Our solar system has eight planets that gracefully orbit the Sun. All of these planets have unique features, especially the four largest—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Jupiter, one of the four largest planets, is located fifth from the Sun. 11 times broader than Earth, Jupiter has clouds that are white and orange. The wind on Jupiter is strong enough to move these orange clouds in one direction and the white ones in another, which is why this planet appears to have stripes. On its surface, Jupiter also has a storm twice the size of Earth that swirls like a hurricane. Astronomers named this storm “The Great Red Spot.” Jupiter also features two moons called Ganymede and Callisto, which are larger than Mercury.
Saturn, another of the largest planets, is sixth from the Sun and has thousands of thin rings orbiting it. These rings are comprised of ice, rock, and dust and can be seen from Earth. Saturn features butterscotch-colored clouds and a moon called Titan, which is wider than Mercury. Titan’s gravity is strong enough that it has an atmosphere of gas; other moons do not have sufficient gravity to have atmospheres, because the gas around them leaks out into space.
Uranus is also one of the four biggest planets. Four times larger than Earth and the seventh farthest from the Sun, Uranus has chemicals in the air surrounding it that make it appear green. This planet is unique because it is a ‘sideways planet,’ which means it is titled and spins on its side. For half of its orbit, Uranus’ north pole faces the Sun while its south pole does not. For the other half of its orbit, Uranus spins and its south pole faces the Sun while its north pole does not.
The last of the biggest planets is Neptune, which is the eighth planet from the Sun. Nearly as large as Uranus, Neptune also has a storm called “The Great Dark Spot.” Neptune has winds that blow at speeds over 1,200 miles per hour. This impressive planet has more than eight moons, the biggest of which is called Triton. Because of the close distance between Neptune and Triton, astronomers believe that this moon may even smash into Neptune some time in the future.
While we clearly know much about these four massive planets, astronomers suggest that there is still much to discover about them.
There are four small planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. While these planets are each littler than the rest, they also have distinct and unique traits.
Mercury is one of the four smallest planets in our solar system. It is the closest planet to the Sun, which is why it gets so hot. The side of Mercury that faces the Sun gets to be about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is twice as hot as a kitchen oven! In contrast, Mercury's dark side gets three times colder than Antarctica, or negative 297 degrees Fahrenheit. A rocky planet that does not have air or water, Mercury looks just like our moon. Thousands of bowl-shaped holes called craters, made by space rocks cover Mercury.
Venus, made of volcanic rock and covered in lava, is the second closest planet to the Sun. It is nearly as large as Earth, but it is still one of the smallest planets. The air on Venus is poisonous, and it is covered with white clouds made up of tiny drops of acid. The Sun's heat passes through the clouds and gets trapped, which is why Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System.
Our planet Earth, the third planet from the Sun, is composed of 75 percent water. Earth is home to millions of different species of plants and animals, and features rocky surfaces, mountains, valleys, and broad plains. Some of Earth's land, like Antarctica, is always ice-covered. Unlike Venus' clouds, Earth's are made from water drops. Volcanoes on this planet spew lava to make more land, therefore causing the Earth to change constantly.
The last of the smallest planets, Mars, is the fourth closest planet to the Sun. Its surface is made up of rust-colored rock and dust, which gives it a reddish color. Mars has many notable features including a giant canyon that is longer than the United States and very large volcanoes, one of which is called Olympus Mons. This impressive volcano is three times higher than Mt. Everest, which is 5.49 miles high. On Mars, there is not enough air for breathing, so humans would not be able to live there.
Though Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the smallest of the known planets, each is clearly impressive in different ways.
[Source: Solar System]