Solar System Stats

Jupiter-Sep-3-BlogYou may remember By Jove!, a Nature Matters article from a couple of months ago. In it I told you about Juno, a probe which had arrived at Jupiter. It began to study the largest planet in our solar system soon after and NASA have now released some amazing photographs – close-ups of Jupiter which show the planet’s poles for the first time.

As you probably know by now, I have a keen interest in astronomy. I find the size of the universe and our insignificance in it absolutely awesome – in the true sense of the word. We’ve looked at records in the animal kingdom in our recent blogs, so today I thought we’d investigate some of the records held by the heavenly bodies…

  • Smallest planet – Mercury, with a radius of 2,440 km (about one third the size of Earth)
  • Largest planet – Jupiter. You could fit 1,321 Earth’s inside one hollow Jupiter
  • Hottest planet – Venus, despite Mercury being closer to the Sun. That’s because Venus has a lot of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. This creates a greenhouse effect and temperatures can reach as much as 462⁰C (take heed climate change deniers)
  • Coldest planet – Uranus can get as cold as -226⁰C. Neptune is the furthest planet from the Sun (4.5 billion km compared to Uranus 2.9) so you’d expect it to be Saturn-Sep-3much colder than Uranus but the lowest temperature there is -218⁰C. We don’t yet know why this is
  • Shortest day – Jupiter. It spins on its axis once every 9 hours, 55 minutes and 30 seconds
  • Longest day – Venus. Venusian days are longer than Venusian years. A day on Venus lasts for 243 Earth days but a year lasts just 225 Earth days
  • Largest moon – Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons. Ganymede is actually larger than the planet Mercury!
  • Smallest moon – S/2009 S 1, one of Saturn’s moons. It measures just 300 metres across. That’s less than one circuit of an athletics track!
  • Most moons – Jupiter again, with 63 moons having been discovered so far

These are just a few facts to be going on with. I could list hundreds more, and perhaps I will in future articles – watch this space (if you’ll pardon the pun!).

But what records does our own planet Earth hold? Well, it’s the only planet not named after a Roman god and it’s the largest of the four rocky planets. But most importantly, Earth is the only planet we know of that has life. That is one amazing record, and one which we should cherish.


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