A Shocking Fact About Every Planet in the Solar System

Do you really know our solar system?

The hematite spheres (or ‘Martian blueberries’) as imaged by the Mars Exploration Rover. This is almost certainly evidence of past liquid water on Mars, and possibly past life. NASA scientists need to make sure that this place… and this planet has not been contaminated by our observation. So far, there is no infallible evidence for past or present life on Mars.

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

Every world has secrets that usually go unrecognized.

The northern polar aurorae seen on Jupiter, pictured here with Hubble’s NICMOS camera, represents a cyclotron-powered maser, the first detected from a planetary body in our own solar system.

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

Do you recognize all 10 of them?

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


1.) I am the hottest planet.

clouds of venus

The WISPR data from the Parker Solar Probe, in black and white, clearly matches the surface features observed by the infrared orbiter Magellan, shown in mapped color. Long wavelength light, such as infrared light, can see through the clouds of Venus all the way to the surface. Just because the clouds themselves radiate in the infrared, 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 consistently produces higher temperatures than Mercury

The surface of Venus, as seen by one of the Soviet Union’s old Venera landers (probably Venera 14): the only set of spacecraft to ever successfully land and transmit data from that world. The series of Venera landers survived between 39 minutes and about 2 hours; no longer.

Credit: Venera Landers/USSR)

2.) I am the most metallic planet.

closest planet

When it comes to the large, non-gaseous worlds of 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 large body to compare in density, due to the added factor of gravitational compression.

Credit: Bruce Murray/The Planetary Society)

An early vapor state assured Mercury is ~ 75% metalmass.

The above image shows an orthographic projection of this global mosaic centered at 0°N, 0°E. The irradiated Debussy crater can be seen towards the bottom of the world and the peak ring basin Rachmaninoff can be seen on the eastern rim. Mercury is the innermost planet of the solar system and was 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, pictured here, is the largest world in the asteroid belt and the only one known to be in hydrostatic equilibrium. It was discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi and was originally classified as a planet: the 8th of the solar system.


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

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


4.) My planetary system contains the most water.

In terms of size, it is clear that the gas giant worlds are much larger than any terrestrial planets. In terms of water, however, thanks to their lunar systems, the giant planets can hold more water than even planet Earth.

Credit: CactiStaccingCrane/Wikimedia Commons)

That’s Jupiter, whose moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa separately possess more water than the earth.

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

Credit: NASA)

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

The Antarctic region of Triton, as photographed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft and mapped onto a spheroid of the correct shape and size. About 50 dark plumes mark what are considered cryovolcanoes, with those traces caused by the phenomenon popularly referred to as “black smokers.”

Credit: NASA; PlanetUser/Wikimedia Commons)

Neptune’s captive moon, Tritonsurpasses Pluto and Eris in both mass and size.

If you list all the moons, minor planets, and dwarf planets in our solar system, you’ll see that Triton, the seventh largest moon, has more similarities with Pluto than anything else in the solar system. Triton is larger and more massive than both Eris and Pluto, and also comes from the Kuiper belt. At one point, it 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 based on both mass and radius together, the data indicate that there are only three classes of planets: terrestrial/rocky, with a volatile shell but no self-compression, and with a volatile shell and with self-compression. Everything above that is a star. Planetary size peaks with a mass between that of Saturn and Jupiter, with heavier and heavier worlds shrinking until true nuclear fusion ignites and a star is born. Saturn is just about the lowest density planet there is.

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

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

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

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

7.) I own the strongest wind.

These images of Neptune, taken October 7, 2017 from the Hubble Space Telescope, show the presence of clouds, bands and different colors and temperatures in Neptune’s upper atmosphere. The rapid changes reveal Neptune’s wind speeds, the fastest in the solar system.

Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, Courtesy: Judy Schmidt)

At speeds over 1100 mph (492 m/s), Neptune’s winds are unsurpassed

Although Neptune appeared only as a small, faint, blue disk through Galle’s telescope at the Berlin Observatory, it did not appear on previous recorded sketches of that same part of the sky, as d’Arrest suggested. On September 23, 1846, the 8th planet in our solar system, Neptune, was discovered.

Credit: NASA/Voyager 2)

8.) My fragments pollute the earth.


This scanning electron micrograph of a fragment of the Allen Hills 84001 meteorite contains inclusions that resemble simple life on Earth. While this monster is inconclusive, a bombardment of Earth by alien objects is a certainty. If they contain dormant or fossilized life, we could discover it through this method.

Credit: NASA)

It’s Mars; 3% of all terrestrial meteorites originate there.

Winds with speeds of up to 100 km/h travel across the surface of Mars. The craters in this image, caused by past impacts from Mars, all show varying degrees of erosion. Some still have defined outer edges and clear features within, while others are much smoother and characterless, showing signs of age and erosion. On Earth, 3% of our meteorites come from Mars; it is unknown what proportion of the impacts on Mars originated from rock on Earth, or whether any of them harbored life.

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

9.) I change most from solstice to 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 other feature ever recorded on the planet in the 2.2 micron band. The cloud that came into view at the bottom right grew into a storm so large that it was visible even to amateur astronomers at visible wavelengths. These features were not present in 1986, when Voyager 2 flew through Uranus.

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

It is Uranus, whose 97° axial tilt causes global changes every 21 years


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

Credit: ESO)

10.) I am the last planet to form.

An illustration of what a synestia might look like: an inflated ring that surrounds a planet after a high-energy, large 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 ever since, an impact with Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein could trigger a similar phenomenon.

Credit: Sarah Stewart/UC Davis/NASA)

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

The Japanese Kaguya probe went to and orbited the moon, allowing for a beautiful view of Earth from the lunar surface. Here the moon is photographed along the day/night boundary, the terminator, while the Earth appears in a half-full phase. From the near side of the moon, the Earth is always visible; both are the result of the aftermath of an early, gigantic impact between a Mars-sized protoplanet and a proto-Earth.

Credit: JAXA/NHK)

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

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