What are Planets?

There are eight planets within our Solar System which also consists of the Sun, five dwarf planets and many thousands of smaller objects such as asteroids and comets.

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and can be visible to the naked eye in the west when the sun is low and setting or in the east just before sunrise.

Venus is next and this is known as the brilliant planet as it is the brightest of them all and can even cast a shadow over Earth.

After Earth, comes the planet Mars. Mars is further away from the Sun than Earth, and is sometimes also known as the Red Planet, due to the surface colour, which appears to look like and orange/red and brown colour.

There have been some bright polar caps seen on Mars along with clouds in the atmosphere with dark regions of exposed rock on the surface, which causes the surface to appear a reddish colour.

Jupiter is next in the line of Planets, and this is the largest planet in our Solar System. Also known as the gas giant, this planet appears to have discs crossed with dark belts on it.

A huge storm known as the Great Red Spot can also been seen on Jupiter. This is two to three times the size of Earth and has been raging for around 200 years.

Just beyond Jupiter lies Saturn, the beautifully ringed planet. Saturn has about 62 moons, with an equatorial diameter of 120,536 km and a polar diameter of 108,728 km. Saturn is the last planet that can be seen from Earth with the naked eye.

Uranus and Neptune are the last two smaller planets. Uranus was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781 and is often referred to as an “ice giant” planet. Uranus makes one trip around the Sun every 84 Earth years. Uranus also hits the coldest temperatures of any of the planet, with a minimum atmospheric temperature of -224°C.

Neptune is the smallest of the ice giants, with an atmosphere is made of hydrogen and helium, with some methane and and due to the methane gas absorbing red light, it makes this planet appear a lovely blue shade, hence it was named after the sea god.

Neptune has 14 moons and one of the most interesting ones is named Triton, a frozen world that is spewing nitrogen ice and dust particles out from below its surface.