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                                                       The Solar System
                                            For I dipped into the Future, far as human eye could see;
                                              saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that
                                                     would be. -Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1842
 Table of Contents                 Our solar system consists of an average star we call the Sun, the
                                   planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus,
 The Solar System                  Neptune, and Pluto. It includes: the satellites of the planets;
 Solar System Composition          numerous comets, asteroids, and meteoroids; and the
 Interplanetary Space              interplanetary medium. The Sun is the richest source of
 The Terrestrial Planets           electromagnetic energy (mostly in the form of heat and light) in
 The Jovian Planets                the solar system. The Sun's nearest known stellar neighbor is a red
 Solar System Animation            dwarf star called Proxima Centauri, at a distance of 4.3 light years
 Views of the Solar System         away. The whole solar system, together with the local stars visible
 Sun and Planet Summary            on a clear night, orbits the center of our home galaxy, a spiral disk
                                   of 200 billion stars we call the Milky Way. The Milky Way has
 Solar System Science              two small galaxies orbiting it nearby, which are visible from the
                                   southern hemisphere. They are called the Large Magellanic Cloud
Guide to the Inverse Square        and the Small Magellanic Cloud. The nearest large galaxy is the
 Law                               Andromeda Galaxy. It is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way but is
Multiwavelength Milky Way          4 times as massive and is 2 million light years away. Our galaxy,
                                   one of billions of galaxies known, is traveling through
 intergalactic space.

 The planets, most of the satellites of the planets and the asteroids revolve around the Sun in the
 same direction, in nearly circular orbits. When looking down from above the Sun's north pole,
 the planets orbit in a counter-clockwise direction. The planets orbit the Sun in or near the same
 plane, called the ecliptic. Pluto is a special case in that its orbit is the most highly inclined (18
 degrees) and the most highly elliptical of all the planets. Because of this, for part of its orbit,
 Pluto is closer to the Sun than is Neptune. The axis of rotation for most of the planets is nearly
 perpendicular to the ecliptic. The exceptions are Uranus and Pluto, which are tipped on their
 sides.

 Composition Of The Solar System

 The Sun contains 99.85% of all the matter in the Solar System. The planets, which condensed
 out of the same disk of material that formed the Sun, contain only 0.135% of the mass of the
 solar system. Jupiter contains more than twice the matter of all the other planets combined.
 Satellites of the planets, comets, asteroids, meteoroids, and the interplanetary medium constitute
the remaining 0.015%. The following table is a list of the mass distribution within our Solar
System.

      Sun: 99.85%
      Planets: 0.135%
      Comets: 0.01% ?
      Satellites: 0.00005%
      Minor Planets: 0.0000002% ?
      Meteoroids: 0.0000001% ?
      Interplanetary Medium: 0.0000001% ?

Interplanetary Space

Nearly all the solar system by volume appears to be an empty void. Far from being nothingness,
this vacuum of "space" comprises the interplanetary medium. It includes various forms of energy
and at least two material components: interplanetary dust and interplanetary gas. Interplanetary
dust consists of microscopic solid particles. Interplanetary gas is a tenuous flow of gas and
charged particles, mostly protons and electrons -- plasma -- which stream from the Sun, called
the solar wind.




The solar wind can be measured by spacecraft, and it has a large effect on comet tails. It also has
a measurable effect on the motion of spacecraft. The speed of the solar wind is about 400
kilometers (250 miles) per second in the vicinity of Earth's orbit. The point at which the solar
wind meets the interstellar medium, which is the "solar" wind from other stars, is called the
heliopause. It is a boundary theorized to be roughly circular or teardrop-shaped, marking the
edge of the Sun's influence perhaps 100 AU from the Sun. The space within the boundary of the
heliopause, containing the Sun and solar system, is referred to as the heliosphere.

The solar magnetic field extends outward into interplanetary space; it can be measured on Earth
and by spacecraft. The solar magnetic field is the dominating magnetic field throughout the
interplanetary regions of the solar system, except in the immediate environment of planets which
have their own magnetic fields.

                         The Terrestrial Planets
The terrestrial planets are the four innermost planets in the solar system, Mercury, Venus, Earth
and Mars. They are called terrestrial because they have a compact, rocky surface like the Earth's.
The planets, Venus, Earth, and Mars have significant atmospheres while Mercury has almost
none. The following diagram shows the approximate distance of the terrestrial planets to the Sun.




                         The Jovian Planets




Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are known as the Jovian (Jupiter-like) planets, because they
are all gigantic compared with Earth, and they have a gaseous nature like Jupiter's. The Jovian
planets are also referred to as the gas giants, although some or all of them might have small solid
cores. The following diagram shows the approximate distance of the Jovian planets to the Sun.
                                Solar System Animation

      Formation of the Solar System.

                               Views of the Solar System

                       Our Milkyway Galaxy




This image of our galaxy, the Milky Way, was taken with NASA's Cosmic Background
Explorer's (COBE) Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment (DIRBE). This never-before-seen
view shows the Milky Way from an edge-on perspective with the galactic north pole at the top,
the south pole at the bottom and the galactic center at the center. The picture combines images
obtained at several near-infrared wavelengths. Stars within our galaxy are the dominant source of
light at these wavelengths. Even though our solar system is part of the Milky Way, the view
looks distant because most of the light comes from the population of stars that are closer to the
galactic center than our own Sun. (Courtesy NASA)
                           Our Milky Way Gets a Makeover




Like early explorers mapping the continents of our globe, astronomers are busy charting the
spiral structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Using infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space
Telescope, scientists have discovered that the Milky Way's elegant spiral structure is dominated
by just two arms wrapping off the ends of a central bar of stars. Previously, our galaxy was
thought to possess four major arms.

This artist's concept illustrates the new view of the Milky Way, along with other findings
presented at the 212th American Astronomical Society meeting in St. Louis, Mo. The galaxy's
two major arms (Scutum-Centaurus and Perseus) can be seen attached to the ends of a thick
central bar, while the two now-demoted minor arms (Norma and Sagittarius) are less distinct and
located between the major arms. The major arms consist of the highest densities of both young
and old stars; the minor arms are primarily filled with gas and pockets of star-forming activity.

The artist's concept also includes a new spiral arm, called the "Far-3 kiloparsec arm," discovered
via a radio-telescope survey of gas in the Milky Way. This arm is shorter than the two major
arms and lies along the bar of the galaxy.

Our sun lies near a small, partial arm called the Orion Arm, or Orion Spur, located between the
Sagittarius and Perseus arms. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

                           Spiral Galaxy, NGC 4414




The majestic galaxy, NGC 4414, is located 60 million light-years away. Like the Milky Way,
NGC 4414 is a giant spiral-shaped disk of stars, with a bulbous central hub of older yellow and
red stars. The outer spiral arms are considerably bluer due to ongoing formation of young, blue
stars, the brightest of which can be seen individually at the high resolution provided by the
Hubble camera. The arms are also very rich in clouds of interstellar dust, seen as dark patches
and streaks silhouetted against the starlight. (Courtesy NASA/STSCI)
                                                                Obliquity of the Eight Planets




This illustration shows the obliquity of the eight planets. Obliquity is the angle between a
planet's equatorial plane and its orbital plane. By International Astronomical Union (IAU)
convention, a planet's north pole lies above the ecliptic plane. By this convention, Venus,
Uranus, and Pluto have a retrograde rotation, or a rotation that is in the opposite direction from
the other planets. (Copyright 2008 by Calvin J. Hamilton)

                        The Solar System




During the past three decades a myriad of space explorers have escaped the confines of planet
Earth and have set out to discover our planetary neighbors. This picture shows the Sun and all
nine planets of the solar system as seen by the space explorers. Starting at the top-left corner is
the Sun followed by the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune,
and Pluto. (Copyright 1998 by Calvin J. Hamilton)

                                        Sun and Planets




This image shows the Sun and nine planets approximately to scale. The order of these bodies are:
Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. (Copyright
Calvin J. Hamilton)

                          Jovian Planets




This image shows the Jovian planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune approximately to scale.
The Jovian planets are named because of their gigantic Jupiter-like appearance. (Copyright
Calvin J. Hamilton)
                        The Largest Moons and Smallest Planets




This image shows the relative sizes of the largest moons and the smallest planets in the
solarsystem. The largest satellites pictured in this image are: Ganymede (5262 km), Titan (5150
km), Callisto (4806 km), Io (3642 km), the Moon (3476 km), Europa (3138 km), Triton (2706
km), and Titania (1580 km). Both Ganymede and Titan are larger than planet Mercury followed
by Io, the Moon, Europa, and Triton which are larger than the planet Pluto. (Copyright Calvin J.
Hamilton)

                        Diagram of Portrait Frames




On February 14, 1990, the cameras of Voyager 1 pointed back toward the Sun and took a series
of pictures of the Sun and the planets, making the first ever "portrait" of our solar system as seen
from the outside. This image is a diagram of how the frames for the solar system portrait were
taken. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)

                        All Frames from the Family Portrait




This image shows the series of pictures of the Sun and the planets taken on February 14, 1990,
for the solar system family portrait as seen from the outside. In the course of taking this mosaic
consisting of a total of 60 frames, Voyager 1 made several images of the inner solar system from
a distance of approximately 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) and about 32° above the
ecliptic plane. Thirty-nine wide angle frames link together six of the planets of our solar system
in this mosaic. Outermost Neptune is 30 times further from the Sun than Earth. Our Sun is seen
as the bright object in the center of the circle of frames. The insets show the planets magnified
many times. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)

                        Portrait of the Solar System
These six narrow-angle color images were made from the first ever "portrait" of the solar system
taken by Voyager 1, which was more than 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) from Earth and
about 32° above the ecliptic. Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen. Mars was not detectable
by the Voyager cameras due to scattered sunlight in the optics, and Pluto was not included in the
mosaic because of its small size and distance from the Sun. These blown-up images, left to right
and top to bottom are Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)


                                      Sun and Planet Summary

The following table lists statistical information for the Sun and planets:

            Distanc Radius Mass Rotatio          #    Orbital    Orbital Obliquit Densit
               e    (Earth's (Earth's    n      Moon Inclinatio Eccentricit  y       y
             (AU)      )        )     (Earth's)  s        n          y            (g/cm3)
                             332,80
  Sun          0      109              25-36*    9       ---        ---     ---    1.410
                                0
Mercur
                0.39       0.38     0.05    58.8    0        7         0.2056     0.1°      5.43
  y
 Venus          0.72       0.95     0.89    244     0      3.394       0.0068    177.4°     5.25
 Earth          1.0        1.00     1.00    1.00    1      0.000       0.0167    23.45°     5.52
 Mars           1.5        0.53     0.11    1.029   2      1.850       0.0934    25.19°     3.95
Jupiter         5.2         11      318     0.411   16     1.308       0.0483     3.12°     1.33
Saturn          9.5          9       95     0.428   18     2.488       0.0560    26.73°     0.69
Uranus          19.2         4       17     0.748   15     0.774       0.0461    97.86°     1.29
Neptun
                30.1         4       17     0.802   8      1.774       0.0097    29.56°     1.64
  e
 Pluto          39.5       0.18     0.002   0.267   1      17.15       0.2482    119.6°     2.03

* The Sun's period of rotation at the surface varies from approximately 25 days at the equator to
36 days at the poles. Deep down, below the convective zone, everything appears to rotate with a
period of 27 days.

Views of the Solar System Copyright © 1995-2009 by Calvin J. Hamilton. All rights
reserved. Privacy Statement.

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Custom Search

 Home | Site Map | What's New | Image Index | Copyright | Puzzles | Posters |
ScienceViews |
                                                      The Solar System
                                           For I dipped into the Future, far as human eye could see;
                                             saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that
                                                    would be. -Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1842
 Table of Contents               Our solar system consists of an average star we call the Sun, the
                                 planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus,
 The Solar System                Neptune, and Pluto. It includes: the satellites of the planets;
 Solar System Composition        numerous comets, asteroids, and meteoroids; and the
 Interplanetary Space            interplanetary medium. The Sun is the richest source of
 The Terrestrial Planets         electromagnetic energy (mostly in the form of heat and light) in
 The Jovian Planets              the solar system. The Sun's nearest known stellar neighbor is a red
 Solar System Animation          dwarf star called Proxima Centauri, at a distance of 4.3 light years
 Views of the Solar System       away. The whole solar system, together with the local stars visible
 Sun and Planet Summary          on a clear night, orbits the center of our home galaxy, a spiral disk
                                 of 200 billion stars we call the Milky Way. The Milky Way has
 Solar System Science            two small galaxies orbiting it nearby, which are visible from the
                                 southern hemisphere. They are called the Large Magellanic Cloud
Guide to the Inverse Square      and the Small Magellanic Cloud. The nearest large galaxy is the
 Law                             Andromeda Galaxy. It is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way but is
Multiwavelength Milky Way        4 times as massive and is 2 million light years away. Our galaxy,
                                 one of billions of galaxies known, is traveling through
 intergalactic space.

 The planets, most of the satellites of the planets and the asteroids revolve around the Sun in the
 same direction, in nearly circular orbits. When looking down from above the Sun's north pole,
 the planets orbit in a counter-clockwise direction. The planets orbit the Sun in or near the same
 plane, called the ecliptic. Pluto is a special case in that its orbit is the most highly inclined (18
 degrees) and the most highly elliptical of all the planets. Because of this, for part of its orbit,
 Pluto is closer to the Sun than is Neptune. The axis of rotation for most of the planets is nearly
 perpendicular to the ecliptic. The exceptions are Uranus and Pluto, which are tipped on their
 sides.

 Composition Of The Solar System

 The Sun contains 99.85% of all the matter in the Solar System. The planets, which condensed
 out of the same disk of material that formed the Sun, contain only 0.135% of the mass of the
 solar system. Jupiter contains more than twice the matter of all the other planets combined.
 Satellites of the planets, comets, asteroids, meteoroids, and the interplanetary medium constitute
 the remaining 0.015%. The following table is a list of the mass distribution within our Solar
 System.

        Sun: 99.85%
        Planets: 0.135%
        Comets: 0.01% ?
        Satellites: 0.00005%
      Minor Planets: 0.0000002% ?
      Meteoroids: 0.0000001% ?
      Interplanetary Medium: 0.0000001% ?

Interplanetary Space

Nearly all the solar system by volume appears to be an empty void. Far from being nothingness,
this vacuum of "space" comprises the interplanetary medium. It includes various forms of energy
and at least two material components: interplanetary dust and interplanetary gas. Interplanetary
dust consists of microscopic solid particles. Interplanetary gas is a tenuous flow of gas and
charged particles, mostly protons and electrons -- plasma -- which stream from the Sun, called
the solar wind.




The solar wind can be measured by spacecraft, and it has a large effect on comet tails. It also has
a measurable effect on the motion of spacecraft. The speed of the solar wind is about 400
kilometers (250 miles) per second in the vicinity of Earth's orbit. The point at which the solar
wind meets the interstellar medium, which is the "solar" wind from other stars, is called the
heliopause. It is a boundary theorized to be roughly circular or teardrop-shaped, marking the
edge of the Sun's influence perhaps 100 AU from the Sun. The space within the boundary of the
heliopause, containing the Sun and solar system, is referred to as the heliosphere.

The solar magnetic field extends outward into interplanetary space; it can be measured on Earth
and by spacecraft. The solar magnetic field is the dominating magnetic field throughout the
interplanetary regions of the solar system, except in the immediate environment of planets which
have their own magnetic fields.

                         The Terrestrial Planets



The terrestrial planets are the four innermost planets in the solar system, Mercury, Venus, Earth
and Mars. They are called terrestrial because they have a compact, rocky surface like the Earth's.
The planets, Venus, Earth, and Mars have significant atmospheres while Mercury has almost
none. The following diagram shows the approximate distance of the terrestrial planets to the Sun.
                         The Jovian Planets




Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are known as the Jovian (Jupiter-like) planets, because they
are all gigantic compared with Earth, and they have a gaseous nature like Jupiter's. The Jovian
planets are also referred to as the gas giants, although some or all of them might have small solid
cores. The following diagram shows the approximate distance of the Jovian planets to the Sun.
                                Solar System Animation

      Formation of the Solar System.

                               Views of the Solar System

                       Our Milkyway Galaxy




This image of our galaxy, the Milky Way, was taken with NASA's Cosmic Background
Explorer's (COBE) Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment (DIRBE). This never-before-seen
view shows the Milky Way from an edge-on perspective with the galactic north pole at the top,
the south pole at the bottom and the galactic center at the center. The picture combines images
obtained at several near-infrared wavelengths. Stars within our galaxy are the dominant source of
light at these wavelengths. Even though our solar system is part of the Milky Way, the view
looks distant because most of the light comes from the population of stars that are closer to the
galactic center than our own Sun. (Courtesy NASA)
                           Our Milky Way Gets a Makeover




Like early explorers mapping the continents of our globe, astronomers are busy charting the
spiral structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Using infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space
Telescope, scientists have discovered that the Milky Way's elegant spiral structure is dominated
by just two arms wrapping off the ends of a central bar of stars. Previously, our galaxy was
thought to possess four major arms.

This artist's concept illustrates the new view of the Milky Way, along with other findings
presented at the 212th American Astronomical Society meeting in St. Louis, Mo. The galaxy's
two major arms (Scutum-Centaurus and Perseus) can be seen attached to the ends of a thick
central bar, while the two now-demoted minor arms (Norma and Sagittarius) are less distinct and
located between the major arms. The major arms consist of the highest densities of both young
and old stars; the minor arms are primarily filled with gas and pockets of star-forming activity.

The artist's concept also includes a new spiral arm, called the "Far-3 kiloparsec arm," discovered
via a radio-telescope survey of gas in the Milky Way. This arm is shorter than the two major
arms and lies along the bar of the galaxy.

Our sun lies near a small, partial arm called the Orion Arm, or Orion Spur, located between the
Sagittarius and Perseus arms. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

                           Spiral Galaxy, NGC 4414




The majestic galaxy, NGC 4414, is located 60 million light-years away. Like the Milky Way,
NGC 4414 is a giant spiral-shaped disk of stars, with a bulbous central hub of older yellow and
red stars. The outer spiral arms are considerably bluer due to ongoing formation of young, blue
stars, the brightest of which can be seen individually at the high resolution provided by the
Hubble camera. The arms are also very rich in clouds of interstellar dust, seen as dark patches
and streaks silhouetted against the starlight. (Courtesy NASA/STSCI)
                                                                Obliquity of the Eight Planets




This illustration shows the obliquity of the eight planets. Obliquity is the angle between a
planet's equatorial plane and its orbital plane. By International Astronomical Union (IAU)
convention, a planet's north pole lies above the ecliptic plane. By this convention, Venus,
Uranus, and Pluto have a retrograde rotation, or a rotation that is in the opposite direction from
the other planets. (Copyright 2008 by Calvin J. Hamilton)

                        The Solar System




During the past three decades a myriad of space explorers have escaped the confines of planet
Earth and have set out to discover our planetary neighbors. This picture shows the Sun and all
nine planets of the solar system as seen by the space explorers. Starting at the top-left corner is
the Sun followed by the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune,
and Pluto. (Copyright 1998 by Calvin J. Hamilton)

                                        Sun and Planets




This image shows the Sun and nine planets approximately to scale. The order of these bodies are:
Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. (Copyright
Calvin J. Hamilton)

                          Jovian Planets




This image shows the Jovian planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune approximately to scale.
The Jovian planets are named because of their gigantic Jupiter-like appearance. (Copyright
Calvin J. Hamilton)
                        The Largest Moons and Smallest Planets




This image shows the relative sizes of the largest moons and the smallest planets in the
solarsystem. The largest satellites pictured in this image are: Ganymede (5262 km), Titan (5150
km), Callisto (4806 km), Io (3642 km), the Moon (3476 km), Europa (3138 km), Triton (2706
km), and Titania (1580 km). Both Ganymede and Titan are larger than planet Mercury followed
by Io, the Moon, Europa, and Triton which are larger than the planet Pluto. (Copyright Calvin J.
Hamilton)

                        Diagram of Portrait Frames




On February 14, 1990, the cameras of Voyager 1 pointed back toward the Sun and took a series
of pictures of the Sun and the planets, making the first ever "portrait" of our solar system as seen
from the outside. This image is a diagram of how the frames for the solar system portrait were
taken. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)

                        All Frames from the Family Portrait




This image shows the series of pictures of the Sun and the planets taken on February 14, 1990,
for the solar system family portrait as seen from the outside. In the course of taking this mosaic
consisting of a total of 60 frames, Voyager 1 made several images of the inner solar system from
a distance of approximately 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) and about 32° above the
ecliptic plane. Thirty-nine wide angle frames link together six of the planets of our solar system
in this mosaic. Outermost Neptune is 30 times further from the Sun than Earth. Our Sun is seen
as the bright object in the center of the circle of frames. The insets show the planets magnified
many times. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)

                        Portrait of the Solar System
These six narrow-angle color images were made from the first ever "portrait" of the solar system
taken by Voyager 1, which was more than 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) from Earth and
about 32° above the ecliptic. Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen. Mars was not detectable
by the Voyager cameras due to scattered sunlight in the optics, and Pluto was not included in the
mosaic because of its small size and distance from the Sun. These blown-up images, left to right
and top to bottom are Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)


                                 Sun and Planet Summary

The following table lists statistical information for the Sun and planets:

          Distanc Radius Mass Rotatio          #    Orbital    Orbital Obliquit Densit
             e    (Earth's (Earth's    n      Moon Inclinatio Eccentricit  y       y
           (AU)      )        )     (Earth's)  s        n          y            (g/cm3)
                           332,80
  Sun        0      109              25-36*    9       ---        ---     ---    1.410
                              0
Mercur
            0.39     0.38      0.05     58.8       0         7         0.2056          0.1°         5.43
  y
 Venus      0.72     0.95      0.89      244       0       3.394       0.0068        177.4°         5.25
 Earth      1.0      1.00      1.00     1.00       1       0.000       0.0167        23.45°         5.52
 Mars       1.5      0.53      0.11     1.029      2       1.850       0.0934        25.19°         3.95
Jupiter     5.2       11       318      0.411     16       1.308       0.0483         3.12°         1.33
Saturn      9.5        9        95      0.428     18       2.488       0.0560        26.73°         0.69
Uranus      19.2       4        17      0.748     15       0.774       0.0461        97.86°         1.29
Neptun
            30.1       4        17      0.802      8       1.774       0.0097        29.56°         1.64
  e
 Pluto      39.5     0.18     0.002     0.267      1       17.15       0.2482        119.6°         2.03

* The Sun's period of rotation at the surface varies from approximately 25 days at the equator to
36 days at the poles. Deep down, below the convective zone, everything appears to rotate with a
period of 27 days.

Views of the Solar System Copyright © 1995-2009 by Calvin J. Hamilton. All rights
reserved. Privacy Statement.


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                                                Sun:




About Our Solar System



                  Sun



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         Earth's Moon
                                                                 Plasma erupts from the Sun in the shape of a massive handle.


                 Mars



             Asteroids
                                                Our Sun in Brief
                                                The Sun is a star, a hot ball of glowing gases at the heart of our solar system. Its
                                                influence extends far beyond the orbits of distant Neptune and Pluto. Without the
                                                Sun's intense energy and heat, there would be no life on Earth. And though it is
    Meteors & Meteorites     special to us, there are billions of stars like our Sun scattered across the Milky Way
                             galaxy.

                  Jupiter    Featured Mission: Solar Dynamics Observatory
                             SDO will study the Sun's influence by observing the solar atmosphere simultaneously
                             in several wavelengths. The orbiting observatory will help determine if it is possible to
                  Saturn     make reliable space weather forecasts.

                                                               Read More About the Sun
                  Uranus



                Neptune


                                                                            Because the Sun is our
                    Pluto
                            Distance from Earth: 149,597,900 km             nearest star.

                                                                            Solar activity affects us on
                  Comets                                                    Earth (electronics and
                            Equatorial Radius: 695,500 km
                                                                            communications on the
                                                                            ground and satellites in
              Kuiper Belt                                                   orbit can be affected by
                            Volume: 1,412,200,000,000,000,000 km3           solar storms).

                                                                            Solar activity also affects human and robotic
            Dwarf Planets
                            Mass: 1,989,000,000,000,000,000,000,            explorers traveling through our solar system.
                                  000,000,000 kg
                                                                            The Sun is the source of most of the light and
              Oort Cloud                                                    heat in our solar system.
                            More Facts

Moons of Our Solar System



 Beyond Our Solar System


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                              Sun-Earth Connection Forum



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About Our Solar System



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                                                 A true-color NASA satellite mosaic of Earth.
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 Meteors & Meteorites
                         Earth in Brief
                         Earth is an ocean planet. Our home world's abundance of water - and life - makes it
               Jupiter   unique in our solar system. Other planets, plus a few moons, have ice, atmospheres,
                         seasons and even weather, but only on Earth does the whole complicated mix come
                         together in a way that encourages life - and lots of it.
               Saturn
                         Featured Mission: Earth Science Missions
                         Orbiting spacecraft study our home world from above as a whole system and aid in our
               Uranus    understanding how the planet is changing.

                                                           Read More About Earth
             Neptune



                 Pluto
                       Comets                     Metric | English | Scientific Notation                    Missions to Earth

                                                                                                            Earth from Space: An Astronaut's View of the
                   Kuiper Belt                    Distance from the Sun: 149,597,890 km                     Home Planet

                                                                                                            Exploring the Planets - Earth
                 Dwarf Planets                    Equatorial Radius: 6,378.14 km
                                                                                                            Missions to Explore Earth

                    Oort Cloud                    Volume: 1,083,200,000,000 km3                             NASA Earth Science Enterprise

                                                                                                            Compare Earth to other Planets/Moons
                                                  Mass: 5,973,700,000,000,000,000,000,
     Moons of Our Solar System
                                                        000 kg

                                                                                                          More Resources
       Beyond Our Solar System                    More Facts




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