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
Curiosity watched on sol 713 as lumpy Phobos passed across the face of the Sun. There are 84 images in this animation, which runs faster than natural speed. A couple of sunspots are faintly visible. The animation is composed of raw JPEG images, so contains artifacts, particularly at the high-contrast areas at the edges of the Sun and Phobos.
As of 2014, six comets have been visited by spacecraft; the most recent addition is Rosetta's 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Filed under Rosetta and Philae, pretty pictures, scale comparisons, comets, comet Wild 2, Deep Impact, Stardust, amateur image processing, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, comet Halley, comet Hartley 2, comet Tempel 1, comet Halley armada, Deep Space 1, comet Borrelly
Prometheus (left) and Pandora (right) are small, elongated moons that orbit inside and outside the F ring, respectively. Cassini was slightly less than half a million kilometers from Pandora when it took this photo of the pair on October 29, 2005. Prometheus is 148 by 68 kilometers in size, and Pandora is 110 by 62 kilometers. Note the small streamer of material that Prometheus has drawn out of the inner edge of the F ring during a recent collision.
Our Curiosity Knows No Bounds!
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