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The Solar System
Transcript of The Solar System
Earth is about 2 2/3 times bigger than Mercury. This planet's surface features are very similar to our moon's. Its surface features include vast plains, ridges, and MANY craters, which can reach to over 800 miles across. The largest single feature on Mercury is the Caloris Basin, which scientists suspect was caused by a large meteorite. Mercury's atmosphere, or what it has of one, is comprised of hydrogen, helium, and oxygen, with even smaller traces of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnetism. There is practically NO atmosphere on Mercury, because of its small size makes gravity weak, so the atmosphere is very, very thin. It has the most varying temperatures of any other planet in the solar system, although it is not the hottest. The side of the planet facing the Sun can reach about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, while the other side is about -280 degrees. Mercury's relative distance from the Sun is about 35,980,000 miles. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that Mercury has never supported life and never will, because liquid water can not exist at its temperatures, and its harsh conditions on its surface and very thin atmosphere make it impossible to live. There is currently no moons orbiting Mercury, nor does it have any rings.
THE S LAR SYSTEM
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The Sun, the center of our solar system and the source of life for Earth, is not a planet but a star. It, like all stars, does not have a true solid surface but is a giant ball of gas. At the surface, the temperature is roughly 10 million degrees Fahrenheit, while at the core of the Sun, temperatures soar at about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. Taking the whole mass of our solar system, the Sun makes up 99.8% of it. It formed about 4.6 billion years ago, and will burn bright for another 5 billion, until it will swell into a red giant, and then finally collapse into a black dwarf. It is considered a"middle-aged" star and actually extremely small compared to other, unbelievably gigantic stars, including VY Canis Majorus, the largest known star, 2,000 times bigger than the Sun.
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Venus, is very similar to Earth in composition, density, gravity, mass, and size, with only about a 600 mile difference in radius. There is no liquid water on it, because the heat would evaporate it immediately, and is extremely dry . Most of this nightmarish planet is covered with huge plains, with thousands of volcanoes emerging from the surface. Lava carves canals thousands of miles long. The mountain range, Maxwell Montes, contains the highest point on the planet, 7 miles high, roughly 1 and a half miles taller then Mt. Everest. Venus's atmosphere is made up of mostly carbon dioxide (96%). It has a surface pressure equal to more than half a mile below the ocean surface on Earth. There is a lot of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere, and is what the clouds are made of. Some radio waves similar to lightning have been observed in the clouds. There is not even a trace amount of oxygen it the atmosphere. The temperature on Venus is a steady 864 degrees Fahrenheit, while the hottest spots on Earth receive only about 122 degrees Fahrenheit. It, although not the closest planet to the Sun, is the hottest planet because of the thick atmosphere that traps the heat, like an extreme greenhouse effect. Venus is 67, 240,000 miles away from the Sun. It, like Mercury, definitely lacks the ability to support life. Any form of life would be broiled alive, with temperatures hot enough to melt lead. There is no liquid water, just clouds made of droplets of sulfuric acid. Its sometimes called Earth's 'sister planet' or 'evil twin', because of the similarities in size. Venus, like Mercury, has no moons or rings.
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Our home planet's surface is 70% water. The rest of it is made up of the 7 continental landmasses. Earth's outer layer was formed billions of years ago, when lava cooled to to form the hard, rocky crust. The crust is divided into tectonic plates that up to 10 centimeters each year. These create the mountain ranges that are scattered on Earth's surface. Earth also has volcanoes. Its atmosphere is mainly composed of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and argon (1%). There are also many different trace amounts of molecules. There are five main layers in the atmosphere: the troposphere (0-7 miles above sea level), the stratosphere (7-31 miles), the mesosphere (31-50), thermosphere (50- 440), and the exosphere (440- 6,200), and then it truly merges with space. However, the Karman Line, 62 miles above the surface, is commonly used to distinguish the atmosphere and space.Earth is 92,960,000 miles away from the sun. Scientists suspect that life on Earth will meet a definite end in about 1.75 billion years. Earth has one moon that orbits it, and does not have any rings.
The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite. It's the fifth largest satellite in the solar system, impressive considering there are 166 moons in our solar system, not including the 6 that orbit dwarf planets. It is the brightest object in the sky apart from the sun. The Moon's gravity also alters Earth's tides. Its surface has many different types of features; the lunar maria (plains), the terre (highlands), mountain ranges, and craters. There is actually water in the form of ice at the poles. However, because the Moon has no atmosphere, it can not warm up enough for the ice to become liquid, thus eliminating life. There have been both manned landings on the Moon and probed landings.
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Mars, also called the "Red Planet", has a diameter about half of Earth's. Even though it has a surface area about 28% of Earth's, it still has as much dry land as we do. The surface is mostly basalt, but the iron oxide is what gives this planet its rusty red color. There used to be volcanoes on Mars's surface, and when they erupted, they could not stop spewing lava because it lacked plate tectonics. Olympus Mons formed in the exact same way, and is the highest point on Mars, almost 3 times higher then our Mt. Everest, and the tallest mountain and volcano in the solar system. Mars also hosts the largest canyon in the solar system; Valles Marineris, 2,430 miles long, 125 miles wide, and 6 miles deep. Mars has a lot of impact craters as well. There is evidence that there was once flowing water on Mars because of the pattern in rock. Its atmosphere has dust (iron oxide) floating in it, giving the Red Planet its characteristic color. The atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide (95%), nitrogen (3%), argon (1.6%), and trace amounts of oxygen, water vapor, and other gases. The atmosphere is very thin, and so the planet is very exposed to the Sun's radiation. Its temperature ranges from a high of 70 degrees to -225 degrees Fahrenheit. Mars is 141, 600, 000 miles away from the Sun. Scientists highly doubt that Mars currently supports life, but that may have not been the case billions of years ago. Mars probably used to have lots of water on the surface, rivers, lakes, and even oceans. There ice, however, and the hope that there are microorganisms hasn't been lost quite yet. Earth and Mars are the only terrestrial planets that have moons, but Mars has 2, Phobos and Deimos. They are not spherical like ours, but lumpy and potato shaped, which suggests they were astroids captured in orbit. Mars does not have any rings, but may have some in the future when its larger moon, Phobos, crashes into the planet and debris is ejected to form rings.
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If you combined every planet in the solar system together, Jupiter would have a mass more than half of that. Its by far the most massive planet in the solar system in volume, too: over 1,300 Earths can fit inside of it. Jupiter, as a gas giant, has no actual solid surface. Scientists decided that the 'surface' would be technically located where the atmospheric pressure is at 1 bar (same as the pressure at Earth's surface). At the place dubbed the surface, there are clouds of ammonia ice near the bottom of the atmosphere. The cloud get thicker as you deeper, and then there is water vapor. Below that is heavy mixtures of hydrogen and helium. Then, you reach the burning hot core. A spacecraft couldn't land on Jupiter because it doesn't have anything truly solid on it. Its atmosphere is practically the entire planet, and there is no clear border between it and the rest of the planet. Almost all of it is composed of hydrogen (about 90%) and helium (10%), with a few trace amounts of gases. Jupiter hosts the famous storm that has been raging for centuries, the Great Red Spot. It has shrunk from taking over 24,850 miles of the surface about 100 years ago to currently half that size. No one really knows what causes the red color that identifies it. Jupiter has an average temperature of -229 degrees Fahrenheit. It is 483,800,000 miles from the Sun. Jupiter could, in no way, support life. There isn't liquid water or even a solid surface. The best we can hope for are some floating microorganisms. There are 63 moons on Jupiter, not including the four large Galilean satellites: Ganymede (largest moon in solar system, larger than Mercury), Callisto, Io, and Europa, and scientist suspect that that Europa may have large oceans that could support life. Jupiter does have 4 sets of rings, although they aren't quite as noticeable as Saturn's or Uranus's.
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You could fit 764 Earths inside of the gas giant Saturn. Like other gas giants, Saturn doesn't have a solid surface. If you tried to walk on it, you would simply fall until the pressure got to great and then you would get crushed. The composition of its atmosphere is like Jupiter's; mainly composed of hydrogen (about 75%) and helium (about 25%), with some other trace gases. Saturn also hosts some of the fastest winds in the solar system, clocked at 1118 miles per hour. Saturn doesn't have as visible bands like Jupiter, because there is less sulfur in the atmosphere. The clouds are made of ammonia. Temperatures average at about -288 degrees Fahrenheit. Saturn is 890,700,700 miles away from the Sun. Saturn may contain oxygen around its rings, but it can still not support life. The temperatures are very cold, and with no liquid water and no solid surface, their is no hope of life on Saturn. However, some of its moons may. Saturn has 62 moons, but only 53 have names. Titan, a moon larger than Mercury, has liquids, although not made of water. It has a stable atmosphere, unlike most moons, and resembles Earth more than any other moon or planet. It is possible that it might host life. Saturns rings are perhaps the most spectacular thing about this planet. They are about 170,000,000 miles wide and 30 feet thick. The main rings are A, B,and C, but there are smaller rings D, E, F, and G. All of them are composed of mainly water-ice.
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Uranus, which orbits the sun tipped on its side, is the second smallest gas giant, and you could fit about 63 Earths inside of it. Uranus, like all of the other gas giants, does not have a surface. Its atmosphere is comprised of hydrogen, helium, and methane, and like Neptune, has lots of ice. The methane absorbs red light, giving it the blue-green look that we see. It clouds are made out of water, ammonia hydro sulfide, and methane above the 'surface' (where the atmospheric pressure exceeds 1 bar) in the troposphere, while the stratosphere contains ethane smog. The thermosphere reaches very high temperatures at 1,070 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the planet's average temperature of -371 degrees Fahrenheit. No one really knows why the temperature are so great because of Uranus's huge distance from the Sun, 1,787,000,000 miles. The icy cold everywhere else means no life, especially without any oxygen. Uranus has a total of 27 moons. Its rings are not as visible as Saturn's, but are interesting nonetheless because they are positioned differently. They are small; each one is about a couple miles thick.
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57 Earths could easily fit inside of the gas giant Neptune. There is no solid surface on it, like all of our solar system's other gas giants. However, it may have a solid, rocky, core. It, like most gas giants, is mainly composed of hydrogen and helium, although it does have traces of methane, water, ammonia, and other kinds of ices. The methane is what gives Neptune its characteristic blue hue. Neptune's winds are the fastest in the entire solar system, reaching 1500 miles per hour. Neptune has a storm that is similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot, called the Great Dark Spot. Methane clouds form at the highest parts , it of the atmosphere, and farther down clouds of ammonia, ammonium sulfide, hydrogen sulfide, and water exists. Neptune is 2,798,000,000 miles away from the Sun. Although at the dubbed surface of Neptune, its cold temperatures cannot support life. However, if you go closer to the core, temperature and pressure increase, there may be liquid water that could support life. However, it remains a mystery for now if this hostile planet will allow life. Neptune currently has 14 moons, its largest being Triton, and 5 rings.
Called planetoids or minor planets, asteroids are small, rocky bodies that orbit the Sun along with other planets. The largest one, Ceres, is located in the asteroid belt, but is also considered a dwarf planet. The asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter, is a vast ring that holds millions of asteroids within it. Some asteroids are known to have moons. Very few asteroids are actually spherical; most are irregularly shaped, and many are cratered. The smallest asteroid is only about 20 feet long, while Ceres, the largest, is 583 miles across, so their sizes range enormously. Asteroids are also not always composed of the same materials. Some are metallic, made of iron and nickel, some are rocky, and some are carbonaceous. Many moons, especially in the outer solar system, are actually asteroids captured in the planet's gravity. The average temperature of an asteroid is -100 degrees Fahrenheit, although it varies.
A comet is a celestial body that originates from the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud, both far outside of our solar system. The nucleus, or the solid core, is made of ice, dust, rock, and other frozen gases. As the comet approaches the Sun, it develops the coma by the ice evaporating into a cloud, and radiation from the Sun creates the most visible part of a comet, the tail. A comet's nuclei can range from about 110 yards to about 25 miles, while their tails can reach up to 100 million miles long. The comets leave a trail of debris, that commonly create the meteor showers on Earth.
Meteors are often thought of huge giant pieces of fiery rock. However, this is only sometimes true, as almost all meteors very small, some the size of a grain of sand. Because of our atmosphere, the burn up quickly. Meteorites are the ones that actually reach the surface, and are very rare. Some of the larger one can explode over the surface and produce very significant damage. You may see some meteors that flash in the sky at random; but meteor showers are when lots of them light up the sky at once. The average meteor travels at a speed of 30,000 miles per hour, can reach temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there are, but rarely, the gigantic fireballs that we can see explode in the middle of the day.
Diameter- 7,918 miles
Diameter- 7,521 miles
Diameter- 4,212 miles
Diameter- 864, 327
Diameter- 2,159 miles
Diameter- 72, 367 miles
Diameter- 86,881 miles
Diameter- 31, 518 miles
Diameter- 30, 599 miles
Diameter- 1,430 miles
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Pluto is not a planet, but a dwarf planet, and that was not the case less than a decade ago. Before August 2006, scientists had classified Pluto as the ninth planet from the Sun. However, not only was Pluto smaller than all the other planets in our solar system (151 of them could fit inside Earth) by a fair amount, there were many other spherical bodies like Pluto past Neptune, like Eris, which was actually larger than Pluto itself. So, scientists decided to put these "planets" into a new category: dwarf planets. Pluto also does not have a nice and clean circular orbit around the Sun like all of the planets do. It has an elliptical, or oval, orbit, and at times passes Neptune so it is, at some times, closer to the Sun than it. Pluto's distance from the Sun is not always the same, but the average distance is 3,670,000,000 miles. Pluto's surface is suspected to be icy and rocky, but no one can be certain yet until we get a closer look in 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft should finally reach Pluto and take startling pictures of it. It's average temperature, though, is know to range from -375 degrees to -400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pluto does have 5 moons, but it is unknown if Pluto has rings.