Meet the planets: our solar system's roster

Below is a montage of planetary photos taken by exploratory spacecraft. Click it to see the full size image. These are actual pictures, not computer generated graphics*.

Included are (from top to bottom) Mercury, Venus, Earth and Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

  • Mercury image was taken by Mariner 10
  • Venus image by Magellan
  • Earth and Moon images by Galileo
  • Mars image by Mars Global Surveyor
  • Jupiter image by Cassini
  • Saturn, Uranus and Neptune images by Voyager
  • Pluto is not shown as it is not a planet and no spacecraft has yet visited it. (Sorry Pluto supporters. But fear not - New Horizons is on its way to the Dwarf Planet as we speak!)

*The image of Venus has been rendered based on collected data. The atmosphere of this planet is too thick to see the surface.


CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. Photo courtesy of NASA. The inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars) are roughly to scale to each other; the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) are roughly to scale to each other.
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. Photo courtesy of NASA. The inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars) are roughly to scale to each other; the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) are roughly to scale to each other.

Planet Mercury...

The closest to the sun, this small planet zips around in an eccentric orbit. It doesn't circle the sun, it... ovals it. An eccentric orbit means Mercury travels along an uneven, elliptical path.

Mercury measures 3,031 miles. Its mass is only 1/20th of Earth's mass.
Mercury measures 3,031 miles. Its mass is only 1/20th of Earth's mass.

The statistics

Composition: Rock; Iron Core

Atmosphere: Thin and unstable

Rotation: One day is 58.7 Earth days

Revolution: One year is 88 Earth days

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 38 lbs on Mercury

Moons: NO

Rings: NO

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: FASTEST PLANET!

Mercury Quick Fact: If you were standing on Mercury, the Sun would look three times as big as it does from Earth.


Mercury: Actual Image

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. Photo taken by MESSENGER, October 2008. Courtesy of NASA.
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. Photo taken by MESSENGER, October 2008. Courtesy of NASA.

Planet Venus...

Shrouded by a heavy, cloudy atmosphere, Venus is a traveling greenhouse. The pictures you see here of the planet are composite images, taken from multiple craft and telescopes. The surface of the planet is not visible through the clouds of sulfuric acid that are miles deep.

Venus is nearly the same size as our own planet. It is 7,521 miles, and is 95% of Earth's size.
Venus is nearly the same size as our own planet. It is 7,521 miles, and is 95% of Earth's size.

The statistics

Composition: Rock; Nickel/Iron Core

Atmosphere: Very heavy

Rotation: One day is 243 Earth days

Revolution: One year is 224.7 Earth days

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 91 lbs on Venus

Moons: NO

Rings: NO

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: HOTTEST PLANET!

Venus Quick Fact: The Sun Also Rises... in the WEST. Venus has a retrograde rotation; it is spinning backwards. If that is not rebellious enough, this planet's day is longer than its year! It orbits the sun faster than it rotates on its axis.


Venus: Image Composite

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. The image was produced by the Solar System Visualization project and the Magellan science team at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory. October, 1991
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. The image was produced by the Solar System Visualization project and the Magellan science team at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory. October, 1991

Planet Earth...

Home sweet home! Earth is the only planet whose water is a liquid on the surface. As scientists search outside our solar system for exoplanets that may have life, liquid water is the first thing they look for.

Our planet measures 7,926 miles.
Our planet measures 7,926 miles.

The statistics

Composition: Rock/Water; Iron Core

Atmosphere: Lovely

Rotation: One day is 24 hours

Revolution: One year is 365 days

Gravity: A 100 lb person weighs 100 lbs at sea level

Moons: YES. One: Luna. Why don't people call the moon by its name? It's like naming your dog Rover, then just calling him "the dog".

Rings: NO

Alien Life: Reports are conflicting.

Special Achievement: LIQUID PLANET!

Earth Quick Fact: When you look at a map of Earth, you are seeing a distorted image; the truth is that seventy-one percent of its surface is covered with water.


Earth: Actual Photo

This image is the first ever photograph of planet Earth taken by humans. Named Earthrise, it was shot during the Apollo 8 mission. December, 1968. Color simulated. Photo courtesy of NASA.
This image is the first ever photograph of planet Earth taken by humans. Named Earthrise, it was shot during the Apollo 8 mission. December, 1968. Color simulated. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Planet Mars...

Mars no longer has an active tectonic system. But it sure used to...Olympus Mons, now dormant, is the largest volcano in the solar system. The largest canyon also belongs to Mars: Valles Marineris.

Mars, at 4,222 miles, is 1/9th Earth's mass.
Mars, at 4,222 miles, is 1/9th Earth's mass.

The statistics

Composition: Rock; Iron Core

Atmosphere: Thin, but once was very thick

Rotation: One day is 24.6 Earth hours

Revolution: One year is 687 Earth days

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 38 lbs on Mars

Moons: YES Two: Phobos, Deimos

Rings: NO

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: LARGEST VOLCANO!

Mars Quick Fact: Its red color comes from the iron in its core. Massive volcanic eruptions have spewed the iron across the surface of the entire planet.


Mars: Hubble Image

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. The Hubble Space Telescope took this picture of Mars on June 26, 2001. Photo courtesy of NASA.
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. The Hubble Space Telescope took this picture of Mars on June 26, 2001. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The Gas Giants live beyond Mars

Planet Jupiter...

Jupiter's day lasts about 10 hours. That means it is spinning at more than twice the speed of Earth. Considering that Jupiter is more than 300 times our size, it's rotation makes our own seem down right pokey.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It measures an astonishing 88,700 miles. How does the mass compare? You need 318 Earths to equal 1 Jupiter.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It measures an astonishing 88,700 miles. How does the mass compare? You need 318 Earths to equal 1 Jupiter.

This time-lapse movie was produced at JPL by the Image Processing Laboratory in 1979. It is the approach of Voyager 1.

The statistics

Composition: Gas; Molten Rock Core

Atmosphere: Very turbulent

Rotation: One day is 9.8 Earth hours

Revolution: One year is 11.8 Earth years

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 254 lbs on Jupiter

Moons: YES 63! And we are finding more every time we look. The most famous are Io and Europa

Rings: YES

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: LARGEST PLANET !

Jupiter Quick Fact #1: It is not only the biggest planet in the solar system... Jupiter is home of the biggest STORM in the solar system. The Eye of Jupiter is a jumbo thunderstorm so big that Earth could fit right inside of it.

Jupiter Quick Fact #2: This planet contains 71% of the planetary matter in our entire solar system

Jupiter: Composite Image

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. This processed color image of Jupiter was produced in 1990 by the U.S. Geological Survey from a Voyager image captured in 1979.
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. This processed color image of Jupiter was produced in 1990 by the U.S. Geological Survey from a Voyager image captured in 1979.

Planet Saturn...

Saturn's rings are made of chunks of ice, some as big as a car. The moons of Saturn help shape them and keep them in position. The Hubble telescope along with Cassini spacecraft have determined that the rings are no more than 30 feet thick!

Saturn is the second largest planet, measuring 74,898 miles. Because it is less dense, the mass is only 95 times that of the Earth.
Saturn is the second largest planet, measuring 74,898 miles. Because it is less dense, the mass is only 95 times that of the Earth.

The statistics

Composition: Gas; Molten Rock Core

Atmosphere: Very turbulent

Rotation: One day is 10.2 Earth hours

Revolution: One year is 29.5 Earth years

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 108 lbs on Saturn

Moons: YES 31 and counting. The most famous is Titan

Rings: YES

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: LEAST DENSE PLANET !

Saturn Quick Fact: Saturn is not a heavy planet. It would actually float on water, if you could find a big enough bucket to put it in.


Saturn: Composite Image

Natural color view of the planet Saturn from images collected by Cassini, July 2008. Courtesy of NASA.
Natural color view of the planet Saturn from images collected by Cassini, July 2008. Courtesy of NASA.

Planet Uranus...

Uranus rotates on a parallel axis, unlike the other planets which spin perpendicular. This causes some very strange weather on the giant blue planet. Which pole is the north one? This is a great question to ask an astronomer, if you want to see him shrug.

Uranus is 14 times the mass of Earth, and measures in at 31,690 miles
Uranus is 14 times the mass of Earth, and measures in at 31,690 miles

The statistics

Composition: Gas; Molten Rock Core

Atmosphere: Thick and cloudy

Rotation: One day is 17.9 Earth hours

Revolution: One year is 84 Earth years

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 91 lbs on Uranus

Moons: YES 27: All are named after Shakespeare characters

Rings: YES

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: SIDEWAYS PLANET!

Uranus Quick Fact: Because it rotates on its side, its poles are each exposed to the sun for half of each orbit. This means the seasons on Uranus last about 20 years.


Uranus: Actual Image (It is a planet, not a MentosĀ® mint)

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. This image was taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986. Courtesy of NASA
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. This image was taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986. Courtesy of NASA

Planet Neptune...

Voyager 2 spotted a dark spot on Neptune in 1989. It was a storm, very similar to Jupiter's giant red spot.

The thunderstorm on Jupiter has been raging for 300 years, so when the Hubble telescope focused in on Neptune in 1994, it was a big surprise that the storm was gone. Hubble did spot "The Scooter", a group of very fast moving white clouds that Voyager 2 saw in 1989.

Similar in size to Uranus, Neptune is 30,775 miles. Its mass is 17 times that of Earth
Similar in size to Uranus, Neptune is 30,775 miles. Its mass is 17 times that of Earth

The statistics

Composition: Gas; Rock Core

Atmosphere: Very Turbulent

Rotation: One day is 19 Earth hours

Revolution: One year is 164.8 Earth years

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 119 lbs on Neptune

Moons: YES 13: The most famous is Triton

Rings: YES

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: WINDIEST PLANET!

Neptune Quick Fact: Before anybody had seen the planet, astronomers knew it was there. Neptune's existence was predicted mathematically well before it was actually spotted with a telescope.


Neptune: Actual Image

CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. Voyager 2 used a narrow-angle camera to photograph Neptune. August, 1989. Courtesy of NASA.
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE. Voyager 2 used a narrow-angle camera to photograph Neptune. August, 1989. Courtesy of NASA.

Dwarf Planet Pluto...

Exactly what did Pluto do to lose its Planet Status?

Pluto lives in the Kuiper Belt, which is similar to the asteroid belt. It is filled with objects that are as big as Pluto - or even bigger.

Several Kuiper objects have been identified which could qualify as planets, based on size. So the question was raised: Should we add half a dozen new planets to the roster? We are finding new objects in the belt all the time. What is the limit?

The International Astronomical Union gave the word "planet" is first specific definition in 2006. The definition excluded Pluto as a planet, but created a new category: Dwarf Planet.

Pluto's new "Dwarf" status is accurate: it measures only 1,413 miles and is 1/500th of Earth's mass.
Pluto's new "Dwarf" status is accurate: it measures only 1,413 miles and is 1/500th of Earth's mass.

The statistics

Composition: Rock and Ice

Atmosphere: Thin and Seasonal

Rotation: One day is 6.39 Earth days

Revolution: One year is 247.7 Earth years

Gravity: A 100 lb person would weigh 8 lbs on Pluto

Moons: YES 3: Charon, Hydra, and Nix

Rings: NO

Alien Life: NO

Special Achievement: MOST CONTROVERSY!

Pluto Quick Fact: Pluto's atmosphere is seasonal because it has an eccentric orbit. As it gets closer to the sun, the frozen elements on the dwarf planet thaw and form a thin atmosphere. When it leaves the warmth of the sun, the air once again freezes and falls to the ground.


Kuiper Belt objects

Image courtesy of Lexicon at Wikimedia Commons.
Image courtesy of Lexicon at Wikimedia Commons.

Comments 24 comments

JoyfulPamela 6 years ago

I love the 'actual images'! Great job on collecting the info on this page. :)


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 6 years ago from Austria Author

Hello :)

The photos are behind the "making of" this hub. NASA has so many mind-blowing images! I could (and did) spend hours looking through them all.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

This is brilliant! I love the planetary facts and oddities. I will bookmark this one! Thanks for a fab hub. I love this stuff!


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 6 years ago from Austria Author

I'm glad you enjoyed it, earnest. I had a lot of fun researching it. It's amazing how unique each planet is.

:D

The Neptune Quick Fact sums it up perfectly for me. The planet was discovered before it was even seen... My mind is blown away by how much we tiny little humans have discovered about those shiny lights in the sky.


Niteriter profile image

Niteriter 6 years ago from Canada

Reading this took up far more of my work time than I intended. Enjoyably so, I should ad. The depth of your work is obvious and I'm privileged to be counted among those who got the opportunity to appreciate it. Best wishes for your future undertakings.


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 6 years ago from Austria Author

Thanks buddy

A comment from the Niteriter leaves me smiling all day long.

I can't stop thinking about guitars and world peace ;)


2pretty2sweat profile image

2pretty2sweat 6 years ago from Long Island

i love the solar system! cool hub


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 6 years ago from Austria Author

This was a ton of fun to write ;)


Zannie10 profile image

Zannie10 6 years ago

Very informative! I just finished my physical science class where this was discussed and it is very fascinating! Thanks!


Creation 6 years ago

Thank you so much for this information. I'm a struggling Junior High student and this helped me very much with my 4th grade science class! I feel that I have the advantage now... Thanks again!


Sunny 6 years ago

Ive been always fascinated by space. This is very fun and interesting to read. I love the actual photos and how you set up your article. The planetary facts and oddities is brilliant. My favorite is the actual facts. WOW!


Geo 6 years ago


KLeichester 6 years ago

The universe always interests me so much. I can never get enough reading about it. Thank you for posting.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

Just found this ~ it's a truly fascinating subject!


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 5 years ago from Austria Author

Thanks so much Trish

It really is fascinating, and so much fun to write about.

M-JK (aka wyanjen)


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Thank you for taking the time to write this truly informative hub. It is fun to read about the Solar System and your illustrations are wonderful.


topquark profile image

topquark 5 years ago from UK

Beautiful hub. I think astronomy is by far the most beautiful science.


homeastronomer 5 years ago

You've done a nice job here in presenting the facts on our nearest neighbors. I think of all the pictures ever taken of space and the planets, the best ones have got to be those of the Earth taken from the Moon.


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 5 years ago from Austria Author

@ Gypsy Willow: thanks so much. The illustrations were fun to put together


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 5 years ago from Austria Author

@topquark: I agree :) Thanks for reading it through


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 5 years ago from Austria Author

@homeastronomer: Imagine how exciting to be the person taking the first picture of Earth :D


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States

This is very informative. Great hub! You should do a hub on each of the planets individually, that would be awesome!


carlie deason is a kid 4 years ago

Even though Pluto is not declared a planet do you have a picture of Pluto


Mighty J-Kep profile image

Mighty J-Kep 4 years ago from Austria Author

Hi carlie

Here is a link with some images of Pluto:

http://planetfacts.org/pluto-pictures/

Have some patience: New Horizons is halfway to Pluto. It will arrive in 2015. Then we will get some great new photos!

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