Planet

A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.[a][1][2]

The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, astrology, science, mythology, and religion. Five planets in the Solar System are visible to the naked eye. These were regarded by many early cultures as divine, or as emissaries of deities. As scientific knowledge advanced, human perception of the planets changed, incorporating a number of disparate objects. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially adopted a resolution defining planets within the Solar System. This definition is controversial because it excludes many objects of planetary mass based on where or what they orbit. Although eight of the planetary bodies discovered before 1950 remain "planets" under the modern definition, some celestial bodies, such as Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta (each an object in the solar asteroid belt), and Pluto (the first trans-Neptunian object discovered), that were once considered planets by the scientific community, are no longer viewed as such.

The planets were thought by Ptolemy to orbit Earth in deferent and epicycle motions. Although the idea that the planets orbited the Sun had been suggested many times, it was not until the 17th century that this view was supported by evidence from the first telescopic astronomical observations, performed by Galileo Galilei. About the same time, by careful analysis of pre-telescopic observational data collected by Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler found the planets' orbits were elliptical rather than circular. As observational tools improved, astronomers saw that, like Earth, each of the planets rotated around an axis tilted with respect to its orbital pole, and some shared such features as ice caps and seasons. Since the dawn of the Space Age, close observation by space probes has found that Earth and the other planets share characteristics such as volcanism, hurricanes, tectonics, and even hydrology.

Planets are generally divided into two main types: large low-density giant planets, and smaller rocky terrestrials. There are eight planets in the Solar System.[1] In order of increasing distance from the Sun, they are the four terrestrials, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, then the four giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Six of the planets are orbited by one or more natural satellites.

Several thousands of planets around other stars ("extrasolar planets" or "exoplanets") have been discovered in the Milky Way. As of 1 April 2019, 4,023 known extrasolar planets in 3,005 planetary systems (including 656 multiple planetary systems), ranging in size from just above the size of the Moon to gas giants about twice as large as Jupiter have been discovered, out of which more than 100 planets are the same size as Earth, nine of which are at the same relative distance from their star as Earth from the Sun, i.e. in the circumstellar habitable zone.[3][4] On December 20, 2011, the Kepler Space Telescope team reported the discovery of the first Earth-sized extrasolar planets, Kepler-20e[5] and Kepler-20f,[6] orbiting a Sun-like star, Kepler-20.[7][8][9] A 2012 study, analyzing gravitational microlensing data, estimates an average of at least 1.6 bound planets for every star in the Milky Way.[10] Around one in five Sun-like[b] stars is thought to have an Earth-sized[c] planet in its habitable[d] zone.

Mercury
Venus
Earth
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
The eight known planets of the Solar System
Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars
Jupiter and Saturn (gas giants)
Uranus and Neptune (ice giants)

Shown in order from the Sun and in true color. Sizes are not to scale.

History

Ptolemaicsystem-small
Printed rendition of a geocentric cosmological model from Cosmographia, Antwerp, 1539

The idea of planets has evolved over its history, from the divine lights of antiquity to the earthly objects of the scientific age. The concept has expanded to include worlds not only in the Solar System, but in hundreds of other extrasolar systems. The ambiguities inherent in defining planets have led to much scientific controversy.

The five classical planets, being visible to the naked eye, have been known since ancient times and have had a significant impact on mythology, religious cosmology, and ancient astronomy. In ancient times, astronomers noted how certain lights moved across the sky, as opposed to the "fixed stars", which maintained a constant relative position in the sky.[11] Ancient Greeks called these lights πλάνητες ἀστέρες (planētes asteres, "wandering stars") or simply πλανῆται (planētai, "wanderers"),[12] from which today's word "planet" was derived.[13][14][15] In ancient Greece, China, Babylon, and indeed all pre-modern civilizations,[16][17] it was almost universally believed that Earth was the center of the Universe and that all the "planets" circled Earth. The reasons for this perception were that stars and planets appeared to revolve around Earth each day[18] and the apparently common-sense perceptions that Earth was solid and stable and that it was not moving but at rest.

Babylon

The first civilization known to have a functional theory of the planets were the Babylonians, who lived in Mesopotamia in the first and second millennia BC. The oldest surviving planetary astronomical text is the Babylonian Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, a 7th-century BC copy of a list of observations of the motions of the planet Venus, that probably dates as early as the second millennium BC.[19] The MUL.APIN is a pair of cuneiform tablets dating from the 7th century BC that lays out the motions of the Sun, Moon, and planets over the course of the year.[20] The Babylonian astrologers also laid the foundations of what would eventually become Western astrology.[21] The Enuma anu enlil, written during the Neo-Assyrian period in the 7th century BC,[22] comprises a list of omens and their relationships with various celestial phenomena including the motions of the planets.[23][24] Venus, Mercury, and the outer planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were all identified by Babylonian astronomers. These would remain the only known planets until the invention of the telescope in early modern times.[25]

Greco-Roman astronomy

Ptolemy's 7 planetary spheres
1
Moon
☾
2
Mercury
☿
3
Venus
♀
4
Sun
☉
5
Mars
♂
6
Jupiter
♃
7
Saturn
♄

The ancient Greeks initially did not attach as much significance to the planets as the Babylonians. The Pythagoreans, in the 6th and 5th centuries BC appear to have developed their own independent planetary theory, which consisted of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and planets revolving around a "Central Fire" at the center of the Universe. Pythagoras or Parmenides is said to have been the first to identify the evening star (Hesperos) and morning star (Phosphoros) as one and the same (Aphrodite, Greek corresponding to Latin Venus),[26] though this had long been known by the Babylonians. In the 3rd century BC, Aristarchus of Samos proposed a heliocentric system, according to which Earth and the planets revolved around the Sun. The geocentric system remained dominant until the Scientific Revolution.

By the 1st century BC, during the Hellenistic period, the Greeks had begun to develop their own mathematical schemes for predicting the positions of the planets. These schemes, which were based on geometry rather than the arithmetic of the Babylonians, would eventually eclipse the Babylonians' theories in complexity and comprehensiveness, and account for most of the astronomical movements observed from Earth with the naked eye. These theories would reach their fullest expression in the Almagest written by Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE. So complete was the domination of Ptolemy's model that it superseded all previous works on astronomy and remained the definitive astronomical text in the Western world for 13 centuries.[19][27] To the Greeks and Romans there were seven known planets, each presumed to be circling Earth according to the complex laws laid out by Ptolemy. They were, in increasing order from Earth (in Ptolemy's order and using modern names): the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.[15][27][28]

Cicero, in his De Natura Deorum, enumerated the planets known during the 1st century BCE using the names for them in use at the time:[29]

"But there is most matter for wonder in the movements of the five stars which are falsely called wandering; falsely, because nothing wanders which through all eternity preserves its forward and retrograde courses, and its other movements, constant and unaltered. ... For instance, the star which is farthest from the earth, which is known as the star of Saturn, and is called by the Greeks Φαέθων (Phainon), accomplishes its course in about thirty years, and though in that course it does much that is wonderful, first preceding the sun, and then falling off in speed, becoming invisible at the hour of evening, and returning to view in the morning, it never through the unending ages of time makes any variation, but performs the same movements at the same times. Beneath it, and nearer to the earth, moves the planet of Jupiter, which is called in Greek Φαέθων (Phaethon); it completes the same round of the twelve signs in twelve years, and performs in its course the same variations as the planet of Saturn. The circle next below it is held by Πυρόεις (Pyroeis), which is called the planet of Mars, and traverses the same round as the two planets above it in four and twenty months, all but, I think, six days. Beneath this is the planet of Mercury, which is called by the Greeks Στίλβων (Stilbon); it traverses the round of the zodiac in about the time of the year’s revolution, and never withdraws more than one sign’s distance from the sun, moving at one time in advance of it, and at another in its rear. The lowest of the five wandering stars, and the one nearest the earth, is the planet of Venus, which is called Φωσϕόρος (Phosphoros) in Greek, and Lucifer in Latin, when it is preceding the sun, but Ἕσπερος (Hesperos) when it is following it; it completes its course in a year, traversing the zodiac both latitudinally and longitudinally, as is also done by the planets above it, and on whichever side of the sun it is, it never departs more than two signs’ distance from it."

India

In 499 CE, the Indian astronomer Aryabhata propounded a planetary model that explicitly incorporated Earth's rotation about its axis, which he explains as the cause of what appears to be an apparent westward motion of the stars. He also believed that the orbits of planets are elliptical.[30] Aryabhata's followers were particularly strong in South India, where his principles of the diurnal rotation of Earth, among others, were followed and a number of secondary works were based on them.[31]

In 1500, Nilakantha Somayaji of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics, in his Tantrasangraha, revised Aryabhata's model.[32] In his Aryabhatiyabhasya, a commentary on Aryabhata's Aryabhatiya, he developed a planetary model where Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn orbit the Sun, which in turn orbits Earth, similar to the Tychonic system later proposed by Tycho Brahe in the late 16th century. Most astronomers of the Kerala school who followed him accepted his planetary model.[32][33]

Medieval Muslim astronomy

In the 11th century, the transit of Venus was observed by Avicenna, who established that Venus was, at least sometimes, below the Sun.[34] In the 12th century, Ibn Bajjah observed "two planets as black spots on the face of the Sun", which was later identified as a transit of Mercury and Venus by the Maragha astronomer Qotb al-Din Shirazi in the 13th century.[35] Ibn Bajjah could not have observed a transit of Venus, because none occurred in his lifetime.[36]

European Renaissance

Renaissance planets,
c. 1543 to 1610 and c. 1680 to 1781
1
Mercury
☿
2
Venus
♀
3
Earth
⊕
4
Mars
♂
5
Jupiter
♃
6
Saturn
♄

With the advent of the Scientific Revolution, use of the term "planet" changed from something that moved across the sky (in relation to the star field); to a body that orbited Earth (or that was believed to do so at the time); and by the 18th century to something that directly orbited the Sun when the heliocentric model of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler gained sway.

Thus, Earth became included in the list of planets,[37] whereas the Sun and Moon were excluded. At first, when the first satellites of Jupiter and Saturn were discovered in the 17th century, the terms "planet" and "satellite" were used interchangeably – although the latter would gradually become more prevalent in the following century.[38] Until the mid-19th century, the number of "planets" rose rapidly because any newly discovered object directly orbiting the Sun was listed as a planet by the scientific community.

19th century

Eleven planets, 1807–1845
1
Mercury
☿
2
Venus
♀
3
Earth
⊕
4
Mars
♂
5
Vesta
⚶
6
Juno
⚵
7
Ceres
⚳
8
Pallas
⚴
9
Jupiter
♃
10
Saturn
♄
11
Uranus
♅

In the 19th century astronomers began to realize that recently discovered bodies that had been classified as planets for almost half a century (such as Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta) were very different from the traditional ones. These bodies shared the same region of space between Mars and Jupiter (the asteroid belt), and had a much smaller mass; as a result they were reclassified as "asteroids". In the absence of any formal definition, a "planet" came to be understood as any "large" body that orbited the Sun. Because there was a dramatic size gap between the asteroids and the planets, and the spate of new discoveries seemed to have ended after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, there was no apparent need to have a formal definition.[39]

20th century

Planets 1854–1930, Solar planets 2006–present
1
Mercury
☿
2
Venus
♀
3
Earth
⊕
4
Mars
♂
5
Jupiter
♃
6
Saturn
♄
7
Uranus
♅
8
Neptune
♆

In the 20th century, Pluto was discovered. After initial observations led to the belief that it was larger than Earth,[40] the object was immediately accepted as the ninth planet. Further monitoring found the body was actually much smaller: in 1936, Ray Lyttleton suggested that Pluto may be an escaped satellite of Neptune,[41] and Fred Whipple suggested in 1964 that Pluto may be a comet.[42] As it was still larger than all known asteroids and seemingly did not exist within a larger population,[43] it kept its status until 2006.

(Solar) planets 1930–2006
1
Mercury
☿
2
Venus
♀
3
Earth
⊕
4
Mars
♂
5
Jupiter
♃
6
Saturn
♄
7
Uranus
♅
8
Neptune
♆
9
Pluto
♇

In 1992, astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of planets around a pulsar, PSR B1257+12.[44] This discovery is generally considered to be the first definitive detection of a planetary system around another star. Then, on October 6, 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the Geneva Observatory announced the first definitive detection of an exoplanet orbiting an ordinary main-sequence star (51 Pegasi).[45]

The discovery of extrasolar planets led to another ambiguity in defining a planet: the point at which a planet becomes a star. Many known extrasolar planets are many times the mass of Jupiter, approaching that of stellar objects known as brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are generally considered stars due to their ability to fuse deuterium, a heavier isotope of hydrogen. Although objects more massive than 75 times that of Jupiter fuse hydrogen, objects of only 13 Jupiter masses can fuse deuterium. Deuterium is quite rare, and most brown dwarfs would have ceased fusing deuterium long before their discovery, making them effectively indistinguishable from supermassive planets.[46]

21st century

With the discovery during the latter half of the 20th century of more objects within the Solar System and large objects around other stars, disputes arose over what should constitute a planet. There were particular disagreements over whether an object should be considered a planet if it was part of a distinct population such as a belt, or if it was large enough to generate energy by the thermonuclear fusion of deuterium.

A growing number of astronomers argued for Pluto to be declassified as a planet, because many similar objects approaching its size had been found in the same region of the Solar System (the Kuiper belt) during the 1990s and early 2000s. Pluto was found to be just one small body in a population of thousands.

Some of them, such as Quaoar, Sedna, and Eris, were heralded in the popular press as the tenth planet, failing to receive widespread scientific recognition. The announcement of Eris in 2005, an object then thought of as 27% more massive than Pluto, created the necessity and public desire for an official definition of a planet.

Acknowledging the problem, the IAU set about creating the definition of planet, and produced one in August 2006. The number of planets dropped to the eight significantly larger bodies that had cleared their orbit (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), and a new class of dwarf planets was created, initially containing three objects (Ceres, Pluto and Eris).[47]

Extrasolar planets

There is no official definition of extrasolar planets. In 2003, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group on Extrasolar Planets issued a position statement, but this position statement was never proposed as an official IAU resolution and was never voted on by IAU members. The positions statement incorporates the following guidelines, mostly focused upon the boundary between planets and brown dwarfs:[2]

  1. Objects with true masses below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium (currently calculated to be 13 times the mass of Jupiter for objects with the same isotopic abundance as the Sun[48]) that orbit stars or stellar remnants are "planets" (no matter how they formed). The minimum mass and size required for an extrasolar object to be considered a planet should be the same as that used in the Solar System.
  2. Substellar objects with true masses above the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium are "brown dwarfs", no matter how they formed or where they are located.
  3. Free-floating objects in young star clusters with masses below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium are not "planets", but are "sub-brown dwarfs" (or whatever name is most appropriate).

This working definition has since been widely used by astronomers when publishing discoveries of exoplanets in academic journals.[49] Although temporary, it remains an effective working definition until a more permanent one is formally adopted. It does not address the dispute over the lower mass limit,[50] and so it steered clear of the controversy regarding objects within the Solar System. This definition also makes no comment on the planetary status of objects orbiting brown dwarfs, such as 2M1207b.

One definition of a sub-brown dwarf is a planet-mass object that formed through cloud collapse rather than accretion. This formation distinction between a sub-brown dwarf and a planet is not universally agreed upon; astronomers are divided into two camps as whether to consider the formation process of a planet as part of its division in classification.[51] One reason for the dissent is that often it may not be possible to determine the formation process. For example, a planet formed by accretion around a star may get ejected from the system to become free-floating, and likewise a sub-brown dwarf that formed on its own in a star cluster through cloud collapse may get captured into orbit around a star.

The 13 Jupiter-mass cutoff represents an average mass rather than a precise threshold value. Large objects will fuse most of their deuterium and smaller ones will fuse only a little, and the 13 MJ value is somewhere in between. In fact, calculations show that an object fuses 50% of its initial deuterium content when the total mass ranges between 12 and 14 MJ.[52] The amount of deuterium fused depends not only on mass but also on the composition of the object, on the amount of helium and deuterium present.[53] The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia includes objects up to 25 Jupiter masses, saying, "The fact that there is no special feature around 13 MJ in the observed mass spectrum reinforces the choice to forget this mass limit."[54] The Exoplanet Data Explorer includes objects up to 24 Jupiter masses with the advisory: "The 13 Jupiter-mass distinction by the IAU Working Group is physically unmotivated for planets with rocky cores, and observationally problematic due to the sin i ambiguity."[55] The NASA Exoplanet Archive includes objects with a mass (or minimum mass) equal to or less than 30 Jupiter masses.[56]

Another criterion for separating planets and brown dwarfs, rather than deuterium fusion, formation process or location, is whether the core pressure is dominated by coulomb pressure or electron degeneracy pressure.[57][58]

2006 IAU definition of planet

Euler diagram of solar system bodies
Euler diagram showing the types of bodies in the Solar System.

The matter of the lower limit was addressed during the 2006 meeting of the IAU's General Assembly. After much debate and one failed proposal, a large majority of those remaining at the meeting voted to pass a resolution. The 2006 resolution defines planets within the Solar System as follows:[1]

A "planet" [1] is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

[1] The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Under this definition, the Solar System is considered to have eight planets. Bodies that fulfill the first two conditions but not the third (such as Ceres, Pluto, and Eris) are classified as dwarf planets, provided they are not also natural satellites of other planets. Originally an IAU committee had proposed a definition that would have included a much larger number of planets as it did not include (c) as a criterion.[59] After much discussion, it was decided via a vote that those bodies should instead be classified as dwarf planets.[60]

This definition is based in theories of planetary formation, in which planetary embryos initially clear their orbital neighborhood of other smaller objects. As described by astronomer Steven Soter:[61]

"The end product of secondary disk accretion is a small number of relatively large bodies (planets) in either non-intersecting or resonant orbits, which prevent collisions between them. Minor planets and comets, including KBOs [Kuiper belt objects], differ from planets in that they can collide with each other and with planets."

The 2006 IAU definition presents some challenges for exoplanets because the language is specific to the Solar System and because the criteria of roundness and orbital zone clearance are not presently observable. Astronomer Jean-Luc Margot proposed a mathematical criterion that determines whether an object can clear its orbit during the lifetime of its host star, based on the mass of the planet, its semimajor axis, and the mass of its host star.[62][63] This formula produces a value π that is greater than 1 for planets. The eight known planets and all known exoplanets have π values above 100, while Ceres, Pluto, and Eris have π values of 0.1 or less. Objects with π values of 1 or more are also expected to be approximately spherical, so that objects that fulfill the orbital zone clearance requirement automatically fulfill the roundness requirement.[64]

Objects formerly considered planets

The table below lists Solar System bodies once considered to be planets.

Body Current classification Notes
Sun Star Classified as classical planets (Ancient Greek πλανῆται, wanderers) in classical antiquity and medieval Europe, in accordance with the now-disproved geocentric model.[65]
Moon Natural satellite
Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto Natural satellites The four largest moons of Jupiter, known as the Galilean moons after their discoverer Galileo Galilei. He referred to them as the "Medicean Planets" in honor of his patron, the Medici family. They were known as secondary planets.[66]
Titan,[e] Iapetus,[f] Rhea,[f] Tethys,[g] and Dione[g] Natural satellites Five of Saturn's larger moons, discovered by Christiaan Huygens and Giovanni Domenico Cassini. As with Jupiter's major moons, they were known as secondary planets.[66]
Pallas, Juno, and Vesta Asteroids Regarded as planets from their discoveries between 1801 and 1807 until they were reclassified as asteroids during the 1850s.[68]

Ceres was subsequently classified as a dwarf planet in 2006.

Ceres Dwarf planet and asteroid
Astraea, Hebe, Iris, Flora, Metis, Hygiea, Parthenope, Victoria, Egeria, Irene, Eunomia Asteroids More asteroids, discovered between 1845 and 1851. The rapidly expanding list of bodies between Mars and Jupiter prompted their reclassification as asteroids, which was widely accepted by 1854.[69]
Pluto Dwarf planet and Kuiper belt object The first known trans-Neptunian object (i.e. minor planet with a semi-major axis beyond Neptune). Regarded as a planet from its discovery in 1930 until it was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.

Beyond the scientific community, Pluto still holds cultural significance for many in the general public due to its historical classification as a planet from 1930 to 2006.[70] A few astronomers, such as Alan Stern, consider dwarf planets and the larger moons to be planets, based on a purely geophysical definition of planet.[71]

Mythology and naming

Olympians
The Greek gods of Olympus, after whom the Solar System's Roman names of the planets are derived

The names for the planets in the Western world are derived from the naming practices of the Romans, which ultimately derive from those of the Greeks and the Babylonians. In ancient Greece, the two great luminaries the Sun and the Moon were called Helios and Selene; the farthest planet (Saturn) was called Phainon, the shiner; followed by Phaethon (Jupiter), "bright"; the red planet (Mars) was known as Pyroeis, the "fiery"; the brightest (Venus) was known as Phosphoros, the light bringer; and the fleeting final planet (Mercury) was called Stilbon, the gleamer. The Greeks also made each planet sacred to one among their pantheon of gods, the Olympians: Helios and Selene were the names of both planets and gods; Phainon was sacred to Cronus, the Titan who fathered the Olympians; Phaethon was sacred to Zeus, Cronus's son who deposed him as king; Pyroeis was given to Ares, son of Zeus and god of war; Phosphoros was ruled by Aphrodite, the goddess of love; and Hermes, messenger of the gods and god of learning and wit, ruled over Stilbon.[19]

The Greek practice of grafting their gods' names onto the planets was almost certainly borrowed from the Babylonians. The Babylonians named Phosphoros after their goddess of love, Ishtar; Pyroeis after their god of war, Nergal, Stilbon after their god of wisdom Nabu, and Phaethon after their chief god, Marduk.[72] There are too many concordances between Greek and Babylonian naming conventions for them to have arisen separately.[19] The translation was not perfect. For instance, the Babylonian Nergal was a god of war, and thus the Greeks identified him with Ares. Unlike Ares, Nergal was also god of pestilence and the underworld.[73]

Today, most people in the western world know the planets by names derived from the Olympian pantheon of gods. Although modern Greeks still use their ancient names for the planets, other European languages, because of the influence of the Roman Empire and, later, the Catholic Church, use the Roman (Latin) names rather than the Greek ones. The Romans, who, like the Greeks, were Indo-Europeans, shared with them a common pantheon under different names but lacked the rich narrative traditions that Greek poetic culture had given their gods. During the later period of the Roman Republic, Roman writers borrowed much of the Greek narratives and applied them to their own pantheon, to the point where they became virtually indistinguishable.[74] When the Romans studied Greek astronomy, they gave the planets their own gods' names: Mercurius (for Hermes), Venus (Aphrodite), Mars (Ares), Iuppiter (Zeus) and Saturnus (Cronus). When subsequent planets were discovered in the 18th and 19th centuries, the naming practice was retained with Neptūnus (Poseidon). Uranus is unique in that it is named for a Greek deity rather than his Roman counterpart.

Some Romans, following a belief possibly originating in Mesopotamia but developed in Hellenistic Egypt, believed that the seven gods after whom the planets were named took hourly shifts in looking after affairs on Earth. The order of shifts went Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon (from the farthest to the closest planet).[75] Therefore, the first day was started by Saturn (1st hour), second day by Sun (25th hour), followed by Moon (49th hour), Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. Because each day was named by the god that started it, this is also the order of the days of the week in the Roman calendar after the Nundinal cycle was rejected – and still preserved in many modern languages.[76] In English, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are straightforward translations of these Roman names. The other days were renamed after Tiw (Tuesday), Wóden (Wednesday), Thunor (Thursday), and Fríge (Friday), the Anglo-Saxon gods considered similar or equivalent to Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus, respectively.

Earth is the only planet whose name in English is not derived from Greco-Roman mythology. Because it was only generally accepted as a planet in the 17th century,[37] there is no tradition of naming it after a god. (The same is true, in English at least, of the Sun and the Moon, though they are no longer generally considered planets.) The name originates from the 8th century Anglo-Saxon word erda, which means ground or soil and was first used in writing as the name of the sphere of Earth perhaps around 1300.[77][78] As with its equivalents in the other Germanic languages, it derives ultimately from the Proto-Germanic word ertho, "ground",[78] as can be seen in the English earth, the German Erde, the Dutch aarde, and the Scandinavian jord. Many of the Romance languages retain the old Roman word terra (or some variation of it) that was used with the meaning of "dry land" as opposed to "sea".[79] The non-Romance languages use their own native words. The Greeks retain their original name, Γή (Ge).

Non-European cultures use other planetary-naming systems. India uses a system based on the Navagraha, which incorporates the seven traditional planets (Surya for the Sun, Chandra for the Moon, and Budha, Shukra, Mangala, Bṛhaspati and Shani for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) and the ascending and descending lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu. China and the countries of eastern Asia historically subject to Chinese cultural influence (such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam) use a naming system based on the five Chinese elements: water (Mercury), metal (Venus), fire (Mars), wood (Jupiter) and earth (Saturn).[76] In traditional Hebrew astronomy, the seven traditional planets have (for the most part) descriptive names - the Sun is חמה Ḥammah or "the hot one," the Moon is לבנה Levanah or "the white one," Venus is כוכב נוגה Kokhav Nogah or "the bright planet," Mercury is כוכב Kokhav or "the planet" (given its lack of distinguishing features), Mars is מאדים Ma'adim or "the red one," and Saturn is שבתאי Shabbatai or "the resting one" (in reference to its slow movement compared to the other visible planets).[80] The odd one out is Jupiter, called צדק Tzedeq or "justice." Steiglitz suggests that this may be a euphemism for the original name of כוכב בעל Kokhav Ba'al or "Baal's planet," seen as idolatrous and euphemized in a similar manner to Ishbosheth from II Samuel.[80]

In Arabic, Mercury is عُطَارِد (ʿUṭārid, cognate with Ishtar/Astarte), Venus is الزهرة (az-Zuhara, "the bright one",[81] an epithet of the goddess Al-'Uzzá[82]), Earth is الأرض (al-ʾArḍ, from the same root as eretz), Mars is اَلْمِرِّيخ (al-Mirrīkh, meaning "featherless arrow" due to its retrograde motion[83]), Jupiter is المشتري (al-Muštarī, "the reliable one", from Akkadian[84]) and Saturn is زُحَل (Zuḥal, "withdrawer"[85]).[86][87]

Formation

Protoplanetary-disk
An artist's impression of protoplanetary disk

It is not known with certainty how planets are formed. The prevailing theory is that they are formed during the collapse of a nebula into a thin disk of gas and dust. A protostar forms at the core, surrounded by a rotating protoplanetary disk. Through accretion (a process of sticky collision) dust particles in the disk steadily accumulate mass to form ever-larger bodies. Local concentrations of mass known as planetesimals form, and these accelerate the accretion process by drawing in additional material by their gravitational attraction. These concentrations become ever denser until they collapse inward under gravity to form protoplanets.[88] After a planet reaches a mass somewhat larger than Mars' mass, it begins to accumulate an extended atmosphere,[89] greatly increasing the capture rate of the planetesimals by means of atmospheric drag.[90][91] Depending on the accretion history of solids and gas, a giant planet, an ice giant, or a terrestrial planet may result.[92][93][94]

PIA18469-AsteroidCollision-NearStarNGC2547-ID8-2013
Asteroid collision - building planets (artist concept).

When the protostar has grown such that it ignites to form a star, the surviving disk is removed from the inside outward by photoevaporation, the solar wind, Poynting–Robertson drag and other effects.[95][96] Thereafter there still may be many protoplanets orbiting the star or each other, but over time many will collide, either to form a single larger planet or release material for other larger protoplanets or planets to absorb.[97] Those objects that have become massive enough will capture most matter in their orbital neighbourhoods to become planets. Protoplanets that have avoided collisions may become natural satellites of planets through a process of gravitational capture, or remain in belts of other objects to become either dwarf planets or small bodies.

The energetic impacts of the smaller planetesimals (as well as radioactive decay) will heat up the growing planet, causing it to at least partially melt. The interior of the planet begins to differentiate by mass, developing a denser core.[98] Smaller terrestrial planets lose most of their atmospheres because of this accretion, but the lost gases can be replaced by outgassing from the mantle and from the subsequent impact of comets.[99] (Smaller planets will lose any atmosphere they gain through various escape mechanisms.)

With the discovery and observation of planetary systems around stars other than the Sun, it is becoming possible to elaborate, revise or even replace this account. The level of metallicity—an astronomical term describing the abundance of chemical elements with an atomic number greater than 2 (helium)—is now thought to determine the likelihood that a star will have planets.[100] Hence, it is thought that a metal-rich population I star will likely have a more substantial planetary system than a metal-poor, population II star.

Supernova remnant ejecta producing planet-forming material.

15-044a-SuperNovaRemnant-PlanetFormation-SOFIA-20150319
15-044b-SuperNovaRemnant-PlanetFormation-SOFIA-20150319

Solar System

Planets2013
The Sun and the eight planets of the Solar System
Gas Giants & The Sun in 1,000 km
The four giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune against the Sun and some sunspots

There are eight planets in the Solar System, which are in increasing distance from the Sun:

  1. ☿ Mercury
  2. ♀ Venus
  3. ⊕ Earth
  4. ♂ Mars
  5. ♃ Jupiter
  6. ♄ Saturn
  7. ♅ Uranus
  8. ♆ Neptune

Jupiter is the largest, at 318 Earth masses, whereas Mercury is the smallest, at 0.055 Earth masses.

The planets of the Solar System can be divided into categories based on their composition:

  • Terrestrials: Planets that are similar to Earth, with bodies largely composed of rock: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. At 0.055 Earth masses, Mercury is the smallest terrestrial planet (and smallest planet) in the Solar System. Earth is the largest terrestrial planet.
  • Giant planets (Jovians): Massive planets significantly more massive than the terrestrials: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
    • Gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, are giant planets primarily composed of hydrogen and helium and are the most massive planets in the Solar System. Jupiter, at 318 Earth masses, is the largest planet in the Solar System, and Saturn is one third as massive, at 95 Earth masses.
    • Ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, are primarily composed of low-boiling-point materials such as water, methane, and ammonia, with thick atmospheres of hydrogen and helium. They have a significantly lower mass than the gas giants (only 14 and 17 Earth masses).

Planetary attributes

Name Equatorial
diameter [h]
Mass[h] Semi-major axis (AU) Orbital period
(years) [h]
Inclination
to Sun's equator
(°)
Orbital
eccentricity
Rotation period
(days)
Confirmed
moons[i]
Axial tilt (°) Rings Atmosphere
1. Mercury 0.382 0.06 0.39 0.24 3.38 0.206 58.64 0 0.04 no minimal
2. Venus 0.949 0.82 0.72 0.62 3.86 0.007 −243.02 0 177.36 no CO2, N2
3. Earth(a) 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 7.25 0.017 1.00 1 23.44 no N2, O2, Ar
4. Mars 0.532 0.11 1.52 1.88 5.65 0.093 1.03 2 25.19 no CO2, N2, Ar
5. Jupiter 11.209 317.8 5.20 11.86 6.09 0.048 0.41 79 3.13 yes H2, He
6. Saturn 9.449 95.2 9.54 29.46 5.51 0.054 0.43 62 26.73 yes H2, He
7. Uranus 4.007 14.6 19.22 84.01 6.48 0.047 −0.72 27 97.77 yes H2, He, CH4
8. Neptune 3.883 17.2 30.06 164.8 6.43 0.009 0.67 14 28.32 yes H2, He, CH4
Color legend:   terrestrial planets   gas giants   ice giants (both are giant planets). (a) Find absolute values in article Earth

Exoplanets

Exoplanet Discovery Methods Bar
Exoplanets, by year of discovery, through September 2014.

An exoplanet (extrasolar planet) is a planet outside the Solar System. As of 1 April 2019, there are 4,023 confirmed planets in 3,005 systems, with 656 systems having more than one planet.[102][103][104][105]

In early 1992, radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12.[44] This discovery was confirmed, and is generally considered to be the first definitive detection of exoplanets. These pulsar planets are believed to have formed from the unusual remnants of the supernova that produced the pulsar, in a second round of planet formation, or else to be the remaining rocky cores of giant planets that survived the supernova and then decayed into their current orbits.

Size of Kepler Planet Candidates
Sizes of Kepler Planet Candidates – based on 2,740 candidates orbiting 2,036 stars as of 4 November 2013 (NASA).

The first confirmed discovery of an extrasolar planet orbiting an ordinary main-sequence star occurred on 6 October 1995, when Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva announced the detection of an exoplanet around 51 Pegasi. From then until the Kepler mission most known extrasolar planets were gas giants comparable in mass to Jupiter or larger as they were more easily detected. The catalog of Kepler candidate planets consists mostly of planets the size of Neptune and smaller, down to smaller than Mercury.

There are types of planets that do not exist in the Solar System: super-Earths and mini-Neptunes, which could be rocky like Earth or a mixture of volatiles and gas like Neptune—a radius of 1.75 times that of Earth is a possible dividing line between the two types of planet.[106] There are hot Jupiters that orbit very close to their star and may evaporate to become chthonian planets, which are the leftover cores. Another possible type of planet is carbon planets, which form in systems with a higher proportion of carbon than in the Solar System.

A 2012 study, analyzing gravitational microlensing data, estimates an average of at least 1.6 bound planets for every star in the Milky Way.[10]

On December 20, 2011, the Kepler Space Telescope team reported the discovery of the first Earth-size exoplanets, Kepler-20e[5] and Kepler-20f,[6] orbiting a Sun-like star, Kepler-20.[7][8][9]

Around 1 in 5 Sun-like[b] stars have an "Earth-sized"[c] planet in the habitable[d] zone, so the nearest would be expected to be within 12 light-years distance from Earth.[107][108] The frequency of occurrence of such terrestrial planets is one of the variables in the Drake equation, which estimates the number of intelligent, communicating civilizations that exist in the Milky Way.[109]

There are exoplanets that are much closer to their parent star than any planet in the Solar System is to the Sun, and there are also exoplanets that are much farther from their star. Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun at 0.4 AU, takes 88 days for an orbit, but the shortest known orbits for exoplanets take only a few hours, e.g. Kepler-70b. The Kepler-11 system has five of its planets in shorter orbits than Mercury's, all of them much more massive than Mercury. Neptune is 30 AU from the Sun and takes 165 years to orbit, but there are exoplanets that are hundreds of AU from their star and take more than a thousand years to orbit, e.g. 1RXS1609 b.

The next few space telescopes to study exoplanets are expected to be Gaia launched in December 2013, CHEOPS in 2018, TESS in 2018, and the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021.

Planetary-mass objects

Artist's View of a Super-Jupiter around a Brown Dwarf (2M1207)
Artist's impression of a super-Jupiter around the brown dwarf 2M1207.[110]

A planetary-mass object (PMO), planemo,[111] or planetary body is a celestial object with a mass that falls within the range of the definition of a planet: massive enough to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium (to be rounded under its own gravity), but not enough to sustain core fusion like a star.[112][113] By definition, all planets are planetary-mass objects, but the purpose of this term is to refer to objects that do not conform to typical expectations for a planet. These include dwarf planets, which are rounded by their own gravity but not massive enough to clear their own orbit, the larger moons, and free-floating planemos, which may have been ejected from a system (rogue planets) or formed through cloud-collapse rather than accretion (sometimes called sub-brown dwarfs).

Dwarf planets

A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that is neither a true planet nor a natural satellite; it is in direct orbit of a star, and is massive enough for its gravity to compress it into a hydrostatically equilibrious shape (usually a spheroid), but has not cleared the neighborhood of other material around its orbit.[114] As of July 2008 the IAU has recognized five dwarf planets: Ceres in the asteroid belt, and Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris in the outer Solar System.[115]

Rogue planets

Several computer simulations of stellar and planetary system formation have suggested that some objects of planetary mass would be ejected into interstellar space.[116] Some scientists have argued that such objects found roaming in deep space should be classed as "planets", although others have suggested that they should be called low-mass brown dwarfs.[117][118]

Sub-brown dwarfs

Stars form via the gravitational collapse of gas clouds, but smaller objects can also form via cloud-collapse. Planetary-mass objects formed this way are sometimes called sub-brown dwarfs. Sub-brown dwarfs may be free-floating such as Cha 110913-773444[117] and OTS 44,[119] or orbiting a larger object such as 2MASS J04414489+2301513.

Binary systems of sub-brown dwarfs are theoretically possible; Oph 162225-240515 was initially thought to be a binary system of a brown dwarf of 14 Jupiter masses and a sub-brown dwarf of 7 Jupiter masses, but further observations revised the estimated masses upwards to greater than 13 Jupiter masses, making them brown dwarfs according to the IAU working definitions.[120][121][122]

Former stars

In close binary star systems one of the stars can lose mass to a heavier companion. Accretion-powered pulsars may drive mass loss. The shrinking star can then become a planetary-mass object. An example is a Jupiter-mass object orbiting the pulsar PSR J1719-1438.[123] These shrunken white dwarfs may become a helium planet or carbon planet.

Satellite planets and belt planets

Some large satellites (moons) are of similar size or larger than the planet Mercury, e.g. Jupiter's Galilean moons and Titan. Alan Stern has argued that location should not matter and that only geophysical attributes should be taken into account in the definition of a planet, and proposes the term satellite planet for a planet-sized satellite. Likewise, dwarf planets in the asteroid belt and Kuiper belt should be considered planets according to Stern.[71]

Captured planets

Rogue planets in stellar clusters have similar velocities to the stars and so can be recaptured. They are typically captured into wide orbits between 100 and 105 AU. The capture efficiency decreases with increasing cluster volume, and for a given cluster size it increases with the host/primary mass. It is almost independent of the planetary mass. Single and multiple planets could be captured into arbitrary unaligned orbits, non-coplanar with each other or with the stellar host spin, or pre-existing planetary system.[124]

Attributes

Although each planet has unique physical characteristics, a number of broad commonalities do exist among them. Some of these characteristics, such as rings or natural satellites, have only as yet been observed in planets in the Solar System, whereas others are also commonly observed in extrasolar planets.

Dynamic characteristics

Orbit

TheKuiperBelt Orbits Pluto Ecliptic
The orbit of the planet Neptune compared to that of Pluto. Note the elongation of Pluto's orbit in relation to Neptune's (eccentricity), as well as its large angle to the ecliptic (inclination).

According to current definitions, all planets must revolve around stars; thus, any potential "rogue planets" are excluded. In the Solar System, all the planets orbit the Sun in the same direction as the Sun rotates (counter-clockwise as seen from above the Sun's north pole). At least one extrasolar planet, WASP-17b, has been found to orbit in the opposite direction to its star's rotation.[125] The period of one revolution of a planet's orbit is known as its sidereal period or year.[126] A planet's year depends on its distance from its star; the farther a planet is from its star, not only the longer the distance it must travel, but also the slower its speed, because it is less affected by its star's gravity. No planet's orbit is perfectly circular, and hence the distance of each varies over the course of its year. The closest approach to its star is called its periastron (perihelion in the Solar System), whereas its farthest separation from the star is called its apastron (aphelion). As a planet approaches periastron, its speed increases as it trades gravitational potential energy for kinetic energy, just as a falling object on Earth accelerates as it falls; as the planet reaches apastron, its speed decreases, just as an object thrown upwards on Earth slows down as it reaches the apex of its trajectory.[127]

Each planet's orbit is delineated by a set of elements:

  • The eccentricity of an orbit describes how elongated a planet's orbit is. Planets with low eccentricities have more circular orbits, whereas planets with high eccentricities have more elliptical orbits. The planets in the Solar System have very low eccentricities, and thus nearly circular orbits.[126] Comets and Kuiper belt objects (as well as several extrasolar planets) have very high eccentricities, and thus exceedingly elliptical orbits.[128][129]
  • Semimajoraxis
    Illustration of the semi-major axis
    The semi-major axis is the distance from a planet to the half-way point along the longest diameter of its elliptical orbit (see image). This distance is not the same as its apastron, because no planet's orbit has its star at its exact centre.[126]
  • The inclination of a planet tells how far above or below an established reference plane its orbit lies. In the Solar System, the reference plane is the plane of Earth's orbit, called the ecliptic. For extrasolar planets, the plane, known as the sky plane or plane of the sky, is the plane perpendicular to the observer's line of sight from Earth.[130] The eight planets of the Solar System all lie very close to the ecliptic; comets and Kuiper belt objects like Pluto are at far more extreme angles to it.[131] The points at which a planet crosses above and below its reference plane are called its ascending and descending nodes.[126] The longitude of the ascending node is the angle between the reference plane's 0 longitude and the planet's ascending node. The argument of periapsis (or perihelion in the Solar System) is the angle between a planet's ascending node and its closest approach to its star.[126]
Semimajoraxis
Illustration of the semi-major axis

Axial tilt

AxialTiltObliquity
Earth's axial tilt is about 23.4°. It oscillates between 22.1° and 24.5° on a 41,000-year cycle and is currently decreasing.

Planets also have varying degrees of axial tilt; they lie at an angle to the plane of their stars' equators. This causes the amount of light received by each hemisphere to vary over the course of its year; when the northern hemisphere points away from its star, the southern hemisphere points towards it, and vice versa. Each planet therefore has seasons, changes to the climate over the course of its year. The time at which each hemisphere points farthest or nearest from its star is known as its solstice. Each planet has two in the course of its orbit; when one hemisphere has its summer solstice, when its day is longest, the other has its winter solstice, when its day is shortest. The varying amount of light and heat received by each hemisphere creates annual changes in weather patterns for each half of the planet. Jupiter's axial tilt is very small, so its seasonal variation is minimal; Uranus, on the other hand, has an axial tilt so extreme it is virtually on its side, which means that its hemispheres are either perpetually in sunlight or perpetually in darkness around the time of its solstices.[132] Among extrasolar planets, axial tilts are not known for certain, though most hot Jupiters are believed to have negligible to no axial tilt as a result of their proximity to their stars.[133]

Rotation

The planets rotate around invisible axes through their centres. A planet's rotation period is known as a stellar day. Most of the planets in the Solar System rotate in the same direction as they orbit the Sun, which is counter-clockwise as seen from above the Sun's north pole, the exceptions being Venus[134] and Uranus,[135] which rotate clockwise, though Uranus's extreme axial tilt means there are differing conventions on which of its poles is "north", and therefore whether it is rotating clockwise or anti-clockwise.[136] Regardless of which convention is used, Uranus has a retrograde rotation relative to its orbit.

The rotation of a planet can be induced by several factors during formation. A net angular momentum can be induced by the individual angular momentum contributions of accreted objects. The accretion of gas by the giant planets can also contribute to the angular momentum. Finally, during the last stages of planet building, a stochastic process of protoplanetary accretion can randomly alter the spin axis of the planet.[137] There is great variation in the length of day between the planets, with Venus taking 243 days to rotate, and the giant planets only a few hours.[138] The rotational periods of extrasolar planets are not known. However, for "hot" Jupiters, their proximity to their stars means that they are tidally locked (i.e., their orbits are in sync with their rotations). This means, they always show one face to their stars, with one side in perpetual day, the other in perpetual night.[139]

Orbital clearing

The defining dynamic characteristic of a planet is that it has cleared its neighborhood. A planet that has cleared its neighborhood has accumulated enough mass to gather up or sweep away all the planetesimals in its orbit. In effect, it orbits its star in isolation, as opposed to sharing its orbit with a multitude of similar-sized objects. This characteristic was mandated as part of the IAU's official definition of a planet in August, 2006. This criterion excludes such planetary bodies as Pluto, Eris and Ceres from full-fledged planethood, making them instead dwarf planets.[1] Although to date this criterion only applies to the Solar System, a number of young extrasolar systems have been found in which evidence suggests orbital clearing is taking place within their circumstellar discs.[140]

Physical characteristics

Mass

A planet's defining physical characteristic is that it is massive enough for the force of its own gravity to dominate over the electromagnetic forces binding its physical structure, leading to a state of hydrostatic equilibrium. This effectively means that all planets are spherical or spheroidal. Up to a certain mass, an object can be irregular in shape, but beyond that point, which varies depending on the chemical makeup of the object, gravity begins to pull an object towards its own centre of mass until the object collapses into a sphere.[141]

Mass is also the prime attribute by which planets are distinguished from stars. The upper mass limit for planethood is roughly 13 times Jupiter's mass for objects with solar-type isotopic abundance, beyond which it achieves conditions suitable for nuclear fusion. Other than the Sun, no objects of such mass exist in the Solar System; but there are exoplanets of this size. The 13-Jupiter-mass limit is not universally agreed upon and the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia includes objects up to 20 Jupiter masses,[142] and the Exoplanet Data Explorer up to 24 Jupiter masses.[143]

The smallest known planet is PSR B1257+12A, one of the first extrasolar planets discovered, which was found in 1992 in orbit around a pulsar. Its mass is roughly half that of the planet Mercury.[4] The smallest known planet orbiting a main-sequence star other than the Sun is Kepler-37b, with a mass (and radius) slightly higher than that of the Moon.

Internal differentiation

Jupiter interior
Illustration of the interior of Jupiter, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen

Every planet began its existence in an entirely fluid state; in early formation, the denser, heavier materials sank to the centre, leaving the lighter materials near the surface. Each therefore has a differentiated interior consisting of a dense planetary core surrounded by a mantle that either is or was a fluid. The terrestrial planets are sealed within hard crusts,[144] but in the giant planets the mantle simply blends into the upper cloud layers. The terrestrial planets have cores of elements such as iron and nickel, and mantles of silicates. Jupiter and Saturn are believed to have cores of rock and metal surrounded by mantles of metallic hydrogen.[145] Uranus and Neptune, which are smaller, have rocky cores surrounded by mantles of water, ammonia, methane and other ices.[146] The fluid action within these planets' cores creates a geodynamo that generates a magnetic field.[144]

Atmosphere

Top of Atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere

All of the Solar System planets except Mercury[147] have substantial atmospheres because their gravity is strong enough to keep gases close to the surface. The larger giant planets are massive enough to keep large amounts of the light gases hydrogen and helium, whereas the smaller planets lose these gases into space.[148] The composition of Earth's atmosphere is different from the other planets because the various life processes that have transpired on the planet have introduced free molecular oxygen.[149]

Planetary atmospheres are affected by the varying insolation or internal energy, leading to the formation of dynamic weather systems such as hurricanes, (on Earth), planet-wide dust storms (on Mars), a greater-than-Earth-sized anticyclone on Jupiter (called the Great Red Spot), and holes in the atmosphere (on Neptune).[132] At least one extrasolar planet, HD 189733 b, has been claimed to have such a weather system, similar to the Great Red Spot but twice as large.[150]

Hot Jupiters, due to their extreme proximities to their host stars, have been shown to be losing their atmospheres into space due to stellar radiation, much like the tails of comets.[151][152] These planets may have vast differences in temperature between their day and night sides that produce supersonic winds,[153] although the day and night sides of HD 189733 b appear to have very similar temperatures, indicating that that planet's atmosphere effectively redistributes the star's energy around the planet.[150]

Magnetosphere

One important characteristic of the planets is their intrinsic magnetic moments, which in turn give rise to magnetospheres. The presence of a magnetic field indicates that the planet is still geologically alive. In other words, magnetized planets have flows of electrically conducting material in their interiors, which generate their magnetic fields. These fields significantly change the interaction of the planet and solar wind. A magnetized planet creates a cavity in the solar wind around itself called the magnetosphere, which the wind cannot penetrate. The magnetosphere can be much larger than the planet itself. In contrast, non-magnetized planets have only small magnetospheres induced by interaction of the ionosphere with the solar wind, which cannot effectively protect the planet.[154]

Of the eight planets in the Solar System, only Venus and Mars lack such a magnetic field.[154] In addition, the moon of Jupiter Ganymede also has one. Of the magnetized planets the magnetic field of Mercury is the weakest, and is barely able to deflect the solar wind. Ganymede's magnetic field is several times larger, and Jupiter's is the strongest in the Solar System (so strong in fact that it poses a serious health risk to future manned missions to its moons). The magnetic fields of the other giant planets are roughly similar in strength to that of Earth, but their magnetic moments are significantly larger. The magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune are strongly tilted relative the rotational axis and displaced from the centre of the planet.[154]

In 2004, a team of astronomers in Hawaii observed an extrasolar planet around the star HD 179949, which appeared to be creating a sunspot on the surface of its parent star. The team hypothesized that the planet's magnetosphere was transferring energy onto the star's surface, increasing its already high 7,760 °C temperature by an additional 400 °C.[155]

Secondary characteristics

Several planets or dwarf planets in the Solar System (such as Neptune and Pluto) have orbital periods that are in resonance with each other or with smaller bodies (this is also common in satellite systems). All except Mercury and Venus have natural satellites, often called "moons". Earth has one, Mars has two, and the giant planets have numerous moons in complex planetary-type systems. Many moons of the giant planets have features similar to those on the terrestrial planets and dwarf planets, and some have been studied as possible abodes of life (especially Europa).[156][157][158]

The four giant planets are also orbited by planetary rings of varying size and complexity. The rings are composed primarily of dust or particulate matter, but can host tiny 'moonlets' whose gravity shapes and maintains their structure. Although the origins of planetary rings is not precisely known, they are believed to be the result of natural satellites that fell below their parent planet's Roche limit and were torn apart by tidal forces.[159][160]

No secondary characteristics have been observed around extrasolar planets. The sub-brown dwarf Cha 110913-773444, which has been described as a rogue planet, is believed to be orbited by a tiny protoplanetary disc[117] and the sub-brown dwarf OTS 44 was shown to be surrounded by a substantial protoplanetary disk of at least 10 Earth masses.[119]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ This definition is drawn from two separate IAU declarations; a formal definition agreed by the IAU in 2006, and an informal working definition established by the IAU in 2001/2003 for objects outside of the Solar System. The official 2006 definition applies only to the Solar System, whereas the 2003 definition applies to planets around other stars. The extrasolar planet issue was deemed too complex to resolve at the 2006 IAU conference.
  2. ^ a b For the purpose of this 1 in 5 statistic, "Sun-like" means G-type star. Data for Sun-like stars wasn't available so this statistic is an extrapolation from data about K-type stars
  3. ^ a b For the purpose of this 1 in 5 statistic, Earth-sized means 1–2 Earth radii
  4. ^ a b For the purpose of this 1 in 5 statistic, "habitable zone" means the region with 0.25 to 4 times Earth's stellar flux (corresponding to 0.5–2 AU for the Sun).
  5. ^ Referred to by Huygens as a Planetes novus ("new planet") in his Systema Saturnium
  6. ^ a b Both labelled nouvelles planètes (new planets) by Cassini in his Découverte de deux nouvelles planetes autour de Saturne[67]
  7. ^ a b Both once referred to as "planets" by Cassini in his An Extract of the Journal Des Scavans.... The term "satellite" had already begun to be used to distinguish such bodies from those around which they orbited ("primary planets").
  8. ^ a b c Measured relative to Earth.
  9. ^ Jupiter has the most verified satellites (79) in the Solar System.[101]

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External links

Ceres (dwarf planet)

Ceres (; minor-planet designation: 1 Ceres) is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, slightly closer to Mars's orbit. With a diameter of 945 km (587 mi), Ceres is the largest of the minor planets and the only dwarf planet inside Neptune's orbit. It is the 33rd-largest known body in the Solar System.Ceres is composed of rock and ice, and contains approximately one-third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. Ceres is the only object in the asteroid belt known to be rounded by its own gravity, although detailed analysis was required to exclude Vesta. From Earth, the apparent magnitude of Ceres ranges from 6.7 to 9.3, peaking once at opposition every 15 to 16 months, which is its synodic period. Thus even at its brightest, it is too dim to be seen by the naked eye, except under extremely dark skies.

Ceres was the first asteroid to be discovered (by Giuseppe Piazzi at Palermo Astronomical Observatory on 1 January 1801). It was originally considered a planet, but was reclassified as an asteroid in the 1850s after many other objects in similar orbits were discovered.

Ceres appears to be differentiated into a rocky core and an icy mantle, and may have a remnant internal ocean of liquid water under the layer of ice. The surface is a mixture of water ice and various hydrated minerals such as carbonates and clay. In January 2014, emissions of water vapor were detected from several regions of Ceres. This was unexpected because large bodies in the asteroid belt typically do not emit vapor, a hallmark of comets.

The robotic NASA spacecraft Dawn entered orbit around Ceres on 6 March 2015. Pictures with a resolution previously unattained were taken during imaging sessions starting in January 2015 as Dawn approached Ceres, showing a cratered surface. Two distinct bright spots (or high-albedo features) inside a crater (different from the bright spots observed in earlier Hubble images) were seen in a 19 February 2015 image, leading to speculation about a possible cryovolcanic origin or outgassing. On 3 March 2015, a NASA spokesperson said the spots are consistent with highly reflective materials containing ice or salts, but that cryovolcanism is unlikely. However, on 2 September 2016, scientists from the Dawn team claimed in a Science paper that a massive cryovolcano called Ahuna Mons is the strongest evidence yet for the existence of these mysterious formations. On 11 May 2015, NASA released a higher-resolution image showing that, instead of one or two spots, there are actually several. On 9 December 2015, NASA scientists reported that the bright spots on Ceres may be related to a type of salt, particularly a form of brine containing magnesium sulfate hexahydrite (MgSO4·6H2O); the spots were also found to be associated with ammonia-rich clays. In June 2016, near-infrared spectra of these bright areas were found to be consistent with a large amount of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), implying that recent geologic activity was probably involved in the creation of the bright spots. In July 2018, NASA released a comparison of physical features found on Ceres with similar ones present on Earth. From June to October 2018, Dawn orbited Ceres from as close as 35 km (22 mi) and as far away as 4,000 km (2,500 mi). The Dawn mission ended on 1 November 2018 after the spacecraft ran out of fuel.

In October 2015, NASA released a true-color portrait of Ceres made by Dawn. In February 2017, organics (tholins) were detected on Ceres in Ernutet crater (see image).

Doraemon

Doraemon (Japanese: ドラえもん) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Fujiko F. Fujio, the pen name of the duo Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko. The series has also been adapted into a successful anime series and media franchise. The story revolves around a robotic cat named Doraemon, who travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a boy named Nobita Nobi (野比のび太, Nobi Nobita).

The Doraemon manga series was first published in December 1969 in six different magazines. A total of 1,345 stories were created in the original series, which are published by Shogakukan. It is one of the best-selling manga in the world, having sold over 100 million copies as of 2015.

The volumes are collected in the Takaoka Central Library in Toyama, Japan, where Fujiko Fujio was born. Turner Broadcasting System bought the rights to the Doraemon anime series in the mid-1980s for an English-language release in the United States, but cancelled it without explanation before broadcasting any episodes. In July 2013, Voyager Japan announced the manga would be released digitally in English via the Amazon Kindle e-book service.

Awards for Doraemon include the Japan Cartoonists Association Award for excellence in 1973, the first Shogakukan Manga Award for children's manga in 1982, and the first Osamu Tezuka Culture Award in 1997. In March 2008, Japan's Foreign Ministry appointed Doraemon as the nation's first "anime ambassador." A Ministry spokesperson explained the novel decision as an attempt to help people in other countries understand Japanese anime better and to deepen their interest in Japanese culture.The Foreign Ministry action confirms that Doraemon has come to be considered a Japanese cultural icon. In India, its Hindi, Telugu and Tamil translation has been telecasted, where the anime version is the highest-rated kids' show; winning the Best Show For Kids award twice at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards India in 2013 and 2015. In 2002 Time Asia magazine acclaimed the character as an "Asian Hero" in a special feature survey. An edited English dub distributed by TV Asahi aired on Disney XD in the United States started on July 7, 2014. In the Epcot theme park at Florida's Walt Disney World, Doraemon toys are on the Japan shop. On August 17, 2015, another English dubbed version distributed by Luk Internacional began broadcasting on Boomerang UK. The film series is the largest by number of admissions in Japan.

Dwarf planet

A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that is neither a true planet nor a natural satellite. That is, it is in direct orbit of a star, and is massive enough for its gravity to compress it into a hydrostatically equilibrious shape (usually a spheroid), but has not cleared the neighborhood of other material around its orbit.The term dwarf planet was adopted in 2006 as part of a three-way categorization of bodies orbiting the Sun, brought about by an increase in discoveries of objects farther away from the Sun than Neptune that rivaled Pluto in size, and finally precipitated by the discovery of an even more massive object, Eris. The exclusion of dwarf planets from the roster of planets by the IAU has been both praised and criticized.As of July 2008 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognizes five dwarf planets: Ceres in the asteroid belt, and Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris in the outer Solar System.Only two of these bodies, Ceres and Pluto, have been observed in enough detail to demonstrate that they actually fit the IAU's definition. The IAU accepted Eris as a dwarf planet because it is more massive than Pluto. They subsequently decided that unnamed trans-Neptunian objects with an absolute magnitude brighter than +1 (and hence a diameter of ≥838 km assuming a geometric albedo of ≤1) are to be named under the assumption that they are dwarf planets. At the time (and still as of 2019), the only additional bodies to meet this secondary criterion were Haumea and Makemake. However, doubts have since been raised about Haumea.

Earth

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth revolves around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.Earth's axis of rotation is tilted with respect to its orbital plane, producing seasons on Earth. The gravitational interaction between Earth and the Moon causes ocean tides, stabilizes Earth's orientation on its axis, and gradually slows its rotation. Earth is the densest planet in the Solar System and the largest of the four terrestrial planets.Earth's lithosphere is divided into several rigid tectonic plates that migrate across the surface over periods of many millions of years. About 71% of Earth's surface is covered with water, mostly by oceans. The remaining 29% is land consisting of continents and islands that together have many lakes, rivers and other sources of water that contribute to the hydrosphere. The majority of Earth's polar regions are covered in ice, including the Antarctic ice sheet and the sea ice of the Arctic ice pack. Earth's interior remains active with a solid iron inner core, a liquid outer core that generates the Earth's magnetic field, and a convecting mantle that drives plate tectonics.

Within the first billion years of Earth's history, life appeared in the oceans and began to affect the Earth's atmosphere and surface, leading to the proliferation of aerobic and anaerobic organisms. Some geological evidence indicates that life may have arisen as much as 4.1 billion years ago. Since then, the combination of Earth's distance from the Sun, physical properties, and geological history have allowed life to evolve and thrive. In the history of the Earth, biodiversity has gone through long periods of expansion, occasionally punctuated by mass extinction events. Over 99% of all species that ever lived on Earth are extinct. Estimates of the number of species on Earth today vary widely; most species have not been described. Over 7.6 billion humans live on Earth and depend on its biosphere and natural resources for their survival. Humans have developed diverse societies and cultures; politically, the world has about 200 sovereign states.

Eris (dwarf planet)

Eris (minor-planet designation 136199 Eris) is the most massive and second-largest (by volume) dwarf planet (and plutoid) known in the Solar System. Eris was discovered in January 2005 by a Palomar Observatory-based team led by Mike Brown, and its discovery was verified later that year. In September 2006 it was named after Eris, the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Eris is the ninth most massive object directly orbiting the Sun, and the 16th most massive overall, because seven moons are more massive than all known dwarf planets. It is also the largest which has not yet been visited by a spacecraft. Eris was measured to be 2,326 ± 12 kilometers (1,445.3 ± 7.5 mi) in diameter. Eris's mass is about 0.27% of the Earth mass, about 27% more than dwarf planet Pluto, although Pluto is slightly larger by volume.Eris is a trans-Neptunian object (TNO) and a member of a high-eccentricity population known as the scattered disk. It has one known moon, Dysnomia. As of February 2016, its distance from the Sun was 96.3 astronomical units (1.441×1010 km; 8.95×109 mi), roughly three times that of Pluto. With the exception of some long-period comets, until 2018 VG18 was discovered on December 17, 2018, Eris and Dysnomia were the most distant known natural objects in the Solar System.Because Eris appeared to be larger than Pluto, NASA initially described it as the Solar System's tenth planet. This, along with the prospect of other objects of similar size being discovered in the future, motivated the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the term planet for the first time. Under the IAU definition approved on August 24, 2006, Eris is a "dwarf planet", along with objects such as Pluto, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake, thereby reducing the number of known planets in the Solar System to eight, the same as before Pluto's discovery in 1930. Observations of a stellar occultation by Eris in 2010 showed that its diameter was 2,326 ± 12 kilometers (1,445.3 ± 7.5 mi), very slightly less than Pluto, which was measured by New Horizons as 2,372 ± 4 kilometers (1,473.9 ± 2.5 mi) in July 2015.

Exoplanet

An exoplanet () or extrasolar planet is a planet outside the Solar System. The first evidence of an exoplanet was noted in 1917, but was not recognized as such. The first scientific detection of an exoplanet was in 1988; it was confirmed to be an exoplanet in 2012. The first confirmed detection occurred in 1992. As of 1 April 2019, there are 4,023 confirmed planets in 3,005 systems, with 656 systems having more than one planet.There are many methods of detecting exoplanets. Transit photometry and Doppler spectroscopy have found the most, but these methods suffer from a clear observational bias favoring the detection of planets near the star; thus, 85% of the exoplanets detected are inside the tidal locking zone. In several cases, multiple planets have been observed around a star. About 1 in 5 Sun-like stars have an "Earth-sized" planet in the habitable zone. Assuming there are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, it can be hypothesized that there are 11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way, rising to 40 billion if planets orbiting the numerous red dwarfs are included.The least massive planet known is Draugr (also known as PSR B1257+12 A or PSR B1257+12 b), which is about twice the mass of the Moon. The most massive planet listed on the NASA Exoplanet Archive is HR 2562 b, about 30 times the mass of Jupiter, although according to some definitions of a planet (based on the nuclear fusion of deuterium), it is too massive to be a planet and may be a brown dwarf instead. There are planets that are so near to their star that they take only a few hours to orbit and there are others so far away that they take thousands of years to orbit. Some are so far out that it is difficult to tell whether they are gravitationally bound to the star. Almost all of the planets detected so far are within the Milky Way. Nonetheless, evidence suggests that extragalactic planets, exoplanets farther away in galaxies beyond the local Milky Way galaxy, may exist. The nearest exoplanet is Proxima Centauri b, located 4.2 light-years (1.3 parsecs) from Earth and orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun.The discovery of exoplanets has intensified interest in the search for extraterrestrial life. There is special interest in planets that orbit in a star's habitable zone, where it is possible for liquid water, a prerequisite for life on Earth, to exist on the surface. The study of planetary habitability also considers a wide range of other factors in determining the suitability of a planet for hosting life.Besides exoplanets, there are also rogue planets, which do not orbit any star. These tend to be considered as a separate category, especially if they are gas giants, in which case they are often counted as sub-brown dwarfs, like WISE 0855−0714. The rogue planets in the Milky Way possibly number in the billions (or more).

IAU definition of planet

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) defined in August 2006 that, in the Solar System, a planet is a celestial body which:

is in orbit around the Sun,

has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape), and

has "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit.Among other things, this definition caused Pluto to no longer be a planet, a change from how it had been widely considered until that point.

A non-satellite body fulfilling only the first two of these criteria (such as Pluto) is classified as a "dwarf planet". According to the IAU, "planets and dwarf planets are two distinct classes of objects". A non-satellite body fulfilling only the first criterion is termed a "small Solar System body" (SSSB). An alternate proposal included dwarf planets as a subcategory of planets, but IAU members voted against this proposal. The definition was a controversial one, and has drawn both support and criticism from different astronomers, but has remained in use.

According to this definition, there are eight known planets in the Solar System. The definition distinguishes planets from smaller bodies and is not applicable outside the Solar System. To date, there is no accepted definition of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. In 2007, an IAU working group issued a position statement that proposes to distinguish exoplanets from brown dwarfs on the basis of mass, but there has been no IAU-wide resolution or vote associated with this position statement. A separate proposal to extend the IAU definition to exoplanets has not been formally reviewed by the IAU.

Jupiter

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two-and-a-half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter and Saturn are gas giants; the other two giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants. Jupiter has been known to astronomers since antiquity. It is named after the Roman god Jupiter. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter can reach an apparent magnitude of −2.94, bright enough for its reflected light to cast shadows, and making it on average the third-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.

Jupiter is primarily composed of hydrogen with a quarter of its mass being helium, though helium comprises only about a tenth of the number of molecules. It may also have a rocky core of heavier elements, but like the other giant planets, Jupiter lacks a well-defined solid surface. Because of its rapid rotation, the planet's shape is that of an oblate spheroid (it has a slight but noticeable bulge around the equator). The outer atmosphere is visibly segregated into several bands at different latitudes, resulting in turbulence and storms along their interacting boundaries. A prominent result is the Great Red Spot, a giant storm that is known to have existed since at least the 17th century when it was first seen by telescope. Surrounding Jupiter is a faint planetary ring system and a powerful magnetosphere. Jupiter has 79 known moons, including the four large Galilean moons discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Ganymede, the largest of these, has a diameter greater than that of the planet Mercury.

Jupiter has been explored on several occasions by robotic spacecraft, most notably during the early Pioneer and Voyager flyby missions and later by the Galileo orbiter. In late February 2007, Jupiter was visited by the New Horizons probe, which used Jupiter's gravity to increase its speed and bend its trajectory en route to Pluto. The latest probe to visit the planet is Juno, which entered into orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Future targets for exploration in the Jupiter system include the probable ice-covered liquid ocean of its moon Europa.

Mars

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. In English, Mars carries a name of the Roman god of war, and is often referred to as the "Red Planet" because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance that is distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.

The days and seasons are likewise comparable to those of Earth, because the rotational period as well as the tilt of the rotational axis relative to the ecliptic plane are very similar. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano and second-highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons in the Solar System. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Mars trojan.

There are ongoing investigations assessing the past habitability potential of Mars, as well as the possibility of extant life. Future astrobiology missions are planned, including the Mars 2020 and ExoMars rovers. Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to low atmospheric pressure, which is less than 1% of the Earth's, except at the lowest elevations for short periods. The two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of water. The volume of water ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be sufficient to cover the entire planetary surface to a depth of 11 meters (36 ft). In November 2016, NASA reported finding a large amount of underground ice in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. The volume of water detected has been estimated to be equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior.Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye, as can its reddish coloring. Its apparent magnitude reaches −2.94, which is surpassed only by Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun. Optical ground-based telescopes are typically limited to resolving features about 300 kilometers (190 mi) across when Earth and Mars are closest because of Earth's atmosphere.

Mercury (planet)

Mercury is the smallest and innermost planet in the Solar System. Its orbital period around the Sun of 87.97 days is the shortest of all the planets in the Solar System. It is named after the Roman deity Mercury, the messenger of the gods.

Like Venus, Mercury orbits the Sun within Earth's orbit as an inferior planet, and never exceeds 28° away from the Sun when viewed from Earth. This proximity to the Sun means the planet can only be seen near the western or eastern horizon during the early evening or early morning. At this time it may appear as a bright star-like object, but is often far more difficult to observe than Venus. The planet telescopically displays the complete range of phases, similar to Venus and the Moon, as it moves in its inner orbit relative to Earth, which reoccurs over the so-called synodic period approximately every 116 days.

Mercury is tidally locked with the Sun in a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance, and rotates in a way that is unique in the Solar System. As seen relative to the fixed stars, it rotates on its axis exactly three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun. As seen from the Sun, in a frame of reference that rotates with the orbital motion, it appears to rotate only once every two Mercurian years. An observer on Mercury would therefore see only one day every two Mercurian years.

Mercury's axis has the smallest tilt of any of the Solar System's planets (about ​1⁄30 degree). Its orbital eccentricity is the largest of all known planets in the Solar System; at perihelion, Mercury's distance from the Sun is only about two-thirds (or 66%) of its distance at aphelion. Mercury's surface appears heavily cratered and is similar in appearance to the Moon's, indicating that it has been geologically inactive for billions of years. Having almost no atmosphere to retain heat, it has surface temperatures that vary diurnally more than on any other planet in the Solar System, ranging from 100 K (−173 °C; −280 °F) at night to 700 K (427 °C; 800 °F) during the day across the equatorial regions. The polar regions are constantly below 180 K (−93 °C; −136 °F). The planet has no known natural satellites.

Two spacecraft have visited Mercury: Mariner 10 flew by in 1974 and 1975; and MESSENGER, launched in 2004, orbited Mercury over 4,000 times in four years before exhausting its fuel and crashing into the planet's surface on April 30, 2015. The BepiColombo spacecraft is planned to arrive at Mercury in 2025.

Natural satellite

A natural satellite or moon is, in the most common usage, an astronomical body that orbits a planet or minor planet (or sometimes another small Solar System body).

In the Solar System there are six planetary satellite systems containing 185 known natural satellites. Four IAU-listed dwarf planets are also known to have natural satellites: Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. As of September 2018, there are 334 other minor planets known to have moons.The Earth–Moon system is unique in that the ratio of the mass of the Moon to the mass of Earth is much greater than that of any other natural-satellite–planet ratio in the Solar System (although there are minor-planet systems with even greater ratios, notably the Pluto–Charon system). At 3,474 km (2,158 miles) across, the Moon is 0.27 times the diameter of Earth.

Neptune

Neptune is the eighth and farthest known planet from the Sun in the Solar System. In the Solar System, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth, slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus. Neptune is denser and physically smaller than Uranus because its greater mass causes more gravitational compression of its atmosphere. Neptune orbits the Sun once every 164.8 years at an average distance of 30.1 AU (4.5 billion km). It is named after the Roman god of the sea and has the astronomical symbol ♆, a stylised version of the god Neptune's trident.

Neptune is not visible to the unaided eye and is the only planet in the Solar System found by mathematical prediction rather than by empirical observation. Unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus led Alexis Bouvard to deduce that its orbit was subject to gravitational perturbation by an unknown planet. Neptune was subsequently observed with a telescope on 23 September 1846 by Johann Galle within a degree of the position predicted by Urbain Le Verrier. Its largest moon, Triton, was discovered shortly thereafter, though none of the planet's remaining known 13 moons were located telescopically until the 20th century. The planet's distance from Earth gives it a very small apparent size, making it challenging to study with Earth-based telescopes. Neptune was visited by Voyager 2, when it flew by the planet on 25 August 1989. The advent of the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based telescopes with adaptive optics has recently allowed for additional detailed observations from afar.

Like Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune's atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, along with traces of hydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, though it contains a higher proportion of "ices" such as water, ammonia, and methane. However, similar to Uranus, its interior is primarily composed of ices and rock; Uranus and Neptune are normally considered "ice giants" to emphasise this distinction. Traces of methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet's blue appearance.In contrast to the hazy, relatively featureless atmosphere of Uranus, Neptune's atmosphere has active and visible weather patterns. For example, at the time of the Voyager 2 flyby in 1989, the planet's southern hemisphere had a Great Dark Spot comparable to the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. These weather patterns are driven by the strongest sustained winds of any planet in the Solar System, with recorded wind speeds as high as 2,100 km/h (580 m/s; 1,300 mph). Because of its great distance from the Sun, Neptune's outer atmosphere is one of the coldest places in the Solar System, with temperatures at its cloud tops approaching 55 K (−218 °C; −361 °F). Temperatures at the planet's centre are approximately 5,400 K (5,100 °C; 9,300 °F). Neptune has a faint and fragmented ring system (labelled "arcs"), which was discovered in 1984, then later confirmed by Voyager 2.

Planet Nine

Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet in the outer region of the Solar System. Its gravitational effects could explain the unusual clustering of orbits for a group of extreme trans-Neptunian objects (eTNOs), bodies beyond Neptune that orbit the Sun at distances averaging more than 250 times that of the Earth. These eTNOs tend to make their closest approaches to the Sun in one sector, and their orbits are similarly tilted. These improbable alignments suggest that an undiscovered planet may be shepherding the orbits of the most distant known Solar System objects.This undiscovered super-Earth-sized planet would have a predicted mass of five to ten times that of the Earth, and an elongated orbit 400 to 800 times as far from the Sun as the Earth. Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown suggest that Planet Nine could be the core of a giant planet that was ejected from its original orbit by Jupiter during the genesis of the Solar System. Others propose that the planet was captured from another star, was once a rogue planet, or that it formed on a distant orbit and was pulled into an eccentric orbit by a passing star.As of the end of 2018, no observation of Planet Nine had been announced. While sky surveys such as Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Pan-STARRS did not detect Planet Nine, they have not ruled out the existence of a Neptune-diameter object in the outer Solar System. The ability of these past sky surveys to detect Planet Nine were dependent on its location and characteristics. Further surveys of the remaining regions are ongoing using NEOWISE and the 8-meter Subaru Telescope. Unless Planet Nine is observed, its existence is purely conjectural. Several alternative theories have been proposed to explain the observed clustering of TNOs.

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes is an American science fiction media franchise consisting of films, books, television series, comics, and other media about a world in which humans and intelligent apes clash for control. The franchise is based on French author Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel La Planète des singes, translated into English as Planet of the Apes or Monkey Planet. Its 1968 film adaptation, Planet of the Apes, was a critical and commercial hit, initiating a series of sequels, tie-ins, and derivative works. Arthur P. Jacobs produced the first five Apes films through APJAC Productions for distributor 20th Century Fox; since his death in 1973, Fox has controlled the franchise.

Four sequels followed the original film from 1970 to 1973: Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. They did not approach the critical acclaim of the original, but were commercially successful, spawning two television series in 1974 and 1975. Plans for a film remake stalled in "development hell" for over ten years before Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes was released in 2001. A reboot film series commenced in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 and War for the Planet of the Apes in 2017. The films have grossed a total of over US$2 billion worldwide, against a combined budget of $567.5 million. Along with further narratives in various media, franchise tie-ins include video games, toys and planned theme park rides.

Planet of the Apes has received particular attention among film critics for its treatment of racial issues. Cinema and cultural analysts have also explored its Cold War and animal rights themes. The series has influenced subsequent films, media and art, as well as popular culture and political discourse.

Pluto

Pluto (minor planet designation: 134340 Pluto) is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered and is the largest known plutoid (or ice dwarf).

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun. After 1992, its status as a planet was questioned following the discovery of several objects of similar size in the Kuiper belt. In 2005, Eris, a dwarf planet in the scattered disc which is 27% more massive than Pluto, was discovered. This led the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the term "planet" formally in 2006, during their 26th General Assembly. That definition excluded Pluto and reclassified it as a dwarf planet.

Pluto is the largest and second-most-massive (after Eris) known dwarf planet in the Solar System, and the ninth-largest and tenth-most-massive known object directly orbiting the Sun. It is the largest known trans-Neptunian object by volume but is less massive than Eris. Like other Kuiper belt objects, Pluto is primarily made of ice and rock and is relatively small—about one-sixth the mass of the Moon and one-third its volume. It has a moderately eccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 30 to 49 astronomical units or AU (4.4–7.4 billion km) from the Sun. This means that Pluto periodically comes closer to the Sun than Neptune, but a stable orbital resonance with Neptune prevents them from colliding. Light from the Sun takes about 5.5 hours to reach Pluto at its average distance (39.5 AU).

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body.

The New Horizons spacecraft performed a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015, becoming the first ever spacecraft to do so. During its brief flyby, New Horizons made detailed measurements and observations of Pluto and its moons. In September 2016, astronomers announced that the reddish-brown cap of the north pole of Charon is composed of tholins, organic macromolecules that may be ingredients for the emergence of life, and produced from methane, nitrogen and other gases released from the atmosphere of Pluto and transferred about 19,000 km (12,000 mi) to the orbiting moon.

Saturn

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth. It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth, but with its larger volume Saturn is over 95 times more massive. Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture; its astronomical symbol (♄) represents the god's sickle.

Saturn's interior is probably composed of a core of iron–nickel and rock (silicon and oxygen compounds). This core is surrounded by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen, an intermediate layer of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, and finally a gaseous outer layer. Saturn has a pale yellow hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. Electrical current within the metallic hydrogen layer is thought to give rise to Saturn's planetary magnetic field, which is weaker than Earth's, but has a magnetic moment 580 times that of Earth due to Saturn's larger size. Saturn's magnetic field strength is around one-twentieth of Jupiter's. The outer atmosphere is generally bland and lacking in contrast, although long-lived features can appear. Wind speeds on Saturn can reach 1,800 km/h (1,100 mph; 500 m/s), higher than on Jupiter, but not as high as those on Neptune. In January 2019, astronomers reported that a day on the planet Saturn has been determined to be 10h 33m 38s + 1m 52s− 1m 19s , based on studies of the planet's C Ring.The planet's most famous feature is its prominent ring system that is composed mostly of ice particles, with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust. At least 62 moons are known to orbit Saturn, of which 53 are officially named. This does not include the hundreds of moonlets in the rings. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and the second-largest in the Solar System, is larger than the planet Mercury, although less massive, and is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere.

Solar System

The Solar System is the gravitationally bound planetary system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of the objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest are the eight planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as the five dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. Of the objects that orbit the Sun indirectly—the moons—two are larger than the smallest planet, Mercury.The Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant interstellar molecular cloud. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun, with the majority of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. The four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, are terrestrial planets, being primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets are giant planets, being substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are gas giants, being composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants, being composed mostly of substances with relatively high melting points compared with hydrogen and helium, called volatiles, such as water, ammonia and methane. All eight planets have almost circular orbits that lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic.

The Solar System also contains smaller objects. The asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, mostly contains objects composed, like the terrestrial planets, of rock and metal. Beyond Neptune's orbit lie the Kuiper belt and scattered disc, which are populations of trans-Neptunian objects composed mostly of ices, and beyond them a newly discovered population of sednoids. Within these populations are several dozen to possibly tens of thousands of objects large enough that they have been rounded by their own gravity. Such objects are categorized as dwarf planets. Identified dwarf planets include the asteroid Ceres and the trans-Neptunian objects Pluto and Eris. In addition to these two regions, various other small-body populations, including comets, centaurs and interplanetary dust clouds, freely travel between regions. Six of the planets, at least four of the dwarf planets, and many of the smaller bodies are orbited by natural satellites, usually termed "moons" after the Moon. Each of the outer planets is encircled by planetary rings of dust and other small objects.

The solar wind, a stream of charged particles flowing outwards from the Sun, creates a bubble-like region in the interstellar medium known as the heliosphere. The heliopause is the point at which pressure from the solar wind is equal to the opposing pressure of the interstellar medium; it extends out to the edge of the scattered disc. The Oort cloud, which is thought to be the source for long-period comets, may also exist at a distance roughly a thousand times further than the heliosphere. The Solar System is located in the Orion Arm, 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Uranus

Uranus (from the Latin name Ūranus for the Greek god Οὐρανός) is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. Uranus is similar in composition to Neptune, and both have bulk chemical compositions which differ from that of the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. For this reason, scientists often classify Uranus and Neptune as "ice giants" to distinguish them from the gas giants. Uranus' atmosphere is similar to Jupiter's and Saturn's in its primary composition of hydrogen and helium, but it contains more "ices" such as water, ammonia, and methane, along with traces of other hydrocarbons. It is the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System, with a minimum temperature of 49 K (−224 °C; −371 °F), and has a complex, layered cloud structure with water thought to make up the lowest clouds and methane the uppermost layer of clouds. The interior of Uranus is mainly composed of ices and rock.Like the other giant planets, Uranus has a ring system, a magnetosphere, and numerous moons. The Uranian system has a unique configuration because its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its solar orbit. Its north and south poles, therefore, lie where most other planets have their equators. In 1986, images from Voyager 2 showed Uranus as an almost featureless planet in visible light, without the cloud bands or storms associated with the other giant planets. Observations from Earth have shown seasonal change and increased weather activity as Uranus approached its equinox in 2007. Wind speeds can reach 250 metres per second (900 km/h; 560 mph).Uranus is the only planet whose name is derived directly from a figure from Greek mythology, from the Latinised version of the Greek god of the sky Ouranos.

Venus

Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. It has the longest rotation period (243 days) of any planet in the Solar System and rotates in the opposite direction to most other planets (meaning the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east). It does not have any natural satellites. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It is the second-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6 – bright enough to cast shadows at night and, rarely, visible to the naked eye in broad daylight. Orbiting within Earth's orbit, Venus is an inferior planet and never appears to venture far from the Sun; its maximum angular distance from the Sun (elongation) is 47.8°.

Venus is a terrestrial planet and is sometimes called Earth's "sister planet" because of their similar size, mass, proximity to the Sun, and bulk composition. It is radically different from Earth in other respects. It has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. The atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface is 92 times that of Earth, or roughly the pressure found 900 m (3,000 ft) underwater on Earth. Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System, with a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), even though Mercury is closer to the Sun. Venus is shrouded by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. It may have had water oceans in the past, but these would have vaporized as the temperature rose due to a runaway greenhouse effect. The water has probably photodissociated, and the free hydrogen has been swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind because of the lack of a planetary magnetic field. Venus's surface is a dry desertscape interspersed with slab-like rocks and is periodically resurfaced by volcanism.

As one of the brightest objects in the sky, Venus has been a major fixture in human culture for as long as records have existed. It has been made sacred to gods of many cultures, and has been a prime inspiration for writers and poets as the morning star and evening star. Venus was the first planet to have its motions plotted across the sky, as early as the second millennium BC.As the planet with the closest approach to Earth, Venus has been a prime target for early interplanetary exploration. It was the first planet beyond Earth visited by a spacecraft (Mariner 2 in 1962), and the first to be successfully landed on (by Venera 7 in 1970). Venus's thick clouds render observation of its surface impossible in visible light, and the first detailed maps did not emerge until the arrival of the Magellan orbiter in 1991. Plans have been proposed for rovers or more complex missions, but they are hindered by Venus's hostile surface conditions.

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