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The Solar System: Its Members, Components and Characteristics

Updated on May 11, 2014

As we look up in the sky, we actually wonder why what’s in it. We ask ourselves how stars exist and what the other celestial bodies besides our earth planet are. With a thousand years we are stocked in ignorance. Yet, because of new technologies discovered by the scientist and with the help of researchers, a series of space probes landed into outer space to extend the investigation to our planet earth and also to other members of the solar system.

In this chapter, you can be able to identify, describe, and illustrate the members of the solar system.

Important things about planets

  • The eight planets are roughly spherical in shape.
  • Inner planets have high density because they are made of rocks.
  • Outer planets have low density because they are largely gaseous.
  • The motions of the planets are affected by their distance from the sun.

Terms to remember:

Solar system- is a system of heavenly bodies in orbit around the sun. Also, it is known as the sun’s family. This includes the sun’s planet and their moons and asteroids which travel around the sun indefinite paths called an orbit.

Sun- it is the center of the solar system. It produces large amounts of radiant energy each second, which is also known as earths’ star.

Satellite- is also called as the moon, which is defined as a body that revolves around the planet.

Asteroids- these are fragments of matter similar to planetary matter that orbit between Mars and Jupiter.

Planet- this is an object in space that is to reflect light from a nearby star around which it revolves. It is may be classified in other ways. With the use of asteroids as the dividing line planets are classified into two groups: the inner planets (terrestrial or earth planet) and the outer planets ( Jovian or Jupiter –like planets). The inner planet are mercury, Venus, earth, mars and the outer planets are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

Solar System
Solar System | Source

Mercury

  • The first planet in the solar system
  • Has a mass of 0.0543
  • It is covered by a thin layer of helium gas
  • Nearest planet to the sun
  • The fastest or swiftest planet in the solar system
  • It takes 88 days to complete one revolution
  • This distance from the sun is 58 million kilometers
  • It has no satellite

Venus

  • The second planet in the solar system
  • Has a mass of 0.8136
  • It is covered by a thick layer of carbon dioxide about 90 km above the surface which produces green house effect
  • It rotates in retrograde motion, from east to west
  • It has a high daytime temperature about 480 degree Celsius
  • It is the hottest planet in the solar system because the gas prevents the heat from returning back in the space
  • It takes 225 days to complete one revolution
  • The distance is 108 million kilometers
  • It has no satellite

The "twin planet" of Earth?

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Earth

  • The third planet in the solar system
  • Composed of nitrogen (98%), oxygen (21%), argon (1%), carbon dioxide (0.03%)
  • This is where life exists because of the neutral temperature
  • It has one satellite
  • It takes 365 and one half days to complete one revolution
  • The distance from the sun is 150 million kilometers

Solar System circling the Sun
Solar System circling the Sun | Source

Saturn

  • The sixth planet in the solar system
  • Also known as the “ringed planet”
  • Its rings revolves on each orbit and composed of billions of bits of ice and ice-covered rock that reflect sunlight
  • It has a mass of 95.3
  • Composed of mostly hydrogen, helium, ammonia and methane gas
  • It takes 29 and a half years to complete one revolution
  • The distance from the sun is 1427 million kilometers
  • It has 9 satellites
  • The second largest planet in the solar system

Uranus

  • The seventh planet in the solar system
  • Has a mass of 14.58
  • Composed of hydrogen, methane and ammonia
  • It rotates from east to west like Venus
  • It has unusual axis that are found in the plane of its orbit
  • It does not spin like a top, it rolls like a ball
  • It takes 84 years to complete one revolution
  • The third largest planet in the solar system
  • It has 5 satellites

Mars

  • The fourth planet in the solar system
  • Also known as the “red planet”
  • It has a mass of 0.1080
  • It has no cloud cover
  • Composed of carbon dioxide(95%), nitrogen, argon and traces of oxygen and water
  • It is red in color because of iron oxide the gives color on it
  • Experiences the four seasons
  • It takes 687 days to complete one revolution
  • It has two satellites
  • The distance from the sun is 228 million kilometers

Jupiter

  • The fifth planet in the solar system
  • Has the largest mass which is about 318. 35
  • Mostly composed of hydrogen, helium and sulphur compounds that give clouds color from yellow to orange.
  • It has Great Red Spot three times bigger than the earth which defines as a great gaseous storm
  • The largest planet in the solar system
  • It takes 12 years to complete one revolution
  • It has a distance of 728 million kilometer
  • It has 14 satellites

Neptune

  • The 8th planet in the solar system
  • It has a mass of 17.26
  • Composed of hydrogen and helium with methane
  • It has the same size as Uranus
  • It has 2 satellites
  • It takes 165 years to complete one revolution
  • The distance from the sun is 4497 million kilometers

 Planets of the Solar System
Planets of the Solar System | Source

The planetary orbit

Orbit defines as the paths in which the planets revolve around the sun. Planets have elliptical orbits for there will be some point called foci. An orbit when the planetis closest to the sun is called perihelion, and the farthest is called the aphelion.

Why planets stay in orbit?

The planets revolve harmoniously; they are not collidingwith each other because they have respective orbits. That’s because of motion; gravitation and inertia in space that helps organize the universe.

Motion- is the action or process of the changing position

Gravitation- is the natural phenomena of attraction between massive bodies

Inertia- It is the tendency of a body in motion to stay in motion unless disturbed by an external force. These three forces collaborate to each other, wherein the motion prevents gravitation draws together into one single mass while inertia keeps the bodies moving.

Sun in X-Ray
Sun in X-Ray | Source

The Sun

Sun is the only star in the solar system. It is a star because it emits its own light and heat by nuclear fusion reactions, and also it is a source of light and heat. Without heat life on earth is impossible. Its diameter is about 3.42 times bigger than the combined diameters of eight planets.

Parts of the sun

  • Photosphere- is a bright and visible surface. It has a yellow color and its temperature is 5,500 degree Celsius. This is where sunspot appears. A sunspot is a dark patch on the sun’s surface, while prominence is a huge arc of gas. During the eclipse photosphere appears black when block by the moon.
  • Chromospheres- is a 8,000 km thick layer of boiling and spinning gas. This is the result of energy from the photosphere. During an eclipse, a thin layer of red light around the sun appears when blocked by the moon.
  • Corona- composed of dust and gases, and its temperature is about 2 million degrees Celsius and much hotter than the surface. It is visible during a total eclipse.

Other celestial bodies

Asteroids

It is the fragments of matter similar to planetary matter that orbit between Mars and Jupiter. They are not stars, they are minor planets. Like planets, they revolve around the sun counterclockwise. Asteroids that travel in space are called meteoroids. When meteoroids fall into the atmosphere of the earth are called meteors and when a meteor falls on the surface of the Earth is called a meteorite.

Comet

It is a mass of frozen gases, cosmic dust and small rock particle that orbits the sun. Its head is described as a “dirty iceberg”. The “ice” is mostly frozen water, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. When a comet is in our space, it has no tail. However, when it comes near the sun some of its ice evaporates, which cause to from a cloud of gas around the head which is called the coma. Beyond of coma it produces a long tail of gases and dust that is always away from the sun because the force of the sunlight pushes glow with energy causes of the sun’s radiation.

Do you think there is another "living-planet" out there in the Universe?

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    • Hackslap profile image

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Good hub ..I like the way you've explained the solar system in basic, bullet points .

      Feel free to read my article re the Solar System although mine's in a lot more detail ..

    • Neuropathy profile image

      Lee Stevenson 3 years ago from Portsmouth

      Love the Hub!!! Great Read ;)

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I don't read a lot about space, but this was a very interesting article. I like the way you present the information in an easy to read and understand format.

    • pctechgo profile image

      pctechgo 3 years ago from US

      Awesome hub. Since there are so many tangent topics regarding the planets' characteristics such as gas percentage vs. actual mass, axis changes and orbital changes, etc., it is easy for solar system writings to get super detailed. I've heard some buzz about permanent Mars settlements. Starting in 2024 there's supposedly going to begin one way trips to Mars, four people at a time, departing every two years to start.

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image
      Author

      Kenneth C Agudo 3 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Hello Hackslap: Thank you for the read. Yes, I make it more simpler to understand. I'll gonna check that out friend :) Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image
      Author

      Kenneth C Agudo 3 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Hello Neuropathy: Thank you for loving this hub. Cheers!

      Hi sheilamyers: I've always been a fan of space. I even dreamed of being an astronaut, but i madly wanted to be an astronaut. lol It's one of my dreams. Thank you :)

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image
      Author

      Kenneth C Agudo 3 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Hello pctechgo: Wow. o.O looks like you are really updated and interested on this topic. Yes, space and universe is one of my interest. The one that you are talking about was the one-way-trip to mars. The chosen people will be creating new civilization on mars. lol

      I wanted to join though I have plenty of plans and dreams here on earth. I wanted to stay more here. haha

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