The Solar System

By: Siona Benjamin



The creation of our Solar System took place billions of years ago. Our solar system consists of an average star we call the Sun, the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. It includes: the satellites of the planets; numerous comets, asteroids, and meteoroids; and the interplanetary medium. The Sun is the richest source of electromagnetic energy (mostly in the form of heat and light) in the solar system.


The Sun

The Sun was born in a vast cloud of gas and dust around 5 billion years ago. Over a period of many millions of years, this gas and dust began to fall into a common center under the force of its own gravity.


Solar Flares

During periods of high solar activity, the Sun commonly releases massive amounts of gas and plasma into its atmosphere. These ejections are known as solar flares. Some solar flares can be truly massive, and contain impressive power.



The planet Mercury is the closest of the planets to the Sun. Because this planet lies so close to the Sun, and as a result somewhat near to the Earth, it is visible to observers on Earth in the night time sky. Because of this, Mercury has become apart of the mythology and legend of almost every culture throughout the history of the Earth.

This planet is often called a morning star. This is because Mercury shines brightly in the early morning, just before the sun rises. It has also been called an evening star for the same reason. Mercury often is visible for a brief period of time just after the Sun sets.



The planet Venus has long been one of the most misunderstood of all the inner planets. Like the Earth, Venus has an atmosphere. However, Venus' atmosphere is far thicker than that of the Earth, making it difficult for modern science to penetrate. Interestingly, scientists have recently been able to peek through the thick clouds and get a few glimpses of the surface. There are numerous volcanoes and many mountains that appear misshapen.

There is much we still do not know about how this planet looks and what it is like. However, using special instruments and probes scientists have in recent years unlocked many of the secrets long hidden by this mysterious world.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union actually was able to land more than one probe on the surface of Venus. These scientific probes only lasted a few hours before they were destroyed by the intense heat of the planet. These probes were able to take several pictures and send them back to earth for scientists to study.




Our planet is the third planet from the sun and is the fifth largest planet.  The Earth's temperature, weather, atmosphere and many other factors are just right to keep us alive.

The Earth has one moon.  Its name is Luna. Earth was formed 4.54 billion years ago. The earth is expected to continue to support life for another 500 million years. About 71% of the earth is covered with salt water oceans. The moon which started orbiting earth 4.53 years ago controls the oceans tides.




Mars excites scientists because its mild temperament is more like the Earth's than any of the other planets.   Evidence suggests that Mars once had rivers, streams, lakes, and even an ocean. 

As Mars' atmosphere slowly depleted into outer space the surface water began to permanently evaporate.   Today the only water on Mars is either frozen in the polar caps, or underground. Mars has two moons; their names are Deimos and Phobos. 




Jupiter has at least 63 moons. The four largest and most well-known were discovered by Galileo in the year 1610. Their names are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Some of the other moons are Adrastea, Ananke, Carme, Elara, Himalia, Leda, Lysithea, Metis, Pasiphae, Sinope, and Thebe.

Jupiter is by far the largest planet in our Solar System. The Earth could fit inside Jupiter more than 1000 times.

Jupiter is a very stormy planet. There are storms found throughout the atmosphere, and most of the storms seem to never end. The many different cloud formations and storms in the atmosphere also make Jupiter a very colorful planet. Jupiter's great red spot, visible in the picture above to the right, is where a giant storm has been raging for at least 300 years. This red spot is also called "The Eye of Jupiter".




Saturn is a favorite object for many observers.  Its beautiful rings are 169,800 miles wide, but less thick than a football field.  In many ways Saturn is similar to Jupiter, but it is much smaller.  Under the clouds of methane and helium the sky gradually turns into liquid until it becomes a giant ocean of liquid chemicals.

Saturn has 34 companions moons.



Uranus has 27 moons. Five of these moons are large, and the rest are smaller.  Their names are:  Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Belinda, Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano, and 1986U10.

Uranus is very odd.  Unlike all the other planets and most of the moons in our Solar System Uranus spins on its side.  It is believed that long ago a very large object smashed into this planet.  The crash was so powerful that it completely changed the direction of Uranus' spin.

Uranus may have an ocean of water beneath its clouds.  It has a large rocky core, and because of the tremendous pressure could possibly contain trillions of large diamonds.
Uranus is almost identical to the planet Neptune.




Neptune has 13 moons that we know of.  Because Neptune is so far away, it is difficult to see any of these worlds.  There are probably many more moons orbiting this blue planet which we have not yet discovered. 


Perhaps you will be the astronomer who discovers some of these worlds.  The names of the known moons are:  Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano, and 1986U10.

Neptune has a giant storm much like the storm on Jupiter.  


This storm is often called The Great Dark Spot.  We do not know how long this storm has been active; because it is so far away that we could not get a good view of Neptune until modern times when we began to send robot explorers.


For many centuries people did not know that this planet even existed.  It was discovered by Johann Galle and Heinrich D'Arrest in 1846. Neptune has six rings which circle the planet.



Pluto has three moons. The largest is named SharonSharon is only slightly smaller than its parent Pluto.  For this reason Pluto and Sharon are often called a double system.   

Pluto is smaller than 7 of the moons in the Solar System.  Because it is so small many scientists don't consider it a planet at all.  In 1999 a group of scientists attempted to re-designate Pluto as a comet. On August 24th, 2006 Pluto's status was officially changed from planet to dwarf planet. For decades children have been taught that there are nine planets in the Solar System. However, with this change, there are now only eight planets.
Pluto has never been visited by space craft.  Because we have never sent probes to this planet we know very little about it.



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