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Top 10 Interesting and Fun Facts About the Planets

Updated on November 30, 2018
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Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.

Earth is only one of many planets orbiting the sun. How much do you know about the others?
Earth is only one of many planets orbiting the sun. How much do you know about the others? | Source

1. What Is a Planet?

Any celestial body which orbits around the sun, or any other star, is known as a planet. There are nine planets we know of circling our sun. Astronomers divide the planets into two groups: the inner planets and the outer planets. The inner planets are characterized by a dense, rocky constitution; the outer, by their gaseous or icy nature.

Our solar system has nine major planets
Our solar system has nine major planets | Source

2. About the Inner Planets

The inner planets, also called “terrestrials”, are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. These planets are much smaller than the outer planets, also called “the gas giants”, and are made up of rocks and metals. There is very little hydrogen or helium in their atmospheres. So far Earth is the only planet where scientists have discovered life, although there are encouraging signs of the potential for life in other parts of the universe.

Illustration showing the relative sizes of the inner, or terrestrial, planets of the solar system
Illustration showing the relative sizes of the inner, or terrestrial, planets of the solar system | Source

Mercury

Mercury is a small planet which orbits the sun faster than any other. It is characterized by an enormous crater, caused by an impact with another celestial body early in the formation of the solar system. The crater is called the Caloris Basin and is 800 miles (1300 km) across.

The planet Mercury
The planet Mercury | Source

Venus

Venus is a planet hostile to life. Its heavy atmosphere would crush a human skeleton and its surface is hot enough to melt metals. Its atmosphere is composed of acid clouds which would dissolve flesh and bone.

The planet Venus
The planet Venus | Source

Earth

Earth is the only planet in the solar system with sufficient quantities of water and oxygen to support living organisms. It is composed of an inner and outer core, a mantle of volcanic lava and molten rock, and a thin outer crust. Its surface is in constant movement because of plate tectonics.

The planet Earth
The planet Earth | Source

Mars

Mars is often called “the red planet”. This is because its surface is covered in rust. Recently, scientists have discovered the remains of what might be tiny bacterial fossils in meteors that were flung off Mars billions of years ago, but there is still insufficient evidence to be sure that these tiny structures represent life.

The planet Mars
The planet Mars | Source

Table of Facts About the Inner Planets

 
Mercury
Venus
Earth
Mars
Distance from sun
36 million miles (58 million kilometers)
67 million miles (108 million kilometers)
93 million miles (150 million kilometers)
142 million miles (228 million kilometers)
Diameter
3000 miles (5000 kilometers)
7500 miles (12000 kilometers)
8000 miles (13000 kilometers)
4200 miles (7000 kilometers)
Length of solar orbit
88 days
225 days
365 days
687 days
Length of day
1408 hours
5832 hours
24 hours
24 hours
High surface temperature
806 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius)
131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius)
131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius)
77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius)
Number of moons
0
0
2
2
A table showing facts about the inner planets of the solar system

3. Relative Sizes of the Planets in Our Solar System

Of all the planets in our solar system, Pluto is both the smallest and the furthest away from the sun. The largest of all the planets is Jupiter. In fact, Jupiter is so big that it’s bigger than all the other planets added together.

4. Relative Distances of the Planets in Our Solar System

The four inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, orbit relatively close both to each other and to the sun. Mercury is 100 times closer to the sun than Pluto.

5. The Giant Mountains of Mars

Mars, a cold rocky planet rich in iron, boasts high mountain ranges. It’s also home to Olympus Mons, the highest extinct volcano not only on Mars but in the entire solar system. The highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest in the Himalayas, this 5.5 miles (8.8 km) high. Olympus Mons towers up three times as high at 16 miles (26 km).

Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system
Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system | Source

6. The Composition of the Atmospheres of the Planets

Using specialized techniques, astronomers have been able to identify numerous gases composing the atmospheres of the planets in our solar system. The giant planets beyond the orbit of Mars are gaseous and contain high proportions of helium and hydrogen.

The chemical composition of the planets known as the "gas giants"
The chemical composition of the planets known as the "gas giants" | Source

7. Facts About the Planetary Moons

Earth is not the only planet to have moons. Earth has two moons, one tiny one only recently discovered in 1999 and named Cruithne! Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and Uranus all have interesting moons.

  • Saturn has more moons than any other planet in our solar system, numbering 18 natural satellites. Jupiter has 16 moons.
  • One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, is enclosed in an icy surface some 60 miles (97 km) deep.
  • One of Saturn’s moons, Titan, is composed of large amounts of methane. But it is so cold at such a distance from the sun that scientists believe much of its methane may have solidified into mountainous cliffs and liquid methane seas.
  • Mars has a moon, Phobos, which is being drawn ever closer to the planet. Scientists estimate that about 30 million years from now it will crash into the surface of Mars and be destroyed.
  • Uranus’ moon is named after Miranda, the heroine from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Miranda has enormous canyons up to 10 times the depth of the Grand Canyon on Earth. The moon also has a 3.23 miles (5.2 km) high cliff of sheer ice.
  • Jupiter’s moon is called Callisto. Its surface is pitted with thousands of craters, suggesting it has taken quite a battering from meteors in its mysterious past.

Earth is not the only planet with moons
Earth is not the only planet with moons | Source

8. About the Outer Planets

The outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, lie far beyond the orbit of Mars. Pluto is the only one among them which is solid. The others are huge spheres of swirling gases and liquids drawn together by a central point of gravity. These planets are also known as the "gas giants". Pluto, lying furthest from the sun, is an exception, being composed of rock and ice.

The orbits of the outer planets
The orbits of the outer planets | Source

Jupiter

Of all the planets in the solar system, Jupiter is not only the largest but also the fastest. In size, it could contain the equivalent of 1300 Earths. Beneath its atmosphere lie deep strata of liquid and metallic hydrogen around a central core.

The planet Jupiter
The planet Jupiter | Source

Saturn

Saturn is most famous for its “rings”. While appearing as rings from a distance, they are actually spinning swathes of gases, particles, and ice. The diameter of Saturn’s rings is roughly equivalent to the distance between the Earth and the Moon. It is composed mainly of hydrogen and has a very low density.

The planet Saturn
The planet Saturn | Source

Uranus

Uranus is so far tilted on its axis that it rotates almost on its side. It has only two very long seasons. At each pole in turn there are 42 years of darkness followed by 42 years of sunlight. It is composed mainly of water, ammonia, and methane.

The planet Uranus
The planet Uranus | Source

Neptune

This is by far the windiest planet in the solar system. Atmospheric winds rip across its surface at up to 1240 mph (2000 km/h). Astronomers have observed a mysterious dark spot on Neptune which is as large as Earth.

The planet Neptune
The planet Neptune | Source

Pluto

Pluto is a tiny, freezing planet locked in ice and frozen methane. It’s the smallest planet in the solar system. Recently, astronomers have debated whether it is a true planet or not. It may be an asteroid in the Kuiper Belt.

The planet Pluto
The planet Pluto | Source

Table of Facts About the Outer Planets

 
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
Pluto
Distance from sun
484 million miles (778 million kilometers)
886 million miles (1427 million kilometers)
1784 million miles (2871 million kilometers)
2794 million miles (4497 million kilometers)
3675 million miles (5900 million kilometers)
Diameter
89000 miles (143000 kilometers)
75000 miles (120500 million kilometers)
31700 miles (51000 kilometers)
30700 miles (49500 kilometers)
1400 miles (2280 kilometers)
Length of solar orbit
12 years
29 years
84 years
165 years
249 years
Length of day
10 hours
10 hours
17 hours
16 hours
6 days
High surface temperature
-238 degrees Fahrenheit (-150 degrees Celsius)
-292 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius)
-346 degrees Fahrenheit (-210 degrees Celsius)
-346 degrees Fahrenheit (-210 degrees Celsius)
-364 degrees Fahrenheit (-220 degrees Celsius)
Number of moons
16
18
15
8
1
A table showing facts about the outer planets of the solar system

9. Jumping High on Mercury

The athletic record for the high jump here on Earth is just over 2 meters. On the planet Mercury the force of gravity is much weaker than on Earth. An athlete on Mercury could easily jump over an adult elephant with a single leap!

Venus is one of the five planets you can see from Earth without the aid of a telescope
Venus is one of the five planets you can see from Earth without the aid of a telescope | Source

10. Which Planets Can You See Without a Telescope?

Looking from Earth without the help of a telescope, and in the right conditions, you can see five planets. These are:

  • Saturn
  • Jupiter
  • Mars
  • Venus
  • and Mercury

All these planets are visible most of the year except when they are occluded by the sun.

A Last Word

So, we come to the end of our top 10 facts about the planets of our solar system. I hope you found them fun and interesting. There’s still much to learn about the planets, not least our own Earth. We can only guess at the wonders scientists will discover in the future.

© 2018 Amanda Littlejohn

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • stuff4kids profile imageAUTHOR

    Amanda Littlejohn 

    4 days ago

    Thanks, Zia.

    I'm glad you enjoyed learning about the planets in this article. Science and astronomy are fascinating subjects.

  • aziza786 profile image

    Zia Uddin 

    5 days ago from Birmingham

    Nice work, quite enjoyed reading the facts.

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