Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Little about our own Solar System

Readers / Viewers,
Geography was one of my favorite subject in school. I've drawn lot's of pictures and wrote lot's of descriptions about the Solar System in the exams. Here, I am presenting this post about our own Solar System with some images and descriptions of the planets. All the credit of the images in this post goes to NASA.

Beyond our Solar System:
When we leave the solar system, we find our star and its planets are just one small part of the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is a huge city of stars, so big that even at the speed of light; it would take 100,000 years to travel across it. All the stars in the night sky, including our Sun, are just some of the residents of this galaxy, along with millions of other stars too faint to be seen. Beyond our own galaxy lies a vast expanse of galaxies. The deeper we see into space, the more galaxies we discover. There are billions of galaxies, the most distant of which are so far away that the light arriving from them on Earth today set out from the galaxies billions of years ago.

The Sun:
The sun is a medium sized star in our own Galaxy Milky Way, a hot ball of glowing gases at the heart of our solar system. Its influence extends far beyond the orbits of distant Neptune and Pluto. Without the sun's intense energy and heat, there would be no life on Earth. And though it is special to us, there are billions of stars like our sun scattered across the Milky Way galaxy. A little about the Sun:
  • Distance from Earth:  149,597,900 km
  • Mean Radius:  695,508 km
  • Volume:  1,409,272,569,059,860,000 km3
  • Mass:  1,989,100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Sun-scorched Mercury is only slightly larger than Earth's Moon. Like the Moon, Mercury has very little atmosphere to stop impacts, and it is covered with craters. Mercury's day side is super-heated by the sun, but at night temperatures drop hundreds of degrees below freezing. Ice may even exist in craters. Mercury's egg-shaped orbit takes it around the sun every 88 days. A little about the Mercury:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  57,909,227 km
  • Mean Radius:  2,439.7 km
  • Volume:  60,827,208,742 km3
  • Mass:  330,104,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Venus is a dim world of intense heat and volcanic activity. Similar in structure and size to Earth, Venus' thick, toxic atmosphere traps heat in a runaway "greenhouse effect." The scorched world has temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Glimpses below the clouds reveal volcanoes and deformed mountains. Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction of most planets. A little about the Venus:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  108,209,475 km
  • Mean Radius:  6,051.8 km
  • Volume:  928,415,345,893 km3
  • Mass:  4,867,320,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Earth is an ocean planet. Our home world's abundance of water and life makes it unique in our solar system. Other planets, plus a few moons, have ice, atmospheres, seasons and even weather, but only on Earth does the whole complicated mix come together in a way that encourages life and lots of it. A little about our Planet EARTH:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis): 149,598,262 km
  • Mean Radius:  6,371.00 km
  • Volume:  1,083,206,916,846 km3
  • Mass:  5,972,190,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Mars is a cold desert world. It is half the diameter of Earth and has the same amount of dry land. Like Earth, Mars has seasons, polar ice caps, volcanoes, canyons and weather, but its atmosphere is too thin for liquid water to exist for long on the surface. There are signs of ancient floods on Mars, but evidence for water now exists mainly in icy soil and thin clouds. A little about the Mars:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  227,943,824 km
  • Mean Radius:  3,389.5 km
  • Volume:  163,115,609,799 km3
  • Mass:  641,693,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Jupiter, the most massive planet in our solar system -- with dozens of moons and an enormous magnetic field -- forms a kind of miniature solar system. Jupiter does resemble a star in composition, but it did not grow big enough to ignite. The planet's swirling cloud stripes are punctuated by massive storms such as the Great Red Spot, which has raged for hundreds of years. Jupiter's appearance is a tapestry of beautiful colors and atmospheric features. Most visible clouds are composed of ammonia. Water vapor exists deep below and can sometimes be seen through clear spots in the clouds. The planet's "stripes" are dark belts and light zones created by strong east-west winds in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. A little about the Jupiter:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  778,340,821 km
  • Mean Radius:  69,911 km
  • Volume:  1,431,281,810,739,360 km3
  • Mass:  1,898,130,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Adorned with thousands of beautiful ringlets, Saturn is unique among the planets. All four gas giant planets have rings -- made of chunks of ice and rock -- but none are as spectacular or as complicated as Saturn's. Like the other gas giants, Saturn is mostly a massive ball of hydrogen and helium. A little about the Saturn:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  1,426,666,422 km
  • Mean Radius:  58,232 km
  • Volume:  827,129,915,150,897 km3
  • Mass:  568,319,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Uranus is the only giant planet whose equator is nearly at right angles to its orbit. A collision with an Earth-sized object may explain Uranus' unique tilt. Nearly a twin in size to Neptune, Uranus has more methane in it’s mainly hydrogen and helium atmosphere than Jupiter or Saturn. Methane gives Uranus its blue tint. A little about the Uranus:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  2,870,658,186 km
  • Mean Radius:  25,362 km
  • Volume:  68,334,355,695,584 km3
  • Mass:  86,810,300,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Dark, cold and whipped by supersonic winds, Neptune is the last of the hydrogen and helium gas giants in our solar system. More than 30 times as far from the sun as Earth, the planet takes almost 165 Earth years to orbit our sun. In 2011 Neptune completed its first orbit since its discovery in 1846. A little about the Neptune:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  4,498,396,441 km
  • Mean Radius:  24,622 km
  • Volume:  62,525,703,987,421 km3
  • Mass:  102,410,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg

Others in our Solar System:
Earth’s Moon:
Our Moon makes Earth a more livable planet by moderating our home planet's wobble on its axis, leading to a relatively stable climate, and creating a rhythm that has guided humans for thousands of years. The Moon was likely formed after a Mars-sized body collided with Earth and the debris formed into the most prominent feature in our night sky. A little the Moon:
  • Orbit Size (semi-major axis):  384,400 km
  • Mean Radius:  1737.5 km
  • Volume:  21,971,669,064 km3
  • Mass:  73,476,730,924,573,500,000,000 kg

Asteroids are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our sun, but are too small to be called planets. Tens of thousands of these "minor planets" are gathered in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids that pass close to Earth are called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).

Little chunks of rock and debris in space are called meteoroids. They become meteors -- or shooting stars -- when they fall through a planet's atmosphere, leaving a bright trail as they are heated to incandescence by the friction of the atmosphere. Pieces that survive the journey and hit the ground are called meteorites.

Comets are cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust roughly the size of a small town. When a comet's orbit brings it close to the sun, it heats up and spews dust and gases into a giant glowing head larger than most planets. The dust and gases form a tail that stretches away from the sun for millions of kilometers.

Dwarf Planets:
What is a planet? Greek astronomers came up with the word to describe the bright points of light that seemed to wander among fixed stars. Our solar system's planet count has soared as high as 15 before it was decided that some discoveries were different and should be called asteroids. Many disagreed in 1930 when Pluto was added as our solar system's ninth planet. The debate flared again in 2005 when Eris about the same size as Pluto was found deep in a zone beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt. Was it the 10th planet? Or are Eris and Pluto examples of an intriguing, new kind of world?
The International Astronomical Union decided in 2006 that a new system of classification was needed to describe these new worlds, which are more developed than asteroids, but different than the known planets. Pluto, Eris and the asteroid Ceres became the first dwarf planets. Unlike planets, dwarf planets lack the gravitational muscle to sweep up or scatter objects near their orbits. They end up orbiting the sun in zones of similar objects such as the asteroid and Kuiper belts. Our solar system's planet count now stands at eight. But the lively debate continues as we continue to explore and make new discoveries.

The Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud:
The Kuiper Belt is a disc-shaped region of icy objects beyond the orbit of Neptune -- billions of kilometers from our sun. Pluto and Eris are the best known of these icy worlds. There may be hundreds more of these ice dwarfs out there. The Kuiper Belt and even more distant Oort Cloud are believed to be the home of comets that orbit our sun.

Thanks a lot for reading this post. If you want to know from NASA further details about our Solar System or the Universe please visit the Web Portal of NASA.

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