The Solar System

The Sun is the Solar System's star, and by far its chief component. Its large mass (332,900 Earth masses produces temperatures and densities in its core great enough to sustain nuclear fusion, which releases enormous amounts of energy, mostly radiated into space as electromagnetic radiation, peaking in the 400–700 nm band of visible light.The Sun is classified as a type G2 yellow dwarf, but this name is misleading as, compared to the majority of stars in our galaxy, the Sun is rather large and bright. Stars are classified by the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, a graph that plots the brightness of stars with their surface temperatures. Generally, hotter stars are brighter. Stars following this pattern are said to be on the main sequence, and the Sun lies right in the middle of it. However, stars brighter and hotter than the Sun are rare, while substantially dimmer and cooler stars, known as red dwarfs, are common, making up 85 percent of the stars in the galaxy.The Sun is a population I star; it was born in the later stages of the universe's evolution, and thus contains more elements heavier than hydrogen and helium ("metals" in astronomical parlance) than older population II stars. Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were formed in the cores of ancient and exploding stars, so the first generation of stars had to die before the universe could be enriched with these atoms.

57 million kilometers

Mercury

107 million kilometers

Venus

150 million kilometers

Earth

Moon

229 million kilometers

Mars

Phobos

Deimos

777 million kilometers

Jupiter

Ganymede

Ganymede is a satellite of Jupiter and the largest moon in the Solar System. It is the seventh moon and third Galilean satellite outward from Jupiter. Completing an orbit in roughly seven days, Ganymede participates in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance with the moons Europa and Io, respectively. It has a diameter of 5,268 km (3,273 mi), 8% larger than that of the planet Mercury, but has only 45% of the latter's mass. Its diameter is 2% larger than that of Titan, the second largest moon. It also has the highest mass of all planetary satellites, with 2.02 times the mass of the Earth's moon.Ganymede is composed of approximately equal amounts of silicate rock and water ice. It is a fully differentiated body with an iron-rich, liquid core. A saltwater ocean is believed to exist nearly 200 km below Ganymede's surface, sandwiched between layers of ice. Its surface is composed of two main types of terrain. Dark regions, saturated with impact craters and dated to four billion years ago, cover about a third of the satellite. Lighter regions, crosscut by extensive grooves and ridges and only slightly less ancient, cover the remainder. The cause of the light terrain's disrupted geology is not fully known, but was likely the result of tectonic activity brought about by tidal heating.Ganymede is the only satellite in the Solar System known to possess a magnetosphere, likely created through convection within the liquid iron core. The meager magnetosphere is buried within Jupiter's much larger magnetic field and would show only as a local perturbation of the field lines. The satellite has a thin oxygen atmosphere that includes O, O2, and possibly O3 (ozone). Atomic hydrogen is a minor atmospheric constituent. Whether the satellite has an ionosphere associated with its atmosphere is unresolved.Ganymede's discovery is credited to Galileo Galilei, who was the first to observe it on January 7, 1610. The satellite's name was soon suggested by astronomer Simon Marius, for the mythological Ganymede, cupbearer of the Greek gods and Zeus's lover.

Callisto

Callisto is a moon of the planet Jupiter. It was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. It is the third-largest moon in the Solar System and the second largest in the Jovian system, after Ganymede. Callisto has about 99% the diameter of the planet Mercury but only about a third of its mass. It is the fourth Galilean moon of Jupiter by distance, with an orbital radius of about 1,880,000 km. It does not form part of the orbital resonance that affects three inner Galilean satellites—Io, Europa and Ganymede—and thus does not experience appreciable tidal heating. Callisto rotates synchronously with its orbital period, so the same hemisphere always faces (is tidally locked to) Jupiter. Callisto's surface is less affected by Jupiter's magnetosphere than the other inner satellites because it orbits farther away.Callisto is composed of approximately equal amounts of rock and ices, with a mean density of about 1.83 g/cm3. Compounds detected spectroscopically on the surface include water ice, carbon dioxide, silicates, and organic compounds. Investigation by the Galileo spacecraft revealed that Callisto may have a small silicate core and possibly a subsurface ocean of liquid water at depths greater than 100 km.The surface of Callisto is heavily cratered and extremely old. It does not show any signatures of subsurface processes such as plate tectonics or volcanism, and is thought to have evolved predominantly under the influence of impacts. Prominent surface features include multi-ring structures, variously shaped impact craters, and chains of craters (catenae) and associated scarps, ridges and deposits. At a small scale, the surface is varied and consists of small, bright frost deposits at the tops of elevations, surrounded by a low-lying, smooth blanket of dark material. This is thought to result from the sublimation-driven degradation of small landforms, which is supported by the general deficit of small impact craters and the presence of numerous small knobs, considered to be their remnants. The absolute ages of the landforms are not known.Callisto is surrounded by an extremely thin atmosphere composed of carbon dioxide[6] and probably molecular oxygen, as well as by a rather intense ionosphere.Callisto is thought to have formed by slow accretion from the disk of the gas and dust that surrounded Jupiter after its formation. Callisto's gradual accretion and the lack of tidal heating meant that not enough heat was available for rapid differentiation. The slow convection in the interior of Callisto, which commenced soon after formation, led to partial differentiation and possibly to the formation of a subsurface ocean at a depth of 100–150 km and a small, rocky core.The likely presence of an ocean within Callisto leaves open the possibility that it could harbor life. However, conditions are thought to be less favorable than on nearby Europa. Various space probes from Pioneers 10 and 11 to Galileo and Cassini have studied the moon. Because of its low radiation levels, Callisto has long been considered the most suitable place for a human base for future exploration of the Jovian system.

IO

Europa

Europa, is the sixth closest moon of the planet Jupiter, and the smallest of its four Galilean satellites, but still one of the largest bodies in the Solar system. Europa was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and possibly independently by Simon Marius around the same time. Progressively more in-depth observation of Europa has occurred over the centuries by Earth-bound telescopes, and by space probe flybys starting in the 1970s.Slightly smaller than Earth's Moon, Europa is primarily made of silicate rock and probably has an iron core. It has a tenuous atmosphere composed primarily of oxygen. Its surface is composed of ice and is one of the smoothest in the Solar System. This surface is striated by cracks and streaks, while craters are relatively infrequent. The apparent youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the hypothesis that a water ocean exists beneath it, which could conceivably serve as an abode for extraterrestrial life. This hypothesis proposes that heat energy from tidal flexing causes the ocean to remain liquid and drives geological activity similar to plate tectonics.The Galileo mission, launched in 1989, provided the bulk of current data on Europa. Although only fly-by missions have visited the moon, the intriguing characteristics of Europa have led to several ambitious exploration proposals. The next mission to Europa is the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE), due to launch in 2022.

1,429 million kilometers

Saturn

Titan

Rhea

This giant mosaic reveals Saturn's icy moon Rhea in her full, crater-scarred glory. This view consists of 21 clear-filter images and is centered at 0.4 degrees south latitude, 171 degrees west longitude.The giant impact basin Tirawa is seen above and to the right of center. Tirawa, and the even larger basin Mamaldi to its southwest, are both covered in impact craters, indicating they are quite ancient.The bright, approximately 40-kilometer-wide (25-mile) ray crater seen in many Cassini views of Rhea is located on the right side of this mosaic (at 12 degrees south latitude, 111 degrees west longitude). See PIA07764 for a close-up view of the eastern portion of the bright, ray crater.There are few signs of tectonic activity in this view. However, the wispy streaks on Rhea that were seen at lower resolution by NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft, were beyond the western (left) limb from this perspective. In high-resolution Cassini flyby images of Dione, similar features were identified as fractures caused by extensive tectonism.Rhea is Saturn's second-largest moon, at 1,528 kilometers (949 miles) across.The images in this mosaic were taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera during a close flyby on Nov. 26, 2005. The images were acquired as Cassini approached the moon at distances ranging from 79,190 to 58,686 kilometers (49,206 to 36,466 miles) from Rhea and at a Sun-Rhea-spacecraft, or phase, angle of about 19 degrees. Image scale in the mosaic is 354 meters (1,161 feet) per pixel.The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Iapetus

Dione

Tethys

Encladus

2,871 million kilometers

Uranus

Titania

This high-resolution color composite of Titania was made from Voyager 2 images taken Jan. 24, 1986, as the spacecraft neared its closest approach to Uranus. Voyager's narrow-angle camera acquired this image of Titania, one of the large moons of Uranus, through the violet and clear filters. The spacecraft was about 500,000 kilometers (300,000 miles) away; the picture shows details about 9 km (6 mi) in size. Titania has a diameter of about 1,600 km (1,000 mi). In addition to many scars due to impacts, Titania displays evidence of other geologic activity at some point in its history. The large, trenchlike feature near the terminator (day-night boundary) at middle right suggests at least one episode of tectonic activity. Another, basinlike structure near the upper right is evidence of an ancient period of heavy impact activity. The neutral gray color of Titania is characteristic of the Uranian satellites as a whole. The Voyager project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Oberon

Umbriel

Ariel

Miranda

4,496 million kilometers

Neptune

Triton

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