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Notes on the Fact Sheets

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Notes on the Fact Sheets

Most values listed in the factsheets are from the following sources:

IAU/IAG Working Group Report, 2006 Astronomical Almanac, 2000, 2001 Global Earth Physics, American Geophysical Union, 1995 Astrophysical Quantities, C.W. Allen, 1981, 2000 Recent journal articles and personal communications

Note that the values listed on the factsheets are not "official" values, there is no single set of agreed upon values. They are based on ongoing research and as such are under study and subject to change at any time. Every effort has been made to present the most up-to-date information, but care should be exercised when using these values.

Bulk Parameters

Mass (10 24 kg) Volume (10 10 km 3 ) Equatorial radius (km) Polar radius (km) Volumetric mean radius (km) Core radius (km) Ellipticity (Flattening)

Mean density (kg/m 3 )

Surface gravity (m/s 2 )

Surface acceleration (m/s 2 )

Escape velocity (km/s)

GM (x 10 6 km 3 /s 2 )

Visual geometric albedo

Bond albedo

Visual magnitude V(1,0)

Solar irradiance (W/m 2 ) Black-body temperature (K)

Topographic range (km)

Moment of inertia (I/MR 2 )

J 2 (x 10 -6 )

Mass of the body in 10^24 kilograms Volume of the body in 10^10 km^3 Radius of the body at the equator in kilometers Radius of the body at the poles in kilometers Radius of a sphere with the same volume as the body Radius of the planet core in kilometers The ratio (equatorial - polar radius)/(equatorial radius), dimensionless Average density of the body (mass/volume) in kilograms/(meter^3) Equatorial gravitational acceleration at the surface of the body or the 1 bar level, not including the effects of rotation, in meters/(second^2) Effective equatorial gravitational acceleration at the surface of the body or the 1 bar level, including the effects of rotation, in meters/(second^2) Initial velocity required to escape the body's gravitational pull in kilometers/second Gravitational constant times the mass of the body in 10^6 kilometers^3/seconds^2 The ratio of the body's brightness at a phase angle of zero to the brightness of a perfectly diffusing disk with the same position and apparent size, dimensionless. The fraction of incident solar radiation reflected back into space without absorption, dimensionless. Also called planetary albedo. The visual magnitude of the body if it were one AU (1.496 x 10^8 kilometers) from the Earth at a phase angle of zero, dimensionless. Solar energy on the body in Watts/(meter^2) Equivalent black body temperature is the surface temperature the body would have if it were in radiative equilibrium and had no atmosphere, but the same albedo, in Kelvin. Difference in elevation between the highest and lowest points on the planet's surface, in kilometers. The moment of inertia of the body expressed as the rotational inertia divided by the body's (mass x radius^2). A hollow spherical shell has a moment of inertia of 2/3, a homogeneous sphere 0.4 The ratio of the difference in the moments of inertia to the mass of the body times the radius^2, (C-A)/(M R^2), x 10^-6, dimensionless

Number of natural satellites The number of moons orbiting the planet, as certified by the IAU

Absolute magnitude (Comets)

The magnitude of the comet at 1 AU for Y = 10, where Y is the photometric parameter giving the observed dependence of the magnitude on heliocentric distance, also designated H(10).

Orbital parameters

Instantaneous values referenced for Julian Date 2451800.5 (13 September 2000) [Astronomical Almanac 2000, p. E3]

Semimajor axis (10 6 km)

Sidereal orbit period (days)

Tropical orbit period (days)

Synodic period (days)

Mean distance from the Sun (or other central body in the case of satellites) from center to center in 10^6 kilometers The time it takes the body to make one revolution about the Sun relative to the fixed stars in days. The average time for the body to make one revolution about the Sun from one point in its seasonal orbit to the equivalent point (e.g. equinox to equinox) in days. For Earth, this equals exactly 1 year. The time interval between similar configurations in the orbit (e.g. opposition) of the body and Earth, in days.


Notes on the Fact Sheets

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Perihelion (10 6 km)

The point in a body's orbit closest to the

Aphelion (10 6 km)

Sun, in 10^6 kilometers. The point in a body's orbit furthest from

Mean orbital velocity (km/s)

the Sun, in 10^6 kilometers. The average speed of the body in orbit,

Max. orbital velocity (km/s)

in kilometers/second. Maximum orbital velocity, at perihelion,

Min. orbital velocity (km/s)

in kilometers/second. Minimum orbital velocity, at aphelion,

Orbit inclination (deg)

in kilometers/second. The inclination of the orbit to the ecliptic, in degrees.

Orbit eccentricity

For satellites, this is with respect to the planet's equator. A measure of the circularity of the orbit, equal to

Sidereal rotation period (hrs)

(aphelion - perihelion distance)/(2 x semi-major axis). For the Galilean satellites, the forced eccentricity is given. For a circular orbit eccentricity = 0. Dimensionless. The time for one rotation of the body on its axis

Length of day (hrs)

relative to the fixed stars, in hours. A minus sign indicates retrograde rotation. The average time in hours for the Sun to move from the

Obliquity to orbit (deg)

noon position in the sky at a point on the equator back to the same position, on Earth this defines a 24 hour day. The tilt of the body's equator relative to the body's orbital plane, in degrees.

Mean orbital elements

250-year least squares fit elements referenced to J2000 (Global Earth Physics, p. 14)


The point in a body's orbit around the Sun, defined from

0 to 360 degrees.

the first point of Aries.

The 0 point of longitude is defined as

This is the position of the Sun

as seen from Earth at Earth's vernal equinox, so at the vernal equinox the Earth is at a longitude of 180 degrees. Longitude of ascending node (deg) The longitude in a body's orbit at which it crosses

Longitude of perihelion (deg)

Mean longitude (deg)

the ecliptic plane with increasing latitude (i.e. crosses the ecliptic from south to north). The longitude in a body's orbit at which it reaches the point closest to the Sun. The longitude a body was at in its orbit at 12:00 Universal (Greenwich) Time on January 1, 2000, also known as J2000 or Julian Day 2451545.0


Surface Pressure: Atmospheric pressure at the surface, in bars, millibars (mb = 10^-3 bar), or picobars (10^-12 bar). Surface Density: Atmospheric density at the surface in kilograms/meters^3. Scale height: The height interval in which the atmospheric pressure changes by a factor of e = 2.7183 Average temperature: Mean temperature of the body over the entire surface in Kelvin. Diurnal temperature range: Temperature range over an average day in Kelvin. Wind speeds: Near surface wind speeds in meters/second Atmospheric composition: Relative composition by volume of gasses in the atmosphere. Mean molecular weight: Average molecular weight of the atmospheric constituents in grams/mole Atmospheric composition (by volume): Relative volume of constituents in the atmosphere, by percentage or ppm (parts per million).

Related Definitions

Astronomical Unit (AU) - The mean distance from the Sun to the Earth = 149,597,900 km.

Bar - A measure of pressure or stress.

1 bar = 10^5 Pascal (Pa) = 10^5 kg m^-1 s^-2

Ecliptic - An imaginary plane defined by the Earth's orbit.

Equinox - The point in a body's orbit when the sub-solar point is exactly on the equator.

Gravitational Constant - Relates gravitational force to mass, = 6.6726 x 10^-11 meters^3 kilograms^-1 seconds^-2

Opposition - An orbital configuration in which two bodies are on exact opposite sides of the Sun or are on the same side of the Sun forming a line with the Sun (neglecting inclination)

Phase Angle - The angle between the Earth and Sun as seen from the body.

Sub- and Superscripts

If some of the numbers or units on the fact sheets look a little strange, it may be that the browser you are using doesn't support sub- and superscripts. On your


Notes on the Fact Sheets

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browser, the number formatted to look like 10 to the minus 15 power (10 followed by a superscripted -15) looks like 10 -15 . If "10 -15 " looks like "10-15" to you, you will have trouble reading parts of the factsheets. In the explanation of units, we've included a description of the units in the form where, for example, 10^24 equals 10 to the 24 power.

Directory to the Planetary Fact Sheetsform where, for example, 10^24 equals 10 to the 24 power. Author/Curator: Dr. David R. Williams,

10 to the 24 power. Directory to the Planetary Fact Sheets Author/Curator: Dr. David R. Williams,


Dr. David R. Williams, NSSDC, Mail Code 690.1 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD 20771


NASA Official: Ed Grayzeck, Last Updated: 29 November 2007, DRW