Did you know there is officially only one Solar System in the entire universe? Or that it is made up of billions upon billions of astronomical bodies of all sizes? Read on and learn some of the most interesting facts about our Solar System.
1. 99.86% mass of our Solar System is concentrated in the Sun
Our Solar system is big and it’s full of various astronomical objects; planets, dwarf planets, hundreds of moons, millions of larger asteroids, and billions upon billions of smaller objects. That is a lot…
But when it comes to mass, all those objects become insignificant as the Sun, a star at the center of our Solar System accounts for 99.86% of all the mass.
2. There are 8 planets in our Solar System
We have 8 planets in our Solar System. Ordered from the closest to the Sun to the furthest they are:
3. There are also dwarf planets in our Solar System
You may be familiar with Pluto, which was once classified as a true planet but was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006. But Pluto isn’t the only dwarf planet in our Solar System.
Dwarf planets are astronomical objects that orbit a star, are roughly spherical, and often have other large bodies near them. The main criteria that differentiate a planet from a dwarf planet are its size.
The International Astronomical Union officially recognizes a few dwarf planets in our Solar System. The most known are Pluto, Eris, Ceres, Makemake, and Haumea. Many more are up for consideration.
4. It takes sunlight about 250 minutes to reach the last planet in our Solar System
It takes over 4 hours for the light to travel from the Sun all the way to the Neptune, the last planet in our Solar System. Quite a while.
It takes light only about 3 minutes for the light to reach Mercury, the closest planet, and about 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach Earth.
5. You could fit all the planets between Earth and Moon, but not always
This is one of the facts about our Solar System that really gives you a perspective on how big the distances in space are. You may have heard you can fit all the planets between the Earth and the Moon, and this is true, but not always.
Moon has an elliptical orbit, meaning its distance from the Earth changes over time.
While you could easily fit all the other 7 planets with room to spare between the Moon and Earth when the moon is in apogee (furthest from the Earth), you wouldn’t be able to when it’s in perigee (the closest to Earth).
6. It takes Mercury 88 days to orbit the Sun and Neptune 165 years
The closer a planet is to the Sun the shorter is the time it needs to make a full orbit around it. While Mercury only needs 88 days to orbit the Sun, it takes Neptune a whopping 60,190 days to orbit it.
7. Water can be found everywhere
While Earth is the only planet with an abundance of liquid water on the surface, water itself isn’t scarce in our Solar System.
Most water in our Solar System can be found as ice, either as ice deposits on planets, moons, and asteroids or as small ice particles.
Liquid water is present elsewhere too as subsurface water. There are also water vapors.
8. Every planet was visited by a spacecraft
While spacecraft haven’t landed on all planets, and it’s impossible to land on some as they don’t have a solid surface, every planet in our Solar System was visited or a flyby was made by a spacecraft.
9. Rings around planets are common
What was once thought to be unique to Saturn has proven to be quite common in planets. All out of the 4 outer planets have rings, with Saturn having the most prominent ones.
10. Most objects in our Solar System rotate counterclockwise, but not all
If you look at them from the same point of view most planets, dwarf planets, and other bodies in our solar system would notice most rotate counterclockwise.
But this isn’t the case with Venus, its axis is roughly facing the same position as most planets but it rotates clockwise. Uranus is another quirky exception as it rotates on its side.
There are other exceptions as well, but the majority of larger objects rotate counterclockwise.
11. You can see 5 planets of our Solar System without a telescope
You can observe Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn without the use of a telescope. They are one of the brightest objects you can see in the night sky. This is one of the more exciting facts about our Solar System, especially for future astronomy enthusiasts.
They aren’t seen at all times though. It’s easy to find them today as there are many apps for smart devices available that will show you the current position of planets (and other astronomical objects) in the sky.
12. The hottest planet in our Solar System isn’t the closest one to the Sun
This is one of the most interesting facts about our Solar System. You would think the closer you are to the Sun the hottest the temperatures of the planets would be but that is not always the case. Mercury is the closest to the Sun, but Venus, the second-closest planet, is actually the hottest one.
13. Earth isn’t the only planet with weather and seasons
You may think other planets in our Solar System don’t have much going on as far as weather and season goes, but the weather out there can get pretty wild.
A storm on Jupiter (The Great Red Spot) has been raging for hundreds of years. It also has lightning. Mars has large dust storms. Rain is common too, although the raindrops aren’t exactly the same as on Earth, ranging from sulfuric acid all the way to pure diamonds.
14. Solar System is the name of our planetary system
When someone says Solar System this refers to the planetary system we live in. Our planetary system is the only one that is officially called a Solar System.
15. It is approximately 4.6 billion years old
With much empirical observation and much-sophisticated math, scientists have come to the conclusion our Solar System is about 4.6 billion years old.