The Solar System

.. re. However, the earth is not an exact sphere, being slightly flattened at the poles and bulging at the equator. The earths surface is divided into dry lands and oceans. Surrounding the earth is an envelope of gases called the atmosphere, which is mostly made of nitrogen and oxygen.

The Earth is divided into several layers which have distinct chemical and seismic properties. The crust varies considerably in thickness; it is thinner under the oceans, and thicker under the continents. The inner core and crust are solid; the outer core and mantle layers are plastic or semi-fluid. Most of the mass of the Earth is in the mantle, the rest is in the core, and the part we inhabit is a tiny fraction of the whole. Unlike the other planets, Earths crust is divided into several separate solid plates, which float around independently on top of the hot mantle below.

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The Earth is 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old, but the oldest known rocks are about 4 billion years. Rocks older than 3 billion years are rare. The surface of the Earth is made up of 71% water. Mars is known as the Red Planet, because of its striking red appearance. The planet has a very thin atmosphere consisting mainly of carbon dioxide, with some nitrogen and argon. The average distance of Mars from the Sun is about 141 million miles.

Mars has an extreme day-to-night temperature range, resulting from its thin atmosphere. Strong evidence exists that Mars once had liquid water on its surface, but now its carbon dioxide atmosphere is so thin that the planet is dry and cold, with polar caps of frozen water and solid carbon dioxide, or dry ice. Jupiter is the first of the Gas Giants, and the fifth planet from the Sun. Its Great Red Spot is its most well known feature. If Jupiter was hollow, you could fit over 1,000 earths inside it. Jupiters orbit lies beyond the asteroid belt at a average distance of 483.6 million miles from the Sun. Jupiter is the first planet of the outer planets.

The atmosphere of Jupiter is composed mainly of hydrogen, helium, methane, and ammonia. The atmosphere appears to be divided into a number of light and dark bands parallel to its equator and shows a range of complex features, including a storm called the Great Red Spot. Located in the Southern Hemisphere the storm rotates counterclockwise and has been observed ever since 1664. Also in the Southern Hemisphere are three white ovals that formed in 1939. According to Scientists Jupiter has no solid rock surface. Jupiter radiates about four times as much heat energy as it receives from the sun, implying an internal heat source. The temperature on Jupiter ranges from about 190*F to 9*F.

Its magnetosphere, rings and satellites make it a planetary system unto itself. One of Jupiters largest moons, Io, has volcanoes that produce the hottest surface temperature in the Solar System. At least four of Jupiters moons have atmospheres, and at least three show evidence that they contain liquid or partially-frozen water. Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun. It is also the second largest in mass, but has the largest equatorial distance. Winds on Saturn can reach up to 1,100 miles per hour.

Saturn is less dense than water by 30%. Saturns orbit lies between those of Jupiter and Uranus, its average distance from the Sun is about 886 million miles, almost twice that of Jupiter. Saturn appears in the sky as a yellow, starlike object of the first magnitude. When viewed through a telescope, it is seen as a golden sphere, crossed by a series of lightly colored bands parallel to the equator. Saturn is covered with a thick atmosphere composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, with some methane and ammonia. Its temperature is believed to be about 270*F. Saturn rivals Jupiter, with a much more intricate ring structure and more satellites.

One of Saturns moons, Titan, has an atmosphere thicker than that of any other satellite in the solar system. Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun, and it is the largest. Uranus is titled to the side. It spins north-south instead of east-west. Its many rings go around the north and south poles instead of around the equator.

Uranus has a diameter roughly four times that of Earth. Through a telescope, Uranus appears as a greenish disk, slightly elliptical because of its rapid rotation. The temperature is estimated to be about -330*F. Uranus has twenty known natural satellites with a diameter ranging in size from 986 miles down to 14 miles. Neptune is the outer most of the Gas Giants. Its orbit is 165 Earth years.

Methane gases give Neptune its blue/green color. It has a Great Dark Spot, much like Jupiter. The average distance from Neptune to the Sun is about 2.8 billion miles. Neptune has a thick atmosphere along with the other outer planets. It has about the same temperature as Uranus.

Pluto is the farthest from the Sun, but because of its eccentricity in orbit, it is closer that Neptunes 20 years of its 249 year orbit. Pluto is mostly ice and rock. Plutos diameter is about 12,200 miles. Pluto and Charon (moon) are unique in that they both keep the same side facing one another at all time because they rotate synchronously as Chiron orbits Pluto. The asteroids are small rocky bodies that move in orbits primarily between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Numbering in thousands, asteroids range in size from Ceres, to microscopic grains. Some asteroids are perturbed, or pulled by forces other than their attraction to the Sun, into eccentric orbits that can bring them closer to the Sun. If the orbits of such bodies intersect that of Earth, they are meteors and recovered fragments are termed meteorites. Laboratory studies of meteorites have revealed much information about primitive conditions in our solar system. The surfaces of Mercury, Mars, and several satellites of the planets show the effects of an intense bombardment by asteroidal objects early in the history of the solar system. On Earth that record has eroded away, except for a few recently found impact craters.

Some meteors and interplanetary dust may also come from comets, which are basically aggregates of dust and frozen gases. Comets orbit the Sun at distances so great that stars enter orbits that bring them into the inner solar system can perturb them. As comets approach the Sun, they released their dust and gases to form as spectacular coma and tail. The planet is a very broad term to discuss because there are so many different parts that you can explore. The solar system is huge and just imagine what would happen if we found another solar system! The inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

The outer planets are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. There is a big difference between the two different groups. Science Essays.

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