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The Universe

Interesting Facts

  • Mercury is hot, but not too hot for ice. The closest planet to the Sun does indeed have ice on its surface.

  • Venus doesn’t have any moons, and we aren’t sure why. It is also the hottest planet in the solar system.

  • Mars had a thicker atmosphere in the past, and possibly life. There have been more missions to Mars than any other planet.

  • Jupiter has more than double the mass of all the other planets combined. It also has the most powerful storms in the solar system.

  • Saturn has more moons than any other planet in the Solar System. It also has the most extensive ring system.

Facts

Our solar system consists of the sun and everything that orbits that sun, like the eight (once nine) planets we all know from elementary school. But the main planets, as diverse and fascinating as they are, are just the beginning. Earth's neighbors in space include cometsasteroidsdwarf planets, mysterious moons and a host of strange phenomena that are so out-of-this-world they elude explanation. 

Scientists have discovered ice-spewing volcanoes on Pluto, while Mars is home to a truly "grand" canyon the size of the United States. There may even be a giant, undiscovered planet lurking somewhere beyond Neptune. Read on for some of the strangest facts about the solar system.

URANUS SPINS SIDEWAY

Uranus usually appears in classroom solar system models as a featureless blue ball, but this gas giant of the outer solar system is pretty weird on closer inspection. First, the planet rotates on its side, appearing to roll around the sun like a ball, according to NASA's Uranus guide. The most likely explanation for the planet's unusual orientation (about 90 degrees sideways compared to the other planets) is that it underwent some sort of titanic collision in the ancient past. 

Uranus' tilt causes what NASA considers to be the most extreme seasons in the solar system. For about a quarter of each Uranus year (or 21 Earth years, as each Uranus year is 84 years long), the sun shines directly over the north or south pole of the planet. That means for more than two decades on Earth, half of Uranus never sees the sun at all. 

Scientists monitor these extreme seasons on Uranus and expected that the 2007 equinox on the planet might cause unusual weather. But it was seven years later that the atmosphere erupted into wild unpredicted storms, making Uranus more of a puzzle than ever. 

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