Mercury is the planet closest to the Sun in our Solar System. This small, rocky planet has almost no atmosphere. Mercury has a very elliptical orbit and a huge range in temperature. During the long daytime (which lasts 58.65 Earth days or almost an entire Mercurian year, which is 88 days long), the temperature is hotter than an oven; during the long night (the same length), the temperature is colder than a freezer.

Mercury is so close to the Sun that you can only see it near sunrise or sunset.
Mercury is a heavily cratered planet; its surface is similar to the surface of our Moon . Cratering on Mercury triggered volcanic eruptions that filled much of the surrounding area. Mercury does have a magnetic field (probably generated by a partly-liquid iron core).



Venus is the second planet from the sun in our solar system. It is the hottest planet in our Solar System. This planet is covered with fast-moving sulphuric acid clouds which trap heat from the Sun. Its thick atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. Venus has an iron core but only a very weak magnetic field.

This is a planet on which a person would asphyxiate in the poisonous atmosphere, be cooked in the extremely high heat, and be crushed by the enormous atmospheric pressure.

Venus is also known as the "morning star" or the "evening star" since it is visible and quite bright at either dawn or dusk. It is only visible at dawn or dusk since it is closer to the sun than we are.

Like the moon, Venus' appearance from Earth changes as it orbits around the Sun. It goes from full to gibbous to crescent to new and back.


Mars, the red planet, is the fourth planet from the sun and the most Earth-like planet in our solar system. It is about half the size of Earth and has a dry, rocky surface and a very thin atmosphere.
The surface of Mars is dry, rocky, and mostly covered with iron-rich dust. There are low-lying plains in the northern hemisphere, but the southern hemisphere is dotted with impact craters. The ground is frozen; this permafrost extends for several kilometers.
The north and south poles of Mars are covered by ice caps composed of frozen carbon dioxide and water.



Jupiter is the fifth and largest planet in our solar system. This gas giant has a thick atmosphere, 39 known moons, and a dark, barely-visible ring. Its most prominent features are bands across its latitudes and a great red spot (which is a storm).
Jupiter is composed mostly of gas. This enormous planet radiates twice as much heat as it absorbs from the Sun. It also has an extremely strong magnetic field. It is slightly flattened at its poles and it bulges out a bit at the equator.



Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun in our solar system. It is the second-largest planet in our solar system (Jupiter is the largest). It has beautiful rings that are made mostly of ice chunks (and some rock) that range in size from the size of a fingernail to the size of a car. Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium gas.

Saturn is visible without using a telescope, but a low-power telescope is needed to see its rings.



Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun in our solar system. This huge, icy planet is covered with clouds and is encircled by a belt of 11 rings and 22 known moons. Uranus' blue color is caused by the methane (CH4) in its atmosphere; this molecule absorbs red light.



Neptune is the eighth planet from the sun in our solar system. This giant, frigid planet has a hazy atmosphere and strong winds. This gas giant is orbited by eight moons and narrow, faint rings arranged in clumps. Neptune's blue color is caused by the methane (CH4) in its atmosphere; this molecule absorbs red light.

Neptune cannot be seen using the eyes alone. Neptune was the first planet whose existence was predicted mathematically (the planet Uranus's orbit was perturbed by an unknown object which turned our to be another gas giant, Neptune).


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