Monday, 28 November 2011

Pluto

Pluto means
Pluto was thought to be the god to whom all men must eventually go. Romans believed him to be the god of the underworld. In Greek mythology, he is known as Hades.

The Dwarf Planet
Pluto was the only planet to be named by a kid. After the planet was discovered in 1930, an 11-year-old girl who lived in Oxford, England, by the name of Venetia Burney, suggested that this new planet needed to be named after the Roman god of the underworld. Venetia's grandfather sent this suggestion to the Lowell Observatory and the name was accepted.
                                         
Pluto is smaller than 7 of the moons in the Solar System. It is about two-thirds smaller than Earth's moon. Because it is so small, many scientists don't consider it a planet at all. In 1999, a group of scientists attempted to re-classify Pluto as a comet. On August 24, 2006, Pluto's status was officially changed from planet to dwarf planet. For decades, children have been taught in school that there are nine planets in our Solar System. However, with this change, there are now only eight planets. Also because of this change, there is a new category of small planets known as plutoids.

The only spacecraft to get somewhat close to Pluto was the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble was able to take pictures of Pluto and its moons for scientists to study. Little is known about Pluto and its moons because it is so far away.

Neptune

Neptune means
At first, Neptune was only the god of water, but later on this was extended to include the sea when he became associated with the Greek god Poseidon.

The PlanetFor many, centuries people did not know that this planet even existed. It was discovered by Johann Galle and Heinrich D'Arrest in 1846. Neptune is the smallest of the four gas giants in our Solar System. Much like Saturn and Uranus, Neptune's atmosphere contains hydrogen, helium and methane.
Not much was known about Neptune until it was visited by the spacecraft Voyager 2 on August 25, 1989. Voyager 2 took many pictures of the planet, and much of what we know today about Neptune came from this single visit. These pictures show a brilliant blue planet with a few thin white clouds laced around its surface.

In Neptune's atmosphere, there is a large white cloud that moves around rather quickly. The "scooting" of this cloud around the atmosphere has led it to be named "Scooter." When Voyager 2 visited Neptune, its pictures showed a giant storm much like the storm on Jupiter. This storm is called the "Great Dark Spot" because it appears as a dark oval shape on the surface of the planet. We do not know how long this storm has been active or if it is still present. More recently, the Hubble Space Telescope sent pictures back to Earth and there was no sign of the Great Dark Spot. These pictures did show two other dark spots that eventually faded away.

Neptune is a very windy place. No other planet in the Solar System has winds that are as strong as Neptune's. The winds near the Great Dark Spot were believed to have reached nearly 1,200 miles per hour (approx 1931 km per hour). Perhaps this extremely windy atmosphere contributes to the appearance and disappearance of the great dark spots.

Uranus

Uranus meansIn astronomy mythology, Uranus was the lord of the skies and husband of Earth. He was also the king of the gods until he was overthrown by his son Saturn.

The PlanetLike Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus is a gas giant. But Uranus is a little different. Unlike all the other planets and most of the moons in our Solar System, Uranus spins on its side. It is believed that long ago a very large object smashed into this planet. The crash was so powerful that it completely changed the direction of Uranus' planetary rotation. However, a more recent theory is that the extreme tilt of Uranus' axis may have been caused by a large moon that was slowly pulled away from the planet by another large planet long ago when our Solar System was still new. It is thought that the gravitational pull of this moon moving away from Uranus may have caused it to tilt on its side.                                             

Like Saturn, the thick atmosphere of Uranus is made up of methane, hydrogen and helium. But Uranus is an extremely cold planet. It has been called the "ice giant." It is believed that Uranus is made up of rock and ice and has a large rocky core. Because of the tremendous planetary pressure of Uranus, there could possibly be trillions of large diamonds in or on the surface of this planet.

Scientists also believe that on the surface of Uranus there may be a huge ocean. And, interestingly, it is thought that the temperature of this ocean may be extremely hot, maybe even as hot as 5000 degrees Fahrenheit (2760 Celsius). Uranus is almost identical to the planet Neptune.

Saturn

Saturn means
Saturn was the Roman god of agriculture. He was called Cronus by the Greeks. He is the son of Uranus and the father of Jupiter. Saturn overthrew his father to become king of the gods, but was then overthrown himself by his son Jupiter.

The PlanetIn many ways, Saturn is similar to Jupiter, but it is much smaller. It is the second largest planet in our Solar System and it is a gas giant like Jupiter. Under the clouds of methane, hydrogen and helium, the sky gradually turns into liquid until it becomes a giant ocean of liquid chemicals.
Saturn is the least dense planet in our Solar System. It is made up of mostly hydrogen and helium, which are the two lightest elements in the universe and thus make Saturn the lightest planet that we know of. This is why you wouldn't weigh as much on Saturn as you think you would because of its size. And because Saturn is so light, it does not have as much gravity. Interestingly, it is believed Saturn would actually be able to float in water because the hydrogen and helium that make up the planet are so lightweight.
Because Saturn is such a lightweight planet and it spins so fast, Saturn is not perfectly round like most of the other planets. Like Jupiter, Saturn is wider in the middle and more narrow near its top and bottom.

Jupiter

Jupiter meansJupiter, known as Zeus in Greek mythology, over threw his father Saturn to become king of the gods. He then split the universe with his brothers Neptune and Pluto.  

The PlanetJupiter is by far the largest planet in our Solar System. The Earth could fit inside Jupiter more than 1000 times. Jupiter is a very stormy planet. There are storms found throughout the atmosphere, and most of the storms seem to never end. The many different cloud formations and storms in the atmosphere also make Jupiter a very colorful planet.

Jupiter's great red spot, visible in the picture above to the right, is where a giant storm has been raging for at least 300 years. This red spot is also called "The Eye of Jupiter" because of its shape. This storm's super hurricane winds blow across an area larger than the Earth.

Jupiter is considered a gas giant because it does not have a solid surface. Under its atmosphere is a large liquid ocean of hydrogen and water. What lies in between that ocean and the atmosphere? Actually, there is no in between. The atmosphere slowly gets thicker and thicker until it becomes part of the ocean. In other words, Jupiter's ocean has no surface on which you could float a boat. The sky becomes the ocean.                                            

Mars

Mars meansMars was the Roman god of war and agriculture. It may not seem like these two things go together, but they do. Mars protected those who fought for their communities, and stayed home to raise crops for food. In Greek, Mars was known as Ares.

The PlanetMars excites scientists because its mild temperament is more like the Earth's than any of the other planets. Evidence suggests that Mars once had rivers, streams, lakes, and even an ocean. As Mars' atmosphere slowly depleted into outer space, the surface water began to permanently evaporate. Today the only water on Mars in either frozen in the polar caps or underground.
You may sometimes hear Mars referred to as the "Red Planet." This is because the surface of Mars is red. If you stood on the surface of Mars, you would see red dirt and rocks everywhere.

Earth

Earth meansIn astronomy mythology, her Greek name was Gaea. Earth was the mother of the mountains, valleys, streams and all other land formations. She was married to Uranus.

The Planet Our planet is an oasis of life in an otherwise desolate universe. The Earth's temperature, weather, atmosphere and many other factors are just right to keep us alive.                                               

Venus

Venus means:In astronomy mythology, Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. In Greek, her name was Aphrodite.

The PlanetThe planet Venus has long been one of the most misunderstood of all the inner planets. Like the Earth, Venus has an atmosphere. However, Venus' atmosphere is far thicker than that of the Earth, making it difficult for modern science to penetrate. Interestingly, scientists have recently been able to peek through the thick clouds and get a few glimpses of the surface. There are numerous volcanoes and many mountains that appear misshapen.
There is much we still do not know about how this planet looks and what it is like. However, using special instruments and probes scientists have in recent years unlocked many of the secrets long hidden by this mysterious world. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union actually was able to land more than one probe on the surface of Venus. These scientific probes only lasted a few hours before they were destroyed by the intense heat of the planet. These probes were able to take several pictures and send them back to earth for scientists to study.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mercury

Mercury means: In astronomy mythology, Mercury was the Roman version of the Greek god Hermes. He was the messenger for the other gods, and for this reason Mercury is often depicted in pictures with winged sandals. In addition to delivering messages, he was also the protector of travelers and merchants.

The PlanetThe planet Mercury is the closest of the planets to the Sun. Because this planet lies so close to the Sun, and as a result somewhat near to Earth, it is visible to observers on Earth in the late evening or early morning sky. Because of this, Mercury has become a part of the mythology and legend of almost every culture throughout the history of the Earth. This planet is often called a morning star. This is because Mercury shines brightly in the early morning just before the sun rises. It has also been called an evening star for the same reason. Mercury is often visible for a brief period of time just after the Sun sets.

The Sun

The Sun's Name Means:
The Romans called the sun Sol, which in English means sun. In ancient Greece, the sun was called Helios.

Our Sun is not unique in the universe. It is a common middle-sized yellow star which scientists have named Sol, after the ancient Roman name. This is why our system of planets is called the Solar System. There are trillions of other stars in the universe just like it. Many of these stars have their own systems of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

The Sun was born in a vast cloud of gas and dust around 5 billion years ago. Indeed, these vast nebulae are the birth places of all stars. Over a period of many millions of years, this gas and dust began to fall into a common center under the force of its own gravity.

At the center, an ever growing body of mass was forming. As the matter fell inward, it generated a tremendous amount of heat and pressure. As it grew, the baby Sun became hotter and hotter. Eventually, when it reached a temperature of around 1 million degrees, its core ignited, causing it to begin nuclear fusion. When this happened, the Sun began producing its own light, heat, and energy.

Our Solar System

What Is The Solar System?

The Solar System is made up of all the planets that orbit our Sun. In addition to planets, the Solar System also consists of moons, comets, asteroids, minor planets, and dust and gas.

Everything in the Solar System orbits or revolves around the Sun. The Sun contains around 98% of all the material in the Solar System. The larger an object is, the more gravity it has. Because the Sun is so large, its powerful gravity attracts all the other objects in the Solar System towards it. At the same time, these objects, which are moving very rapidly, try to fly away from the Sun, outward into the emptiness of outer space. The result of the planets trying to fly away, at the same time that the Sun is trying to pull them inward is that they become trapped half-way in between. Balanced between flying towards the Sun, and escaping into space, they spend eternity orbiting around their parent star.

How Did The Solar System form?

This is an important question, and one that is difficult for scientists to understand. After all, the creation of our Solar System took place billions of years before there were any people around to witness it. Our own evolution is tied closely to the evolution of the Solar System. Thus, without understanding from where the Solar System came from, it is difficult to comprehend how mankind came to be.

Scientists believe that the Solar System evolved from a giant cloud of dust and gas. They believe that this dust and gas began to collapse under the weight of its own gravity. As it did so, the matter contained within this could begin moving in a giant circle, much like the water in a drain moves around the center of the drain in a circle.

At the center of this spinning cloud, a small star began to form. This star grew larger and larger as it collected more and more of the dust and gas that collapsed into it.

Further away from the center of this mass where the star was forming, there were smaller clumps of dust and gas that were also collapsing. The star in the center eventually ignited forming our Sun, while the smaller clumps became the planets, minor planets, moons, comets, and asteroids.