The Solar System consists of the Sun and its planetary system of eight planets, their moons, and other non-stellar objects. It formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud.
The vast majority of the system’s mass is in the Sun, with most of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. The four smaller inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, also called the terrestrial planets, are primarily composed of rock and metal.
The four outer planets, called the gas giants, are substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The two largest, Jupiter and Saturn, are composed mainly of hydrogen and helium; the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, are composed largely of substances with relatively high melting points (compared with hydrogen and helium), called ices, such as water, ammonia and methane, and are often referred to separately as “ice giants”.
Below are some stunning images of our Solar System, taken by photographer Michael Benson for his new book, Planetfall and his exhibition of the same title now at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
By “planetfall,” Benson means “the act or an instance of sighting a planet after a space voyage.”
To make his photographs, Benson peruses through thousands of raw image data, rarely seen by the public, which were collected on missions led by NASA—Cassini, Galileo, MESSENGER, Viking and Voyager, among others—and the European Space Agency. Benson then pieces together the image data into one seamless photograph. It can take anywhere from tens to hundreds of raw frames to arrange, like a mosaic, one legible composite image. Then rendering the photograph in realistic colors adds another layer of complexity.
Click image to enlarge
Jupiter’s innermost volcanic moon, Io.
Io passes across face of Jupiter
Surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa
Uranus and its rings
Eclipse of Sun by Earth
Neptune (crescent) and its satellite, Triton
Sun on the Pacific Ocean, as seen from the International Space Station
“My God, it’s full of stars.”
Those were the last words spoken by astronaut Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
So many of us nowadays live in urban environs where we can’t see the stars at night because of man-made lights. Below is a stunning video of the night sky over Namibia, showing the Milky Way, the planet Jupiter, and countless stars.
Imagine the night sky that the shepherds saw in Bethlehem more than two thousands years ago….
I suggest you watch the video in full-screen mode!
The distance between our Earth and the Moon is about 238,857 miles, which is 30 times Earth’s diameter.
If you could fly to the Moon at a constant speed of 621 miles hour, which is the speed of a fast passenger jet, it would take 16 days to get there.
How would the planets in our Solar System appear in our sky if they were to orbit the Earth at the same distance from us as the Moon?
This is the view of the terrible wildfires sweeping Texas, as seen from the International Space Station. Beginning a week ago, blustering wind whipped up by Tropical Storm Lee swept across parched, drought-stricken Texas, sparking more than 190 wildfires. The worst of the fires has consumed more than 34,000 acres 30 miles southeast of Austin.
The number of homes destroyed has risen to 1,554 and is expected to further increase as firefighters enter more areas where the blaze has been extinguished, officials said Sunday. Seventeen people remain unaccounted for.
It’s difficult for most folks to really understand the scope of the crisis. Texas has suffered from a significant lack of rain all summer; 81% of the state’s land is listed as “exceptional drought” on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s scale. That makes conditions perfect for a terrifying blaze.
The video taken by the International Space Station helps us to better understand the scope. You can clearly make out the smoke plumes where they rise above Texas. The size of these fires is just that much more mind-boggling when you consider how visible they are from space.
Mercy, God! Have mercy on the innocent suffering wildlife and the humans who were made in your image…. ~Eowyn