New Solar System Chart

By Matt Baker email   Updated 8 Jan 2013

Although our new solar system now has only eight planets, it also includes many other interesting objects. Note: 1 AU = the average distance between the sun and Earth

Mercury

Sol (The Sun)

Designation:Star Named after:Roman sun god (Helios in Greek)
Radius:~700,000 km Spacecraft to get closest:Helios 2 (USA, 1976)
Notes:The sun is a G-type main sequence star. Although it often appears to us as yellow, it is actually white. It has a surface temperature of over 5000 oC and is made up of about 3/4 hydrogen and 1/4 helium.

THE INNER PLANETS:

Mercury

Mercury

Designation:Planet Named after:Roman messenger god (Hermes in Greek)
Distance from sun:~0.4 AU First visited by:Mariner 10 (USA, 1974)
Radius:~2,500 km Currently orbited by:MESSENGER (USA)
Notes:In the late 1800's it was thought that a planet might exist inbetween the sun and Mercury due to some peculiarities in Mercury's orbit. It was named Vulcan after the Roman god of fire. The peculiarities were later explained by Einstein's theory of general relativity, however, it is still possible that some asteroids called "Vulcanoids" might exist close to the sun, where they would be very difficult to detect.
Venus

Venus

Designation:Planet Named after:Roman goddess of love & beauty (Aphrodite in Greek)
Distance from sun:~0.75 AU First visited by:Mariner 2 (USA, 1962)
Radius:~6,000 km Currently orbited by: Venus Express (Europe)
Notes:The surface of Venus, which is extremely hot and inhospitable to life, cannot be seen from space due to its thick atmosphere. It is the only planet to rotate in the opposite direction to its orbit. After the moon, it is the brightest object in the night sky. It is always seen just after sunset or just before sunrise. Venus was once thought to have a moon, called Neith, however, the idea was proven long ago to be false.
The Earth

Terra (Earth)

Designation:Planet Named after:Roman 'Mother Earth' goddess (Gaia in Greek)
Distance from sun:1 AU First orbited by:Sputnik 1 (USSR, 1957)
Radius:~6,400 km Currently orbited by:International Space Station
Notes:Our home planet is the only planet known to have developed life. It is also the only planet in the inner solar system to have a major moon.
The Moon

Luna (The Moon)

Radius:~1,700 km
Named after:Roman moon god (Selene in Greek)
First visited by:Luna 1 (USSR, 1959)
First visited by humans:Apollo 11 (USA, 1969)
Currently orbited by:Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (USA), Chang'e 2 (China)
Notes:The moon is the only other object in the solar system that humans have visited. It has the curious attribute of being approximately the same size as the sun when viewed from Earth. It is thought to have been created when a hypothetical planet (often called Theia) collided with the Earth billions of years ago.
Mars

Mars

Designation:Planet Named after:Roman god of war (Ares in Greek)
Distance from sun:~1.5 AU First visited by:Mariner 4 (USA, 1965)
Radius:~3,400 km Currently orbited by:2001 Mars Odyssey (USA), Mars Express (Europe),
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (USA)
Notes:Aside from the Earth, Mars is the planet we humans are interested in the most, primarily because it might have the ability to support life. It has two very small moons (Phobos & Deimos), which are probably captured asteroids.

THE ASTEROID BELT:

Asteroid Vesta

Vesta

Designation:Asteroid Named after:Roman goddess of the hearth (Hestia in Greek)
Distance from sun:~2.5 AU Discovered:1807 by Heinrich Olbers
Radius:~250 km Will be first visited by:Dawn (USA, 2011)
Ceres

Ceres

Designation:Dwarf Planet Named after:Roman goddess of the harvest (Demeter in Greek)
Distance from sun:~2.5 AUDiscovered:1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi
Radius:~500 kmWill be first visited by:Dawn (USA, 2012)
Asteroid Pallas

Pallas

Designation:Asteroid Named after:Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom (Minerva in Roman)
Distance from sun:~2.5 AU Discovered:1802 by Heinrich Olbers
Radius:~250 km




THE OUTER PLANETS:

Jupiter

Jupiter

Designation:Planet Named after:Main Roman god (Zeus in Greek)
Distance from sun:~5 AUFirst visited by:Pioneer 10 (USA, 1972)
Radius:~70,000 km Next orbital mission:Juno (2016, USA)
Notes:Jupiter is by far the largest planet, being two and a half times as massive as all the rest of the planets combined. Its most famous feature is its "Great Red Spot" -- a storm larger than earth than has been active for over 300 years. Jupiter has four large moons, many smaller ones, and a faint ring system. The four main moons were discovered by Galileo in 1610 and are all named after various lovers of Zeus. They are:
Io

Io

Radius: ~1,800 km
has over 400 active volcanoes
Europa

Europa

Radius: ~1,600 km
may harbour life in its sub-surface ocean.
Ganymede

Ganymede

Radius: ~2,600 km
larger than Mercury

Callisto

Callisto

Radius: ~2,400 km


Saturn

Saturn

Designation:Planet Named after:Father of Jupiter & King of the Titans (Cronus in Greek)
Distance from sun:~10 AUFirst visited by:Pioneer 11 (USA, 1979)
Radius:~60,000 km Currently orbited by:Cassini (USA)
Notes:Saturn is most famous for its prominent rings, which extend out 120,000 km but are only 20 meters thick. The rings are actually made of icy particles, some as small as specks of dust and others as large as a cars. It has many moons but the main ones are:
Mimas

Mimas

Radius: ~200 km
Discovered:
1789 by Herschel
Named after:
a Greek giant
*looks like the Death Star from Star Wars!
Enceladus

Enceladus

Radius: ~250 km
Discovered:
1789 by Herschel
Named after:
a Greek giant
*has liquid water and therefore perhaps life
Tethys

Tethys

Radius: ~500 km
Discovered:
1684 by Cassini
Named after:
a Greek titan
*has very large crater named Odysseus
Dione

Dione

Radius: ~600 km
Discovered:
1684 by Cassini
Named after:
a Greek titan


Rhea

Rhea

Radius: ~750 km
Discovered:
1672 by Cassini
Named after:
wife of Cronus


Titan

Titan

Radius: ~2,500 km
Discovered: 1655 by Huygens

Titan is larger than Mercury and the only moon in the solar system to have a significant atmosphere and large lakes (made of hydrocarbon). In 2005, the Huygens probe (Europe) made a soft landing on Titan
Iapetus

Iapetus

Radius: ~750 km
Discovered:
1671 by Cassini
Named after:
a Greek titan
*has a ridge along its equator
Uranus

Uranus

Designation:Planet Named after:Original Greek Sky God (Caelus in Roman)
Distance from sun:~20 AU Discovered:1781 by William Herschel
Radius:~25,000 km First visited by:Voyager 2 (USA, 1986)
Notes:Uranus is unusual in that its axis of rotation is tilted sideways so that its poles are where most planet's equator would be. It has a faint ring system and several moons, the four largest being:
Ariel

Ariel

Radius: ~600 km
Discovered:
1851 by Lassell
Named after:
a character from a poem by Alexander Pope

Umbriel

Umbriel

Radius: ~600 km
Discovered:
1851 by Lassell
Named after:
a character from a poem by Alexander Pope

Titania

Titania

Radius: ~800 km
Discovered:
1787 by Herschel
Named after:
a character from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Oberon

Oberon

Radius: ~800 km
Discovered:
1781 by Herschel
Named after:
a character from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Neptune

Neptune

Designation:Planet Named after:Roman god of the sea (Poseidon in Greek)
Distance from sun:~30 AU Discovered:1846 by Le Verrier, Adams & Galle
Radius:~25,000 km First visited by:Voyager 2 (USA, 1989)
The Triton

Triton

Radius:~1,400 km
Named after:Son of Poseidon
Neptune's only major moon

THE KUIPER BELT - Plutinos

Orcus

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:Etruscan god of the dead
Distance from sun:~40 AU Discovered:2004 by Michael Brown and team
Radius:~500 km

Huya

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:a South American rain god
Distance from sun:~40 AU Discovered:2000 by Ignacio Ferrin
Radius:~250 km
Pluto

Pluto

Designation:Dwarf Planet Named after:Roman god of the underworld (Hades in Greek)
Distance from sun:~40 AU Discovered:1930 by Clyde Tombaugh
Radius:~1,200 km Will be first visited by:New Horizons (USA, 2015)
Notes:Pluto was considered to be a planet from 1930-2006 but is now known to be just one of many similar Kuiper Belt objects. Because its companion, Charon, is so large in relation to Pluto, the two objects can actually be thought of as a dual dwarf planet system.
Charon

Charon

Radius:~600 km
Discovered:1978 by James Christy
Named after:Greek boatman of the dead

Ixion

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:a figure from Greek mythology
Distance from sun:~40 AU Discovered:2001
Radius:~300 km

THE KUIPER BELT - Cubewanos

Varuna

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:Hindu god of water
Distance from sun:~45 AU Discovered:2000 by Robert McMillan
Radius:~300 km

Haumea ('Santa')

Designation:Dwarf Planet Named after:Hawaiian goddess of childbirth
Distance from sun:~45 AU Discovered:2004 by Michael Brown and team (unofficial)
Radius:~600 km

Quaoar

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:a Native American creator god
Distance from sun:~45 AU Discovered:2002 by Michael Brown and team
Radius:~500 km

Makemake ('The Easter Bunny')

Designation:Dwarf Planet Named after:main god of Easter Island
Distance from sun:~45 AU Discovered:2005 by Michael Brown and team
Radius:~750 km

Chaos

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:a figure from Greek mythology
Distance from sun:~45 AU Discovered:2001
Radius:~400 km

THE SCATTERED DISK

'Buffy' (2004 XR190)

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate
Distance from sun:~60 AU Discovered:2004
Radius:~400 km

'Snow White' (2007 OR10)

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate
Distance from sun:~70 AU Discovered:2007 by Michael Brown and team
Radius:~600 km

Eris ('Planet X', 'Xena')

Designation:Dwarf Planet Named after:Greek goddess of discord
Distance from sun:~70 AU Discovered:2005 by Michael Brown and team
Radius:~1,300 km

DETACHED OBJECTS

Sedna

Designation:Dwarf Planet candidate Named after:Inuit goddess of the Sea
Distance from sun:~500 AU Discovered:2003 by Michael Brown and team
Radius:~750 km

Nemesis - hypothetical

It is possible that our sun, like most stars, has a companion star. One theory posits that a brown dwarf orbits our sun at around 50,000 AU and occasionally breaks through the Oort cloud (a cloud of comets), causing the somewhat regular mass extinctions on Earth


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