A shocking fact about every planet in the solar system

Do you really know our solar system?

Hematite spheres (or “Martian blueberries”) as imaged by the Mars Exploration Rover. These are almost certainly evidence of past liquid water on Mars, and possibly past life. NASA scientists need to be certain that this site – and this planet – is not contaminated by the very act of our observation. As of yet, there is no infallible evidence of past or present Martian life.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University)

Each world holds secrets that are generally not recognized.

The northern auroras observed on Jupiter, as photographed here with Hubble’s NICMOS camera, depict a maser driven by a cyclotron: the first of its kind detected from a planetary body in our own solar system.

(Credit: NASA, ESA and J. Nichols (University of Leicester))

Can you identify the 10?

The surfaces of six different worlds in our solar system, from an asteroid to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Titan and Earth, show a great diversity of properties and histories. While Earth is the only known world where life has appeared, these other worlds may one day expand our current understanding of how often life appears.


1.) I am the hottest planet.

venus clouds

WISPR data from the Parker Solar Probe, in monochrome, clearly matches surface features seen by the Magellan infrared orbiter, depicted in the assigned color. Long-wavelength light, such as infrared light, can pass through the clouds of Venus, all the way to the surface. It is only because the clouds themselves radiate in the infrared that the phosphine can act as an absorber along the line of sight.

(Credits: NASA/APL/NRL (left), Magellan Team/JPL/USGS (right))

The atmospheric greenhouse effect on Venus produces consistently higher temperatures than Mercury.

The surface of Venus, as seen by one of the former Soviet Union Venera landers (most likely Venera 14): the only set of spacecraft to have successfully landed and transmitted data from this world. The Venera series of landers survived between 39 minutes and about 2 hours; not anymore.

(Credit: Venera/USSR landers)

2.) I am the most metallic planet.

densest planet

Of the major non-gaseous worlds in the Solar System, Mercury has by far the largest metallic core relative to its size. However, it is Earth that is the densest of all these worlds, with no other major body comparable in density, due to the added factor of gravitational compression.

(Credit: Bruce Murray/The Planetary Society)

A guaranteed early vapor state Mercury is about 75% metalen masse.

The image above shows an orthographic projection of this global mosaic centered at 0°N, 0°E. The Debussy radiate crater can be seen towards the bottom of the globe and the Rachmaninoff peak-ring basin can be seen towards the eastern edge. Mercury is the innermost planet in the solar system and has been mapped in detail by NASA’s MESSENGER mission.

(Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

3.) I am originally the 8th planet.

The dwarf planet Ceres, shown here, is the largest world in the asteroid belt and the only one known to be in hydrostatic equilibrium. Discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, it was originally classified as a planet: the 8th in the solar system.


Ceres, discovered in 1801is the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt.

The four largest asteroids, all shown here, were imaged with NASA’s Dawn mission and ESO’s SPHERE instrument. Ceres, the largest asteroid, is the smallest known body in hydrostatic equilibrium. Vesta and Pallas are not, but Hygeia’s status is undetermined; this may still be the case.


4.) My planetary system contains the most water.

By their size, it is clear that the gas giant planets greatly exceed all terrestrial planets. In terms of water, however, the giant planets, due to their moon systems, may possess more water than even planet Earth.

(Credit: CactiStaccingCrane/Wikimedia Commons)

It is Jupiter, whose moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa individually have more water than the Earth.

Although Earth has the most liquid water on its surface of all 8 planets, the most water in any form is found on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Next in order come Titan from Saturn, Callisto from Jupiter and Europa from Jupiter. Planet Earth only has the 5th largest amount of water, placing it ahead of Pluto, Dione, Triton, and Enceladus.


5.) I am the most massive object from the Kuiper Belt.

Triton’s south polar terrain, photographed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft and mapped onto a spheroid of appropriate shape and size. About 50 dark plumes mark what are thought to be cryovolcanoes, with these trails being caused by the phenomenon colloquially known as “black smokers.”

(Credit: NASA; PlanetUser/Wikimedia Commons)

The moon captured by Neptune, Triton, surpasses Pluto and Eris in mass and size.

When you rank all the moons, minor planets, and dwarf planets in our solar system, you find that Trito, the 7th largest moon, bears more similarities to Pluto than to anything else in the solar system. . Triton is larger and more massive than Eris and Pluto, and also comes from the Kuiper Belt. At one time, he was the real “king” of the Kuiper Belt.

(Credit: Emily Lakdawalla. Data from NASA / JPL, JHUAPL/SwRI, SSI and UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA, processed by Gordan Ugarkovic, Ted Stryk, Bjorn Jonsson, Roman Tkachenko and Emily Lakdawalla)

6.) I am the lowest density planet.


When we classify the known exoplanets by both mass and radius, the data indicates that there are only three classes of planets: terrestrial/rocky, with an envelope of volatile gas but no self-compression, and with a volatile envelope and with self-compression. Anything above is a star. Planetary size peaks at a mass between that of Saturn and Jupiter, with worlds getting heavier and smaller until true nuclear fusion ignites and a star is born. Saturn is about the lowest density planet.

(Credit: J. Chen and D. Kipping, ApJ, 2017)

At 0.687 g/cm³, Saturn is the only planet less dense than water.

Saturn, photographed here by Cassini during the 2008 equinox, is not only round, but in hydrostatic equilibrium. With its low density and rapid rotation, Saturn is the most flattened planet in the solar system, with an equatorial diameter more than 10% larger than its polar diameter.

(Credit: NASA/JPL/Institute of Space Sciences)

7.) I have the strongest winds.

These images of Neptune, taken on October 7, 2017 with the Hubble Space Telescope, show the presence of clouds, bands and color and temperature variations in Neptune’s upper atmosphere. The rapid changes reveal Neptune’s wind speeds: the fastest in the solar system.

(Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, Acknowledgements: Judy Schmidt)

With speeds above 1,100 mph (492 m/s), Neptune’s winds are unmatched.

Although, through the Galle Telescope at the Berlin Observatory, Neptune appears only as a small pale blue disk, it did not appear on previous recorded sketches of this same region of sky, as D’Arrest proposed it. On September 23, 1846, the 8th planet of our solar system, Neptune, was discovered.

(Credit: NASA/Voyager 2)

8.) My fragments contaminate the Earth.


This scanning electron microscope image of a fragment of the Allen Hills 84001 meteorite contains inclusions that resemble simple life found on Earth. Although this sample is completely inconclusive, the bombardment of Earth by extraterrestrial objects is a certainty. If they contain dormant or fossilized life, we could discover it through this method.


It is March; 3% of all terrestrial meteorites originate there.

Winds at speeds of up to 100 km/h cross the Martian surface. The craters in this image, caused by impacts in Mars’ past, all show varying degrees of erosion. Some still have defined outer edges and clear features on the inside, while others are much smoother and featureless, evidence of age and erosion. On Earth, 3% of our meteorites come from Mars; it is unclear what fraction of Martian impacts come from terrestrial rocks and whether life has settled on any of them.

(Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

9.) I change the most from the solstice to the equinox.


Infrared images of Uranus (1.6 and 2.2 microns) obtained on August 6, 2014, with adaptive optics on the 10-meter Keck telescope. The White Spot is an extremely large storm that was brighter than any feature ever recorded on the planet in the 2.2 micron band. The rotating cloud in view on the right lower limb grew into a storm so large that it was visible even to amateur astronomers at visible wavelengths. These characteristics were not present in 1986, when Voyager 2 flew by Uranus.

(Credit: Imke de Pater, UC Berkeley & Keck Observatory)

It is Uranus, whose axial tilt of 97° causes planetary changes every 21 years.


Although this is a modern infrared view of the 7th planet in our solar system, it was not discovered until 1781 thanks to the chance observations of William Herschel. Until the advent of space telescopes and infrared astronomy, we had no idea that Uranus was anything other than featureless.


10.) I am the last planet to form.

An illustration of what a synestia might look like: a bulging ring that encircles a planet following a high-energy, high-angular-momentum impact. This likely represents the aftermath of the collision that resulted in the formation of our Moon. Although our planet has remained intact since, an impact with comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein could create a similar phenomenon.

(Credit: Sarah Stewart/UC Davis/NASA)

It’s us! An impact 50 million years after the formation of the other planets created today’s Earth-Moon system.

Japan’s Kaguya probe traveled to the Moon and put it into orbit, allowing for magnificent views of Earth above the lunar surface. Here, the Moon is photographed along its day/night boundary, the terminator, while the Earth appears in a half-full phase. On the near side of the Moon, the Earth is always visible; both are the result of an early giant impact between a Mars-sized protoplanet and a proto-Earth.

(Credit: JAXA/NHK)

Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in pictures, visuals and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.

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