378 km) from the surface.
“ertha” and the Anglo-Saxon word “erda”
which means ground or soil. • The magnetic poles of the Earth gradually
flip flop about every 200,000 to 300,000
• The Earth’s atmosphere is composed mainly years.
of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), argon
(.93%), and carbon dioxide (0.03%). • The deepest spot on Earth is under the
ocean in the Mariana Trench at 35,813 feet
• Earth’s atmosphere divided in 5 sections below sea level.
from the surface: Troposphere (0-13 km),
Ozone Layer (13-25 km), Stratosphere (25- • Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s
50 km), Mesosphere (50-75 km), and surface, much of which has never been
Thermosphere (75-150 km). explored.

• Earth is the fifth largest planet in the Solar MARS

• Known as the Red Planet, Mars is
• The gravity between the Earth and Moon characterized by its red, dusty landscape.
causes the tides on Earth.
• Named after the god of war in Roman
• The Diameter of the Earth is 12,756 km mythology (Ares).
(7,926 miles).
• The atmosphere on Mars is very thin,
• The earth’s orbital speed is 29.8 km per composed mainly of carbon dioxide (95%),
second (66,660 mi/hr). nitrogen (2.7%), and argon (1.6%), with
traces of oxygen and water.
• Earth has only one satellite, the Moon. The
Moon is the second brightest object in the • The orbital speed of Mars is 24.2 km per
sky from Earth. second (54,133 mi/hr).

• A year on Earth last just over 365 days. • Temperatures on Mars vary from 0°C (32°F)
to -100°C (-148°F).
• The diameter of the planet Mars is 6,785 • Jupiter’s four largest moons are named: Io,
km. Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

• A Mars year is equal to 686.98 Earth Days. • Ganymede moon is the largest in the Solar
System larger than the planet Mercury.
• A day in Mars is equal to 24.6 Earth Hours.
• Jupiter has rings, the third planet
• Mars is 35 million miles from Earth. discovered to have a ring system in our
• Mars maximum distance from the Sun = 249 Solar System.
million km (155 million miles). • Jupiter’s rings are identified as: Halo ring,
• Mars’ axial tilt is 25º. Main ring, Amalthea gossamer ring, and
Thebe gossamer ring.
• Mars has two small satellites named Phobos
and Deimos which was discovered by Asaph • Jupiter’s rings were discovered by Voyager
Hall in August 1877. 1 in 1979.

• If you weigh 100 lbs, your weight on Mars • If you weigh 100 lbs, your weight on Jupiter
would be 38 lbs. (multiply your actual would be 236 lbs. (multiply your actual
weight by 0.38). weight by 2.36).

• Just like Earth, both of Mars’ poles are • The volume of Jupiter is great enough to
blanketed in ice. hold 1,300 Earths.

• Of all the volcanoes in the Solar System, • The rotation of Jupiter is the fastest of any
Mars has the tallest. It is named Olympus planet in the Solar System, making its days
Mons and it stands at 21 km high, or three only 10 hours long.
times that of Mount Everest. • The large red spot on Jupiter is actually
JUPITER from a storm that has lasted over 300 years.

• Jupiter, sometimes called Jove, was the King • Jupiter’s Atmosphere is made up
of the gods in Roman mythology and the predominantly of hydrogen. The simple,
son of Saturn. basic gas, a prime ingredient on the sun,
accounts for 90 percent of the atmosphere.
• The first sighting of Jupiter were by ancient Nearly 10 percent is composed of helium.
Babylonians in around 7th or 8th BC.
• A very small fraction of the atmosphere is
• Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar made up of compounds such as ammonia,
system with a mean diameter of 139,822 sulfur, methane, and water vapor.
km (86,881 miles).
Aurora of Jupiter
• Jupiter’s mass is 318 times larger than
Earth. The diameter is 11 times, volume is • A stunning electric blue whirl, which is
1,321 times, and surface area is 122 times actually ultraviolet.
of Earth. SATURN
• The orbital speed of Jupiter is 13.1 km/sec. • Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and
• A year on Jupiter is equal to 11.9 Earth the second largest.
Years. • Saturn was named after the god of
• A day on Jupiter is equal to 9.8 Earth Hours. agriculture in Roman mythology.

• Jupiter’s axial tilt is 3.17º. • Saturn’s fame has been observed going
back to ancient times, the Babylonians,
• Jupiter’s maximum distance from the Sun = Romans, Greek, Hindus, and many more
817 million km (508 million miles). ancient civilizations have taken great
interest in studying this ringed planet.
• Jupiter’s minimum distance from Earth =
588 million km (365 million miles). • Saturn is flattened at the poles, due to a
fast rotation on its axis.
• Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in our
solar system. • A year on Saturn is equal to 29.5 Earth
• Has 67 confirmed moons orbiting the
planets. • A day on Saturn is equal to 10 hours and 14
minutes in Earth days.
• Jupiter has sixty three moons or satellites,
eight are regular and 55 irregular. • Saturn’s axial tilt is 26.73º.
• Diameter of Saturn is 119,871 km (74,500 • The methane in the atmosphere absorbs
miles). red light, giving the planet a blue-green
• Saturn’s maximum distance from the Sun is
1.5 billion km (938 million miles). • The planet is the second least dense after
• Saturn’s minimum distance from Earth is 1.2
billion km (746 million miles). • Spins from east to west, which is opposite
from the spin of Earth.
• Saturn is the only planet in our solar system
that is less dense that water. • A day on Uranus is equal to 17 hours and 14
minutes on Earth.
• Saturn’s rings are made primarily of “water
ice” mixed with dust and other chemicals. • It takes Uranus 84 Earth days to orbit the
• Saturn has fourteen subdivisions of its rings,
the widest is at 25,500 km, the B ring. • Uranus’ axis is tilted almost 98º.

• If you weigh 100 lbs, your weight on Saturn • Uranus’ orbital eccentricity is 0.0473,
would be 108 lbs. (multiply your actual making it the fourth most circular orbit of
weight by 1.08). all the planets.

• The temperature on Saturn by the clouds is • Uranus maximum distance from the Sun is 3
at -274° F. billion km (1.88 billion miles).

• Saturn has 62 known moons, fifty-three • Uranus minimum distance from the Earth is
have been named. Most of them are small 2.6 billion km (1.6 billion miles).
in size.
• The diameter of Uranus is 51,488 km
• Names of some of Saturn’s moons: the (32,000 miles).
largest is Titan, discovered in 1655; Tethys,
Dione, Rhea, & Iapetus, discovered from • The 27 moons of Uranus are named after
1671 to 1672; Mimas & Enceladus, characters created by William Shakespeare
discovered in 1789; and Hyperion, and Alexander Pope.
discovered in 1848. • William Herschel identified Titania and
• Titan is Saturn's only moon that has an Oberon in 1787, these are the first two
atmosphere, it is also bigger than Mercury. moons of Uranus that were discovered.

• The day of the week, Saturday, is named • Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and
after Saturn. Oberon are the main satellites of Uranus.

• Saturn's atmosphere is approximately 75% • Uranus has 13 unique rings. They are
hydrogen and 25% helium with traces of named using Greek symbols and other
other substances like methane and water numerical values: 1986U2R/ζ, 6, 5, 4, α, β,
ice. Saturn's atmosphere, although similar η, γ, δ, λ, ε, ν, and μ.
to Jupiter's, is much less interesting to look • Uranium, the chemical element, is named
at from a distance. after the planet Uranus by Martin Heinrich
URANUS Klaproth, a German chemist, in 1789.

• Uranus is named after the Greek god of the • If you weigh 100 lbs on earth, your weight
sky. Uranus was the husband of Gaia, the on Uranus would be 89 lbs. (multiply your
goddess of the Earth. actual weight by 0.89).

• It was discovered in December 13, 1781 by • Uranus is the coldest of the planets even
William Herschel, a German-born British though Neptune is located further from the
astronomer. Sun.

• The orbital speed of Uranus is 6.6 km/sec NEPTUNE

(14,763 mi/hr). • Neptune is the fourth largest planet in the
• Uranus is the third largest planet by Solar System with respect to diameter and
diameter, yet fourth most massive. the third largest planet in terms of mass.

• The atmosphere of Uranus is composed of • Neptune was discovered by Urbaine Le

hydrogen, helium, and methane. Verrier, John Couch Adams, and Johann
Galle on September 23, 1846.
• The blue color of the planet is due to the
absorption of red light by methane in the

• Orbital speed of Neptune is 5.4 km/second.

• The diameter of Neptune is 49,493 km.

• One Neptune day is equal to 16 hours in

Earth time.

• One Neptune year is equal to 164.83 Earth


• Neptune is the farthest planet from the Sun.

• Neptune’s orbital eccentricity is .0097. Its

orbit is very close to being circular.

• Its axial tilt is 28.3º.

• Neptune’s maximum distance from the Sun

– 4.5 billion km (2.8 billion miles).

• Neptune’s minimum distance from Earth –

4.3 billion km (2.7 billion miles).

• Neptune's atmosphere is composed up of

many gases. These gases include Hydrogen
(80%), Helium (19%), and a trace amount of

• Neptune has 13 moons, the largest of which

is named Triton. The other moons are:
Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Larissa,
Proteus, Nereid, Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia,
Neso, and Psamathe.

• Neptune has five main rings, they are

named after the people who had been
doing work on the planet; the rings are:
Halle, Le Verrier, Lassell, Arago, and Adams.

• If you weigh 100 lbs, your weight on

Neptune would be 113 lbs. (multiply your
actual weight by 1.13).

• Neptune was the very first planet to be

located using mathematics rather than

• The planet is never capable of being seen by

the naked eye.


Diameter: 950 km Diameter: 2,326 km

Mass: 8.96 × 10^20 kg (0.01 Mass: 1.66 × 10^22 kg (0.23

Moons) Moons)

Orbit Distance: 413,700,000 km (2.8 Orbit Distance: 10,120,000,000 km (68.01


Orbit Period: 1,680 days (4.6 years)

Orbit Period: 560.9 years

Surface Temperature: -105°C Surface Temperature: -231°C

Moons: 1 (Dysnomia)

Moons: None Discovery Date: January 5th 2005

Discovery Date: 1st January 1801 Discovered By: M.E. Brown C.A. Trujillo &
D.L. Rabinowitz
Discovered By: Giuseppe Piazzi

Equatorial Diameter: 1,960 km to 1,518 km

Diameter: 2,372 km
Polar Diameter: 996 km
Mass: 4.01 × 10^21 kg (0.05
Mass: 1.31 × 10^22 kg (0.17 Moons)
Orbit Distance: 6,452,000,000 km
(43.13 AU)
Orbit Distance: 5,874,000,000 km (39.26 AU)
Orbit Period: 283.3 years
Surface Temperature: -241°C
Orbit Period: 248.0 years
Moons: 2 (Hi’iaka & Namaka)
Surface Temperature: -229°C Discovery Date: 28th December 2004
Discovered By: (Disputed) Mike Brown
Moons: 5 (Charon) & team or José Luis Ortiz
Moreno & team
Discovery Date: February 18th 1930

Discovered By: Clyde W. Tombaugh

PLUTO’s 5 known moons.

The moons are Charon (discovered in 1978,) Hydra
and Nix (both discovered in 2005), Kerberos
originally P4 (discovered 2011) and Styx originally
P5 (discovered 2012)
Discovery Date: February 18th 1930
Discovered By: Clyde W. Tombaugh

• A world nicknamed "Easterbunny" by its

discoverers before officially getting named Equatorial 1,434 km
after the Polynesian creator of humanity
and the god of fertility. Polar Diameter: 1,422 km
Mass: 2-5 × 10^21 kg (0.04 Moons)
• Makemake is a type of icy dwarf planet
known as a plutoid. Orbit Distance: 6,850,000,000 km (45.79 AU)

Orbit Period: 309.9 years

Surface -239°C
Moons: 1 (MK 2 - S/2015 (136472) 1)
Discovery Date: March 31st 2005
Discovered By: Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo &
David Rabinowitz

Name Diameter Distance from the Sun Orbit Period

Ceres 950 km 413,700,000 km (2.77 AU) 4.6 years

Pluto 2,372 km 5,874,000,000 km (39.26 AU) 248.0 years

Haumea 1,960 km - 1,518 km × 996 6,452,000,000 km (43.13 AU) 283.3 years


Makemake 1,434 km × 1,422 km 6,850,000,000 km (45.79 AU) 309.9 years

Eris 2,326 km 10,120,000,000 km (68.01 AU) 560.9 years

COMETS, METEORS AND ASTEROID FACTS • Asteroids come in a variety of shapes and
sizes. Some are solid bodies, while others
COMETS are smaller piles of rubble bound
• Comets are icy bodies in space that release together by gravity.
gas or dust. They are often compared to • Asteroids lie within three regions of the
dirty snowballs. solar system.
• Comets contain dust, ice, carbon dioxide, • Most asteroids lie in a vast ring between
ammonia, methane and more. the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
FAMOUS COMETS • This main asteroid belt holds more than
• HALLEY'S COMET is likely the most 200 asteroids larger than 60 miles (100
km) in diameter.
famous comet in the world, even
depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry that • Many asteroids lie outside the main belt.
chronicled the Battle of Hastings of 1066 Trojan asteroids orbit a larger planet in
discovered by Edmond Halley. two special places, known as Lagrange
points, where the gravitational pull of the
• It becomes visible to the naked eye every sun and the planet are balanced.
76 years when it nears the sun.
• Trojan asteroids orbit a larger planet in
• HALE-BOPP, which came within 122 two special places, known as Lagrange
million miles (197 million km) of Earth in points, where the gravitational pull of the
sun and the planet are balanced.
1997. Its unusually large nucleus gave off
a great deal of dust and gas — estimated • Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) circle closer
at roughly 18 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km) to Earth than the sun.
across — appeared bright to the naked
• Amor asteroids have close orbits that
eye. approach but no not cross Earth's path,
according to NASA.
• Hale–Bopp was discovered on July 23,
1995, separately by Alan Hale and • Apollo asteroids have Earth-crossing
Thomas Bopp orbits but spend most of their time
outside the planet's path.
• COMET ISON is a sungrazing comet
discovered on 21 September 2012 by Vitaly • Aten asteroids also cross Earth's orbit but
Nevsky and Artyom Novichonok.
spend most of their time inside Earth's
• Atira asteroids are near-Earth asteroids
• Rocky worlds revolving around the sun whose orbits are contained within Earth's
that are too small to be called planets. orbit
They are also known as planetoids or
minor planets.
• The mass of all the asteroids is less than
• The C-type or carbonaceous asteroids are
that of Earth's moon.
grayish in color and are the most
• Asteroids are leftovers from the common, including more than 75 percent
formation of our solar system about 4.6 of known asteroids. They probably consist
billion years ago. of clay and stony silicate rocks, and
inhabit the main belt's outer regions.
• Asteroids can reach as large as Ceres,
which is 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) • The S-type or silicaceous asteroids are
across greenish to reddish in color, account for
about 17 percent of known asteroids, and
• The surfaces of most asteroids are dominate the inner asteroid belt. They
thought to be covered in dust. appear to be made of silicate materials
and nickel-iron.
• As asteroids revolve around the sun in
elliptical orbits, they rotate, sometimes • The M-type or metallic asteroids are
tumbling quite erratically. reddish in color, make up most of the rest
of the asteroids, and dwell in the middle
• The average temperature of the surface
region of the main belt. They seem to be
of a typical asteroid is minus 100 degrees
made up of nickle-iron.
Fahrenheit (minus 73 degrees Celsius).
• When an asteroid, or a part of it, crashes known as a meteorite. Meteorites are
into Earth, it's called a METEORITE. usually categorized as iron or stony.

How do meteors differ from meteorites?

• If a meteoroid enters the Earth's

METEORITES atmosphere and vaporizes, it becomes a
meteor, which is often called a shooting
• Every asteroid or meteoroid that survives star.
its passage through Earth's atmosphere
(and this is the rare exception) can be • If a small asteroid or large meteoroid
advanced to be called a meteorite. survives its fiery passage through the
Earth's atmosphere and lands on Earth's
• Meteorites are made of rock (stony surface, it is then called a meteorite.
meteorites), metal (iron meteorites) or a
mixture of these two materials (stony- • They range in size from dust to around 10
iron meteorites or pallasites). metres in diameter.


• Stony meteorites are rocks, mainly • Meteoroids are all the smaller objects in
composed of silicate minerals; iron orbit around the Sun. Most of them
meteorites that are largely composed of originate from comets that lose gas and
metallic iron-nickel; and, stony-iron dust when they approach the Sun.
meteorites or pallasite that contain large • Other meteoroids are basically small
amounts of both metallic and rocky asteroids.
• The smallest and by far the most
Here are typical compositions: numerous ones have sizes of small dust
• Iron meteorites particles and are called micrometeoroids;
they do not leave any visible trace behind
• Iron: 91 percent when they enter the Earth's atmosphere.

• Nickel: 8.5 percent

• Cobalt: 0.6 percent

• Stony meteorites

• Oxygen: 6 percent

• Iron: 26 percent

• Silicon: 18 percent

• Magnesium: 14 percent

• Aluminum: 1.5 percent

• Nickel: 1.4 percent

• Calcium: 1.3 percent


• A bright streak of light in the sky (a

"shooting star" or a "falling star")
produced by the entry of a small
meteoroid into the Earth's atmosphere.

• A meteor is an asteroid or other object

that burns and vaporizes upon entry into
the Earth's atmosphere; meteors are
commonly known as "shooting stars." If a
meteor survives the plunge through the
atmosphere and lands on the surface, it's