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Geography

Planet
This article is about the astronomical object. For other uses, see Planet (disambiguation).

Planetary-sized objects to scale: Top row: Uranus and Neptune; second row: Earth, white dwarf star Sirius B, Venus; bottom row (reproduced and enlarged in lower image) above: Mars and Mercury; below: the Moon, dwarf planets Pluto and Haumea

A planet (from Greek plants astr "wandering star") is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its owngravity, is not massive enough to causethermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.[a][1][2]The term planet is ancient, with ties tohistory, science, mythology, and religion. The planets were originally seen by many early cultures as divine, or as emissaries of the gods. As scientific knowledge advanced, human perception of the planets changed, incorporating a number of disparate objects. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union(IAU)

officially adopted a resolution defining planets within the Solar System. This definition has been both praised and criticized, and remains disputed by some scientists since it excludes many objects ofplanetary mass based on where or what they orbit. The planets were thought by Ptolemy to orbit the Earth in deferent and epicycle motions. Although the idea that the planets orbited the Sun had been suggested many times, it was not until the 17th century that this view was supported by evidence from the firsttelescopic astronomical observations, performed by Galileo Galilei. By careful analysis of the observation data, Johannes Kepler found the planets' orbits to be not circular, but elliptical. As observational tools improved, astronomers saw that, like Earth, the planets rotated around tilted axes, and some shared such features as ice caps and seasons. Since the dawn of the Space Age, close observation by probes has found that Earth and the other planets share characteristics such as volcanism, hurricanes, tectonics, and even hydrology. Planets are generally divided into two main types: large, low-density gas giants, and smaller, rockyterrestrials. Under IAU definitions, there are eight planets in the Solar System. In order of increasing distance from the Sun, they are the four terrestrials, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, then the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Six of the planets are orbited by one or more natural satellites. Additionally, the Solar System also contains at least five dwarf planets[3] and hundreds of thousands of small Solar System bodies. Since 1992, hundreds of planets around other stars ("extrasolar planets" or "exoplanets") in the Milky Way Galaxy have been discovered. As of April 8, 2012, 763 known extrasolar planets (in 611 planetary systems and 101 multiple planetary systems) are listed in the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia, ranging in size from that of terrestrial planets similar to Earth to that of gas giants larger than Jupiter.[4]On December 20, 2011, the Kepler Space Telescope team reported the discovery of the first Earth-sized extrasolar planets, Kepler-20e[5] and Kepler-20f,[6] orbiting a Sunlike star, Kepler-20.[7][8][9] A 2012 study, analyzing gravitational microlensing data, estimates an average of at least 1.6 bound planets for every star in the Milky Way.[10]

Solar System

Planets and dwarf planets of the Solar System (Sizes to scale, distances not to scale)

The inner planets. From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars (Sizes to scale, distances not to scale)

The four gas giants against the Sun: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune (Sizes to scale, distances not to scale)

Main article: Solar System See also: List of gravitationally rounded objects of the Solar System According to the IAU, there are eight planets and five recognized dwarf planets in the Solar System. In increasing distance from theSun, the planets are:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune

Jupiter is the largest, at 318 Earth masses, while Mercury is smallest, at 0.055 Earth masses. The planets of the Solar System can be divided into categories based on their composition:

Terrestrials: Planets that are similar to Earth, with bodies largely composed of rock: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. At 0.055 Earth masses, Mercury is the smallest terrestrial planet (and smallest planet) in the Solar System, while Earth is the largest terrestrial planet. Gas giants (Jovians): Planets largely composed of gaseous material and significantly more massive than terrestrials: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Jupiter, at 318 Earth masses, is the largest planet in the Solar System, while Saturn is one third as big, at 95 Earth masses. Ice giants, comprising Uranus and Neptune, are a sub-class of gas giants,

distinguished from gas giants by their significantly lower mass (only 14 and 17 Earth masses), and by depletion in hydrogen and helium in their atmospheres together with a significantly higher proportion of rock and ice. Dwarf planets: Before the August 2006 decision, several objects were proposed by astronomers, including at one stage by the IAU, as planets. However in 2006 several of these objects were reclassified as dwarf planets, objects distinct from planets. Currently five dwarf planets in the Solar System are recognized by the IAU: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. Several other objects in both the Asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt are under consideration, with as many as 50 that could eventually qualify. There may be as many as 200 that could be discovered once the Kuiper belt has been fully explored. Dwarf planets share many of the same characteristics as planets, although notable differences remain namely that they are not dominant in their orbits. By definition, all dwarf planets are members of larger populations. Ceres is the largest body in theasteroid belt, while Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake are members of the Kuiper belt and Eris is a member of the scattered disc. Scientists such as Mike Brown believe that there are probably over one hundred transNeptunian objects that qualify as dwarf planets under the IAU's recent definition.[78]