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HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED… WHAT IS A PLANET?

By: Efraim Harari



A planet is a globe-shaped space object that orbits a star such as the sun and is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity. However, a planet is never more than 20% of the size of their star. Our solar system has eight planets. They can be divided into two groups: four small rocky planets and four giant gas planets.

The small rocky planets are also the four inner planets (the ones closest to the sun). They are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. These planets are made of rock and have a solid surface. 

The four outer planets are often called the giant gas planets. Unlike Earth and the other inner planets, the outer planets do not have a solid surface, but rather are made mostly of helium and hydrogen, with a small rocky core in the center. These four planets are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.The Small
Rocky Planets

Mercury – Mercury is the planet closest to the sun and is the smallest of the eight planets. Because it is so close to the sun, from Earth it can be seen at sunrise in the east and at sunset in the west. The temperature on Mercury is a roasting 801 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and a bone-chilling -290 degrees Fahrenheit at night! (Unlike Earth, Mercury does not have an atmosphere that retains the warmth of the daytime, and is therefore exposed to the cold at night.)

Venus – Venus is the second planet away from the sun. It is one of the brightest objects in the night sky, second only to our moon. The temperature stays constant at a sizzling 864 degrees Fahrenheit. The thick clouds of Venus give it a pale yellow color, but beneath the clouds, Venus’s surface appears to be red and yellow.

Earth – Earth is the third planet from the sun, and is the largest of the inner planets. The atmosphere and swirling clouds over the white, brown, and green colors of the land and the blue oceans make for a kaleidoscope of colors when viewed from space. Earth is the only planet that contains all the ingredients in just the right amounts to sustain life: water, oxygen, and a comfortable temperature range.

Mars –Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, and the second smallest planet. Because of its red color, Mars is often nicknamed “The Red Planet.” Mars has many massive volcanoes and is home to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in our solar system. The volcano stands fifteen miles high and is 403 miles across its base.

The Giant
Gas Planets

Jupiter –Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, and it is the fifth planet from the sun. Jupiter is so large that 1,300 Earths could fit inside it! The gases and clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere make colorful orange, white, red, and yellow bands on the planet. Jupiter’s most famous feature is its Great Red Spot, which is caused by a giant, long-lasting storm that is similar to a hurricane on Earth.

Saturn –Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system, and it is the sixth planet from the sun. The most noted feature of Saturn is its beautiful rings. The rings are made of billions of chunks of ice and rock. The overall color of Saturn is yellowish, but its storms cause faint bands of color to appear in its atmosphere.

Uranus –Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system and is the seventh planet from the sun. Unlike the first six planets, which were known to ancient civilizations, Uranus was not discovered until 1781. Its atmosphere has small amounts of methane gas, which gives the planet its beautiful blue coloring. Unlike the other planets, Uranus is tilted so much that it actually spins on its side as it orbits the sun.

Neptune –Neptune is the fourth largest planet in the solar system, and it’s the eighth and furthest known planet from the sun. It is also the coldest of the giant planets (-320 degrees Fahrenheit). Neptune is so far from the sun that its orbit lasts 164.79 years! Neptune was only discovered in 1846. This planet also has methane in its atmosphere and has a deep blue color, with visible clouds.Dwarf Planets

Besides our eight planets, there are also “dwarf planets” in our solar system. Dwarf planets are large enough for their mostly-round shape to be controlled by gravity, but, unlike regular planets, are not large enough to have cleared the area around them of other objects in space. The first five recognized dwarf planets are Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. Astronomers believe that there may be dozens or even more than 100 dwarf planets still awaiting discovery.