-The Solar System has intrigued people’s curiosity for thousands of years. Its contents are what the inhabitants of Earth call ‘home’ and ‘the extraterrestrial beyond’. Over the course of time, it has inspired scientists all around the world to extend beyond the boundaries of reality and find things no one has ever dreamed about. New ideas have been born by mere curiosity and ambition. This is only the beginning.
-The Solar System includes the Sun and eight planets that orbit around it. The four smallest inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are called “terrestrial planets”. The term “superior planets” designates the five planets outside Earth’s orbit (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). For many thousand years, people didn’t recognize the Solar System. However, as time wore on, it caught their attention.
-Solar System: what does it hold other than planets? More than eight thousand objects are rotating around Earth right now, about two thousand five hundred of which are satellites and the other stuff is “space junk”; asteroids, meteors, and so on. Asteroids- rocky fragments that have been leftover from the beginning of the Solar System. Meteors and Meteorites- scientists estimate that thousands of tons of meteoritic material fall on Earth every day. The ones that vaporize on entering the earths atmosphere are called Meteors. Comets are cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rocks, and dust.
-The Sun is a star made of red-hot glowing gases and takes up 99% of the Solar System’s total mass. The temperature is boiling hot: about 15,000,000 degrees Celsius (or 27,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit). The burning ball in the middle of the Solar System sounds really deadly (and it is), but it is the thing that provides life for humans. The Sun is made up of 92.1% hydrogen and 7.8% helium. Even though it is about 92,960,000 miles away from Earth, it’s sunny influence extends far beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto.
-Being the closest planet to the Sun, Mercury is also the smallest, but slightly larger than Earth’s moon. It’s daytime temperatures can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit, and at nighttime it can drop to -290 degrees Fahrenheit. Life, as humans know it, would not survive on that planet. Mercury’s atmosphere is composed of oxygen, sodium, hydrogen, helium, and potassium. Named after the Roman god, Mercury, it has been visited by only two spacecrafts.
-Venus is third brightest object in the sky after the Moon and the Sun, and the second planet from the Sun. It is also the second largest terrestrial planet (sometimes called ‘Earth’s sister’ because of it’s similar size and mass). It was named after another Roman deity: Venus, goddess of love and beauty. Venus’s atmosphere is made up of sulfuric acid. It is highly impossible to know who discovered it, because it is so easy to see.
-Being the third planet from the Sun, Earth is the largest of the four terrestrial planets. It is the only planet that was not named after a Roman or Greek deity but the only one with known civilization. It has a powerful magnetic field that protects it from effects of solar wind and a strong force called gravity that pulls objects close to its center. Earth might as well be called an ‘island in space’ because about 70% of it is made up of water while the other 30% is land.
-Right after Earth, is Mars (also known as the red planet). The fourth planet from the sun is named after the Roman god of War, Mars, and is the only planet that is both a terrestrial planet and a superior planet. Mars is red because of iron rusting, for the rocks and soil of Mars contain a dirt that is made up of mostly iron. The red planet has a thin atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide. Scientists hypothesize that someday, humans might be able to live on the red planet, which has led to the experiment Mars One (a test recently put into action where ‘scientists sent up the first humans to Mars and hope to establish a permanent human colony there by 2027’).
-Jupiter, as the biggest of the eight planets, is the fifth planet from the Sun and the second superior planet.When it was discovered (by Galileo Galilei in January of 1610), it was named after the Roman deity, Jupiter, King of the Gods supposedly because of it massive size. It is famous for the Great Red Spot, which is a gigantic storm that’s bigger than Earth and is said to have been raging for hundreds of years. (Note to Self: Don’t go fishing on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot). Currently, there is a spacecraft (the Juno Mission) on its way to Jupiter. It passed Earth on October 9th, 2013.
-Next planet on the lineup is Saturn, the sixth planet farthest from the Sun and second largest in the Solar System. It has the most spectacular ring system of all the planets, which is made up of seven differently shaped wonky circles that constitute chunks of ice and rock. Saturn’s atmosphere is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. The planet was also discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Not many people know that Saturn is named after the Roman god of Agriculture, Saturn.
-Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun, and is the fourth superior planet. It was named after the ancient Greek god of the Sky, but before it was recognized as a planet, people thought it was a star. The person who discovered the blue planet, William Herschel, did so on March 13, 1781. It has the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System with a minimum temperature of -224.2 degrees Celsius (-371.56 degrees Fahrenheit)!
-The fourth largest planet, and at the end of the Solar System, is Neptune. It is named after the Roman god of the Sea, Neptune. It’s hydrogen-methane atmosphere gives it it’s blue tint, which makes it similar to Uranus, except Neptune is darker. It was discovered on September 23, 1846, by John Couch Adams, who was an English astronomer and mathematician. Since then, Neptune has been visited by only one spacecraft: The Voyager 2, on August 5th, 1989.
-Planet Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930 by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh. 76 years later, it was stripped of its planet status and was downgraded to a dwarf planet because of its small size. However, it is the largest object in the Kuiper belt; similar to the asteroid belt, but it is much larger. It includes remnants from the Solar System’s formation.
-The discoveries of the Solar System made up by ancient philosophers still baffle and fascinate modern day scientists. They have opened up new doors for all in the past, present, and will in the future. The Solar System interests humans all around the world, and even though more and more research on it is recorded everyday, human civilization isn’t even at the tip of the iceberg.
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