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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's color views of the icy satellites

Galileo's color views of the icy satellites

Galileo acquired a few global color views of the Galilean satellites. The examples shown here of Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede are "true color" views that have not been colorized or have had their color data pulled from orbits different than those from the images used to create the mosaics (which is the case for many global mosaics). Due to inconsistent filter selection when the images were taken, there are some variations between images.

Filed under Jupiter's moons, pretty pictures, Europa, amateur image processing, Ganymede, Galileo, Callisto, global views, many worlds

Io and Amalthea

Io and Amalthea

Galileo acquired the images used in this three-filter (red, green, violet) color mosaic of Io and Amalthea with the Solid-State Imaging Experiment (SSI) during its E11 orbit on November 6, 1997. The images have a resolution of 10.3 km/pixel of Io's sub-jovian hemisphere. Amalthea was only captured by the red filter and therefore its color in this image is distorted.

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

Cassini views of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto

Cassini views of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto

These color views of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, taken by the Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), were created using 3 polarized UV and GRN filtered images and stacking them together to reduce noise. Various IR images were also stacked except in the case of Europa, where only a single red frame from the ISS existed and, consequently, the red channel is very noisy. The images have been magnified by a factor of 3.

Filed under Jupiter's moons, Cassini, Europa, pretty pictures, Ganymede, amateur image processing, Callisto, global views, many worlds

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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.

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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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Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

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