The Sun

The centre of our solar system is the sun, which is a star. It is a gigantic ball of hot gas which gives off heat and light energy. It is about 150 million kilometres away from Earth.The sun's gravity keeps all the planets and other objects in the solar system travelling around it.

Planets and moons

The planets do not produce their own energy. They reflect the heat and light of the sun. All the planets are surrounded by layers of gases called the atmosphere.

The path that each planet takes around the sun is a slightly oval shape called an ellipse. Each planet follows its own path, or orbit, around the sun.

Birth of the Solar System

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The eight planets of our Solar System

All the planets, except Mercury (the closest planet to the Sun) and Venus, (the second planet from the Sun) have at least one satellite called a moon. Moons orbit their planets.

Earth is the third planet from the sun, in between Venus (named after the Roman goddess of love) and Mars. It is the only planet known to support life.

Mars, the planet fourth from the Sun, and known as 'the red planet' was named after the Roman god of war.

Mercury is the smallest planet, and is closest to the sun. It is extremely hot. It was named after the Roman messenger of the gods.

The largest planet is Jupiter, which is fifth from the sun. It consists of gas and liquid. 

Saturn, sixth from the sun, is the second largest planet. It has thousands of thin rings around it, made up of particles of rock and ice.

Uranus, seventh planet from the sun, was discovered in 1781 by Sir William Herschel. It is surrounded by clouds of blue-green gas.The planet's ten rings were discovered in 1977.

Neptune was named after the Roman god of the sea. Ancient astronomers predicted there must be a planet existing in that place, after Uranus. They were proved correct when it was discovered in 1846.

Pluto is no longer a planet!

Furthest from the sun is Pluto, and its presence was predicted in 1916 by Percival Lowell. It was discovered in 1930. Its path around the sun is so big that it takes 248 earth years to make one orbit of the sun. On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefined the term "planet". Because Pluto is smaller than some of the moons in our solar system and because it has an unusual orbit, it is no longer recognised as one of the planets in the solar system. The other planets stay the same distance from the sun, but because of Pluto's irregular orbit, it is at different distances from the sun. Pluto is still part of our solar system, but is now called a dwarf planet.

Why Isn't Pluto a Planet Any More?

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Something new in our Solar System

Quaoar is a newly discovered object in our solar system. It was first seen in June 2002. It's about a billion kilometres beyond Pluto. Its about half the size of Pluto. Its orbit takes about 288 years. The object is named Quaoar after an ancient god of the Native American people.

Want to remember the names and the order of the planets?

A mnemonic device is a sentence that helps you remember something, and this one uses the first letters of words in a phrase.

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos :

Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune

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