The Solar System

In the Solar System Channel, you can explore the planets and celestial objects around our own sun. Learn about topics such as Mars, Jupiter and the Moon.

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What are Saturn's rings made of?

Although other planets have rings, none are as spectacular as Saturn's. What makes the planet's stratified rings, and how did they get there in the first place?

Is there really a face on Mars?

After Viking 1 captured images of what looked like a face on Mars, the public began to speculate. Had Martians carved a colossus, or was there another answer?

How Lunar Eclipses Work

The only thing that's lurking in the shadows during a lunar eclipse is the moon. When Earth's shadow blocks sunlight from directly illuminating a full moon, you're witnessing a lunar eclipse.

What and where is the dark side of the moon?

The changing phases of the moon have given us an enduring curiosity about the dark side of the moon. But is there really a dark side of the moon? What would we see there?

Is there really water on Mars?

Until recently, most people assumed that if Mars had liquid water, it no longer did and hadn't for quite some time. But scientists have recently noticed some anomalies in photos of Mars that may suggest there is water. Could there be life, too?

What if I looked straight at an eclipse of the sun?

You've probably heard that staring at the sun is bad — even a few seconds can damage your eyes. But what if you looked at a solar eclipse?

How Asteroid Belts Work

Asteroid belts aren't quite the dense fields of gigantic spinning rocks that you may have seen in a "Star Wars" film, but they're still fascinating. In fact, the main asteroid belt may tell us how our entire solar system came into existence.

How the Moon Works

The moon is often the largest object in the sky outside of the sun. What is the moon made of, how did it form -- and why do people blame it for their strange behavior?

How did a meteor make hundreds of people sick?

A ball of fire blazed through southern Peru and left a huge crater -- and then villagers started getting sick. Early reports said the groundwater boiled and the air filled with sulfur. What happened?

10 Memorable Meteor Crashes

Hundred of meteors fly across the sky every night, but only a few make it to Earth. Meteors are best known for the brilliant streaks of light they make as they burn up in the atmosphere. Learn about 10 memorable meteor crashes that left an impression.

How Solar Eclipses Work

A total solar eclipse is a rare event that can be an amazing thing to witness. Learn about solar eclipses and how to observe one safely.

Where did the moon come from?

We know it's not made of green cheese, but what are the origins of the moon? Learn astronomers' theories about where the moon came from.

Our Amazing Solar System

Some of the most interesting objects in our solar system are also the smallest or largest. In addition to the sun, planets, and moons, our solar system has a variety of small objects such as asteroids, comets, stars, meteors, and moons. These have affected what has happened on Earth in many ways.

Jupiter Explained

Jupiter is the largest planet and is fifth from the sun. It is the third-brightest spot in our skies--after the sun and Venus. Jupiter is made up almost entirely of gas, which means it doesn't have a solid surface like Earth does.

Pluto Explained

The smallest and most-distant planet in our solar system is tiny, icy Pluto. It is even smaller than our moon, and wasn't discovered until 1930 — the only planet discovered in the twentieth century.

Mercury Explained

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, and it is the second smallest. It is the fastest-moving planet, so it was named after the Roman god of speed. Like Earth, it is a terrestrial planet, meaning it has a solid surface that you could land on.

The Solar System Explained

Our planet Earth is part of a solar system that consists of nine (and possibly ten) planets orbiting a giant, fiery star we call the sun. For thousands of years, astronomers studying the solar system have noticed that these planets march across the sky in a predictable way.

Neptune Explained

Neptune is the eighth planet from the sun, the fourth largest, and a gas planet. It is named after the Roman god of the sea. Neptune is four times the size of Earth, and its day lasts a little more than16 hours. Its year is about 165 Earth years. Neptune's orbit is a perfect circle. The last stop on spacecraft Voyager's epic trip through the solar system was the gas giant Neptune.

Uranus Explained

Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun, and is named for the ancient Greek deity of the Heavens, the earliest supreme god. It is the third largest planet in the solar system, and is three times as large as Earth.

Venus Explained

Venus is the second planet from the sun, and is about the same size as Earth. It is a terrestrial planet, meaning it has a solid surface. But the harsh conditions on Venus make it very inhospitable. Two spacecraft, Pioneer Venus 1 and Magellan, were able to penetrate the thick atmosphere of this planet.

Saturn Explained

Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system. It is named for the Roman god of agriculture, one of the most important gods in the Roman world. Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium, and its poles appear to be flattened because of its speedy rotation on its axis...

Earth Explained

Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system. It is named for the Roman god of agriculture, one of the most important gods in the Roman world.

Mars Explained

Mars, which is the fourth planet from the sun and the third smallest in size, got its name because of its rusty red color. People associated the planet's blood-red color with war, so they named it Mars, after the Roman god of war.

How Mars Works

Since the 1960s, we've been captivated by our planetary neighbor. How different is the planet next door, and what have we learned about it so far, compliments of the Phoenix Mars Lander and other spacecraft?

How the Sun Works

The sun warms our planet every day, provides the light by which we see and is necessary for life on Earth. But what is it exactly, and what will happen when it burns itself out?


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