Planets

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All eight planets in the solar system orbit the sun in the same direction and on roughly the same orbital plane. Viewed from a point over Earth's north pole, the planets circle the sun in a counter-clockwise direction.

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  • Would Mars be a good planet to live on?

    Q: Would Mars be a good planet to live on?

    A: As of 2014, scientists believe Mars is the most likely planet in Earth's solar system, outside of Earth, to support human existence. However, this doesn't say much about the potential for life on other planets, as many major obstacles impede life on Mars without significant technological advancements.
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  • What are the other planets' distances from Earth?

    Q: What are the other planets' distances from Earth?

    A: Mercury is 0.61 astronomical units (AU) from Earth, while Venus is 0.28 AU from Earth. Mars is 0.52 AU from Earth, while Jupiter is 4.20 AU from Earth. Saturn is 8.54 AU from Earth, Uranus is 18.14 AU from Earth and Neptune is 29.06 AU from Earth.
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  • What type of planet is Earth?

    Q: What type of planet is Earth?

    A: According to Encyclopædia Britannica, Earth is classified as a terrestrial planet. A terrestrial planet is rocky, in contrast to the predominantly gas planets found in the outer solar system.
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  • How did Jupiter get its name?

    Q: How did Jupiter get its name?

    A: Jupiter gets its name from the most powerful god in Roman mythology. The king of all other gods, Jupiter is the equivalent of Zeus in Greek mythology. It was the largest visible object in the night sky during the time of the Roman Empire, and thus named after its most important deity.
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  • What planet has the largest moon?

    Q: What planet has the largest moon?

    A: According to NASA, Jupiter's moon, Ganymede, is the largest moon in the solar system. It has a diameter of 2,631 kilometers. Ganymede is larger than both Pluto and Mercury and is 3/4 the size of Mars. Unlike many other moons, Ganymede has a core that generates a substantial magnetic field.
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  • Where did Venus get its name?

    Q: Where did Venus get its name?

    A: The planet Venus is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. The Romans used the names of their most important gods and goddesses for the brightest objects in the sky.
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  • What are the similarities between Earth and Neptune?

    Q: What are the similarities between Earth and Neptune?

    A: Although they are quite dissimilar in almost every way, the Earth and Neptune do share some similar qualities such as gravity, color and orbit. With a gravitational pull that is only 14-percent stronger than the Earth's, Neptune and the Earth have similar gravitational pulls. Both planets are blue and both orbit around the Sun.
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  • What is Mars' temperature?

    Q: What is Mars' temperature?

    A: The surface temperature on Mars varies between a low of negative 225 degrees Fahrenheit at the poles and a high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit at the noontime equator during summer. Between the equator and the poles, the temperature averages between negative 76 and negative 58 degrees Fahrenheit.
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  • How many satellites does Mars have?

    Q: How many satellites does Mars have?

    A: Mars has two very small satellites orbiting it, Phobos and Deimos. Scientists believe that both moons are actually asteroids captured via Mars's gravitational field. Made of dark rock that includes a great deal of carbon, both satellites have many craters due to collisions with debris.
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  • What are the nicknames for the planets?

    Q: What are the nicknames for the planets?

    A: Nicknames for the eight planets in the solar system are Swift Planet for Mercury, Morning Star and Evening Star for Venus, Blue Planet for Earth, Red Planet for Mars, Giant Planet for Jupiter, Ringed Planet for Saturn, Ice Giant for Uranus and Big Blue Planet for Neptune. Pluto was once considered a planet and had the nickname Ice Planet, but it is now classified as a dwarf planet.
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  • When is the next time all the planets will align?

    Q: When is the next time all the planets will align?

    A: The next planetary alignment will not occur until the year 2854. According to astronomers, such alignment typically occurs every 1500 years, with the last phenomenon appearing in 561 B.C.
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  • Have any man-made satellites been sent to Mars?

    Q: Have any man-made satellites been sent to Mars?

    A: Several man-made satellites have been sent to Mars since 1964. The first spacecraft to Mars, known as Mariner 3, was launched on Nov. 5, 1964. This spacecraft malfunctioned and failed to fly by Mars as planned.
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  • How did Saturn form?

    Q: How did Saturn form?

    A: Saturn formed according to one of two models: the core accretion model, which states that planets formed over time through gravitational forces drawing materials together, or the disk instability model, which states that clumps of dust and gas fused together quickly and progressively formed a planet.
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  • Can Neptune sustain human life?

    Q: Can Neptune sustain human life?

    A: Neptune, the eighth planet from the sun, cannot support life according to NASA. Being so far from the sun makes Neptune a very cold planet, with temperatures reaching as low as -361.
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  • How many miles is Jupiter from the sun?

    Q: How many miles is Jupiter from the sun?

    A: Jupiter is located an average of 483.64 million miles from the sun. The exact distance between Jupiter and the sun varies depending on the location of Jupiter along its orbit.
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  • How many light years away is Mars?

    Q: How many light years away is Mars?

    A: Mars is considerably less than 1 light-year away from Earth. According to Cornell University, Mars orbits the Sun at an average distance of 1.5 times the Earth's mean orbital distance. At the two planets' closest approach, the distance between them shrinks to 0.5 astral units, which equals 75 million kilometers.
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  • How did Neptune get its name?

    Q: How did Neptune get its name?

    A: Neptune was given its name by its discoverer, Urbain Le Verrier. Honoring the tradition of naming planets after Roman gods, Le Verrier chose Neptune, who was the Roman sea god. He chose this name because of the blue colors that dominate the planet.
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  • When did Pluto become a dwarf planet?

    Q: When did Pluto become a dwarf planet?

    A: Pluto became a dwarf planet in 2006. Upon being stripped of its title as a planet, Pluto joined two other celestial bodies, called Eris and Ceres, in the category of dwarf planets. The decision to reclassify the former planet was made by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
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  • What does Neptune look like?

    Q: What does Neptune look like?

    A: Neptune is an ice giant planet that is blue in color and is the fourth-largest planet in the Solar System. When looking at Neptune with smaller detail, an observer will see the planet's blueness as largely smooth and uniform. When looking with more detail, however, the striations on the planet's surface that are caused by storms in Neptune's atmosphere are more apparent.
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  • What is the length of a day and year on Saturn?

    Q: What is the length of a day and year on Saturn?

    A: A day on Saturn is 10.7 hours, and a year is equivalent to 29 Earth years or 10,832 days. The length of the day is calculated from the planet's rotational speed, while scientists determine the length of a year by observing Saturn's orbit.
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  • How is Earth different from other planets?

    Q: How is Earth different from other planets?

    A: Earth is unique in that scientists have found the planet to be the only one to have liquid water on its surface, intelligent life forms living on it, a moon that helps regulate surface temperatures, an atmosphere with 21 percent oxygen and plate tectonics, according to Space.com. Scientists believe Earth exists in a "Goldilocks zone" where conditions are just right to support life.
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