American Museum of Natural History
- The Pluto controversy: What's a planet, anyway?
- How was our Solar System formed?
- Features of planets
- The search for life
- Curiosity: Searching for carbon
- Seeing planets like never before
- Solar System glossary
- Quiz: Planets
- Exploration Questions: Planets
- Answers to Exploration Questions: Planets
Features of planets
Many of the physical processes that operate on Earth are found throughout the solar system. The same laws of physics apply to planets, stars, and galaxies throughout the universe. The silent videos below highlight the diversity of planetary charateristics in our solar system as seen from telescopes on Earth and in space.
Many forces shape the solid surfaces of planets and moons. Initially hot, some of these surfaces fractured as they cooled, creating great chasms. Impacts produce craters and can release molten flows beneath the surface. On Earth, continental plates move continuously, forming ocean basins and mountains. Water, ice, wind, and volcanoes both erode and create surface features.
All of the gas giant planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—have rings. Saturn has thousands of brightly reflective rings, whereas the others have just a few dark rings. Rings are made of ice or rock particles ranging up to house-size boulders. Collisions among particles keep the rings extremely thin. Rings may be left over from a planet’s formation, or they may be debris from the destruction of moons.
The more than sixty moons of the solar system are a diverse collection of worlds. Two are larger than the planet Mercury. Some have ancient cratered surfaces, while others are geologically active. Many smaller moons appear to be asteroids or comets captured by the gravity of their planet.
Great atmospheric storms occur on all the gas giants. The rapid rotation of these planets stretches weather systems into zones that encircle them. High winds blow in opposite directions at the edges of the zones and feed energy into enormous rotating storms. Though they resemble Earth’s hurricanes, these storms are far more powerful and up to a hundred times larger.
Want to join the conversation?
- Can a moon be large enough to have a moon itself?(4 votes)
- Technically, the world authority on planets, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) says that a planet is the most massive thing in its 'celestial area code'. So if a 'Moon' was that large, or somehow became that large, it would technically become a planet! However, if we have objects A, B and C, where A is the biggest, and B orbits A, while C orbits B, there is not really a classification... We would normally expect both C and B to be classified as Moons in orbit of A.(7 votes)
- how many moons total are there in this galixey??(3 votes)
- It is right because if the there are no moon how some the planets would live.(2 votes)
- how hot is earths core?(1 vote)
- 5778°Kelvin. that's around 27,000,000 Fahrenheit (15,000,000 Celsius).(4 votes)
- Why do the powerful storm winds on Jupiter blow in such definitive bands and in opposite directions? This seems similar to the Coriolis effect on Earth, but not exactly...(2 votes)
- (If i am wrong than correct me)
Moon is one which help in the rain, storm, cyclone ,e.t.c. & Jupiter has 60 moon which is much powerful that our Earth moon to create all this rain and e.t.c
- earth is the green part that we live on(1 vote)
- The green part is the land. Both the planet and the soil/land share the name Earth.(2 votes)
- Why do collisions between particles keep the rings extremely thin? If they collide, i would expect them to bounce of eachother and scatter all around.(2 votes)
- I hope the ring get thin due to the collision and fusing of the rock and ice and by fusing it get burst or get out bounce of the ring(1 vote)
- What is jupiers great red spot?(1 vote)
- It's a storm which usually come and it was came there about 90 or 100 yrs before(2 votes)
- Why is the sky above the moon always black?(1 vote)
- How many moons does Jupiter have?(1 vote)
- what kind of solar -system are out their(1 vote)