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 IndexSolar System
The centre of the Solar System and the nearest star to Earth - on average only 150 million kilometres away. The Sun is a giant ball of gas, mostly hydrogen, that contains 98% of the mass of the Solar System.
The closest planet to the Sun at just 57 million kilometres. It is only visible in the sky just before sunrise and just after sunset.
Often called Earth's sister Venus is the closest planet to Earth. After the sun and the moon it is the brightest object in the sky, caused by a combination of its proximity and the highly reflective clouds that shroud Venus.
Home. Arguably the most dynamic place in the Solar System with a unique combination of tectonic activity, a rapidly changing atmosphere and life.
the mysterious and fascinating "Red" planet
The largest planet in the Solar System and the nearest of the four gas gaints. There are at least 16 moons in orbit around Jupiter including the 4 Galilean moons, easily visible in a small telescope.
The second largest planet and famous for its bright rings. Saturn also has many moons the largest of which, Titan, could possibly one day support life. Another interesting fact about Saturn is that its density is so low it would float on water.
Discovered by William Herschel in 1781 Uranus is the last of the planets visible to the naked eye. Our only close up view of it has come from the Voyager 2 mission in 1986. It revealed a largely featureless ball of hydrogen gas.
Another giant planet discovered by Galle in 1846 after mathematial calculations by Adams and Le Verrier predicted its location. Like Urnaus it is a deep blue colour due to the absorption of red light by methane in the upper atmosphere.
The most distant planet of the Solar System. It was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 after Percival Lowell had predicted its position. Somewhat surprisingly this tiny distant world also has a moon - Charon.
Hypothetical planets
Stories about the search for Planet X, a tenth planet in our Solar System.
Asteroids (Minor Planets)
Any of the small rocky or metallic objects in the Solar System, mostly situated between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The largest, Ceres, is roughly 1000 km in diameter.
Comets are basically dirty snowballs flying through the Solar System. As they approach the Sun the surface is vaporised leaving behind a huge tail of material. The orbits are often highly eccentric with many years between each return visit.
Meteors and Meteorites
A meteor is a brief streak of light across the sky caused by a small fragment of material burning up in the upper atmosphere. Any material that eventually makes it to the ground is known as a meteorite. The impact by a large meteroite is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The Interplanetary Medium
The space between the planets contains charged particles from the solar wind, particles of interplanetary dust, comet debris and other dust and gas from interstellar space.
USGS Astrogeology Program - Browse the Solar System
Browse the Solar System: Interactive version of our popular poster Mapping the Solar System.
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