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Astronomy
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Astronomy: Solar System

This page covers anything about the Solar System that isn't covered by Planets (1), Planets (2), or Moons.  (Basically, those pages cover the size, orbits, and physical nature of the planets, dwarf planets and their major satellites or moons.)

Numbers

Age of the solar system (all its major bodies were formed within 10–20 m years) Click to show or hide the answer
Life on Earth began about Click to show or hide the answer
Light travels from the Sun to Earth in Click to show or hide the answer
Time taken by the Earth to go round the Sun: 365.25 days, less Click to show or hide the answer
The Moon's synodic period (the length of its phase cycle as seen from Earth) Click to show or hide the answer
The Moon's orbital period (the time it actually takes to orbit the Earth) Click to show or hide the answer
Number of lunar cycles in a year, as seen from Earth (number of lunar months) Click to show or hide the answer
Number of times the Moon orbits the Earth in a year Click to show or hide the answer
Diameter of Jupiter's Great Red Spot (approximately) Click to show or hide the answer
Length of the cycle of sunspot activity Click to show or hide the answer

Halley's Comet

Period of orbit (average) Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Last appearance Click to show or hide the answer
Next appearance Click to show or hide the answer

Other

Point at which a planet (or any other satellite of the Sun) is furthest from the Sun Click to show or hide the answer
Point at which an Earth satellite (including the moon) is furthest from the Earth Click to show or hide the answer
Point at which an Earth satellite is closest to the Earth Click to show or hide the answer
Point in a planet's orbit where it is closest to the Sun Click to show or hide the answer

Astronomers' name for red sky in the morning or evening Click to show or hide the answer
A comet's tail points Click to show or hide the answer
String of arcs of brilliant sunlight along the edge of the Moon, before or after a solar eclipse Click to show or hide the answer
Defines the distance of the planets from the Sun Click to show or hide the answer
96% of the atmosphere of Venus (also most of Mars') is Click to show or hide the answer
The biggest gap in the rings of Saturn (between the A and B rings) – named after the Italian–born astronomer (working in France) who discovered it in 1675 Click to show or hide the answer
The smallest of the three dwarf planets classified in 2006 – the largest in the asteroid belt (previously the largest known asteroid) Click to show or hide the answer
Consists of a nucleus, a coma, and a tail Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Faint halo of hot gases (around 2,000,000°C) around the Sun, boiling from its surface, seen during a solar eclipse (if there aren't too many clouds!) Click to show or hide the answer
The only planet in the Solar System that's not named after a Greek or Roman god; the only one that has one and only one moon Click to show or hide the answer
The largest of the three dwarf planets classified in 2006: orbits in the Scattered Disc with a radius of between 38 AU and 98 AU (cf. Pluto, 30 – 50 AU). Previously known as 2003 UB313 and nicknamed Xena Click to show or hide the answer
Jupiter's largest satellite – equatorial diameter 3,270 miles – the biggest moon, bigger than Mercury or Pluto, and thus the ninth largest body in the solar system Click to show or hide the answer
Meteor shower that occurs in December Click to show or hide the answer
Word used to describe the Moon when it's more than half illuminated (from the Latin for "humped") Click to show or hide the answer
Cause of the extreme surface temperature of Venus Click to show or hide the answer
The Orionids – a meteor shower that occurs in late October – and also the less spectacular Eta Aquariids in May – are composed of debris from Click to show or hide the answer
The region of space that's dominated by the Sun; a 'bubble' created by the solar wind, which is a stream of plasma (charged particles) released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun; it extends for about 120 astronomical units (the orbit of Pluto is between 29 and 50 AUs) Click to show or hide the answer
Second major constituent of the sun (7%) Click to show or hide the answer
Comet seen in the Northern sky in Spring 1996 Click to show or hide the answer
92% of the sun is; the surface of Jupiter is a swirling mass of liquid Click to show or hide the answer
The moons of Saturn are made of Click to show or hide the answer
Jupiter's core – about the size of Earth – is, like the Earth's core, made of Click to show or hide the answer
The surface of Mars is made to look red by Click to show or hide the answer
Largest planet; has a Great Red Spot (which is a storm); shortest day (9 hrs 56 mins at the poles, 9 hrs 50.5 mins at the equator) Click to show or hide the answer
The area of the solar system extending from within the orbit of Neptune (about 30 AU from the Sun) to about 50 AU – populated by small remnants from the formation of the Solar System, composed mainly of frozen matter; home to three officially recognized dwarf planets – Pluto, Haumea and Makemake; named after the Dutch–American astronomer (1905–73) who suggested that such small planets or comets may have formed there (but believed that few, if any, would exist there today) Click to show or hide the answer
Phobos and Deimos are dwarf satellites of Click to show or hide the answer
Olympus Mons, the highest mountain known to man (21,230 m / 69,650 feet – nearly three times as high as Everest) is on
Most asteroids orbit the Sun between Click to show or hide the answer
Nearest planet to the sun; has the shortest 'year' Click to show or hide the answer
Planets with no moons Click to show or hide the answer
Hoba (West), Tent (Abnighito), Baruberito, Williamette: some of the largest Click to show or hide the answer
Difference between meteors and meteorites Click to show or hide the answer
The Perseids (every August) and the Leonids (November, but only spectacular about once every 33 years) are two of the best examples of Click to show or hide the answer
Before 2006, the Asteroids were officially classified as (term now includes dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies) Click to show or hide the answer
The Bay of Rainbows, Sea of Serenity, Ocean of Storms, Humboldt's Sea and the Sea of Showers (a.k.a. Sea of Rains) are (where?) Click to show or hide the answer
The Apennines, Caucasus, Harbinger and Cordillera mountain ranges (where?)
Discovered 1846 – the only planet discovered in the 19th Century Click to show or hide the answer
Spherical cloud of comets, approximately 1 light year from the sun (25% of the way to Proxima Centauri, 1,000 times as far away as Pluto) – a remnant of the original nebula that collapsed to form the sun and the planets Click to show or hide the answer
Spectacular meteor shower seen every August Click to show or hide the answer
Second largest of the three dwarf planets classified in 2006 – previously a planet Click to show or hide the answer
Nix and Hydra (discovered in 2005) are moons of
The point in the night sky from which a meteor shower appears to originate Click to show or hide the answer
The least dense planet; named after the Roman equivalent of Cronos, the ruler (not the father) of the Titans of Greek mythology Click to show or hide the answer
Name given to the TNO that was discovered in 2003 and described at the time as "the tenth planet" Click to show or hide the answer
Comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994 (after its discoverers) Click to show or hide the answer
Stream of nuclear particles (mainly protons and electrons) flowing away from the sun's corona Click to show or hide the answer
Venus is covered by clouds of (vapour of) Click to show or hide the answer
Comet that causes the Perseid meteor shower (when Earth passes close to its path): named after the two astronomers that discovered it independently in 1862; period approx. 130 years, nucleus about 17 miles across; the largest object that repeatedly passes close to Earth, making it "the single most dangerous object known to humanity" Click to show or hide the answer
Largest of over 20 satellites of Saturn, and the tenth largest body in the solar system (diameter 3,200 miles – larger than Mercury or Pluto, but 70 miles smaller than Ganymede) Click to show or hide the answer
Happens twice with a gap of 8 years, then not for another 121.5 or 101.5 years (2004, 2012, 2117) Click to show or hide the answer
Two groups of asteroids that move in the same orbit as Jupiter Click to show or hide the answer
The other planet with rings Click to show or hide the answer
Spin axis tilted at 98o, so that one pole points almost directly at the sun
Surface is a superheated ocean of water
Known as the Morning Star (Phosphorus in ancient times) or the Evening Star (Hesperus in ancient times); also known as the Horned Planet Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
The only planet that rotates clockwise and so has a day longer than its year
Highest surface temperature (thanks to the greenhouse effect) Click for more information
Nearest in size to the Earth (diameter 7,519 miles)
Karen Blixen, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf and Mary Queen of Scots can be found on the surface of
Imprecise term (not approved by astronomers) for a typical star like the Sun – more correctly known as a 'G–type main–sequence star' Click to show or hide the answer
Hypothetical planet once thought to orbit inside Mercury Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017–18