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The Solar System

The Solar System is made up of the Sun, 9 planets, many other


small rocky, metallic and icy objects and a lot of empty space.

The nine planets move around the Sun in paths called orbits.
Moons, like our own Moon orbit most of the planets.

Nearest the Sun are the rocky planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and
Mars). Further away from the Sun are the gas giants.
The Sun
The Sun is a star, just like those you can see in the sky at night.
Those stars are billions of miles away, but the Sun is much closer
to us (150 million kilometres).

The Sun is at the centre of our Solar System. All of the 9 planets
including our Earth travel around the Sun.

The Sun gives out light and heat without which life as we know
would be impossible.
Mercury
Mercury is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the
closest planet to the Sun. It is smaller than all the other
planets except Pluto and is only 1 third the size of our own
planet Earth. Mercury is one of the rocky planets.

Mercury is so close to the Sun that the ground becomes


really hot (427 degrees Celsius (ºC)) - hot enough to even
melt some metals.
Venus
Venus is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the
second planet from the Sun (the closest is Mercury). Venus is
one of the rocky planets. Although, Venus is only slightly
smaller than our own planet Earth it would not be a very nice
place to live. It is hotter on Venus than on Mercury even
though Venus is further away from the Sun. This is because
Venus has thick clouds which stop the heat from escaping.
The Earth
The Earth is the third closest planet to the Sun. The Earth is one
of the rocky planets.

The Earth is close enough to the Sun so that we can get sunlight
and warmth, but far enough away from the Sun so that we can
have water as a liquid. On Venus and Mercury, the temperatures
are so high that water would evaporate (boil away). All living
creatures need water, so the Earth is a perfect place to live.
The Moon
The Moon is about one quarter the size of the Earth and is also
made of rock. It is the brightest object in the sky at night. This is
because it is closer to the Earth than any of the 9 planets in the
Solar System and reflects the Sun's light onto Earth.

The Moon moves around the Earth, with each round trip taking
about 29 days. As it travels, its shape appears to change in the
sky - from a circle, to a crescent. These are called the phases of
the Moon.
Mars
Mars is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the fourth
planet away from the Sun. Mars is one of the rocky planets.

Mars is sometimes called The Red Planet. You can often see Mars
in the sky at night as a bright red dot. Pictures taken by spacecraft
that have landed on its surface show that the ground on Mars is
also red in colour.
Jupiter
Jupiter is the largest of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the
fifth planet from the Sun.

Unlike the rocky planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars),


Jupiter is made almost entirely of gases and so is called a gas giant.

Jupiter is easy to recognise because it has stripes and a big red spot
- these are actually clouds and a massive storm!
Saturn
Saturn is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the
sixth planet from the Sun.

Saturn is easy to recognise because it is surrounded by


rings made of dust and ice. Like Jupiter, Saturn is mainly
gas and so is called a gas giant.
Uranus
Uranus is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the
seventh planet away from the Sun.

Like Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus is one of the gas giants, as it


is made almost entirely of gases.

Uranus is very unusual because it appears to be on its side,


with its poles pointing towards the Sun.
Neptune
Neptune is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the eighth planet
from the Sun.

Like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, it is one of the gas giants, made up almost
entirely of gases with some ice and dust. It is the Sun's reflection on the gases
that gives Neptune its blue colour, although it does not receive enough heat
from the Sun to make the planet warm like Earth.

Sometimes Neptune becomes the ninth planet from the Sun. The planet Pluto
moves around the Sun in a very odd path and every 238 years it becomes
closer to the Sun than Neptune.
Pluto
Pluto is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. It is the ninth planet and the
furthest from the Sun.

Pluto is the smallest planet in the Solar System and can only be seen using very
large telescopes.

Pluto is made of rock with lots of ice on the surface. This is because it is so far
away from the Sun it does not receive any heat or sunlight to warm the surface.

Sometimes (every 238 years) it becomes the eighth planet because the path that it
moves around the Sun is such an odd shape it can move closer to the Sun than
Neptune.