Solar System Cut and Color

The Solar System formed 4. 6┬ábillion 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 precise chemical composition of these very alien lakes and seas remained unknown until 2014, when Cassini's radar instrument detected Ligeia Mare, now known to be Titan's second-largest hydrocarbon-filled lake. Ligeia Mare is brimming with an abundance of sloshing methane, and this enormous liquid reservoir is approximately the same size as two of Earth's Great Lakes combined--Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Many planetary scientists think that the seabed of Ligeia Mare may be blanketed with a thick layer of sludge that is composed of organic-rich compounds. The Ocean Worlds Of Our Solar System. There are more than 100 moons in our Solar System that do their mysterious gravitational dance around the eight major planets belonging to our Sun's family. Most of them are icy and small, containing only tiny quantities of rocky material, and they circle around the quartet of giant gaseous planets that dwell in the outer regions of our Solar System. The four majestic, giant denizens of the outer limits--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--are cloaked in blankets of gas, and they are orbited by sparkling, icy moons and moonlets. Of the quartet of relatively small, rocky terrestrial planets--Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars--Mercury and Venus are moonless, and Mars is circled by a pathetic duo of tiny and somewhat deformed moons (Phobos and Deimos). The two little moons of Mars are interesting objects, frequently considered to be asteroids that escaped from the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, only to be snared by the Red Planet's gravitational pull when our Solar System was young. Earth's own beautiful, beguiling, bewitching Moon is the only large one inhabiting the inner kingdom of our Solar System. The discovery of a moon for Makemake may have solved one perplexing puzzle concerning this distant, icy object. Earlier infrared studies of the dwarf planet showed that while Makemake's surface is almost entirely frozen and bright, some areas seem to be warmer than other areas. Astronomers had suggested that this discrepancy may be the result of our Sun warming certain dark patches on Makemake's surface. However, unless Makemake is in a special orientation, these mysterious dark patches should cause the ice dwarf's brightness to vary substantially as it rotates. But this amount of variability has not been observed.