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Our Family of Planets and Moons - The Solar System Image Gallery

written by: Rod Martin, Jr.•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 9/28/2011

To the ancients, planets were merely wandering points of light against a backdrop of fixed stars. The only moon they knew was that of our own Earth. With modern technology, we have seen each of these wanderers up close in all their grandeur and beauty.

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    Father Sun - Parent to the Solar System

    Father Sun - Parent to the Solar System 

    Our Sun is a gigantic ball of hot gas, more massive than all of the mountains of Earth. In fact, eminently more massive than our entire planet. Just as Jupiter could easily swallow the Earth, Sol (our sun) could swallow Jupiter and every other planet in the Solar System. The image was taken in the extreme ultraviolet band of light.

    Distance: 93 million miles (8.3 light minutes).

    Mass: 330,000 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 865,000 miles (109 times that of Earth).

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun

  • slide 2 of 19

    Hot Footed Mercury

    Hot Footed Mercury 

    Mercury is the closest planet to our Sun and accordingly very hot on the Sun-facing side. Because of the tidally slowed rotation, Mercury's dark side remains very cold.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 43 million miles.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 29 million miles.

    Orbital Period: 87.969 days.

    Mass: 0.055 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.383 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_%28planet%29

  • slide 3 of 19

    Unveiled Beauty, Venus

    Unveiled Beauty, Venus 

    This is Venus with the veil stripped away. A false-color view produced by x-ray imaging, digging below the thick cloud layer to the tortured surface underneath.

    Though Mercury is far closer to the Sun, Venus is far hotter because of its thick, "greenhouse" atmosphere—a pressure 92 times that at sea level on Earth. The surface temperature is close to 860 °F. Because of tidal braking by the Sun, Venus has an extremely slow rotation. Despite this, the temperature on Venus is roughly the same both day and night.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 67.7 million miles.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 66.8 million miles.

    Orbital Period: 224.7 days.

    Mass: 0.815 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.95 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus

  • slide 4 of 19

    Our Blue Jewel - Earth

    Our Blue Jewel - Earth 

    Our home planet, Earth, as seen from space. From the Sahara Desert to Australia and from the North Pole to the Southern Indian Ocean, this cloud-speckled view of our home remains one of the most lovely views of our planet. Australia, the Philippines and Japan are in early evening, while the Middle East sweats under the mid-day Sun. Notice the detail of the Mediterranean and the turquoise shallows of the Caspian Sea.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 94.5 million miles.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 91.4 million miles.

    Orbital Period: 365.256 days.

    Mass: 5.9736×1024 kg

    Diameter: 7,919 miles (mean)

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth

  • slide 5 of 19

    Earthrise Above Our Next-Door Neighbor - The Moon

    Earthrise Above Our Next-Door Neighbor - The Moon 

    Our Moon is Earth's closest neighbor in space. Six different missions have landed men on its surface. It remains the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System. An airless world, it stands tidally locked so that only one face is ever presented to the Earth. Only after the beginning of the space age did humanity ever gaze on the lunar far side.

    Apogee (farthest from Earth): 252,000 miles.

    Perigee (closest to Earth): 225,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 27.321 days.

    Mass: 0.0123 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.273 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon

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    The Mysterious Red Planet, Mars

    The Mysterious Red Planet, Mars 

    Thin, carbon dioxide clouds dot the surface of Mars from Olympus Mons on the left, across the Tharsis Highlands. A short distance from veiled Olympus Mons (the tallest volcano in the Solar System) stand the three large calderas of Tharsis Montes ranging from the Northeast to Southwest across the western highlands. The southernmost is Arsia Mons, the central peak is Pavonis Mons, and the northernmost is Ascraeus Mons. None of these three stand as high as Olympus Mons, despite the greater starting elevation of the highlands.

    Just below the middle, in the center of this image, starts the Valles Marineris—a deep gash in the planet's surface which runs eastward from here, one-fourth of the way around Mars.

    The atmosphere is extremely thin, roughly equivalent to that on Earth at an altitude 21 miles above sea level. No surface water exists, but there is evidence that the surface has been eroded by liquid water in the remote past. And so far, no indigenous life has been found on Mars.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 155 million miles.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 128 million miles.

    Orbital Period: 686.971 days.

    Mass: 0.107 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.533 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

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    Ceres, King of the Asteroids

    Ceres, King of the Asteroids 

    Ceres is not only the largest asteroid—that field of rocky material between Mars and Jupiter—but it is also the only dwarf planet in the inner Solar System. The remainder of the asteroids are too small to form spherical shapes under their own gravitational pull.

    With all of the high quality photos we've received from the Hubble Space Telescope, the graininess of this picture merely shows how difficult the asteroids are as imaging targets.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 277 million miles.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 237 million miles.

    Orbital Period: 4.60 years (Earth years).

    Mass: 0.00015 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.076 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceres_%28dwarf_planet%29

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    Vesta, Asteroid Queen

    Vesta, Asteroid Queen 

    Vesta is too small to be a dwarf planet, despite being the second-largest asteroid, behind Ceres (see previous slide). This closeup of the asteroid's south pole was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 2.572 AU (where AU = average distance of Earth from the Sun).

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 2.151 AU.

    Orbital Period: 3.63 years (Earth years).

    Mass: 0.0000434 times that of Earth (29% that of Ceres).

    Diameter: 0.042 times that of Earth (based on mean Vesta dimension of 329 miles).

    Reference:

    NASA, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/pia14712.html

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4_Vesta

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    Majestic Jupiter

    Majestic Jupiter 

    Jupiter is the king of planets in our Solar System. The colorful bands and swirls in this picture are exaggerated to show off the detail. The Great Red Spot near the planet's equator could hold two or three planets the size of Earth.

    From the Sun, this is the first of the gas giant planets, along with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

    Jupiter has dozens of moons, with four large satellites known as the Galilean moons, after their discoverer, Galileo Galilei.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 5.458 AU.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 4.950 AU.

    Orbital Period: 11.8618 years (Earth years).

    Mass: 317.8 times that of Earth.

    Diameter (mean): 10.97 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter

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    Jupiter's Io - Moon With a Volcanic Complexion

    Jupiter's Io - Moon With a Volcanic Complexion 

    Io is the innermost of the Galilean moons of Jupiter—one of the four Medician stars, as Galileo called them. Io (pronounced EYE-oh), is the most volcanically active body in the Solar System. This is because of the tidal stretching caused by Jupiter and nearby Europa. The coloration is caused in part by the moon's high concentration of sulfur. In fact, Io leaves a trail of sulfur in its orbit around Jupiter from all of the eruptions.

    Apoapsis (farthest from the planet): 263,000 miles.

    Periapsis (closest to the planet): 261,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 1.769 days.

    Mass: 0.015 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.286 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Io_%28moon%29

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    Jupiter's Europa - Ice Crepe Surface

    Jupiter's Europa - Ice Crepe Surface 

    Slightly smaller than Earth's moon, Europa has a very tenuous atmosphere of oxygen. This moon has one of the smoothest solid surfaces in the Solar System, made mostly of water ice. The striations crisscrossing the surface are cracks in the ice, but surprisingly there are very few meteor craters. There has been some speculation that a liquid water ocean exists underneath the surface allowing the possibility of some form of life. The heat for this liquid water is from the tidal flexing from Jupiter and its sibling moons, similar to the flexing which drives the volcanism on Io. The image on the right is enhanced to bring out more of the detail.

    Apoapsis (farthest from the planet): 421,000 miles.

    Periapsis (closest to the planet): 413,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 3.5512 days.

    Mass: 0.008 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.245 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_%28moon%29

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    Jupiter's Ganymede - Largest Moon in the Solar System

    Jupiter's Ganymede - Largest Moon in the Solar System 

    Ganymede is roughly equal parts silicate rock and water ice and it possesses an extremely thin oxygen atmosphere. It is also the only moon in the Solar System with its own magnetosphere. Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System and 77% the diameter of Mars.

    Apoapsis (farthest from the planet): 666,000 miles.

    Periapsis (closest to the planet): 665,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 7.1546 days.

    Mass: 0.025 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.413 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganymede_%28moon%29

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    Jupiter's Callisto - Outermost Galilean Moon

    Jupiter's Callisto - Outermost Galilean Moon 

    Callisto is the third-largest moon in the Solar System, after Ganymede and Titan. It is also 99% the diameter of Mercury, but contains only about a third of that planet's mass. Unlike the other three Galilean moons, Callisto does not suffer the tidal heating experienced by its siblings. It has an extremely thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide and possibly oxygen.

    Apoapsis (farthest from the planet): 1,179,000 miles.

    Periapsis (closest to the planet): 1,162,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 16.689 days.

    Mass: 0.018 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.378 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callisto_%28moon%29

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    Regal Saturn - The Ringed Planet

    Regal Saturn - The Ringed Planet 

    Saturn is not the only planet in the Solar System with rings, but its complex ring system puts the others to shame by its sheer beauty. The body of the planet is the least dense of any world in the Solar System. If a bath of water large enough could be found, Saturn would float in it because of its low density. Saturn is the second-largest planet in our star system. It possesses dozens of moons, most of them only very large rocks—likely captured asteroids. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is the second-largest moon in the Solar System.

    Saturn is also the most "flattened" planet in the Solar System—with a difference between polar and equatorial diameters of about 10%.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 10.116 AU.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 9.048 AU.

    Orbital Period: 29.4571 years (Earth years).

    Mass: 95.152 times that of Earth.

    Diameter (mean): ~9.00 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn

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    Saturn from the Dark Side

    Saturn from the Dark Side 

    This amazing view is from beyond Saturn, looking back toward our Sun. Nearly every particle near Saturn has been lit up, revealing a far larger array of debris in the plane of the ring system.

  • slide 16 of 19

    Saturn's Titan with Tethys

    Saturn's Titan with Tethys 

    Titan

    Titan is Saturn's largest moon and second-largest moon in the Solar System. It is the only moon with a substantial atmosphere—mostly nitrogen (98.4%) with varying amounts of methane and other hydrocarbons. The atmosphere is so thick in fact, that surface pressure is about 1.45 times that at sea level on Earth. The surface temperature is close to a frigid −290 °F.

    Apoapsis (farthest from the planet): 781,000 miles.

    Periapsis (closest to the planet): 738,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 15.945 days.

    Mass: 0.0225 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.404 times that of Earth.

    Tethys

    Tethys is a medium-sized moon of Saturn. It has a very low density, indicating that it consists largely of water ice and very little rocky material.

    Orbital Distance (mean): 183,000 miles.

    Orbital Period: 1.888 days

    Mass: 0.000103 times that of Earth.

    Diameter: 0.083 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tethys_%28moon%29

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_%28moon%29

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    Cold Blue Uranus

    Cold Blue Uranus 

    Uranus is the coldest of the Solar System planets, despite being closer to the Sun than Neptune. Uranus is the third-largest planet in radius, but fourth in mass. It is one of the system's four gas giants.

    Blessed with 27 known moons, Uranus has 5 main satellites, namely Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 20.083 AU.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 18.376 AU.

    Orbital Period: 84.323 years (Earth years).

    Mass: 14.536 times that of Earth.

    Diameter (mean): 4.007 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranus

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    Neptune, Last of the Planets

    Neptune, Last of the Planets 

    Neptune is the last full-fledged planet in the Solar System. The planet has 13 known moons, but only one with enough mass to become spheroidal under its own gravity. This largest moon is Triton, with a diameter about 0.2122 times that of Earth.

    Aphelion (farthest from Sun): 30.44 AU.

    Perihelion (closest to Sun): 29.77 AU.

    Orbital Period: 164.79 years (Earth years).

    Mass: 17.147 times that of Earth.

    Diameter (mean): 3.86 times that of Earth.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neptune

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    Pluto, Former Planet, with Three Moons

    Pluto, Former Planet, with Three Moons 

    Once upon a time, Pluto was the ninth planet of the Solar System. In recent years, however, Pluto has been demoted to a new category called "dwarf planet." It's large moon, Charon is a significant percentage of the size of Pluto, making the two the closest thing in the Solar System to "twin planets." Well, perhaps "twin dwarf planets." The newly discovered moons of Nix and Hydra reside to the right of the main pair.

    A fourth moon of Pluto was discovered by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute, and announced on July 20, 2011. It has been provisionally named S/2011 P 1 or P4.

    Reference:

    Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto