I have always had a fascination towards astronomy, perhaps in another life I was an astronomer or an astronaut. I see myself to be part of the universe; by this I mean, I am the universe and of the universe. There are four great elements in our world as we know it: earth, water, fire and air and because these elements are part of the universe and we depend on them for sustainability and life, therefore we are the universe. (I think I have been reading too much about Buddhism).
Everything about the universe fascinates me, life, a flower, a baby, nature, the stars, the clouds, the nebulae, the aurora borealis and how it forms, the sun and all things cosmos. There are billions and billions of stars in the universe and the sun is the only brightest star known to man and has been burning for billions of years. The sun is among my fascinations as well. It is the biggest celestial body in the solar system; approximately 1600 Saturn’s could fit inside the sun! Very fascinating! But I don’t want to talk about the sun today.
My main focus will be the known planets in our solar system. When I watch celestial documentaries and read about the planets in our galaxy, I feel like I could almost touch them physically. The whole solar system is full of rhythm and each planet exhibits a unique temperament. There are various theories as to how the universe came into being though scientists argue the big bang theory. The most extraordinary phenomenon is how such an orderly system came into existence out of a spontaneous bang.
Mercury is the first planet and is closest to the sun. It has a very high temperature of approximately 450°c. It completes its orbit around the sun in about 88 days. It is one of the two planets without a moon of its own. Many astronomers are unable to study the planet due to its close proximity to the sun.
Venus is the second planet in the solar system. It also has no known moon and is the only planet that rotates clockwise, this means that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east on Venus. A day and a year are almost equivalent, think of it like if I was born in Venus and I am currently 10 years old on Earth, then I would be 2,250 years old in Venus. It also exhibits hot temperatures and has a very dense atmosphere which is made up of carbon dioxide; this means that no life can be sustained under such conditions.
Earth is the most unique planet in the whole solar system. It is made up of 75% water and is the only planet known to sustain life. Looking at the earth from space is like discovering an entire new planet; it is covered by oceans glistening in layers of blue and turquoise. The earth is enveloped in a thin layer known as the thin blue line which contains various types of atmospheres; they prevent radiations emitted by the sun and other gases that collide in space.
The earth is the only planet that is not named after Roman gods/goddesses, it’s also quite curious that our moon is not named either come to think of it.
Did you know, that gravity is the weakest force on earth?
Mars has a weak atmosphere; it is locked in a permanent ice age because it is further from the sun. It has two moons: Phobos and Deimos. It has a weaker gravitational pull as compared to earth, meaning that if you were standing in mars you could jump three times as high.
Jupiter is my biggest fascination; it is the largest planet in the solar system. It is almost like fitting approximately 200 or more earths together.
It takes around twelve earth years to complete one orbit. It stands out from the rest due to its mass and the never-ending storm known as the great red spot which is about three times the size of the earth. It was discovered by the astronomer Giovanni Cassini in 1665. I want to elaborate the great red spot as simply as possible, picture one hurricane on earth, and how it causes such destruction and loss of life now imagine approximately 20 hurricanes in one storm, that is what the great red spot is and it is perpetual and unending. It has never decreased in size in fact scientists note that the size increases with time.
It has 52 discovered moons but the most recognized are Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io named after four lovers of Zeus. They were discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Io is the smallest and it is a very interesting moon. “In Greek mythology Io was the princess of Argos, Zeus fell in love with her though it is said that she never reciprocated his advances until she was chased out of her father’s house, she spends most of her life as a heifer hiding from Hera (wife of Zeus)” The reason I decided to shed light into Io the goddess is because of the irony between both, Io suffers as the goddess and also as the moon, its surface is molten volcano because of gravitational pull of both Jupiter and Europa and this causes a sense of friction which is the energy that powers the volcanoes.
Did you know that Jupiter also has rings but are not as famous as Saturn’s?
Saturn is the second largest planet after Jupiter with a very small density; it is actually less dense than water. (Water= 1g/cm3, Saturn= 0.688g/cm3). It’s famous for its rings that orbit the planet, the rings are made of micro water ice, they actually look like they are intact but close observation shows that they are in motion. It orbits once around the sun approximately 30 earth years.
Saturn has 62 discovered moons. It has two famous and studied moons known as Titan and Enceladus. What is interesting about Enceladus is that scientists believe it could support life. I, however find Titan more interesting and very beautiful, it is Saturn’s largest moon and second largest in the whole solar system and is believed to be the only moon with a substantial atmosphere due to the existence of liquid methane making its chemistry similar to ancient Earth before there existed life.
Many astronomers and scientists consider Saturn to be the most beautiful planet in the entire solar system due to its spectacular rings.
Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system and was discovered by the same astronomer who discovered Enceladus, William Herschel in 1781. It is the coldest planet in the solar system this is because of two reasons; firstly it’s further from the sun and mainly, it orbits on its side (meaning there are areas that have never experienced even a glimpse of the sun)therefore most of its atmosphere contains “ices”. A single orbit around the sun is approximately 84 earth years. It is the second least dense planet after Saturn with a density of 1.27g/cm3. It has 27 discovered moons named after the characters in Shakespeare’s and Alexander Pope’s books. Uranus also has rings.
Neptune has never completed a single orbit since it was discovered; one year is approximated to go for around 165 earth years. It is the only planet in the entire solar system with the fastest wind speed. It has 13 known moons but Triton is the most famous and is the largest which again was discovered by the same astronomer who discovered Enceladus. It also has three rings that orbit the planet.
Pluto was the ninth and smallest planet before it was disregarded as a planet in 2006. It has five known moons and some scientists and astronomers believed it might have been among Neptune’s moons but broke away from Neptune’s orbit.
Eris is a recently discovered planet by an astronomy observatory team. It was discovered in 2005. It has one known moon called Dysnomia.