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Nov 17 2020
Where did the universe come from? Are we really alone out here? Is it possible to spot the galaxies with your naked eyes? Do we need sophisticated equipment to admire the wonders of the universe or can we do it from the comfort of our Earth? Well, indeed there is still much to discover and one can only answer these or other such questions by exploring the solar system planets and the world beyond.
It doesn’t take much skill or sophisticated equipment to get started with amateur astronomy or stargazing. The other good thing is that you can do it from just about anywhere with your naked eyes, a binoculars or a telescope. And this article can be the starting point of deepening our connection with the cosmos by getting to understand the planets in our solar system.
The entire known universe is made up of planetary systems that have planets orbiting a host star. Ours is called solar because our Sun is named Sol (origins from the Latin word “solis” meaning the sun). Therefore anything related to Sol is Solar, and hence the Solar system.
Our solar system comprises our “angel of light” - the Sun, and everything else bound to it via gravity. This includes the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
It also consists of dwarf planets like Pluto, Ceres, Makemake, Haumea and Eris. Plus, our solar system has hundreds of moons and millions of meteoroids, constellations, asteroids and comets.
Here is a short breakdown of our solar system planets:
It’s a yellow star, made up of hot glowing gases. The Sun holds our solar system together through the force of gravity. And this way it keeps everything from the largest planets to the smallest objects and debris in its orbit. It makes up to 99.8% of the mass of our entire solar system.
The interactions and associations between the Sun and the Earth are responsible for bringing seasons, auroras, radiation belt and ocean currents. For an easy visualization of the size of our Sun, try this: if it was the size of the door, our Earth would be about the size of a coin. At the equator, it spins once every 25 days or so and once on its axis every 35 days.
This dwarf star is a ball of 92.1% Hydrogen and 7.8% Helium all held together by its own gravity. Without this power of light and energy, there would be zero life here on Earth.
This enigmatic place of extremes makes for the first and closest planet to the sun. It’s the smallest of the planets in the solar system, only slightly larger than the Earth’s moon. From where it’s positioned, the Sun would seem thrice the size as viewed from Earth and the brightness would be seven times more! The surprising thing though, is that despite its proximity to the Sun, it’s not the hottest planet in our solar system.
Venus has been nicknamed Earth’s twin, simply because they’re similar in size and structure, with that said though, they have great differences. The atmosphere on Venus is so toxic because it’s filled with carbon dioxide. And it’s constantly masked in thick yellowish clouds made up of sulfuric acid that completely traps the heat causing a greenhouse effect. Not to mention this is why Venus is the hottest of the planets in our solar system, even though it’s second from the Sun.
It has intense air pressure crushing at its surface, and is 90 times greater than that of the Earth.
Our home sweet home, it’s the third planet from the Sun and the only one that supports life as far as we know it. It’s the only planet on the solar system displaying liquid water right on its surface. It’s the fifth largest of all the planets in the solar system.
It’s just a bit larger than planet Venus and ranks the first among the four planets placed in the close neighborhood of the Sun. The four planets have as main components the metal and rocks. The noun Earth has Germanic origins and means “ground”. And this is the only planet that’s not named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.
This is the fourth planet from the Sun. It’s a cold and dusty desert world that has a very thin atmosphere. There are extinct volcanoes that provide evidence of an active past. Mars also has seasons, canyons and polar ice caps.
Of all the solar system planets, this is the most explored with NASA sending experts to roam around. Currently there are 3 spacecrafts in orbit and one rover on the surface. Evidence from these explorations have shown that Mars used to be much warmer and wet with a thicker atmosphere many billions of years ago.
It’s on Jupiter that Galileo found the first moon besides the Earth’s. It’s the fifth from the Sun and the largest of the planets in the solar system. It’s big enough to cover twice the size of all planets in the Solar System put together.
Jupiter is very popular for its famous “Great Red Spot” which is a gigantesque storm (bigger than our Earth) that has been raging for centuries. It has cold vortices and stripes, plus windy clouds of water and ammonia wandering in a dense atmosphere of helium and hydrogen.
The sixth of the planets in our solar system, this outlandish planet is also the second largest.
It’s so gorgeous thanks to the thousands of ringlets made of chunks of ice and rock. Just like the other 3 giants, this planet too is a massive ball of hydrogen and helium.
The seventh of the solar system planets. Uranus likes to stand out and therefore it rolls sideways, that’s why it’s called the “side-ways planet”. This planet was the first to be discovered using a telescope in 1781 by William Herschel.
It’s also an Ice Giant that’s about four times the size of Earth. It has 27 known Moons all named after famous characters of William Shakespeare’s and Alexander Pope’s works. Uranus is a ringed planet.
This is the most distant of the solar system planets. It’s so, so far. Thus, it’s cold, dark and has supersonic winds. Considering how many planets are in our solar system, are they all visible to the naked eye? Well, Neptune is the only one that cannot be seen this way and the first planet to be predicted by mathematics before it was actually spotted.
Since it’s placed so far, at a 30 times multiplied distance between Earth and Sun; it’s just the other day in 2011 that this Ice Giant completed its first orbit of 165 years, since its discovery way back in 1846.
These worlds of wonders are a gift that keeps offering; you never stop learning about new discoveries within our solar system planets. Whether it’s through your naked eyes, or in an entertaining way via a Galaxy Projector that streams all these and more in your room, you can never stop wondering in front of this divine elegance. A falling confetti show or simpler said: just the alluring cosmos.
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