Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and also the fastest moving. Space probes have revealed that its surface is covered in craters, and looks much like our moon. It is the smallest planet and is a hostile place, with significant atmosphere and temperatures ranging between 400 degrees Celsius by day and 170 degrees Celsius by night. It seems unlikely that anyone will ever want to visit this planet.
Venus is the size of Earth and is the hottest planet with temperatures reaching 475 degrees Celsius. The reason for this is that the atmosphere consists mainly of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). From planet Earth you may be able to spot planet Venus as it is the brightest star, and can be seen in daylight.
Jupiter is a giant planet; it is three times bigger than any other planet. Jupiter is located beyond Mars and the asteroid belt, and has four moons discovered by Galileo. It is made up of Hydrogen and Helium.
Earth looks mainly blue as a result of 70% of the planet’s surface being water. It has lots of white due to the clouds. Earth is the only planet known to support life, due to atmosphere and water.
Mars has similar features as Earth, e.g. atmosphere with clouds. Space probes in the 1970s went to mars, but they only found a barren rocky surface and no trace of water. However, in 2005 the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched and will further explore the planet.
Saturn is similar to Jupiter in structure, and is best known for its rings. The rings measure 27000km (170000 miles) and their origin is still a matter of debate.
Uranus was discovered by William Herschel. It has black rings and cannot be seen from Earth. The rings were discovered in 1977. It is broadly similar to Saturn and Jupiter in composition.
Neptune was named after a mythological sea god. It was discovered in 1846 and has blue and green clouds. Neptune has rings like Uranus.
Pluto is no longer identified as a planet. It is now considered the largest member of the Kuiper belt. “Kuiper” rhymes with “wiper”.
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