Science: The Solar System
We've always thought that, apart from our own precious Earth, the formation of our solar system was actually a fairly average occurrence in many ways. However, a new study by Northwestern University astronomers has shown that, in fact, it was anything but. Their study shows that if the early conditions had been just slightly different, some extremely unpleasant things could have happened including planets being thrown into deep space or even into the sun!
Today our solar system is full of planets and other celestial bodies that rotate around the Sun. The word “solar” means having to do with the Sun, and "system" just means all of the things that go around it. Everything that goes around, or "orbits", the Sun all moves in the same way, counterclockwise. That is just like going backwards on a clock.
The solar system's age is guessed to be around four and a half billion years old. Scientists can find that number by testing pieces of meteorites that are thought to have been created at the same time. Meteorites are basically pieces of space rock that make it through the atmosphere to land on the planet.
People have been using telescopes to look into the sky for hundreds of years to investigate what is in our solar system. Until about three hundred years ago, everyone thought that the Earth was right in the middle of everything else. Scientists at that time thought that the moon and the Sun along with the rest of the solar system orbited around us. In the 1600's, a man named Nicolaus Copernicus found out that Earth was not the middle of the system.
Here's some interesting facts about our solar system:
Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. The planet only rotates three times for two of Earth's years.
Venus is the easiest planet to see because it is the brightest. It is also the only planet in the system that has a “retrograde” orbit. That means that it actually turns, or rotates, backwards. Also, Venus rotates very slowly, and one day on Venus would be longer than 100 days on Earth.
Mars is a smaller planet that has a north and south pole just like Earth does. The polar ice caps hold the planet's water in a frozen state. Another way that Mars is a lot like Earth is that a day on Mars lasts just a little bit over twenty-four hours.
Jupiter is a very large and gassy planet. It has a big red spot that is actually a giant storm that never stops. On Earth, a year lasts 365 days. On Jupiter, a year goes for 4333 days. Even though a year is a lot longer, the day is just under ten hours long.
Saturn is famous as the planet with the rings around it. Though it should be mentioned that Jupiter has some very faint rings as well. While telescopes and binoculars may help a person see into the sky at night, Saturn is the farthest planet that a human eye will be able to see.
Uranus is a big planet, though not as large as Jupiter. Also, rings have been found to exist around the planet. The rings are very thin, which makes them much harder to see than Saturn's rings.
Pluto is the smallest planet in the system. Some scientists even say the Pluto is not really a planet like the rest, but what is called a “dwarf planet.” One last fact is that the temperature either stays around or dips lower than -175 degrees C.
For more, visit the Nasa website for Solar System Exploration.
This is an original news article © The Kids Window
If your child is interested in this subject look at our star constellations globe or check out our range of children's space theme bedroom decor ideas and turn their bedroom into a fun space and planets theme room.