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Andrew V. (Solar System)
Transcript of Andrew V. (Solar System)
The sun lies at the heart of the solar system, where it is by far the largest object. It holds 99.8 percent of the solar system's mass and is roughly 109 times the diameter of the Earth — about one million Earths could fit inside the sun.
The visible part of the sun is roughly 10,000 degrees F (5,500 degrees C), while temperatures in the core reach more than 27 million degrees F (15 million degrees C), driven by nuclear reactions. One would need to explode 100 billion tons of dynamite every second to match the energy produced by the Sun.
The sun is one of more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. It orbits some 25,000 light years from the galactic core, completing a revolution once every 250 million years or so.
Mercury is the smallest planet — it is only slightly larger than Earth's moon.
Since it has no significant atmosphere to stop impacts, the planet is pockmarked with craters. About 4 billion years ago, an asteroid roughly 60 miles wide (100 kilometers) struck Mercury with an impact equal to 1 trillion 1-megaton bombs, creating a vast impact crater roughly 960 miles (1,550 km) wide. Known as the Caloris Basin, this crater could hold the entire state of Texas.
Mercury was known since at least Sumerian times roughly 5,000 years ago, where it was often associated with Nabu, the god of writing.
Venus, the second planet from the sun, is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. The planet — the only planet named after a female — may have been named for the most beautiful deity of her pantheon because it shone the brightest of the five planets known to ancient astronomers.
In ancient times, Venus was often thought to be two different stars, the evening star and the morning star — that is, the ones that first appeared at sunset and sunrise. In Latin, they were respectively known as Vesper and Lucifer. In Christian times, Lucifer, or "light-bringer," became known as the name of Satan before his fall.
Venus has a hellish atmosphere as well, consisting mainly of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid, and scientists have only detected trace amounts of water in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is heavier than that of any other planet, leading to a surface pressure 90 times that of Earth.
Earth, our home, is the third planet from the sun. It is the only planet known to have an atmosphere containing free oxygen, oceans of liquid water on its surface, and, of course, life. Earth is the fifth largest of the planets in the solar system — smaller than the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but larger than the three other rocky planets, Mercury, Mars and Venus.
Earth has a diameter of roughly 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers), and is round because gravity pulls matter into a ball, although it is not perfectly round, instead being more of an "oblate spheroid" whose spin causes it to be squashed at its poles and swollen at the equator.
Roughly 71 percent of Earth's surface is covered by water, most of it in the oceans. About a fifth of Earth's atmosphere is made up of oxygen, produced by plants. While scientists have been studying our planet for centuries, much has been learned in recent decades by studying pictures of Earth from space.
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. Befitting the red planet's bloody color, the Romans named it after their god of war. The Romans copied the ancient Greeks, who also named the planet after their god of war, Ares. Other civilizations also typically gave the planet names based on its color — for example, the Egyptians named it "Her Desher," meaning "the red one," while ancient Chinese astronomers dubbed it "the fire star."
The cold, thin atmosphere means liquid water currently cannot exist on the Martian surface for any length of time. This means that although this desert planet is just half the diameter of Earth, they have the same amount of dry land.
The red planet is home to both the highest mountain and the deepest, longest valley in the solar system. Olympus Mons is roughly 17 miles (27 kilometers) high, about three times as tall as Mount Everest, while the Valles Marineris system of valleys — named after the Mariner 9 probe that discovered it in 1971 — can go as deep as 6 miles (10 km) and runs east-west for roughly 2,500 miles (4,000 km), about one-fifth of the distance around Mars and close to the width of Australia or the distance from Philadelphia to San Diego.
may be alien space stations
The moon is the easiest celestial object to find in the night sky — when it's there. Moon phases and the moon's orbit are a mystery to many. Because it takes 27.3 days both to rotate on its axis and to orbit Earth, the moon always shows us the same face. We see the moon because of reflected sunlight. How much of it we see depends on its position in relation to Earth and the Sun.
Though a satellite of Earth, the moon is bigger than Pluto. Some scientists think of it as a planet (four other moons in our solar system are even bigger), though that viewpoint has never caught on officially. There are various theories about how the moon was created, but recent evidence indicates it formed when a huge collision tore a chunk of Earth away.
The moon very likely has a very small core just 1 to 2 percent of the moon's mass and roughly 420 miles (680 km) wide. It likely consists mostly of iron, but may also contain large amounts of sulfur and other elements.
Asteroids are small, airless rocky worlds revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. They are also known as planetoids or minor planets. In total, the mass of all the asteroids is less than that of Earth's moon. But despite their size, asteroids can be dangerous. Many have hit Earth in the past, and more will crash into our planet in the future. That's one reason scientists study asteroids and are eager to learn more about their numbers, orbits and physical characteristics. If an asteroid is headed our way, we want to know that.
Most asteroids lie in a vast ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This main asteroid belt holds more than 200 asteroids larger than 60 miles (100 kilometers) in diameter. Scientists estimate the asteroid belt also contains more than 750,000 asteroids larger than three-fifths of a mile (1 km) in diameter and millions of smaller ones. Not everything in the main belt is an asteroid — for instance, comets have recently been discovered there, and Ceres, once thought of only as an asteroid, is now also considered a dwarf planet.
Many asteroids lie outside the main belt. For instance, a number of asteroids called Trojans lie along Jupiter's orbital path. Three groups — Atens, Amors, and Apollos — known as near-Earth asteroids orbit in the inner solar system and sometimes cross the path of Mars and Earth.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Fittingly, it was named after the king of the gods in Roman mythology. In a similar manner, the ancient Greeks named the planet after Zeus, the king of the Greek pantheon.
Jupiter helped revolutionize the way we saw the universe and ourselves in 1610, when Galileo discovered Jupiter's four large moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, now known as the Galilean moons. This was the first time celestial bodies were seen circling an object other then Earth, major support of the Copernican view that Earth was not the center of the universe.
The Great Red Spot is the most noticeable feature on Jupiter's surface — a storm about 12,400 miles (20,000 kilometers) long and 7,500 miles (12,000 km) wide, about two to three times larger than Earth. Winds at its oval edges can reach up to 425 mph (680 km/h). This giant storm was first recorded in 1831 but may have first been discovered in 1665.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system. Although the other gas giants in the solar system — Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune — also have rings, those of Saturn are without a doubt the most extraordinary.
Saturn was the Roman name for Cronus, the lord of the Titans in Greek mythology. Saturn is the root of the English word "Saturday."
Saturn is a gas giant made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. Saturn is big enough to hold more than 760 Earths, and is more massive than any other planet except Jupiter, roughly 95 times Earth's mass. However, Saturn has the lowest density of all the planets, and is the only one less dense than water — if there were a bathtub big enough to hold it, Saturn would float.
Uranus, named after the Greek sky deity Ouranos, the earliest of the lords of the heavens, was the first planet to be discovered by scientists.
Although Uranus is visible to the naked eye, just like the classical planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — it was long mistaken as a star because of the planet’s dimness and slow orbit. British astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus accidentally on March 13, 1781, with his telescope while surveying all stars down to those about 10 times dimmer than can be seen by the naked eye. One "star" seemed different, and within a year Uranus was shown to follow a planetary orbit.
Many names were proposed for the new planet, including "Hypercronius" ("above Saturn"), "Minerva" (the Roman goddess of wisdom), and "Herschel." To flatter King George III of England, Herschel himself offered "Georgium Sidus" ("The Georgian Planet") as a name, but that idea was unpopular outside of England and George's native Hanover. German astronomer Johann Bode, who detailed Uranus' orbit, gave the planet its ultimate name.
Scientists working with SETI have caught sight of Neptune's "lost" moon of Naiad using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more here: Neptune's 'Lost' Moon Spotted for First Time in 20 Years.)
The planet Neptune was discovered on Sept. 23, 1846. Neptune was the first planet to get its existence predicted by mathematical calculations before it was actually seen by a telescope. Irregularities in the orbit of Uranus led French astronomer Alexis Bouvard to suggest that the gravitational pull from another celestial body might be responsible. German astronomer Johann Galle then relied on subsequent calculations to help spot Neptune via telescope. In accordance with all the other planets seen in the sky, this new world was given a name from Greek and Roman mythology — Neptune, the Roman god of the sea.
Neptune’s cloud cover has an especially vivid blue tint that is partly due to an as-yet-unidentified compound and the result of the absorption of red light by methane in the planets mostly hydrogen-helium atmosphere. Photos of Neptune reveal a blue planet, and it is often dubbed an ice giant, since it possesses a thick, slushy fluid mix of water, ammonia and methane ices under its atmosphere and is roughly 17 times Earth's mass and nearly 58 times its volume. Neptune's rocky core alone is thought to be roughly equal to Earth's mass.
Despite its great distance from the sun, which means it gets little sunlight to help warm and drive its atmosphere, Neptune's winds can reach up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kilometers per hour), the fastest detected yet in the solar system. These winds were linked with a large dark storm that Voyager 2 tracked in Neptune's southern hemisphere in 1989. This oval-shaped, counterclockwise-spinning "Great Dark Spot" was large enough to contain the entire Earth, and moved westward at nearly 750 miles per hour (1,200 kilometers per hour). This storm seemed to have vanished when the Hubble Space Telescope later searched for it. Hubble has also revealed the appearance and then fading of two other Great Dark Spots over the last decade.
Pluto is the only dwarf planet to once have been considered a major planet. Once thought of as the ninth planet and the one most distant from the sun, Pluto is now seen as one of the largest known members of the Kuiper Belt, a shadowy disk-like zone beyond the orbit of Neptune populated by a trillion or more comets. Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, a change widely thought of as a demotion that has attracted controversy and debate.
American astronomer Percival Lowell first caught hints of Pluto's existence in 1905 from odd deviations he observed in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus, suggesting that another world's gravity was tugging at them from beyond. He predicted its location in 1915, but died without finding it. Its discovery came in 1930 from Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory, based on predictions from Lowell and other astronomers.
Pluto is the only world named by an 11-year-old girl, Venetia Burney of Oxford, England, who suggested to her grandfather that it get its name from the Roman god of the underworld. Her grandfather then passed the name on to Lowell Observatory. The name also honors Percival Lowell, whose initials are the first two letters of Pluto.