Please forward this error screen to 69. Please forward this error screen to 69. Here are 10 unexpected and intriguing facts about our solar system – our sun and its things you find in the ocean of planets – you probably did not know!
Close pass from asteroid 2017 GM! Fill out my Wufoo form! Montage of our solar system. Our annual fund-raiser is here! Remember those styrofoam models of the solar system we made in elementary school?
The solar system is even cooler than that! Here are 10 things you might not know. The hottest planet isn’t closest to the sun. Pluto is smaller than the USA. George Lucas doesn’t know much about asteroid fields. You can make volcanos using water as magma. The edge of the solar system is 1,000 times farther away than Pluto.
Almost everything on Earth is a rare element. Jupiter has the biggest ocean of any planet. Even really small bodies can have moons. We live inside the sun. This artist’s concept puts solar system distances in perspective.
The scale bar is in astronomical units, with each set distance beyond 1 AU representing 10 times the previous distance. One AU is the distance from the sun to the Earth, which is about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers. NASA’s Voyager 1, humankind’s most distant spacecraft, is around 125 AU. This artist’s concept puts solar system distances in perspective. NASA’s Voyager 1, humankind’s most distant spacecraft, is around 125 AU. Many people know that Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, well less than half of the Earth’s distance. It is no mystery, therefore, why people would assume that Mercury is the hottest planet.
We know that Venus, the second planet away from the sun, is on the average 30 million miles farther from the sun than Mercury. The natural assumption is that being farther away, it must be cooler. But assumptions can be dangerous. For practical consideration, Mercury has no atmosphere, no warming blanket to help it maintain the sun’s heat. Venus, on the other hand, is shrouded by an unexpectedly thick atmosphere, about 100 times thicker than our own on Earth. This in itself would normally serve to prevent some of the sun’s energy from escaping back into space and thus raise the overall temperature of the planet.
But in addition to the atmosphere’s thickness, it is composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. The carbon dioxide freely lets solar energy in, but is far less transparent to the longer wavelength radiation emitted by the heated surface. Thus the temperature rises to a level far above what would be expected, making it the hottest planet. In fact the average temperature on Venus is about 875 degrees F, hot enough to melt tin and lead.
The maximum temperature on Mercury, the planet closer to the sun, is about 800 degrees F. In addition, the lack of atmosphere causes Mercury’s surface temperature to vary by hundreds of degrees, whereas the thick mantle of carbon dioxide keeps the surface temperature of Venus steady, hardly varying at all, anywhere on the planet or any time of day or night! Sign up for our free daily newsletter today! By the best current estimates, Pluto is just over 1400 miles across, less than half the width of the U. In many science fiction movies, spacecraft are often endangered by pesky asteroid fields. In fact, spacecraft must be deliberately and carefully guided to asteroids to have a chance of even photographing one.
Given the presumed manner of creation, it is highly unlikely that spacefarers will ever encounter asteroid swarms or fields in deep space. Mention volcanoes and everyone immediately thinks of Mount St. Helens, Mount Vesuvius, or maybe the lava caldera of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. A volcano forms when an underground reservoir of a hot, fluid mineral or gas erupts onto the surface of a planet or other non-stellar astronomical body. The exact composition of the mineral can vary greatly. The volcanoes of Jupiter’s moon Io appear to be composed mostly of sulfur and sulfur dioxide.