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Compare the Planets

Comparing the physical characteristics of the worlds in our solar system (and beyond)

The worlds of our solar system come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Red-eyed Jupiter, ringed Saturn, and frigid Uranus and Neptune are giant gassy globes containing nearly all of the matter in the solar system. These Jovian planets, or gas giants, are huge worlds of air, clouds, and fluid that may have no solid surfaces no matter how deep you go. Everything else in the solar system is just rock, ice, and dust. The largest rockballs are known as the terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, with our Moon usually considered part of the club, and now Vesta is applying for membership. Earth is the biggest of all the rocky worlds.

But the planets are not the only worlds of the solar system. All but two of the planets are orbited by moons, each of them a world unto itself. The largest moons are bigger than the smallest planets, and 16 or 17 would qualify as dwarf planets if they orbited the Sun. There are more than 100 Kuiper belt dwarf planets, but only one among the asteroids, Ceres.

Six solid worlds -- Venus, Earth, Mars, Titan, Triton, and Pluto -- have atmospheres dense enough to produce weather. Eris likely does, when it is near its perihelion. We have witnessed active geology on four worlds -- Earth, Io, Enceladus, and Triton -- and we suspect it on Venus, Europa, and Titan. Comparing the same processes across many worlds helps us to understand how each planet's unique composition and history influence its present state, and will help us predict what to expect on Earth in the future.

Pretty Pictures with Many Worlds

Galileo orbit E4 view of Ganymede and Io

Galileo orbit E4 view of Ganymede and Io

This optical navigation ("opnav") image of Ganymede (the rightmost of the two bodies) was acquired by the Galileo Solid State Imaging Experiment (SSI) in December 1996. On the left side, Ganymede, which only has data for every third row (every fourth row near the top), is de-interlaced. The missing parts of Io were reconstructed using high phase data from other orbits, and the hole in Ganymede from other shots in the sequence of opnavs on the same orbit. The images were colorized based on images from other orbits.

Filed under Jupiter's moons, Io, pretty pictures, Galileo, Ganymede, amateur image processing, many worlds

Partial eclipse of Rhea by Dione

Partial eclipse of Rhea by Dione

As Cassini zoomed toward its October 11, 2005 encounter with Dione, it caught Rhea traveling behind Dione in a 16-frame movie.

Filed under Dione, pretty pictures, Cassini, amateur image processing, Rhea, Saturn's moons, many worlds, animation

Many worlds: Dione, Titan, Prometheus, and rings

Many worlds: Dione, Titan, Prometheus, and rings

This photo was taken on October 17, 2005, targeted at Prometheus, from a distance of 2.4 million kilometers.

Filed under Dione, pretty pictures, Cassini, Titan, amateur image processing, Saturn's small moons, Saturn's moons, many worlds, Saturn's rings

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Section Highlights

Planetary Facts

Mass, diameter, density, gravity, orbital characteristics, presented both in metric units and measured relative to Earth.

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Asteroids and Comets Visited by Spacecraft

A comparison of all the asteroids and comets ever visited by spacecraft, up to date as of November 10 (when Deep Impact flew past Hartley 2). Vesta is not included.

More »

Every Round Object in the Solar System, to Scale

A correctly scaled, reasonably correctly colored view of the largest bodies in the solar system.

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