Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. The gas giant is NOT a failed star, but a really successful planet! It has a dynamic atmosphere with belts and zones, as well as an enormous red spot that’s actually a persistent hurricane. Jupiter is still warm from its formation, has an interior that’s mostly metallic hydrogen, and may not even have a core.
Before moving on from Jupiter to Saturn, we’re going to linger for a moment on Jupiter’s moons. There are 67 known moons, 4 of which are the huge ones that we want to explore in greater detail. Ganymede is the largest - larger, in fact, than any other moon in the solar system and the planet Mercury! Callisto, orbiting the farthest out, is smaller but quite similar to Ganymede in many ways. Io, meanwhile, is most noteworthy for its tremendous volcanic activity. There’s also water on Ganymede and Europa!
The fourth planet from the sun and the outermost of the terrestrial planets, Mars has long been a popular spot for missions and imagination. Phil walks you through the planet's topography, core, and features. We'll take a look back at Mars's past and makes predictions for its future, including the possibilities for human life.
Saturn is the crown jewel of the solar system, beautiful and fascinating. It is a gas giant and has a broad set of rings made of ice particles. Moons create gaps in the rings via their gravity. Saturn has dozens of moons, including Titan, which is as big as Mercury and has a thick atmosphere and lakes of methane; and Enceladus which has an undersurface ocean and eruptions of water geysers. While we are still uncertain, it is entirely possible that either or both moons may support life.
Today we’re rounding out our planetary tour with ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Both have small rocky cores, thick mantles of ammonia, water, and methane, and atmospheres that make them look greenish and blue. Uranus has a truly weird rotation and relatively dull weather, while Neptune has clouds and storms whipped by tremendous winds. Both have rings and moons, with Neptune’s Triton probably being a captured iceball that has active geology.
Venus is a gorgeous naked-eye planet, hanging like a diamond in the twilight -- but its beauty is best looked at from afar. Even though Mercury is closer to the sun, Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, due to a runaway greenhouse effect, and has the most volcanic activity in the solar system. Its north and south poles were flipped, causing it to rotate backward and making for very strange days on this beautiful but inhospitable world.
This NASA resource starts with an overview or definition of a planet. The In Depth section includes information about how this definition continues to evolve and how new discoveries inform the discussion.