Astrology, a system based on the belief that events on Earth are represented by the positions and movements of astronomical bodies, particularly the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. The word "astrology" derives from the Greek astron (star) and logos (word, study). Astrologers maintain that the position of astronomical bodies at the exact moment of a person’s birth and the subsequent movements of the bodies reflect that person’s character and, therefore, destiny. The celestial patterns are interpreted so as to understand, plan, or predict events on Earth. They are deemed to be associated with the characteristics of individuals. Astrologers use charts known as horoscopes, which map the position of astronomical bodies at certain times, and are based on the signs of the Zodiac; these are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Astrology is one of the oldest known forms of study and its continuous history can be traced back over 4,000 years to the ancient Middle East. The astrology used in India and the West share common origins, but most cultures have developed their own forms of mystical cosmology, and at least two, China (by 2000

)and the Mayan and Aztec cultures of central America, also developed

complex systems of astrology. These people may have observed that the movements of certain astronomical bodies, particularly the Sun, affected the change of seasons and the success of crop harvests. It was astrology, and the hope of predicting the future, that led to systematic study of the heavens, and to the development of the science of astronomy—as alchemy led to chemistry.

Astrology’s current popularity dates from the late 19th century, and the invention of the distinctive twelve-sign newspaper horoscope column in 1930 made it an entrenched part of modern mass media and popular culture.


HISTORY Middle-Eastern Origins

Astrology can be traced back to the earliest literate urban civilization in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) before 2000 15000

, although its origins may date from earlier attempts to create calendars in

order to regulate civil and religious life or to divine the future. Deer antler markings dating from

may indicate lunar phases, while the earliest post holes at Stonehenge in southern

England are dated to 8000

. Little is known about what kind of astrology may have been

practised by Neolithic people, or by later peoples who left no written records, such as the Celts.

The first complete surviving astrological text is the Venus Tablet, a collection of omens on the planet Venus compiled in the reign of the Babylonian king Amisaduqa, around 1650

. A thousand

years later the Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal collected all the known astrological tablets together in a single collection, the Enuma Anu Enlil. Originally all astrology seems to have been devoted to the king and the state, and the astrologer’s task was to offer political advice. The first known individual birth chart dates from the Persian period, 410


Developments in Egypt followed a different course and it has been argued that, as the inhabitants of the Nile delta lived in a relatively secure environment, they felt little need to forecast the future and therefore did not require a complicated predictive astrology. Instead, they evolved an elaborate astral theology in which the Sun was the symbol of the supreme creator god Amon or, in earlier times creator goddesses such as Sekhmet or Hathor. The constellation Orion represented the god Osiris, of whom the Pharaoh was regarded as an incarnation, while the star Sirius represented his consort, Isis. The great monuments of Egyptian history tend to be aligned with the Sun or stars. The Great Pyramid (c. 2600

), for example, was aligned with Sirius and Orion.


Ancient Greece

The classical Greeks devised the philosophical and technical basis of the astrology still in use today. The Athenian philosopher Plato (c. 428-347

) argued that the entire universe was divine and ) originated the concept of the Greeks had developed ), whose

could be seen as an image of God, who placed the planets in the sky in order that his nature, ideas, and intentions might be understood. Aristotle (c. 384-322

celestial causes and influences, although he believed that the planets were “secondary causes” responsible for transmitting God’s will to humanity. By the 1st century

the horoscope of 12 zodiacal signs, 12 houses, 7 planets, and 5 major aspects that is the basis of modern horoscope interpretation. The principal figure was Claudius Ptolemy (c. 120 standard text in medieval and Renaissance Europe.

Tetrabiblos summarized much of the astrological teaching of the time and was to become a



Astrology is known in India as Jyotish and was originally used to fix the most auspicious dates for the performance of religious rituals and the regulation of the sacred calendar prior to 2000 Greek world which, under the conquests of Alexander the Great (356-323 to the Indus valley.


However, the bulk of technical Indian astrology appears to have been imported from the Hellenized

), extended eastwards


Roman Empire

Astrology became a standard part of life in the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries


was used extensively by the emperors, who came to regard themselves as incarnations of the Sun

God: the main festival of the cult of Sol Invictus, the reborn and unconquered Sun, was December 25. Astrology was also central to the Mithraicreligion, which was popular among the Roman legions, and in which the planets, as spiritual entities, were seen as a path to God and spiritual enlightenment.


Christianity and Islam

The ambivalence towards astrology evident in the Old Testament, combined with its associations with paganism in the Roman Empire, led to hostility from many Christians, notably St Augustine (354-430), who attacked it in his Confessions. Christians were particularly concerned that astrological determinism conflicted with the individual’s freedom to choose between right and wrong or to seek salvation. This, combined with the collapse of the Roman Empire in western Europe in 476, moved the focus of attention east to India and Persia. From here astrology was rediscovered by the Arabs after their conquest of the Middle East. European scholars began to relearn astrology from the Islamic world in the late 10th century, and by the 12th century it was a central part of the new world view, studied at university as a single subject with astronomy. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) reconciled astrology with Christianity by arguing that while the soul, and hence the individual’s freedom to make moral choices, was responsible to God, their physical needs and passions, and hence matters of war and peace, disease, or economics were also influenced by the stars. As long as astrologers respected the primacy of Christian theology and ecclesiastical power, the subject was an accepted part of natural philosophy. In the absence of developed science, technology, and medicine, it was seen as an essential part of medical diagnosis and treatment, an aid to political power used by kings and popes, a topic for philosophical speculation, a means to arrange marriages or make money, and a tool for forecasting the future.


The Scientific Revolution

By the late 17th century, European astrology had lost its intellectual respectability. It has been argued that this was due to the scientific and astronomical discoveries of Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Nicolaus Copernicus, which showed that the Sun was the centre of the solar system, and that other aspects of the solar system were not arranged as previously thought. These discoveries, along with the growth of materialism and the scientific method, led to the rejection of astrology by many Western scientists and philosophers. Another argument is that astrology suffered from its association with radical and popular political movements that sprang up in the early 17th century.


Nineteenth-Century Revival

The revival of interest in astrology began at the end of the 18th century in England, and benefited from parallel developments such as the spread of spiritualism and discovery of eastern religions. The most notable figure was Alan Leo (1860-1917), a British astrologer who wrote extensively. Leo began the shift of psychological astrology away from the delineation of fixed personality characteristics defined at birth towards a dynamic system in which the individual can grow and develop. He popularized the aphorism “character is destiny”, arguing that astrological prediction was dependent on the individual’s personality and behaviour. The psychologist Carl Jung studied astrology and discussed it throughout his published writings, thereby contributing to the evolution of a humanistic astrology based heavily on psychoanalysis, and to the emergence of professional astrologers who work primarily as psychological counsellors.


Eastern Astrology

Astrology remains an integral part of religious and social life in India, particularly in arranged marriages. However, it is used to time and forecast events with greater precision than in the West, and uses a sidereal, or star-based, zodiac based on slightly different coordinates. Chinese astrology is as complex as its Western and Indian counterparts and is closely connected to traditional medicine and feng shui, the alignment of buildings with the natural environment. It has a system of 12 “year rulers”: these are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare or Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Horse, Dog, and Pig. There are 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches. Together these make a 60-year cycle. The lunar month, day, and hour of birth are also taken into consideration in a Chinese horoscope. There are character types associated with elements (such as wood and air). There are also “mansions” (Chinese, gong) into which people are born. Charts of the 60-year cycle are produced in Hong Kong and other parts of the Chinese world.



Traditionally, astrology was divided into two branches: natural, which dealt with planetary influences, and judicial, in which the astrologer’s interpretation was crucial. Judicial astrology has four sub-branches: natal (the casting of charts for individuals); horary (the answering of specific questions); electional (the timing of events); and mundane (the study of history and politics).


The Zodiac

Most Western astrology relies on the tropical zodiac, the division of the ecliptic (the Sun’s annual path through the sky as seen from the Earth) into twelve equal divisions, beginning with the “Aries point”, the Sun’s location on the spring equinox (the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere), usually March 21.



A horoscope is set for the time of the event to be studied. The sign rising over the eastern horizon is known as the Rising Sign or Ascendant and is the basis of the twelve houses that represent different areas of life. The ten planets—the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—are then placed in the houses and signs. Their location and aspects (the distances between them, seen from the Earth) then provide the basis for interpretation. The signs, houses, planets, and aspects are generally seen as symbols that can be used to describe personality and anticipate future trends. Few astrologers believe that the planets exert a causal influence. More common is Jung’s concept of synchronicity (meaningful coincidence), in which celestial patterns coincide with events on earth at significant moments. A similar classical concept is that the heavens and earth are inextricably linked, and therefore any movement in the former corresponds to change in the latter.


Science and Astrology

Traditionally, astrology and astronomy were viewed as complementary sciences. However, astrology is no longer regarded as a science by many, because its claims are almost impossible to test empirically in controlled laboratory conditions, and it can not meet the scientific need for reproducibility. It is argued that it can therefore be neither proved nor disproved. However, there have been a number of attempts to prove statistically astrological claims about personality. The most notable was the research by the French statistician Michel Gauquelin (19281991) in collaboration with his wife Françoise. Using vast banks of data on the birth charts of individuals successful in various fields, he claimed his studies showed that certain planets correlate statistically to outstanding professional success when they are either rising over the eastern horizon at birth or culminating overhead. The most significant was the “Mars effect”, linking the position of Mars at birth to sporting success. The Mars Effect remains the subject of academic argument and is not supported by most scientists. Scientific opinion in general sees astrology as a means of satisfying psychological needs and, as a practice, as lacking any objective basis. They point to the “Barnum effect”, which claims most people agree with most statements made about them as long as they are sufficiently general. Such criticism has, however, had only a marginal effect on astrology’s spread, and most western countries have astrological societies and schools that train professionals. Astrology has also become increasingly popular in former communist countries, particularly Russia.

Aries (astrology)

Aries (astrology), the first sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the ram. People whose birthdays fall between March 21 and April 19 are said to be born under the sun sign of Aries. According to astrologers, Aries, a fire sign, is ruled by the planet Mars. Astrologers believe that Arians have assertive, pioneering, competitive, and courageous natures. Arians are said to have strong senses of self, and frequently to be self-ish. Arians tend to behave in headstrong, impulsive, sometimes foolhardy ways. Although they anger quickly, they get over their anger quickly and do not hold grudges. Astrologers consider many Arians to be natural athletes and to be drawn to physical activity. Because of the sign's association with the planet Mars (named after the Roman god of war), people born under it are said to like danger and risk. According to astrologers, adventure appeals to Arians, and their natural gift for plunging into projects and activities with gusto can make them successful leaders and good at motivating others. Professions associated with Aries include medicine, especially surgery; the military; manufacturing, especially involving metal or heavy machinery; sports; carpentry; and engineering. Famous Aries subjects include Henry James, Marlon Brando, Bismarck, Joan Crawford, and Charlie Chaplin.

Taurus (astrology)
Taurus (astrology), the second sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the bull. According to astrologers, people whose birthdays occur between April 20 and May 20 are said to be born under the sun sign of Taurus. Taurus, an earth sign, is ruled by the planet Venus, named after the ancient Roman goddess of beauty and love. Astrologers consider Taureans to be loyal, stable, conservative, and practical. They are also thought to be patient, affectionate, and good-natured people. However, their tempers can erupt dramatically if they are pushed beyond their limits. Astrologers believe Taureans are home-loving and tend to have deep sentimental attachments to people, things, and places. They also can be jealous and possessive. Astrologers do not consider Taureans to be fond of change, making the typical Taurus both reliable and committed, as well as inflexible.

Astrologers consider Taureans to be very attuned to the physical world. They have acute senses and appreciate beauty and pleasure in all forms. Taureans tend to be very aware of the value of things, an ability which can make them skilled handlers of money and good judges of the quality of merchandise. Professions traditionally associated with the sign Taurus include banking and business, especially trade; accounting; fashion or interior design; property management; singing; farming; and architecture. Famous Taurus subjects include Henry Fonda, Sigmund Freud, William Shakespeare, Bing Crosby, and Adolf Hitler.

Gemini (astrology)
Gemini (astrology), the third sign of the zodiac, symbolized by twins. Astrologers consider people whose birthdays fall between May 21 and June 21 to be born under the sun sign of Gemini. The planet Mercury, named after the ancient Roman messenger god, rules Gemini, which is an air sign. According to astrologers, Geminis tend to be quick-witted, changeable, talkative, versatile, and sometimes crafty or mischievous. Geminis are known for their ability to express themselves, and are witty, clever, and often well-read. They have something to say about everything. Astrologers believe that typical Geminis have highly developed intellects, and that they place greater importance on learning than on emotional or practical issues. However, they consider Geminis to be so clever that they can give the impression of deep emotion or of the practicality of their desires.

Astrologers believe Geminis have the ability, and often the need, to do more than one thing at a time. Geminis are so interested in everything that they get bored easily and often cannot resist moving on to the next subject, tendencies which can make them seem shallow and fickle. Professions associated with the sign Gemini include teaching, journalism, publishing, sales, and other professions that require verbal skills and flexibility. Famous Geminis include Thomas Hardy, Marilyn Monroe, the Duke of Edinburgh, Judy Garland, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Marquis de Sade.

Cancer (astrology)
Cancer (astrology), the fourth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by a crab. People whose birthdays occur between June 22 and July 22 are said to be born under the sun sign of Cancer. According to astrologers, the Moon rules Cancer, which is a water sign. Astrologers consider Cancerians to be caring, emotional, sensitive, resistant to change, and homeloving. Due to the sign's association with the Moon, Cancerians often have widely fluctuating moods. Astrologers say Cancerians are artistic, have vivid imaginations, and highly developed memories. Like people born under other water signs, Cancerians are thought to be much more aware of how they feel than what they think. According to astrologers, Cancerians' ability to sense other people's needs and emotions makes them sympathetic and caring, and often personable and easy to get along with. They are said to place great importance on family, and to crave security. They often withdraw into themselves for protection. Astrologers believe typical Cancerians can have difficulty being objective, and are easily crushed by criticism. They also say that Cancerians worry too much.

Professions associated with the sign Cancer include ones related to domestic activities. These include hospitality, cooking, and catering; childcare; property management; and writing, translating, or other jobs that require imagination. Famous Cancerians include Rembrandt, Ringo Starr, Henry VIII, Gina Lollobrigida, Julius Caesar, and Barbara Stanwyck.

Leo (astrology)
Leo (astrology), the fifth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by a lion. Astrologers believe that people whose birthdays fall from July 23 to August 22 are born under the sun sign of Leo. The Sun rules Leo, which is a fire sign. Astrologers believe that Leos have regal, self-centred, generous, and warm-hearted natures. Leos are said to be protective of people close to them, especially children and those who are weak. They also have a strong need to be the centre of attention, and may be surprisingly sensitive. Astrologers think that Leos tend to be inordinately fond of praise and can be swayed by flattery. They consider Leos to be creative and dramatic. Leos also have strong organizational skills and make natural leaders.

According to astrologers, Leos love to enjoy themselves and believe that life is not worth living unless it is filled with some degree of elegance and class. Night life, games and parties, and gambling appeal to Leos' sense of ostentation. Leos are said to believe they deserve the best, and this belief often attracts good things to them. The typical Leo makes bigger and bolder plans than other signs do. Even if these plans fail, Leos can usually look on the bright side, sometimes to the point of being unrealistic. Professions associated with the sign Leo include entertainment, including performing and promoting; the arts; beauty and cosmetics; speculative investing; and gambling. Famous Leos include Napoleon Bonaparte, Princess Margaret, Mae West, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Hitchcock, and Mussolini.

Virgo (astrology)
Virgo (astrology), the sixth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by a virgin. People whose birthdays fall from August 23 to September 22 are said to be born under the sign of Virgo. Virgo, an earth sign, is ruled by the planet Mercury, named after the ancient Roman messenger god. Astrologers believe that Virgoans are practical, no-nonsense people. They like to talk and are good communicators, but prefer to put their words to practical use. Thus they are not very interested in idle conversation, and they can be shy. The typical Virgoan also has a tendency to be critical. According to astrologers, Virgoans often have a great concern for health and hygiene. They also like to be well-groomed and keep their surroundings very tidy.

Astrologers consider Virgoans to be obsessed with detail, analytical, intelligent, and hard-working. They handle complex tasks with seeming effortlessness because they are flexible and good organizers. They are said to be more concerned with doing their jobs well than with personal acclaim, and as a result tend to be humble. They also can be perfectionists and worry when projects or situations do not meet their high expectations. Professions traditionally associated with the sign Virgo include nursing; jobs in the service industries; health and nutrition; secretarial or office administration; teaching; and editing. Famous Virgo subjects include Greta Garbo, Leonard Bernstein, Peter Sellers, Queen Elizabeth I, and D. H. Lawrence

Libra (astrology)
Libra (astrology), the seventh sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the scales. Astrologers consider people whose birthdays occur between September 23 and October 22 to be born under the sun sign of Libra. The planet Venus rules Libra. Libra is an air sign. According to astrologers, Librans have diplomatic, refined, intelligent, thoughtful, warm, and social natures. Because of the sign's relationship with the planet Venus (named after the ancient Roman goddess of beauty and love), Librans tend to be romantic and crave relationships. Typical Librans, however, want an idealized meeting of the minds in an atmosphere of civility, refinement, and reasonableness. They do not place as much importance on deep emotional intimacy or physical passion. Librans also enjoy comfort and luxury.

Astrologers believe that Librans have strong senses of justice. They carefully weigh opposing sides of any issue and are keenly aware of other people's preferences. Although Librans like to take leading roles, their need to be fair and to please everyone equally can sometimes make it difficult for them to make decisions. Typical Librans are skilled peacemakers and diplomats who desire balance and harmony in all situations and will do almost anything to avoid confrontations. Professions traditionally associated with Libra include the law, politics, the arts or design, diplomacy, and counselling. Famous Librans include Oscar Wilde, Julie Andrews, Nietzsche, Franz Liszt, and Brigitte Bardot.

Scorpio (astrology)
Scorpio (astrology), the eighth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by a scorpion. According to astrologers, people whose birthdays fall between October 23 and November 21 are born under the sun sign of Scorpio. The planet Pluto rules Scorpio, which is a water sign. Astrologers consider Scorpios to be energetic, passionate, deep, intuitive, and secretive, with a great deal of self-control. They also believe that Scorpios can be wilful, stubborn, and easily made

jealous. Scorpios are thought to be keen observers of people, potentially calculating and manipulative. Seeing more of people's deepest motivations than others do, they have a tendency to be cynical. They are sensitive and never forget a hurt or a slight—for the typical Scorpio, forgiveness can be difficult.

Astrologers consider Scorpio perhaps the most extreme of all signs. The intensity and focus of Scorpios gives them great ability to see a project through despite all obstacles. Their strong leadership qualities, incisive analytic abilities, energy, and desire for financial security can make them motivated career people. Many Scorpios also like to flirt with danger and push themselves and those close to them to their limits. Professions traditionally associated with Scorpio include forensic science, law enforcement or detective work, the military, medicine, psychology, and business. Famous Scorpio subjects include Prince Charles, Marie Antoinette, Richard Burton, Charles de Gaulle, Pablo Picasso, and Billy Graham.

Sagittarius (astrology)
Sagittarius (astrology), the ninth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by an archer. Astrologers consider people whose birthdays occur from November 22 to December 21 to be born under the sun sign of Sagittarius. Sagittarius, a fire sign, is ruled by the planet Jupiter, named after the wise ruler of the ancient Roman gods. Astrologers believe that Sagittarians have fun-loving, friendly, philosophical, intellectual, straightforward, and expansive natures. Sagittarians are optimistic, and sometimes have a naive belief that everything will turn out fine despite any obstacles. Good luck often follows typical Sagittarians, and because whatever they need usually comes effortlessly to them, they tend to be generous and willing to share. Sagittarians also value frankness and honesty, and their comments can sometimes be blunt.

According to astrologers, typical Sagittarians dislike being confined or tied down; they seek change, especially through travel. Sagittarians require freedom of thought and ideas, but otherwise tend to be fairly conventional and respect tradition. Professions traditionally associated with Sagittarius include higher education; law; medicine; import and export, or other activities that involve foreign countries; and publishing. Famous Sagittarius subjects include Noel Coward, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas, Walt Disney, and Beethoven.

Capricorn (astrology)

Capricorn (astrology), tenth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by a mountain goat. Astrologers hold that people whose birthdays fall between December 22 and January 19 are born under the sun sign of Capricorn. The planet Saturn rules Capricorn, which is an earth sign. According to astrologers, Capricorns have responsible, disciplined, practical, methodical, cautious, serious, and sometimes pessimistic natures. Capricorns believe that anything worth having is worth working hard for, and they assign the highest value to things won through the hardest work. Typical Capricorns are aloof and shy, sometimes even awkward, because they remain focused on responsibility. To them life is serious business, and they sometimes have difficulty relaxing and having fun. Because of this, Capricorns may be lonely.

Astrologers believe that Capricorns respect power, authority, structure, tradition, and ideals whose value and durability have been tested by time. Capricorns are ambitious, and typically they are not satisfied unless they have reached a level of power and authority. They have a deep need for security, especially financial, and often will work very hard to get rich. Professions traditionally associated with Capricorn include banking, government, business, and other situations with power hierarchies; mining, farming, and construction. Famous Capricorns include Richard Nixon, Edgar Allen Poe, Loretta Young, Joan of Arc, Isaac Newton, and Nat King Cole

Aquarius (astrology)
Aquarius (astrology), the 11th sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the water-carrier. According to astrologers, people born between January 20 and February 18 are born under the sun sign of Aquarius. Aquarius, an air sign, is said to be ruled by the planet Uranus. Astrologers consider Aquarians to be brilliant, visionary, curious, open-minded, original, independent, and eccentric. Though emotionally detached, they also tend to be friendly and social. According to astrologers, Aquarians have a highly developed sense of social equality and often are attracted to activism or progressive political organizations.

Like other air signs, Aquarians are said to be less concerned with practical and physical matters than with intellectual pursuits. They feel most comfortable in the world of ideas; they find situations that require emotional responses, such as personal relationships, to be difficult. Astrologers believe that Aquarians have lightning-fast intuitive insight and can quickly grasp abstract concepts. Professions associated with Aquarius include inventing, research, social organizing or activism, astrology, communications, computer sciences, and electronics. Famous Aquarians include Charles Dickens, Ronald Reagan, Lewis Carroll, Mia Farrow, Galileo, and James Dean.

Pisces (astrology)
Pisces (astrology), the 12th sign of the zodiac, symbolized by two fish. According to astrologers, people whose birthdays occur between February 19 and March 20 are born under the sun sign of Pisces. The planet Neptune rules Pisces, which is a water sign. Astrologers consider Pisceans to be sensitive, emotional, sunny, impressionable, dreamy, creative, psychic, and mystical. They also tend to be idealistic; sometimes the real world gets too harsh and ugly for them. To escape unpleasant realities, some Pisceans retreat into their own dreams and fantasies and become evasive, even deceitful. Others escape constructively through charity work, the arts, religion, meditation, and solitude. Pisceans make good listeners, can see different sides of issues, and often have great sympathy for the suffering of others.

According to astrologers, typical Pisceans do not have great physical stamina. They can be delicate and vulnerable, especially when under emotional stress. However, they are capable of great strength, in part because they are adaptable and can manoeuvre around difficult situations. They also have the ability to take life as it comes. Professions associated with Pisces are music, film, dance, and the other arts; charitable work; counselling; jobs involving water, chemicals, oil, or drugs; nursing, and the clergy. Famous Pisceans include Frederic Chopin, Elizabeth Taylor, Albert Einstein, Edward Kennedy, Michelangelo, and Rex Harrison.

Solar System
Solar System, the system consisting of the Sun; the nine planets and their satellites; the asteroids, comets, and meteoroids; and interplanetary dust and gas. The dimensions of this system are specified in terms of the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun, called the astronomical unit (AU). One AU is 150 million km (about 93 million mi). The most distant known planet, Pluto, has an orbit at 39.44 AU from the Sun. The boundary between the solar system and interstellar space— called the heliopause—is estimated to occur near 100 AU. The comets, however, achieve the greatest distance from the Sun; they have highly eccentric orbits ranging out to 50,000 AU or more. The solar system was the only planetary system known to exist until 1999. In the 1980s a number of relatively nearby stars were found to be encircled by swarms of orbiting material of indeterminate size (seeVega) or to be accompanied by objects suspected to be brown dwarfs. In 1999, four years after the first confirmed detection of an extrasolar planet, two teams of astronomers detected the first extrasolar multiple-planet system, comprising at least three gasgiant planets around the Sun-like star Upsilon Andromidae, some 44 light years from Earth. Many

astronomers think it likely that planetary systems of some sort are numerous throughout the universe. See Astronomy.



The Sun is a typical star, of intermediate size and luminosity. Sunlight and other radiation are produced by the conversion of hydrogen into helium in the Sun's hot, dense interior (seeNuclear Energy). Although this nuclear fusion is converting 600 million tonnes of hydrogen each second, the Sun is so massive (2 × 1027 tonnes) that it can continue to shine at its present brightness for 6 billion years. This stability has allowed life to develop and survive on the Earth. For all the Sun's steadiness, it is an extremely active star. On its surface dark sunspots bounded by intense magnetic fields come and go in 11-year cycles; sudden bursts of charged particles from solar flares can cause auroras and disturb radio signals on the Earth; and a continuous stream of protons, electrons, and ions leaves the Sun and moves out through the solar system, spiralling with the Sun's rotation. This solar wind shapes the ion tails of comets and leaves its traces in the lunar soil, samples of which were brought back from the Moon's surface by Apollo spacecraft. SeeSpace Exploration.



Nine major planets are currently known. They are commonly divided into two groups: the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) and the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). The inner planets are small and are composed primarily of rock and iron. The outer planets (except Pluto) are much larger and consist mainly of hydrogen, helium, and ice. Mercury is surprisingly dense, apparently because it has an unusually large iron core. With only a transient atmosphere, Mercury has a surface that still bears the record of bombardment by asteroidal bodies early in its history. Venus has a carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times thicker than that of the Earth, causing an efficient greenhouse effect by which the Venusian atmosphere is heated. The resulting surface temperature is the hottest of any planet—about 477° C (890° F). The Earth is the only planet with abundant liquid water and life. Strong evidence exists that Mars once had water on its surface, but now its carbon dioxide (CO2) atmosphere is so thin that the planet is dry and cold, with polar caps of solid carbon dioxide, or dry ice. Jupiter is the largest of the planets. Its hydrogen and helium atmosphere contains pastel-coloured clouds, and its immense magnetosphere, rings, and satellites make it a planetary system unto itself. Saturn rivals Jupiter, with a much more intricate ring structure and more satellites, including one with a dense atmosphere—Titan. Uranus and Neptune are deficient in hydrogen compared with the two giants; Uranus, also ringed, has the distinction of rotating at 98° to the plane of its orbit. Pluto seems similar to the larger, icy satellites of Jupiter or Saturn. Pluto is so distant from the Sun and so cold that methane freezes on its surface.



The asteroids are small rocky bodies that move in orbits primarily between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Numbering in the thousands, asteroids range in size from Ceres, which has a diameter of 1,000 km (620 mi), to microscopic grains. Some asteroids are perturbed into eccentric orbits that can bring them closer to the Sun. Smaller bodies orbiting the Sun are called meteoroids. Some collide with the Earth and appear in the night sky as streaks of light, known as meteors. Recovered fragments are termed meteorites. Laboratory studies of meteorites have revealed much about primitive conditions in our solar system. The surfaces of Mercury, Mars, Venus, and several satellites of the planets (including the Earth's moon) show the effects of an intense bombardment by asteroidal objects early in the history of the solar system. On the Earth that record has been eroded away, except for a few recent impact craters. Some interplanetary dust may also come from comets, which are basically aggregates of dust and frozen gases about 5 to 10 km (3 to 6 mi) in diameter. Many comets orbit the Sun at distances so great that they can be perturbed by stars into orbits that bring them into the inner solar system. As comets approach the Sun, they release their dust and gases to form a spectacular coma and tail. Under the influence of Jupiter's strong gravitational field, comets can sometimes adopt much smaller orbits. The most famous of these is Halley's comet, which returns to the inner solar system at 75-year periods. Its most recent return was in 1986. In July 1994 fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 bombarded Jupiter's dense atmosphere at speeds of about 210,000 km/h (130,000 mph). Upon impact, the tremendous kinetic energy of the fragments was converted into heat through massive explosions, some resulting in fireballs larger than the Earth. The surfaces of the icy satellites of the outer planets are scarred by impacts from comet nuclei. Indeed, the asteroidal object Chiron, with an orbit between Saturn and Uranus, may itself be an extremely large inactive comet. Similarly, some of the asteroids that cross Earth's orbit may be the rocky remains of burned-out comets. The Sun has been found to be encircled by three rings of interplanetary dust. One of them, between Jupiter and Mars, has long been known as the cause of zodiacal light. The other two rings, one lying only two solar widths away from the Sun, the other occurring in the region of the asteroids, were discovered in 1983.



If one could look down on the solar system from far above the North Pole of the Earth, the planets would appear to move around the Sun in an anticlockwise direction. All of the planets except Venus and Uranus rotate on their axes in this same direction. The entire system is remarkably flat—only Mercury and Pluto have obviously inclined orbits. Pluto's orbit is so elliptical that it is at present closer than Neptune to the Sun, and will be so until 1999.

The satellite systems mimic the behaviour of their parent planets, but many more exceptions are found. Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune each have one or more satellites that move around the planets in retrograde orbits (clockwise instead of anticlockwise) and several satellite orbits are highly elliptical. Jupiter, moreover, has trapped two clusters of asteroids (the so-called Trojan asteroids), which lead and follow the planet by 60° in its orbit around the Sun. (Some satellites of Saturn have similarly trapped smaller bodies.) The comets exhibit a roughly spherical distribution of orbits around the Sun. Within this maze of motions, some remarkable resonances exist: Mercury rotates on its axis three times for every two revolutions about the Sun; no asteroids exist with periods 1/2, 1/3, ..., 1/n (where n is an integer) of the period of Jupiter; the three inner Galilean satellites of Jupiter have periods in the ratio 4:2:1. These and other examples demonstrate the subtle balance of forces that is established in a gravitational system composed of many bodies.



Despite their differences, the members of the solar system probably form a common family. They seem to have originated at the same time; few indications exist of later captures from other stars or interstellar space. Early attempts to explain the origin of this system include the nebular hypothesis of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and the French astronomer and mathematician Pierre Simon de Laplace, according to which a cloud of gas broke into rings that condensed to form planets. Doubts about the stability of such rings led some scientists to consider various catastrophic hypotheses, such as a close encounter of the Sun with another star. Such encounters are extremely rare, and the hot, tidally disrupted gases would dissipate rather than condense to form planets. Current theories connect the formation of the solar system with the formation of the Sun itself, about 4.7 billion years ago. The fragmentation and gravitational collapse of an interstellar cloud of gas and dust, triggered perhaps by nearby supernova explosions, may have led to the formation of a primordial solar nebula. The Sun would then form in the densest, central region. It is so hot close to the Sun that even silicates, which are relatively dense, have difficulty forming there. This phenomenon may account for the presence near the Sun of a planet such as Mercury, having a relatively small silicate envelope and a larger than usual dense iron core. (It is easier for iron dust and vapour than for lighter silicates to coalesce near the central region of a solar nebula.) At larger distances from the centre of the solar nebula, gases condensed into such solids as are found today from Jupiter outwards. Evidence of a possible preformation supernova explosion appears as traces of anomalous isotopes in tiny inclusions in some meteorites. This association of planet formation with star formation suggests that billions of other stars in our galaxy may also have planets. The high frequency of binary and multiple stars, as well as the large satellite systems around Jupiter and Saturn, attest to the tendency of collapsing gas clouds to fragment into multibody systems.


Sun, the star that, by the gravitational effects of its mass, dominates the solar system—the planetary system that includes the Earth. By the radiation of its electromagnetic energy, the Sun furnishes directly or indirectly all of the energy supporting life on Earth except for that supported by deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, because all foods and fuels except for these are derived ultimately from plants using the energy of sunlight. See Photosynthesis; Solar Energy. Because of its proximity to the Earth (average distance 149,597,870 km (92,960,116 mi), known as an astronomical unit, (AU), and because it is such a typical star, the Sun is a unique resource for the study of stellar phenomena. No other star can be studied in such detail. Lying at very great distances from Earth, the stars in the night sky appear as unresolved point sources. Spectroscopic studies of distant stars of solar type allow astronomers to infer that these show similar patterns of behaviour to the Sun, including magnetic activity cycles and flares. It is believed that other stars have spots similar to sunspots.



For most of the time that human beings have been on the Earth, the Sun has been regarded as an object of special significance. Many ancient cultures worshipped the Sun, and many more recognized its significance in the cycle of life. Aside from its calendrical or positional importance in marking, for example, solstices, equinoxes, and eclipses (see Archaeoastronomy), the quantitative study of the Sun dates from the discovery of sunspots, while the study of its physical properties was not initiated until much later. Chinese astronomers occasionally observed sunspots with the naked eye as early as 200 . But


around 1611 Galileo and others, including the German Jesuit astronomer Christoph Scheiner (15751650), used the recently invented telescope to observe them systematically. This work marked the beginning of a new approach to studying the Sun. The Sun came to be viewed as a dynamic, evolving body, and its properties and variations could thus be understood scientifically. The next major breakthrough in the study of the Sun came in 1814 as the direct result of the use of the spectroscope by the German physicist Joseph von Fraunhofer. A spectroscope breaks up light into its component wavelengths, or colours. Although the spectrum of the Sun had been observed as early as 1666 by the English mathematician and scientist Isaac Newton, the accuracy and detail of Fraunhofer’s work laid the foundation for the first attempts at a detailed theoretical explanation of the solar atmosphere. Some of the radiation from the visible surface of the Sun (called the photosphere) is absorbed by slightly cooler gas just above it. Only particular wavelengths of radiation are absorbed, however, depending on the atomic species present in the solar atmosphere. In 1859, the German physicist Gustav Kirchhoff first showed that the dark, so-called Fraunhofer lines at certain wavelengths in the spectrum of the Sun were due to absorption of radiation by atoms of some of the same elements as are present on the Earth. Not only did this show that the Sun was composed of ordinary matter, but it also demonstrated the possibility of deriving detailed information about celestial objects by studying the light they emitted. This was the beginning of astrophysics. The occurrence of a fairly regular cycle of sunspot activity was recognized around 1844 by the German amateur astronomer Heinrich Schwabe. Progress in understanding the Sun has continued to be guided by scientists’ ability to make new or improved observations. Among the advances in observational instruments that have significantly influenced solar physics are the spectroheliograph, invented by George Ellery Hale, which allows observations to be made at isolated wavelengths such as those emitted by ionized hydrogen or ionized calcium; the Lyot coronagraph, which permits study of the solar corona by producing an artificial, instrumental “eclipse”; and the magnetograph, invented by the American astronomer Horace W. Babcock in 1948, which measures magnetic-field strength over the solar surface. Early rocket experiments in the late 1940s demonstrated the advantages of lifting instruments such as coronagraphs above the Earth’s distorting atmosphere. The most effective observations in short ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths, which cannot penetrate the atmosphere, have been made from

satellites in orbit above the Earth. For example, NASA launched a series of Orbiting Solar Observatories between 1962 and 1975. Great progress in observing and understanding violent solar phenomena at short wavelengths came with the manned Skylab mission in 1973-1974, which was equipped with a dedicated solar telescope. The Solar Maximum Mission satellite (Solar Max) launched in 1980 was used to make some very useful observations prior to instrument failure; following its recovery and repair by astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1984, the satellite was used to follow activity around the 1986 solar minimum. The Japanese Yohkoh (“Sunbeam”) satellite launched in August 1991 extended the series of solar observations at short electromagnetic wavelengths, revealing a great deal about the dynamic nature of the corona during a three-year period of operation which coincided with very high activity. As part of the International Solar Terrestrial Physics programme, the SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) satellite, launched in 1995, is stationed at a stable orbital point 1.5 million km (937,500 mi) sunwards of the Earth, to provide continuous monitoring. Instruments aboard probes in interplanetary space have also been important in examining processes in the solar wind. Magnetometers and other equipment aboard the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft have been invaluable in measuring the Sun’s sphere of influence. The Ulysses spacecraft, launched in 1990, has been the first to take measurements of the solar wind at high latitudes. See Space Exploration.



The Sun has a diameter of 1,390,000 km (870,000 mi).The total amount of energy emitted by the Sun in the form of radiation is remarkably constant, varying by no more than a few tenths of 1 per cent over several days. This energy output is generated deep within the Sun. Like most stars, the Sun is made up primarily of hydrogen (specifically, 71 per cent hydrogen, 27 per cent helium, and 2 per cent other, heavier elements). Near the centre of the Sun the temperature is almost 16 million K (about 29 million degrees F) and the density is 150 times that of water. Under these conditions the nuclei of individual hydrogen atoms interact, undergoing nuclear fusion (see Nuclear Energy). The net result of a series of such processes is that four hydrogen nuclei combine to make one helium nucleus, and energy is released in the form of gamma radiation. Vast numbers of nuclei react every second, generating energy equivalent to that which would be released from the explosion of 100 billion one-megaton hydrogen bombs per second. The nuclear “burning” of hydrogen in the core of the Sun extends out to about 25 per cent of the Sun’s radius. The energy thus produced is transported most of the way to the solar surface by radiation. Photons of light may take as long as 100,000 years to emerge from the core, undergoing a “random walk” outwards through the Sun’s dense interior. Nearer the surface, in the convection

zone, occupying approximately the last third of the Sun’s radius, energy is transported by the turbulent mixing of the gases.


The Photosphere

The photosphere is the top surface of the convection zone. Evidence of the turbulence of the convection zone can be seen by observing the photosphere and the atmosphere directly above it. Turbulent convection cells in the photosphere give it an irregular, mottled appearance. This pattern is known as the solar granulation. Each granule is about 2,000 km (1,240 mi) across. Although the pattern of granulation is always present, individual granules remain for only about 10 minutes. A much larger convection pattern is also present, caused by the turbulence that extends deep into the convection zone. This supergranulation pattern contains cells that last for about a day and average 30,000 km (18,600 mi) across. The photosphere has a temperature of almost 5770 K (9930° F).



Sunspots appear as darker features on the photosphere, and are regions of slightly lower temperature (typically 4000 K/6680° F) that result where the emergence of strong magnetic fields from the solar interior disrupts the normal pattern of convection. A typical sunspot has a magneticfield strength of 0.25 tesla, compared with the Earth’s magnetic-field strength of less than 0.0001 tesla. Sunspots range in size from pores 1,000 km (625 mi) in diameter, to extensive, complex groups that may cover up to 0.5 per cent of the visible solar hemisphere. Sunspot numbers vary over long time-scales, reaching a maximum roughly every 11 years. The underlying magnetic cycle which is believed to cause sunspot activity takes 22 years to return to its starting configuration. Sunspots appear to be a consequence of the interaction between deep-seated magnetic activity in the Sun, and the differential rotation of the outer, convective layers: at its equator, the Sun rotates on its axis once every 25.6 days, but at the poles, the rotation period is in excess of 30 days. As a result of the differential rotation, the solar magnetic field becomes wrapped around itself, so that loops are forced up and out through the photosphere: sunspots form at the sites of emergence.


The Chromosphere

Lying above the photosphere, and visible as a narrow ring of red light (shining in the wavelength of hydrogen-alpha at 656.3 nanometres) around the dark body of the Moon during total solar eclipses, is the chromosphere. Activity in the chromosphere can be studied using a spectrohelioscope. Temperatures in the chromosphere are higher than those in the photosphere, of the order of 20,000 K (35,000° F), and there is a sharp transition between the two layers. The chromosphere has a depth of about 10,000 km (6,250 mi).

Much of the Sun’s magnetic field lies outside sunspots. The pervasiveness of the Sun’s magnetic field adds complexity, diversity, and beauty to the outer atmosphere of the Sun. For example, the larger-scale turbulence in the convection zone pushes much of the magnetic field at and just above the photosphere to the edges of the supergranulation cells. Within the supergranule boundaries, jets of material shoot into the chromosphere to an altitude of about 4,000 km (2,500 mi) in 10 minutes. These so-called spicules are caused by the combination of turbulence and magnetic fields at the edges of the supergranule cells. Near the sunspots, however, the chromospheric radiation is more uniform. These sites are called active regions, and the surrounding areas, which have smoothly distributed chromospheric emission, are called plages, from the French word meaning “beach”. Active regions are the location of solar flares, explosions caused by the very rapid release of energy stored in the magnetic field (although the exact mechanism is not known). Among the phenomena that accompany flares are rearrangements of the magnetic field, intense X-ray radiation, radio waves, and the ejection of very energetic particles that sometimes reach the Earth, disrupting radio communications and causing auroral displays (see Aurora).



Cooler material in the inner solar atmosphere may be suspended by magnetic loops in the chromosphere as arched prominences, which can persist for several months. Gas in prominences is maintained at lower temperatures than prevail in their surroundings thanks to the insulating effects of the magnetic fields that shape them. Through a spectrohelioscope, prominences are seen to best advantage when on the limb, or edge, of the solar disc. During total solar eclipses, prominences reaching out from the Sun for up to 50,000 km (31,250 mi) can be striking, appearing as extensions of the red chromosphere above the dark, obscuring body of the Moon. Prominences often appear in association with sunspot regions, but may also form elsewhere, and are most numerous a couple of years after sunspot numbers have peaked. Disturbances of the solar magnetic field may lead to prominences becoming detached and ejected into space. Prominence material is also often seen to condense and fall back to the solar surface. Viewed from above through a spectrohelioscope, prominences appear as dark filaments against the brighter, highertemperature background as they transit the solar disc.


The Corona

During total solar eclipses, as the Moon completely obscures the dazzling light of the photosphere, it briefly becomes possible to see the outer solar atmosphere, which extends for several solar radii from the disc of the Sun: the corona. The corona reaches from just above the chromosphere far out into interplanetary space. Some indication of its great extent is given by observations from

satellites equipped with coronagraphs; results in X-ray wavelengths, particularly, from such spacecraft as Yohkoh and SOHO, clearly show the corona to be an active, dynamic environment. Most of the corona consists of great arches of hot, ionized gas (plasma): smaller arches within active regions and larger arches between active regions. The corona is shaped by the extended solar magnetic field. Closed magnetic field loops above active regions give rise to bright structures, described as “helmets”. Regions of open magnetic field, where only one end of the field line is embedded in the Sun, give rise to long “streamers” extending radially away from the Sun. The shape of the corona changes over the sunspot cycle. At sunspot maximum, when active regions are abundant, the corona consists mainly of evenly distributed closed loops; at minimum, long streamers extend to either side of the Sun, mainly from its equatorial regions. Around sunspot maximum, when flare activity is common, the corona in X-ray wavelengths is frequently seen to be disturbed by outward-travelling shock waves. These coronal mass ejections (CMEs) have become recognized as an important source of turbulence in the solar wind. CMEs directed towards Earth can cause magnetic storms. A primary aim of the SOHO satellite mission is to observe CMEs with a view to forecasting such disruption. In 1999 X-ray observations made by Yohkoh linked CMEs to the appearance of sigmoids, S-shaped formations on the photosphere (inverted in the Sun's northern hemisphere) some 160,000 km (100,000 mi) long, which may indicate the magnetic field twisting back on itself. The data indicated a strong statistical correlation between the appearance of sigmoids and the subsequent eruption of CMEs. In the 1940s the corona was discovered to be much hotter than either the photosphere or the chromosphere, with a temperature of over 1 million K (1.8 million degrees F). Finding the mechanism by which this energy reaches the corona is one of the classic problems of astrophysics. Early ideas to account for coronal heating included the dissipation of acoustic waves produced by the motion of the turbulent solar granules. Through further analysis, it became apparent that such waves would give up their energy before reaching coronal heights. Propagation of gravitational waves was rejected for similar reasons. The most widely accepted theory suggests that the corona is heated by energy carried by magnetic loops emerging from the deep solar interior. The Yohkoh and SOHO spacecraft have provided ample observational evidence to support the idea that considerable magnetic energy is transferred to the corona via CMEs and other transient phenomena.


Solar Wind

Coronal plasma within one or two radii from the Sun’s surface is trapped by magnetic field loops. At greater distances, however, the plasma has sufficient kinetic energy to overcome this magnetic restraint, and escapes into interplanetary space. The resulting outward flow of the Sun’s atmospheric plasma is called the solar wind.

The solar wind carries with it a magnetic field whose strength and orientation are determined by activity and features close to the Sun’s surface. Interactions between this interplanetary magnetic field and that of the Earth in turn influence auroral activity and under some circumstances lead to magnetic storms. The solar wind flows past Earth at a typical velocity of 400 km/sec (250 mi/sec); following coronal mass ejection events, “gusts” of up to 1,000 km/sec (625 mi/sec) can be found. Thus, the solar wind is variable, both in velocity and magnetic field. Much of the solar wind emerges from open regions in the Sun’s magnetic field, perhaps corresponding with the streamers observed in the corona. Larger regions of open magnetic field are seen at X-ray wavelengths as “coronal holes”. By virtue of their reduced particle density and temperature, these features appear dark at X-ray wavelengths, as first observed from Skylab. Coronal holes are long-lived, and most commonly found at lower solar latitudes around sunspot minimum. Results from the Ulysses spacecraft suggest that there are permanent coronal holes at the poles of the Sun, and that the solar wind at higher latitudes has greater velocity than near the equator. The solar wind emerging from coronal holes has a higher velocity, around 800 km/sec (500 mi/sec) at the distance of Earth. These high-speed streams in the solar wind sweep across Earth at 27-day intervals, equivalent to the Sun’s apparent rotation period, and give rise to recurrent magnetic disturbances. The influence of the solar wind has been detected by instruments aboard the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft far beyond the orbit of Pluto: in a very real sense, all the planets in the solar system can be said to lie within the Sun’s extended outer atmosphere. The volume of space in which the solar atmosphere has a dominant influence over the interplanetary medium is called the heliosphere. The boundary of the heliosphere, the heliopause, may lie anywhere between 1.6x1010 to 2.4x1010 km (1.0x1010 to 1.8x1010 mi) from the Sun (equivalent to between 106 and 160 AU); Voyager project scientists hope that at least one of their spacecraft will survive long enough to cross this boundary.



The Sun’s past and future have been inferred from theoretical models of stellar structure. During its first 50 million years, the Sun contracted to approximately its present size. Gravitational energy released by the collapsing gas heated the interior, and when the core was hot enough, the contraction ceased and the nuclear burning of hydrogen into helium began in the core. The Sun has been in this stage of its life for about 4.5 billion years. Enough hydrogen is left in the Sun’s core to last another 4.5 billion years. When that fuel is exhausted the Sun will change: as the outer layers expand to the present size of the orbit of the Earth or beyond, the Sun will become a red giant, slightly cooler at the surface than at present, but 10,000 times brighter because of its huge size. The Earth may not be swallowed up, however, for it may have spiralled outwards, in response to a loss of mass by the Sun. The Sun will remain a red giant, with helium-burning nuclear reactions in the core, for only about half a billion years. It is not

massive enough to go through successive cycles of nuclear burning or a cataclysmic explosion, as some stars do. After the red giant stage it will puff off its outer layers to form a planetary nebula, while the core will shrink to a white dwarf star, about the size of the Earth, and slowly cool for several billion years.

Ruby, precious stone that occurs as a red, transparent variety of the mineral corundum. The colour varies in different specimens from rose red through so-called ruby red and carmine to a deep purplish red, called pigeon blood. Clear stones of the deeper shades are the most highly prized. When cut into a cabochon (a non-faceted) form, some specimens of ruby exhibit asterism; that is, a six-rayed star can be seen in the interior of the stone. Such rubies, called star rubies, are also highly prized. Many stones that are not rubies are nevertheless called rubies. The balas, or balas ruby, for example, is a type of spinel; the Bohemian ruby is rose quartz; the Siberian ruby is red or pink tourmaline; American ruby, Cape ruby, Montana ruby, and Rocky Mountain ruby are varieties of garnet. The finest rubies are found in Mogok, central Myanmar, where rubies have been mined since the 15th century. Important deposits of rubies are also found in Thailand, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India, China, and the former Soviet republics. Large, clear rubies from Myanmar and Thailand are much more valuable than diamonds of equivalent size. In the United States rubies are mined in North Carolina and near Helena, Montana. As well as being highly prized gems, rubies are used in industry as jewelled bearings in watches and scientific instruments. Synthetic rubies were first produced in 1837 by fusing alum and chromium-oxide pigment at a high temperature. Improvements in the manufacture of synthetic rubies since then have made possible the production of synthetic stones, which are very much like the natural stone in physical and chemical properties. Synthetic rubies are used as gems, but about 75 per cent of the annual production of synthetic rubies are used in the manufacture of watches and instruments.

Garnet, general name of a group of related minerals, often used as gemstones and abrasives. Garnets crystallize in the isometric system, usually as rhombic dodecahedrons, tetragonal trisoctahedrons, or combinations of the two. The different varieties of garnet exhibit almost all colours except blue. Brown, red, green, yellow, black, and colourless stones are common. Darker stones are usually opaque, and light ones may be transparent or translucent. The hardness of garnet varies from 6 to 7.5, and the relative densities (specific gravities) of specimens may be anywhere between 3.6 and 4.3. They have a vitreous or resinous lustre, and some varieties exhibit considerable brilliance. Chemically, garnets are

compound silicates. The varieties are usually differentiated by their chemical composition, which varies widely between individual gems—so that the formulas given below are only approximate. Grossularite, Ca3Al2(SiO4)3, is a light-coloured or colourless garnet, usually found in shades of green, red, yellow, or brown. Yellow gems of this variety are often called hyacinths, and yellow and cinnamon-brown specimens are marketed under the names of hessonite, essonite, or cinnamon stone. Pyrope, Mg3Al2(SiO4)3, is the variety of garnet most often used for gem purposes and is prized for its ruby red colour. Pure pyrope has no colour, but all specimens contain impurities that produce a number of shades from red to black. Spessartite, Mn3Al2(SiO4)3, is not a popular gemstone because of its colour, which is usually brownish, although it occasionally has a reddish cast. It is found in the Alps, in Sri Lanka, and in the United States. Almandine, Fe3Al2(SiO4)3, was formerly much used in jewellery and is known by the popular name of carbuncle. It occurs in a range of hues from deep red to black, but usually only stones that are both red and transparent are regarded as gems. Some specimens have a violet cast, and some exhibit asterism, showing a four-rayed star in reflected light. Almandine is a widely distributed mineral, found in India, Australia, South America, and North America. Uvarovite, Ca3Cr2(SiO4)3, is an emerald green variety of garnet found largely in tiny crystals too small for gem use. Comparatively rare, it occurs chiefly in the northern Ural Mountains in Russia. Andradite, Ca3Fe2(SiO4)3, is a type of garnet that varies widely in composition and colour. An opaque, black variety, called melanite, is sometimes used for jewellery by people who are in mourning. A transparent yellow variety that resembles topaz, and is sometimes misleadingly called topazolite, is found in Italy.

Moon, the natural satellite of the Earth (the term is also sometimes applied to the satellites of the other planets in the solar system). The diameter of the Moon is about 3,480 km (2,160 mi), or about one quarter that of the Earth, and the Moon’s volume is about one fiftieth that of the Earth. The mass of the Earth is 81 times greater than the mass of the Moon. Thus the average density of the Moon is only three fifths, and the pull of gravity at the lunar surface only one sixth, that of the Earth. The Moon has no free water and essentially no atmosphere, so there is no weather to change its surface; yet it is not totally inert.

The Moon moves around the Earth at an average distance of 384,403 km (238,857 mi), and at an average speed of 3,700 km/hr (about 2,300 mph). It completes one revolution in an elliptical orbit about the Earth in 27 days, 7 hr, 43 min, 11.5 sec according to sidereal time (that is, by reference to the stars). For the Moon to go from one phase to the next similar phase, a period known as one lunar month, requires 29 days, 12 hr, 44 min, 2.8 sec. The Moon rotates on its axis once in the same period as its sidereal period of revolution, accounting for the fact that the same face of the Moon is always turned towards the Earth. Although the Moon appears bright to the eye, it reflects into space only 7 per cent of the light that falls on it. This reflectivity, or albedo, of 0.07 is similar to that of coal dust.



At any one time, an observer can see only 50 per cent of the Moon’s entire surface. However, from time to time an additional 9 per cent can be seen around the apparent edge because of the relative motion called libration. This is caused by slight differences in the angle of view from the Earth at different relative positions of the Moon along its inclined elliptical orbit. The Moon shows progressively changing phases as it moves along its orbit around the Earth. Half the Moon is always in sunlight, just as half the Earth has day while the other half has night. The phases of the Moon depend on how much of the sunlit half can be seen from the Earth at any one time. In the phase called the new moon, the face is completely in shadow. About a week later, the Moon is at first quarter, resembling a luminous half-circle; another week later, at full moon, the Moon shows its fully lit surface; a week afterwards, at last quarter, the Moon appears as a halfcircle again. The entire cycle is repeated each lunar month. The Moon is full when it is farther away from the Sun than the Earth; it is new when it is closer. When it is more than half-illuminated, it is said to be gibbous. The Moon is said to be waning when it progresses from full to new, and to be waxing as it proceeds again to full.



Temperatures on the Moon’s surface are extreme, ranging from a maximum of 127° C (261° F) at lunar noon to a minimum of -173° C (-279° F) just before lunar dawn. Ancient observers of the Moon believed that the dark regions on its face were oceans, giving rise to the Latin name “mare” (“sea”), which is still used today; the brighter regions were likewise held to be continents. Modern observation and exploration of the Moon have yielded far more comprehensive and specific knowledge. Since the Renaissance, telescopes have revealed a wealth of lunar detail, and lunar spacecraft have contributed further to this knowledge. Features discernible on the surface of the Moon include craters, mountain ranges, plains or maria, faults, domes, rilles, and rays. The largest distinct crater, called Bailly, is about 295 km (183 mi) wide and about 3,960 m (13,000 ft) deep. The largest mare is Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains), about 1,200 km (750 mi) wide. The highest mountains, in the Leibnitz and Doerfel ranges near the south pole of the Moon, have peaks up to

6,100 m (about 20,000 ft) in height, comparable to the Himalaya on Earth. Craters as small as 1.6 km (1 mi) across have been defined in telescopic observations. The origin of lunar craters was long debated; the latest evidence indicates that nearly all of them are impact craters, formed by explosive impacts of high-velocity meteoroids or small asteroids, mostly during the early part of lunar history, when the solar system still contained many such fragments. Some craters, rilles, and domes, however, display characteristics of indisputable volcanic origin.



Before the modern age of space exploration, scientists had three major theories for the origin of the Moon: fission from the Earth; formation in Earth orbit; and formation far from the Earth. Then, in 1975, having studied Moon rocks and close-up pictures of the Moon, scientists proposed what has come to be regarded as the most probable of the theories of formation, planetesimal impact.


Formation by Fission From the Earth

The modern version of this theory proposes that the Moon was spun off from the Earth when the Earth was young and rotating rapidly on its axis. This idea gained support partly because the density of the Moon is the same as that of the rocks of the Earth’s upper mantle, just below the crust. A major difficulty with this theory is that the angular momentum of the Earth, in order to achieve rotational instability, would have to have been much greater than the angular momentum of the present Earth-Moon system. According to basic principles of mechanics, the total amount of angular momentum in an effectively isolated system like the Earth-Moon system remains constant.


Formation in Orbit Near the Earth

This theory proposes that the Earth and Moon, and all other bodies of the solar system, condensed independently out of the huge cloud of cold gases and solid particles that constituted the primordial solar nebula. Much of this material finally collected at the centre to form the Sun.


Formation Far From the Earth

According to this theory, independent formation of the Earth and Moon, as in the previous theory, is assumed; but the Moon is supposed to have formed at a different place in the solar system, far from the Earth. The orbits of the Earth and Moon then, it is surmised, carried them near each other so that the Moon was pulled into permanent orbit about the Earth.


Planetesimal Impact

This theory, first published in 1975, proposes that early in the Earth’s history, well over 4 billion years ago, the Earth was struck by a large body called a planetesimal, about the size of Mars. The catastrophic impact blasted portions of the Earth and the planetesimal into Earth orbit, where debris from the impact eventually coalesced to form the Moon. This theory, after years of research on Moon rocks in the 1970s and 1980s, has become the most widely accepted theory of the Moon’s origin; in the 1990s it has also been supported by simulations run on supercomputers. The major problem with the theory is that it would seem to require that the Earth melted throughout, following the impact, whereas the Earth’s geochemistry does not indicate such a radical melting.



Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, visual exploration through powerful telescopes has yielded a fairly comprehensive picture of the visible side of the Moon. The hitherto unseen far side of the Moon was first revealed to the world in October 1959 through photographs made by the Soviet Lunik III spacecraft. These photographs showed that the far side of the Moon is similar to the near side except that large lunar maria are absent. Craters are now known to cover the entire Moon, ranging in size from huge, ringed maria to those of microscopic size. Photographs from United States spacecraft—Rangers 7, 8, and 9 and Orbiters 1 and 2—in 1964 and 1966 further supported these conclusions. The entire Moon has about 3 million million craters larger than 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. The successful landings of unmanned spacecraft of the American Surveyor series and the Soviet Luna series in the 1960s, and, finally, the manned landings on the lunar surface as part of the US Apollo programme made direct measurement of the physical and chemical properties of the Moon a reality. The Apollo astronauts collected rocks, took thousands of photographs, and set up instruments on the Moon that sent information back to Earth by radio telemetry. These instruments measured temperature and gas pressure at the lunar surface (showing the atmosphere to be so thin that it cannot be reproduced even in the best vacuum chambers on Earth); the heat flow from the Moon’s interior; molecules and ions of hot gases streaming out from the atmosphere of the Sun, called the solar wind (see Radiation Belts); the magnetic and gravitational fields of the Moon; seismic vibrations of the lunar surface caused by so-called moonquakes, landslides, and meteoroid impacts; and, by means of laser beams, the precise distance between the Earth and the Moon. Seismometers operating on the lunar surface have also recorded signals indicating between 70 and 150 meteoroid impacts per year, with masses from 100 g to 1,000 kg (0.22 to 2,200 lb). Hence the Moon is still being bombarded by meteoroids, although not as often as in the past, and this may be a problem for engineers who wish to design permanent bases for the lunar surface. The surface is covered by a layer of rubble, which may be several kilometres deep in the maria and of as yet unknown depth in the highlands. This rubble is believed to have been formed by the impacts of meteoroids.

All six manned landings on the Moon—Apollo missions 11, 12, and 14 to 17—returned samples of rock and soil to Earth, weighing 384 kg (846 lb) in all. It was not until the final mission, Apollo 17, that the astronaut crew included a geologist, Harrison H. Schmitt. He spent 22 hours exploring the Taurus-Littrow Valley region, covering 35 km (22 mi) in a lunar roving vehicle. Intensive analysis of the data and rocks obtained by the lunar missions continues. After an absence of many years, exploration of the Moon continued as a by-product of a mission to Jupiter: the probe Galileo had to make two fly-bys of the Earth-Moon system in order to gain enough momentum to reach Jupiter, and on the first of these, in December 1990, its multi-spectral camera made images of the far side of the Moon at greater resolution than previously achieved, confirming the implications of Apollo 15 findings that a huge impact basin was located at the lunar South Pole—this was named the South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest impact features in the solar system. Clementine, an experimental US satellite, was launched in 1994 and studied the Moon extensively before flying on to the asteroid Geographos. Clementine orbited the Moon for 71 days, imaged the entire Moon over a range of wavelengths, providing the first global colour and albedo maps, iron maps and synoptic geochemical maps of the highlands and maria, as well as high-resolution pictures. In 1998 the NASA satellite Lunar Prospector was launched, with a mission to map the entire surface at the highest resolution yet.



It is now known, from measuring the ages of lunar rocks, that the Moon is about 4.6 billion years old, or about the same age as the Earth and probably as the rest of the solar system. The primordial lunar highland crust was composed of a plutonic igneous rock called anorthosite, which consists almost entirely of the mineral plagioclase (a variety of feldspar). This ancient skin was heavily bombarded by planetesimals and brecciated (broken down and re-formed into a coarsegrained rock by heat or pressure), the anorthosite and other primitive rocks now existing in the upper part of the crust as clasts in the ubiquitous lunar breccias. Other rock types found as clasts include the plutonic rocks norite and gabbro. The outermost layer comprises the regolith, a finegrained fragmental layer constantly churned up by micrometeorite bombardment. see Geology; Igneous Rock. The most important geological event after the formation of the calcium- and aluminium-rich primordial crust was the massive bombardment by planetesimals. The largest of these were of asteroidal dimensions and excavated vast impact basins with which are associated very extensive blankets of ejecta. Mapping of the Moon from images returned by space missions has allowed geologists to build a picture of lunar stratigraphy based on the sequence of basin formation, beginning with Nectaris and ending with Orientale, the best preserved and youngest of the major basins. The Galileo and Clementine missions confirmed the existence of a number of ancient nearpole basins, including the vast South Pole-Aitken Basin. This huge depression measures 2,500 km (1,550 mi) across and 13 km (8 mi) deep, and is the oldest discernible large impact structure. Basin excavation resulted in the widespread distribution of a variety of crustal rock types, the

largest basins excavating rocks from the greatest depths. Some ejecta analysed by Clementine from the South Pole-Aitken Basin is unusually rich in olivine and may represent material from the uppermost mantle layer. A short hiatus followed bombardment, whereupon there was uprise of basaltic magma into most of the near-side basins, giving rise to the lunar maria. The basalt samples dated by the Apollo missions using radiometric dating gave ages of between 3.16 and 3.96 billion years for these events. They resemble terrestrial basalts, a widely distributed volcanic rock type on Earth, but differ by lacking water and containing metallic iron. The morphology and extent of flows within the maria indicate very rapid effusion of low-viscosity lavas, at high temperatures. Spectral classification of lavas from Earth-based study provided the first low-resolution mineralogical map of the Moon but this has now been superseded by the results returned from Clementine. It revealed differences in both the highland crust and the mare between the near and far sides, confirming that the mare lavas on the western limb and far side are remarkably uniform and are medium- to medium-high titanium-rich types, which contrasts with those of the eastern limb and near side. It also confirmed that the lunar far side is deficient in titanium, iron, and thorium and has lower magnesium/aluminium ratios than the near side. The Moon’s magnetic field is not as strong or extensive as that of the Earth. Some lunar rocks are weakly magnetic, indicating that they solidified in a somewhat stronger magnetic field. In 1998 the Lunar Prospector orbiter detected localized magnetic fields, each producing its own magnetosphere, centred on points of the crust on the opposite side of the moon from major impact sites. Magnetic and other measurements indicate an internal temperature of the Moon that is as high as 1,600° C (2,912° F), which is above the melting point of most lunar rocks. Evidence from seismic recordings suggests that some regions near the lunar centre may be liquid. An area of 30,000 sq km (11,500 sq mi) within 5° of the South Pole has been observed to remain in shadow during a full lunar rotation. It has been suggested that this “cold trap” could have been a sink for water molecules implanted on the Moon by impacting comets. That ice may exist in this region was supported by a small increase in the echo strength of radio waves beamed into the region by Clementine while orbiting the Moon. These results were disputed by others from groundbased observations, however, and resolving the question is one of the primary tasks of the Lunar Prospector mission. In March 1998 NASA announced that Lunar Prosepctor had detected quantities of hydrogen in the top layer of regolith near both poles consistent with between 10 million and 300 million tonnes of water ice; further measurements by Lunar Prospector caused this latter figure to be revised upwards to 3 billion tonnes in September 1998. Others suggested, however, that the hydrogen might be accounted for by factors other than ice.

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon, full moon at harvest time in the North Temperate Zone, or more exactly, the full moon occurring just before the autumnal equinox on about September 23. During this season the Moon rises at a point opposite to the Sun, or nearly due east. Moreover, the Moon rises only a few minutes later each night, affording on several successive evenings an attractive moonrise close to sunset time and strong moonlight almost all night if the sky is not clouded. The continuance of the moonlight after sunset is useful to farmers in northern latitudes, who are then harvesting their crops. The full moon following the harvest moon, which exhibits the same phenomena in a lesser degree, is called the hunter's moon. A phenomenon similar to the harvest moon is observed in southern latitudes at the spring equinox on about March 21.

Feldspar, large group of minerals composed of aluminosilicates of potassium, sodium, calcium, or occasionally barium. They occur as single or masses of crystals, and form an important constituent of many igneous and metamorphic rocks, including granite, gneiss, basalt, and other crystalline rocks. Feldspars are the most abundant of all minerals and account for nearly half of the volume of the Earth's crust. Although the feldspar minerals may belong to either the monoclinic or triclinic systems, they nevertheless resemble each other in crystal habit, methods of twining, and especially by having cleavage surfaces inclined to each other at an angle of nearly 90°. They have a hardness of 6 to 6.5 and a relative density ranging from 2.5 to 2.8. Feldspars have vitreous lustre and vary in colour from white or colourless to various shades of pink, yellow, green, and red. All the feldspars weather readily to form a type of clay known as kaolin. Orthoclase, a monoclinic feldspar with the formula KAlSi3O8, is one of the most common of all minerals. It is often white, grey, or flesh-red in colour and sometimes occurs as colourless crystals. Orthoclase is used extensively in the manufacture of porcelain and glass. Adularia is a colourless, translucent to transparent variety of orthoclase. Microcline, which crystallizes in the triclinic system, is identical with orthoclase in chemical composition and virtually identical in physical properties. It occurs occasionally in the form of enormous single crystals. The industrial uses of microcline are similar to those of orthoclase. A green variety of microcline, amazon stone, is valued as a gemstone when highly polished. The plagioclase feldspars comprise an isomorphous series (have the same crystal structure) of triclinic mineral ranging from pure sodium aluminosilicate to pure calcium aluminosilicate. Pure sodium aluminosilicate is called albite, and oligoclase, andesine, labradorite, bytownite, and anorthite are minerals with increasing percentages of calcium. Anorthite is pure calcium aluminosilicate with the formula CaAl2Si2O8.

The plagioclase feldspars are of lesser commercial importance than orthoclase and microcline. They sometimes show an attractive play of

colours and are polished as semi-precious stones. Opalescent albite and iridescent labradorite are called moonstones. Oligoclase with included impurities that cause a sparkling effect is called sunstone.

Pearl (gem), lustrous concretion produced by certain bivalve molluscs and valued as a gem. Pearls consist almost entirely of nacre, which is the substance forming the inner layers of the mollusc shells. Nacre, known also as mother-of-pearl, is composed primarily of crystals of aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate). The pearl is an abnormal growth resulting from the invasion of the body of the mollusc by a minute particle of foreign matter, such as a fine grain of sand. The particle acts as an irritant in the mollusc and becomes coated with layer upon layer of nacreous material. Both marine and freshwater molluscs produce pearls, but the most valuable varieties originate in the pearl oyster of the Persian Gulf. The most highly prized pearls are spherical. When a pearl that has been cut from the shell presents a hemispherical surface, it is sometimes called a bouton pearl. If a solid pearl has an irregular shape, having grown over a rough object, it is known as a baroque pearl. In the jewellery trade, pearls are commonly known as pear, bell, or drop, according to the shape. Pearl coloration varies widely, the most prized shades being white, black, rose, and cream. One of the important marine-pearl fisheries on the North American continent is off Baja California, Mexico, being centred on La Paz. Other fisheries are located in the Gulf of Panama, in the West Indies and the islands of the South Pacific, and along the coasts of India, the Persian Gulf, Japan, Mexico, and western Central America, especially in the Pearl Islands, near the coast of Nicaragua. In Australian waters pearls are fished for on the coast of Western Australia and of Queensland and in Torres Strait. River pearls are produced by freshwater mussels in various parts of the world. China is the principal trader in river pearls. Natural, spherical pearls have been cultured successfully since 1920. In this process a mother-ofpearl bead, from three-quarters to nine-tenths of the diameter of the desired product, is introduced into the pearl oyster. Over a period of years the oyster deposits layers of nacre around the bead. Cultured pearls are not easily distinguished from genuine pearls except by an expert. The technique of producing spherical cultured pearls was developed in Japan, and the culturing of pearls is a major Japanese industry. Artificial pearls, in contrast to cultured pearls, are entirely artificial, made largely of glass.




Mars (planet), planet named after the Roman god of war, the fourth from the Sun and the third in order of increasing mass. Mars has two small, heavily cratered satellites, or moons, Phobos and Deimos, which some astronomers consider to be asteroid-like objects captured by the planet very early in its history. Phobos is about 21 km (13 mi) across; Deimos, only about 12 km (7ψ mi).



When viewed without a telescope, Mars is a reddish object whose brightness depends on its distance from the Earth. At its closest (55 million km/34 million mi), Mars is, after Venus, the brightest object in the night sky. Mars is best observed when it is both at opposition (directly opposite the Sun in the sky) and at its closest to Earth. Such favourable circumstances repeat about every 15 years when the planet comes to perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) almost exactly at opposition. Through a telescope Mars can be seen to have bright orange regions and darker, less red areas, the outlines and tones of which change with Martian seasons. (Because of the 25° tilt of its axis and the eccentricity of its orbit, Mars has short, relatively warm southern summers and long, relatively cold southern winters.) The reddish colour of the planet results from its heavily oxidized, or rusted, surface. The dark areas are thought to consist of rocks similar to terrestrial basalts, the surfaces of which have been weathered and oxidized. The brighter areas seem to consist of similar but even more weathered and oxidized material and apparently contain more fine, dust-sized particles than do the dark regions. The mineral scapolite, relatively rare on Earth, seems widespread; it may serve as a store for carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Conspicuous bright caps, composed of frozen CO2 and water frost and ice, mark the planet’s polar regions. Their seasonal cycle has been followed for more than two centuries. Each Martian autumn, bright clouds form over the appropriate pole. Below this so-called polar hood, a thin cap of carbon dioxide frost is deposited during the autumn and winter. By late winter, the cap may extend down to latitudes of 45°. By the spring, and the end of the long polar night, the polar hood dissipates, revealing the winter frost cap; the cap’s boundary then gradually recedes polewards as sunlight evaporates the accumulated frost. By midsummer the steady recession of the annual cap stops, and a bright deposit of frost and ice survives until the following autumn. These remnant polar caps are believed to consist mostly of frozen water. They are about 300 km (185 mi) wide at the south pole and 1,000 km (620 mi) wide in the north. Although their true thickness is not known, they must contain ice and frozen gases to a thickness of possibly 2 km (1 mi). In addition to the polar hoods—thought to consist largely of frozen CO2—other clouds are common on the planet. High-altitude hazes and localized water-ice clouds are observed. The latter result

from the cooling associated with air masses rising over elevated obstacles. Extensive yellow clouds, consisting of dust lifted by Martian winds, are especially prominent during southern summers.



Our most detailed knowledge of Mars until recent years had come from investigations by six US spacecraft between 1964 and 1976. The first spacecraft views of the planet were obtained in 1965 when Mariner 4 flew past Mars and revealed the presence of craters on its surface, and further information was gained in 1969 from the fly-by missions of Mariners 6 and 7. Then, in 1971, Mariner 9 went into orbit around Mars. It studied the planet for almost a year, giving scientists their first comprehensive global view of Mars and the first detailed images of its satellites, Phobos and Deimos. In 1976 two Viking landers touched down successfully on Mars and carried out the first direct investigations of the atmosphere and surface. The second Viking lander ceased operating in April 1980; the first in November 1982. The Viking mission also included two orbiters that studied the planet for almost two full Martian years (from 1976 to 1980). In 1988 the Soviet Union sent two probes to land on Phobos; both missions failed, although one relayed back some data and photographs before being lost to radio contact. In the mid-1990s a new exploratory effort began, with pairs of spacecraft being sent to the planet every two years (to coincide with each Mars opposition). The US Mars Observer probe, launched in 1994, failed during 1995 just as it was entering Mars orbit, as did the Russian Mars-96 mission, which did not even achieve a successful Earth orbit. On July 4, 1997, Mars Pathfinder, comprising a 895 kg (1,973 lb) lander and a 10 kg (22 lb) rover (called Sojourner), successfully put down in Ares Vallis, a site carefully selected at the mouth of a major outflow channel system in Chryse Planitia, to allow the sampling and imaging of wind-drifted fines and solid rocks of variable provenance. Multi-spectral cameras identified several different rock types and variable degrees of weathering. An alpha-proton spectrometer aboard Sojourner obtained chemical analyses of selected boulders, as a result of which andesitic lavas were recorded for the first time. Sedimentary rocks containing pebbles were also found. Some drifted material was finer than talcum powder, and several boulders had become coated by this strongly oxidized, windblown dust that appears to be derived from the breakdown of basaltic bedrock. No organic or meteoritic matter was detected. The American Mars exploration programme suffered setbacks at the end of 1999 with the loss of two NASA spacecraft—the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander. However, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), launched in 1996, went into orbit and began a detailed topographic mapping of the planet on April 1, 1999, using a laser altimeter that enables measurements to be made to an accuracy of 2 m (6 ft). A map released by NASA in late May 1999 revealed that the northern hemisphere is about 5 km (3 mi) lower in altitude than the south, indicating that the northern regions may have held any oceans that existed on Mars in the past. Further support was given to the ocean theory by the profile of the Martian crust produced by the MGS, which revealed 200-km (125-mi) wide subterranean channels that would once have been surface features. The

three-dimensional mapping also showed that the distance between the highest and lowest points on Mars is one-and-a-half times as great as that between Mount Everest and the deepest ocean trench on Earth, and that the thickness of the crust is about 80 km (50 mi) beneath the southern highlands and Tharsis ridge, compared to about 35 km (22 mi) beneath the northern lowlands and Arabia Terra. In April 2001 another probe, Mars Odyssey, was launched. It was scheduled to reach the planet in October 2001



The Martian atmosphere consists largely of carbon dioxide (95 per cent), with smaller quantities of nitrogen (2.7 per cent), argon (1.6 per cent), and oxygen (0.2 per cent), and trace amounts of water vapour, carbon monoxide, and noble gases. The atmospheric pressure at the surface of Mars fluctuates by about 30 per cent owing to the seasonal freezing and evaporation of CO2 at the poles; the average is about 0.6 per cent of that on Earth and equal to the pressure at a height of 35 km (22 mi) in the Earth’s atmosphere. Surface temperatures vary greatly with time of day, season, and latitude. Maximum summer temperatures may reach 17° C (63° F), but average daily temperatures at the surface do not exceed -33° C (-27° F). Owing to the thinness of the atmosphere, daily temperature variations of 100° C (180° F) are common. Poleward of about 50° latitude, temperatures remain cold enough (less than -123° C/-189° F) throughout the winter for some of the atmosphere’s CO2 to freeze out into the white deposits that make up much of the polar caps. The amount of water vapour present in the Martian atmosphere is extremely small and variable. The concentration is greatest near the edges of the receding polar caps in spring. Mars is like a very cold, high-altitude desert. Surface temperatures and pressures are too low for water to exist in the liquid state in most places on the planet. It has been suggested, however, that some liquid water may be present just below the surface. At certain seasons, some areas on Mars are subject to winds strong enough to move sand on the surface and to suspend dust in the atmosphere. In the southern hemisphere between late spring and early summer, when Mars is near perihelion and the heating of southern near-equatorial latitudes is most intense, dust storms begin to form and may reach global proportions, obscuring the planet’s surface for weeks or even months. The dust entrained in these clouds is very fine and takes a long time to settle.



In terms of geodesy, the shape of Mars is non-spherical: there is a major bulge in the geoid over the volcanic region of Tharsis, and a smaller one on the opposite side of the planet, over Elysium. Beneath Tharsis isostatic compensation (thickening of the crust below ground as well as above, to support the mass of mountainous regions) is incomplete at shallow depths, indicating that the

bulge must in part be supported dynamically. Much controversy surrounds its development. There is a strong likelihood that Tharsis developed over a region of thin lithosphere (the outer rock layer of the planet), allowing long-lived constructional volcanism. The Martian surface can be divided into two provinces by a great circle inclined at about 30° to the equator. The southern two thirds of the planet consists of ancient cratered terrain dating from the planet’s earliest history, when Mars and the other planets were subjected to intense meteoroidal bombardment. Considerable erosion and filling of even the largest craters have occurred since then. The northern third of Mars has a much less cratered, and hence younger, surface, believed to be underlain largely by volcanic flows. Two major centres of past volcanic activity have been identified: the Elysium plateau and the Tharsis ridge. Some of the solar system’s largest volcanoes occur in Tharsis. Olympus Mons, a structure showing all the characteristics of a basaltic shield volcano, reaches an elevation of more than 21.3 km (13 mi) and measures more than 600 km (370 mi) across its base. No definite evidence exists of current volcanic activity anywhere on the planet. Faults and other features suggestive of crustal extension are widespread on Mars. The most spectacular feature is the equatorial canyon network, Valles Marineris, which runs eastward from the crest of the Tharsis ridge for some 4,000 km (2,500 mi), ending in a region of collapsed chaotic terrain at 15° south, 40° west. In places the canyon system is 600 km (370 mi) wide and 7 km (4ψ mi) deep. The rectilinear pattern of its side canyons and details of its canyon walls indicate that it developed largely in response to tectonic forces associated with the Tharsis ridge. On the other hand, no features resulting from large-scale compression have been found. Specifically, folded mountain belts, so common on Earth, are lacking, apparently indicating an absence of plate tectonics. However, some scientists have suggested that during the early history of the planet some lateral crustal movements may have taken place. This suggests, in turn, that Mars may have developed a thicker lithosphere and may have had a thermal history rather different from that of the Earth. In 1999 magnetic observations made by Mars Global Surveyor unexpectedly strengthened the case for plate tectonics in Mars's early history. They showed long strips of rock with alternating magnetic polarities, similar to the pattern found on Earth's sea floors on either side of mid-ocean ridges where new crust is slowly forming and spreading apart. This seems to indicate that at some point in its past Mars's interior was hot enough both to produce a global magnetic field (which regularly switched direction, as the Earth's does) and to drive plate tectonics. Evidence of subsurface water ice prevails, especially in the form of petal-shaped ejecta blankets around some craters, vast areas of collapsed chaotic terrain, and so-called patterned ground at high northern latitudes. Among the more spectacular geological discoveries have been the huge volcanoes of Tharsis, the equatorial canyon system, and numerous channels that superficially resemble the valleys of dried-up rivers. Two major types of channels are known. Large outflow

channels may have been formed by the sudden catastrophic release of vast amounts of liquid water from areas of collapsed chaotic terrain. Most of these channels drain from the higher southern hemisphere to the generally lower northern hemisphere. The cause of the localized melting of the ground ice in the source areas remains uncertain, but these features probably date from the first third of the planet’s 4.6-billion-year history. In addition to the large outflow channels, there are numerous small channel-like features, which appear to pre-date the outflow channels; erosion by liquid water is likely to be the cause of these, too, though the evidence is less compelling. Because liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars today, the channels have been singled out as proof that the planet had higher pressures and warmer temperatures in the past. In the northern plains, there is considerable evidence for former strand lines and other shoreline landforms, which implies that shallow “palaeolakes” once covered a large part of this area. Today, however, Mars is a windblown desert. Vast expanses of sand dunes encircle the polar regions, and at much lower latitudes other wind-formed erosional features abound, all attesting to the efficacy of both depositional and erosional wind processes in the current Mars environment. Little is known about the interior of Mars. The planet’s relatively low mean density indicates that it cannot have an extensive metallic core. Furthermore, any core that may be present is probably not fluid, because Mars does not have a measurable magnetic field. Judging from its ability to support such massive topological features as the Tharsis ridge, the crust of Mars may be as thick as 200 km (125 mi)—five or six times as thick as the Earth’s crust. A seismometer on board the Viking 2 lander failed to detect any definite “Marsquakes”.



The idea that life could, or even does, exist on Mars has a long history. In 1877 the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to have seen a planet-wide system of channels (Italian

canali). The American astronomer Percival Lowell then popularized these faint lines as canals and
held them out as proof of a vast attempt by intelligent beings to irrigate an arid planet. Subsequent spacecraft observations have shown that there are no canals on Mars, and various other alleged proofs of life on the planet have turned out to be equally illusory. The dark areas once thought to be oases are not green, as contrast effects had made them seem to terrestrial observers, and their spectra contain no evidence of organic materials. The seasonal changes in the appearance of these areas are not due to any vegetative cycle, but to seasonal Martian winds blowing sterile sand and dust. Water probably occurs only as ice on and below the surface and as trace amounts of vapour or ice crystals in the Martian atmosphere. The strongest evidence against the presence of life, however, is the thinness of the atmosphere and the fact that the surface of the planet is exposed not only to lethal doses of solar ultraviolet radiation but also to the chemical effects of highly oxidizing substances (such as hydrogen peroxide) produced by photochemistry.

Perhaps the most fundamental and far-reaching result obtained by the Viking landers is that the Martian soil contains no organic material (there is no reason to assume that the two landing sites are not representative of the planet as a whole). Although small amounts of organic molecules are continually being supplied to the surface of Mars by carbonaceous meteoroids, this material is apparently destroyed before it has a chance to accumulate. The results of the soil analysis for organic molecules carried out by the Viking landers provide no evidence for the existence of life. A more difficult question is whether life has ever existed on Mars, given the strong evidence of climatic change and the indications of a previously warmer, thicker atmosphere. Suggestions that structures found in a meteorite discovered in Antarctica, which may have been blasted off the Martian surface, were fossil traces of bacteria-like organisms have since been discounted. However, answering the question of life on Mars will probably involve collecting carefully selected subsurface samples and returning them to Earth for detailed analysis. NASA has proposed a manned expedition to Mars early in the 21st century.

Mars (mythology)
Mars (mythology), in Roman mythology, god of war. One of the most important Roman deities, Mars was regarded as the father of the Roman people because he was the father of Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome. Although his original nature and functions are obscure, Mars was identified by the Romans with the Greek god of war, Ares. The month of March was named after him. To commemorate his victory over the assassins of Julius Caesar in 42

, the emperor

Augustus honoured Mars with the cult title “Ultor” (Avenger) and a new temple.

Mercury (planet), the planet closest to the Sun. Its mean distance from the Sun is approximately 58 million km (36 million mi); its diameter is 4,875 km (3,030 mi); its volume and mass are about ξ that of the Earth; and its mean density is approximately equal to that of the Earth. Mercury revolves about the Sun in a period of 88 days. Radar observations of the planet show that its period of rotation is 58.7 days, or two thirds of its period of revolution. The planet, therefore, rotates one and a half times during each revolution. Because its surface consists of rough, porous, dark-coloured rock, Mercury is a poor reflector of sunlight. Spectroscopic studies indicate that only an extremely thin atmosphere, containing sodium and potassium, exists on Mercury, its atoms apparently diffusing from the crust of the planet. Collisions with other newly forming planets early in the history of the solar system may have stripped away lighter materials, thereby accounting for Mercury’s relatively high density. The force of gravity on the planet’s surface is about one third of that on the Earth’s surface.

Mercury is particularly dense for its size, and has a large iron core that extends to three quarters of its radius. It has a weak magnetic field, which suggests that a part of this core may still be liquid. The apparent absence of a thick mantle has prompted the suggestion that, early in its history, the planet suffered a major impact or impacts, which blasted away most of the mantle layer. The Mariner 10 spacecraft passed Mercury twice in 1974 and once in 1975. It sent back pictures of only 45 per cent of the surface, revealing this to be a Moon-like, crater-pocked surface and reported temperatures to be about 430° C (810° F) on the sunlit side and about -180° C (-290° F) on the dark side. Mariner 10 also detected a magnetic field with a strength of 1 per cent of the Earth’s. The surface of Mercury, unlike that of the Earth’s Moon, is criss-crossed by long escarpments, dating perhaps from the period of contraction that the planet experienced as it cooled, early in its history. The heavily cratered surface appears at first glance like the highlands of the Moon, and certainly indicates early bombardment by asteroidal bodies. There is also one massive impact crater, the Caloris Basin, which is 1,300 km (800 mi) in diameter. This has several rings and a floor partially covered by smooth lava-like material. At the antipode of Caloris is a peculiar region of hilly terrain. Tolstoy is a smaller basin. With the exception of Caloris, all the charted craters of Mercury have been named after artists, in every discipline, while the escarpments have been named after famous ships of exploration. The plains found on the floor of Caloris and similar ones located between the craters, termed intercrater plains, have sparked much controversy. Such units account for about 15 per cent of the area imaged by Mariner, and are the youngest on the planet. Some believe them to be ejecta material from impacts, but others prefer to theorize a volcanic origin. Certainly, on some highresolution images, steep-sided cone-like landforms and domes, together with lobate scarps akin to lava-flow edges, may be seen. This would indicate a volcanic origin and imply a global phase of flood volcanism shortly after the craters had been formed. In 1991 powerful radio telescopes on Earth revealed signs of vast sheets of ice in Mercury’s polar regions, areas that had not been covered by Mariner 10. Mercury’s perihelion (the point in the orbit closest to the Sun) advances at a slow rate. A full explanation of this motion was one of the first achievements of the theory of relativity.


Jupiter (planet), fifth planet from the Sun, and the largest in the solar system. Named after the ruler of the gods in Roman mythology, Jupiter has 1,400 times the volume of the Earth, but is only 318 times as massive. The mean density of Jupiter is therefore only about one quarter that of the Earth, indicating that the giant planet must consist of gas rather than the metals and rocks of which the Earth and the other inner planets are composed. Orbiting the Sun at a mean distance 5.2 times as great as that of Earth, Jupiter makes a complete revolution in 11.9 years. It takes only 9.9 hours to rotate once on its axis. This rapid rotation causes an equatorial bulge that is apparent even in telescopic views of the planet. The rotation is not uniform. The banded appearance of Jupiter’s belts is due to the presence of strong atmospheric currents, reflecting the different rotation periods at different latitudes. These belts are made more apparent by the pastel colours of the clouds. These colours are also apparent in the famous brownish-red oval called the Great Red Spot. The colours come from traces of compounds formed by ultraviolet light, lightning discharges, and heat. Some of these compounds may be similar to the organic molecules that formed on the ancient Earth as a prelude to the origin of life (see Exobiology).



Scientific knowledge of Jupiter and its satellites increased enormously in 1979 with the successful fly-bys of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft launched by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Spectroscopic observations from Earth had shown that most of Jupiter’s atmosphere is molecular hydrogen, H2. Infrared studies from the Voyager spacecraft confirmed this, indicating that 87 per cent of the molecules are H2, with helium, He, constituting most of the remaining 13 per cent. Because the helium molecule has about twice the mass of the hydrogen molecule, these figures indicated that the mass of helium present is about a quarter of the total mass. The interior of the planet must have essentially the same composition as the atmosphere in order to yield the observed low density. Apparently, then, this huge world consists mostly of the two lightest and most abundant elements in the universe, a composition similar to that of the Sun and other stars. Jupiter may therefore represent a direct condensation of a portion of the primordial solar nebula—the great cloud of interstellar gas and dust from which the entire solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Scientists also collected a large amount of information about Jupiter when fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into the planet in July 1994. The collisions stirred up the planet’s atmosphere, heating interior gases to incandescence and bringing them to the surface. Astronomers captured detailed images of these gases with telescopes on Earth and in space. They used spectroscopes to analyse the gases in order to verify and expand their knowledge of the composition of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Still more knowledge was gained from the entry into Jupiter’s atmosphere of an entry probe that was part of the Galileo unmanned mission to the planet. In December 1995 Galileo went into orbit

around Jupiter after a circuitous six-year flight during which it had flown once past Venus and twice past the Earth, using a gravity assist on each occasion to boost it on its way. Also in December 1995 the entry probe separated from the main craft and entered the atmosphere, deploying parachutes to slow it down. For an hour it transmitted data to the mother craft orbiting above, as it descended to approximately 160 km (100 mi) below the visible cloud-tops before being crushed by the atmospheric pressure. The data were relayed to Earth over a period of months from the orbiter, which continued its investigation of the Jovian system. Jupiter radiates about twice as much energy as it receives from the Sun. The source of this energy is apparently a very slow gravitational contraction of the entire planet. This is the way in which stars form. However, Jupiter would need to be almost 100 times as massive to produce a temperature at its centre high enough to release nuclear energy in reactions like those that power the Sun and other stars. In Jupiter’s turbulent, cloud-filled atmosphere, hydrogen-based molecules, such as methane, ammonia, and water, predominate. Periodic temperature fluctuations in the upper atmosphere reveal a pattern of changing winds like that in the equatorial region of the Earth’s stratosphere. Photographs showing sequential changes in Jovian clouds suggest the birth and decay of giant cyclonic storm systems. New understanding has been gained from meteorological data obtained from the Galileo spacecraft. Planetary physicists had expected Jupiter’s composition to be very similar to that of the primordial gas cloud from which the solar system formed—a composition that survives in today’s Sun. After initial uncertainty, the proportion of helium was confirmed to be about 24 per cent, close to the amount in the Sun. Proportions of heavier elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur, are rather greater than in the Sun, probably because they have been increased by billions of years of bombardment by meteoroids and comets. However, the scientists were surprised to find that significantly less water vapour was detected than they had expected. According to one theory, the “missing” water is locked in Jupiter’s rocky core. According to another, water vapour is not distributed evenly through the outer atmosphere, and the Galileo entry probe happened to penetrate a “desert” region. The entry probe reported winds of over 650 km/h (400 mph) during its descent. However, it established that anticyclonic and other weather systems appeared to rotate more slowly between jet streams, much like those found in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. In the anticyclonic system studied by the probe, upwelling movements in the centre of the feature are thought to bring ammonia to the top of the atmosphere, where it freezes; it then descends towards the periphery of the system, again entering into the gaseous state. This suggested that the winds seen at the top of the atmosphere are not driven by solar heating of a shallow layer, but rather are part of a system of atmospheric motions that extends deep into the Jupiter’s interior and is driven mainly by the planet’s internal heat.

Ammonia freezes in the low temperature of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere (-125° C/-193° F), forming the white cirrus clouds seen in many photographs of the planet transmitted by the Voyager spacecraft. At lower levels, ammonium hydrosulphide can condense. Coloured by other compounds, clouds of this substance may contribute to the widespread tawny clouds of the planet. The temperature at the tops of these clouds is about -50° C (-58° F), and the atmospheric pressure there is about twice the sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth. Through holes in this cloud layer, radiation escapes from a region where the temperature reaches 17° C (63° F). Still deeper, warmer layers have been detected by radio telescopes, which are sensitive to cloudpenetrating radiation. Although only the barest skin of the planet is directly visible, calculations show that the temperature and pressure continue to increase towards the interior. The pressure reaches values at which hydrogen first liquefies and then assumes a metallic, highly electrically conducting state. A solid core, including iron and silicates, may exist at the centre. Jupiter possesses a magnetic field, which is generated deep within these layers. At the top of the atmosphere, this is 14 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. Its polarity is the opposite to that of the Earth’s field, so a terrestrial compass taken to Jupiter would point south. The Jovian magnetic field is responsible for huge radiation belts of trapped charged particles that encircle the planet out to a distance of 10 million km (6 million mi).



Twenty-eight satellites of Jupiter have so far been discovered. The four largest were first observed in 1610 by Galileo. They were subsequently named after mythological lovers of the god Jupiter (or Zeus in the Greek pantheon): Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. This tradition has been followed in the naming of the other satellites. Recent measurements have shown that the mean density of the largest satellites follows the trend apparent in the solar system itself. Io and Europa, close to Jupiter, are dense and rocky like the inner planets, while Ganymede and Callisto, at greater distances, are composed largely of water ice and have lower densities. During the formation of both planets and satellites, proximity to the central body (the Sun or Jupiter) evidently prevented the more volatile substances from condensing. Callisto is almost as big as Mercury, and Ganymede is bigger than Mercury, being the largest satellite in the solar system. If they orbited the Sun as independent bodies, they would be considered planets. The icy crust of these two bodies is marked by numerous impact craters, the record of an early bombardment, probably by comet nuclei, similar to the asteroidal battering that scarred the Earth’s Moon and other inner solar-system bodies. Callisto is the most heavily cratered of the Galilean satellites, suggesting that its surface is the oldest. In 1997 the Galileo spacecraft discovered that it has a tenuous atmosphere of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and in 1998 the discovery of a variable magnetic field suggested the possible presence of an ocean of salty water beneath its crust, similar to that of Europa (see below).

The Galileo spacecraft also detected a magnetic field associated with Ganymede suggesting that it must have generated enough internal heat to maintain a partially molten interior. It appears to have a metallic core 400 to 1,280 km (250 to 800 mi) in diameter surrounded by a mantle of ice and silicates, and a thick water-ice crust. The surface is a mixture of two terrain types: 40 per cent of the satellite is covered by highly cratered dark regions that appear to be old, while the remaining 60 per cent is covered by younger, light, grooved terrain probably formed by tensional fracturing or the release of water from below. The large craters on Ganymede have no relief, probably due to their gradual adjustment into the soft icy surface; they are called “palimpsests”. Ganymede has evidently had a complex geological history. Europa is the smallest of the Galilean satellites and has an extremely smooth surface with a reflectance that is five times that of our Moon. It too has two types of terrain: mottled, brown or grey hilly units, and large smooth plains criss-crossed with cracks. The patterns made by the latter are similar to those seen in terrestrial polar sea ice, and Galileo images reveal a huge number of what appear to be ice rafts that have moved relative to one another, evidently over a mobile layer beneath. Data from Galileo’s magnetometer indicate the strong possibility that below the ice there is a water ocean generated by internal warming driven by constant tidal distortions. There is a possibility that life could have developed in this ocean. After the end of the Galileo orbiter’s primary mission in December 1997, NASA decided to make Europa the focus of an extended mission, the Galileo Europa Mission (GEM), a two-year project including eight further fly-bys of the satellite. The most remarkable of the Galilean satellites is unquestionably Io. Its surface has a bizarre appearance: yellowish, brown, and white areas dotted with black features. Io is racked by volcanism that is driven by the dissipation of tidal energy in the satellite’s interior. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) issues from the vents and condenses on the surface, forming a local, transient atmosphere. The white regions are solid sulphur dioxide; the other markings are presumably caused by other sulphur compounds. Ten volcanoes were observed to be erupting during the Voyager fly-bys in 1979. Galileo images show that many further eruptions have taken place. In particular, the prominent volcano Prometheus, first imaged by Voyager in 1979, had by 1997 developed an eruption plume emanating from a point 75 to 95 km (45 to 60 mi) west of the original hot spot, while a new dark lava flow had emerged from its vent. Scientists have speculated that the plume is fed by vaporized sulphur-dioxide-rich snow under the lava flow. Comparison of Voyager and Galileo maps of Io reveal several other new plumes and considerable changes to those observed in 1979. Measurements of Loki, the most powerful of Io’s volcanoes, indicated that it was putting out more heat than all the Earth’s active volcanoes combined. Other Galileo images show mountains 16 km (52,000 ft) high—nearly twice the height of Mount Everest. The remaining moons are very much smaller and not as well studied as the four Galilean satellites. Four lie within the orbit of the Galilean satellites, and their diameters range in size from 20 km/12.5 mi (Adrastea) to 189 km/117 mi (Amalthea). In order of increasing distance from Jupiter they are: Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebe. The remaining 20 satellites, beyond the Galilean satellites, are concentrated in two groups and may represent captured bodies. They range in diameter from 3 km/2 mi (Leda) to 186 km/116 mi (Himalia). The largest are, in order of

increasing distance from Jupiter: Leda, Himalia, Lysithea, Elara, Ananke, Carme, Pasiphae, and Sinope. Close to Jupiter, the Voyager spacecraft discovered a faint system of rings, comprising a main ring and an outer, “gossamer” ring, itself made up of inner and outer rings orbiting separately. The material in these rings must be continuously renewed, since the rings are visibly moving in towards the planet. In 1998 scientists studying images from the Galileo spacecraft confirmed that the rings consist of dust produced by collisions of cosmic material with the inner satellites. The gossamer rings are made up of material from Amalthea and Thebe, while the material in the main ring comes from Metis and Adrastea. There is also a halo, made up of dust pulled from the outer rings by Jupiter’s powerful electromagnetic field.

Venus (planet), the second planet from the Sun. Except for the Sun and the Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky. The planet is called the morning star when it appears in the east at sunrise, and the evening star when it is in the west at sunset. In ancient times the evening star was called Hesperus and the morning star Phosphorus or Lucifer. Because of the distances of the orbits of Venus and the Earth from the Sun, Venus is never visible more than three hours before sunrise or three hours after sunset.

When viewed through a telescope, the planet exhibits phases like the Moon. Full Venus appears the smallest because it is on the far side of the Sun from Earth. Maximum brilliance (a stellar magnitude of -4.4, or 15 times the brightness of the brightest star) is seen in the crescent phase. The phases and positions of Venus in the sky repeat with the synodic period of 1.6 years. Transitsacross the face of the Sun are rare, occurring in pairs at intervals of a little more than a century. The next two will be in 2004 and 2012.



Venus’s complete cloud cover and deep atmosphere make it difficult to study from the Earth, and most knowledge of the planet has been obtained through the use of space vehicles, particularly those carrying probes that descend through the atmosphere. The first flyby was that of Mariner 2, launched by the United States in 1962, followed by Mariner 5 in 1967 and Mariner 10 in 1974. The Soviet Union developed several entry probes, some combined with flyby craft or orbiters: Venera 4 and 5 (1967), 6 (1969), 7 (1970), 8 (1972), 9 and 10 (1975), 11 and 12 (1978), 13 and 14 (1981), and 15 and 16 (1983); Vega 1 and 2, sent towards Halley’s comet in 1984, also flew by Venus and released descent capsules. Several of these probes successfully reached the planet’s surface; the Venera landers operated for about an hour, returning information, including photographs of the surface, before being crushed by the huge atmospheric pressure of the planet. The United States sent two Pioneer Venus missions in 1978. Pioneer Venus 2 sent four probes to the surface, while the remaining craft explored the upper atmosphere. Pioneer Venus 1, an orbiter, continued to measure the upper atmosphere until it ran out of fuel and was destroyed on entering the Venusian atmosphere in August 1992. The Magellan probe, launched towards Venus in 1989, began transmitting radar images of the planet in 1990. They have been computer-processed to form spectacular three-dimensional views of the terrain. After mapping some 98 per cent of the planet’s surface in unprecedented detail, Magellan entered the Venusian atmosphere in October 1994 to make a crash landing on the surface, transmitting valuable data on the composition of the atmosphere during its descent.



The surface temperature on Venus is highly uniform and is about 462° C (736 K/864° F); the surface pressure is 96 times that on the Earth—more dense than water; the atmosphere of the planet consists almost wholly of carbon dioxide (CO2). The cloud base is at 50 km (30 mi), and the cloud particles are mostly concentrated sulphuric acid. The planet has no detectable magnetic field. That 97 per cent of Venus’s atmosphere is CO2 is not as strange as it might seem; in fact, the crust of Earth contains almost as much in the form of limestone. About 3 per cent of the Venusian atmosphere is nitrogen (N2). By contrast, 78 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen. Water and water vapour are extremely rare on Venus. Many scientists argue that Venus, being closer to the Sun, was subjected to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect, which caused any oceans to

evaporate into the atmosphere. The hydrogen atoms of the water molecules could have been lost to space and the oxygen atoms to the crust. Another possibility is that Venus had very little water in the first place. The sulphuric acid of the clouds also has its analogue on Earth in a very thin haze in the stratosphere. On Earth, sulphuric acid is carried down in the rain and reacts with surface materials; indeed, this so-called acid rain is damaging parts of the environment. On Venus the acid evaporates at the cloud base and can only remain in the atmosphere. The upper parts of the clouds, visible from the Earth and from Pioneer Venus 1, extend as haze 70 to 80 km (44 to 50 mi) above the planet’s surface. The clouds contain a pale yellow impurity, better detected at nearultraviolet wavelengths. Variations in the sulphur dioxide content of the atmosphere may indicate active volcanism on the planet. Certain cloud patterns and weather features can be discerned in the cloud tops that give some information about wind motion in the atmosphere. The upper-level winds circle the planet at 360 km/h (225 mph). These winds cover the planet completely, blowing at virtually every latitude from equator to pole. Tracking the motion of descending probes has shown that, despite the scale of these high-speed, upper-level winds, much more than half of Venus’s tremendously dense atmosphere, near the planet’s surface, is almost stagnant. From the surface up to 10 km (6 mi) altitude, wind speeds are only about 3 to 18 km/h (2 to 11 mph). The high-speed winds probably result from the transfer of momentum from Venus’s slow-moving, massive lower atmosphere to higher altitudes where the atmosphere is less massive, so that the same momentum results in a much higher velocity. The upper atmosphere and ionosphere have been studied in great detail by Pioneer Venus 1 as it passed through them once each day. On Earth this region is very hot; on Venus it is not, even though Venus is closer to the Sun. Surprisingly, the night side of Venus is extremely cold. (Day-side temperatures are 40° C/104° F, compared to night-side temperatures of -170° C/-274° F.) Scientists suspect that strong winds blow from the day side towards the near vacuum that is caused by the low temperatures on the night side. Such winds would carry along light gases, such as hydrogen and helium, which are concentrated in a night-side “bulge”. On Earth the ionosphere is isolated from the solar wind by the magnetosphere. Venus lacks a magnetic field of its own, but the solar wind seems to generate an induced magnetosphere, probably by a dynamo action involving its own magnetic field.



Venus rotates very slowly on its axis, and the direction is retrograde (opposite to that of the Earth). Curiously, the same side of Venus always faces the Earth when the two planets are closest. At such times, the side facing the Earth can be viewed and mapped by Earth-based radio telescopes.

In contrast to the very large antenna needed for Earth-based radar mapping of Venus, a modest instrument on Pioneer Venus 1 was able to conduct a nearly global survey. This formed the basis for initial mapping and, combined with Russian Venera data and Earth-based radar surveys, allowed scientists to establish that between 75° N and 75° S, Venus was dominated by areas of rolling plains punctuated by two continent-sized highland areas, Ishtar Terra and Aphrodite Terra, with a smaller upland block, Phoebe Regio-Beta Regio, lying along the 270° meridian. Aphrodite extends nearly halfway around the equator. The more powerful radar aboard the Magellan spacecraft revealed the fine detail of the upland regions, and the presence of another major upland, Lada Terra, in the high southern latitudes. Many of the highlands have a complex, tectonically deformed structure that breaks them up into numerous ridged and furrowed blocks termed tessera (also known as complex-ridged terrain, sometimes abbreviated to CRT). The highland region of Ishtar Terra is unique in comprising a high plateau (Lakshmi Planum) encircled by deformed mountain belts akin to terrestrial fold mountains, and having extremely steep slopes, especially at the gigantic volcanic cone Maxwell Montes, the highest point on the planet (11 km/7 mi high) and with a base more than 700 km (435 mi) wide. With the exception of Maxwell Montes (named after James Clerk Maxwell), all Venus’s surface features are named after female figures: goddesses, mythological heroines, and famous women from history. About 85 per cent of the surface area of Venus is occupied by plains, of which Magellan revealed the fine structure. Their surfaces are often intensely fractured and traversed by ridge-belts. These are a manifestation of response to broad-scale strain over large areas, rather than restriction to narrow zones, as on Earth. Superimposed on the plains are large and small volcanoes, volcanic domes, extensive lava flows and flow channels, volcano-tectonic structures called coronae which are unique to Venus, and a small number of dune-fields. The morphology of impact craters is similar to that on other worlds, but no single craters less than 8 km (5 mi) in diameter are present, smaller bolides having broken up above the surface in the dense Venusian atmosphere, causing instead the formation of clusters of small craters. The largest impact crater is almost 160 km (100 mi) across. Ballistic and fluidized ejecta blankets are both present, while the dispersion and number of craters for the planet as a whole suggests that it has been completely resurfaced relatively recently—within the last 500 million years. Study of the highland massifs reveals them to be of three types: Beta-type (volcanic rises with shield volcanoes and deep levels of isostatic compensation); Ovda type (tectonically-deformed plateaux with limited volcanism and shallower compensation depths); and Lakshmi-type (an elevated plateau with encircling mountain belts). Magellan data indicated that Aphrodite Terra, rather than being a single highland massif, is a chain of highland massifs cut up by transverse faults, rifts, and coronae. Rifting is also a feature of Phoebe Regio-Beta Regio which comprises a north-south rift valley similar in scale to the Great Rift Valley of East Africa and astride which sits the huge volcanic shield of Rhea Mons.

The uniquely Venusian structures, coronae, of which over 500 have been identified, are circular to ovoid landforms with modest dome-like relief and have a volcano-tectonic origin; they are considered to have formed above rising mantle plumes. Their essentially random distribution implies that heat loss from inside Venus does not take place along lithospheric plate boundaries, as on Earth. The relative paucity of these structures and other constructional volcanic landforms from the planet’s lowland areas, suggests widespread fissure-related flood volcanism has resurfaced these regions. The presence of extremely long lava channels on the plains indicates that very fluid, high-volume lavas have been extruded on Venus in relatively recent times. There is little to suggest that any process of plate tectonics is currently active, but the suggestion has been made that Venus is cyclically active, at present being in a state of repose.

Saturn (planet), sixth planet from the Sun, and the second-largest in the solar system. Saturn's most distinctive feature is its ring system, which was first observed in 1610 by Galileo, using one of the first telescopes. He did not realize that the rings are separate from the body of the planet, and so he described them as handles (ansae). The first person to describe the rings correctly was the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. In 1655, desiring further time to verify his explanation without losing his claim to priority, Huygens wrote an anagram, the letters of which, when properly rearranged, formed a Latin sentence that reads in translation “It is girdled by a thin flat ring, nowhere touching, inclined to the ecliptic.” The rings are named in order of their discovery, and from the planet outwards they are the D, C, B, A, F, G, and E rings. They are now known to comprise more than 100,000 individual thin rings, each of which circles the planet.



As seen from Earth, Saturn appears as a yellowish object—one of the brightest in the night sky. Observed through a telescope, the A and B rings are easily visible, whereas the D and E rings can be seen only under optimal conditions. Sensitive ground-based telescopes can detect the brightest of Saturn’s numerous satellites, and in the haze of its gaseous envelope, pale belts and zones parallel to the equator can be distinguished. Three US spacecraft have enormously increased our knowledge of the Saturnian system. The Pioneer 11 probe flew past the planet in September 1979, followed by Voyager 1 in November 1980 and Voyager 2 in August 1981. These spacecraft carried cameras and instruments for analysing the intensity and polarization of radiation in the visible, ultraviolet, infrared, and radio

portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. They were also equipped with instruments for studying magnetic fields and for detecting charged particles and interplanetary dust grains.



The mean density of Saturn is only one eighth that of the Earth, as the planet consists mainly of hydrogen. The enormous weight of Saturn's atmosphere causes the pressure to increase rapidly towards the planet’s interior, where the hydrogen first condenses into a liquid, and is then compressed into a metallic state. Electric currents in the metallic hydrogen are responsible for the planet's magnetic field. At the centre of Saturn, heavy elements have probably settled into a small rocky core with a temperature close to 15,000° C (27,000° F). Both Saturn and Jupiter are still settling gravitationally, following their accretion from the great cloud of interstellar gas and dust from which the entire solar system was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. This contraction generates heat, causing Saturn to radiate into space three times as much heat as it receives from the Sun.



Saturn's atmospheric constituents are, in order of decreasing mass, hydrogen (88 per cent), helium (11 per cent), and traces of methane, ammonia, ammonia crystals, and other gases such as ethane, ethene (ethylene), and phosphine. Voyager images showed whirls and eddies of clouds located deep in a haze that is much thicker than that of Jupiter because of Saturn's lower temperature, which at the cloud tops is close to -176° C (-285° F), about 27° C (49° F) lower than at a corresponding location on Jupiter. The movements of Saturnian storm clouds show that near the equator the period of rotation of the atmosphere is about 10 hr 11 min. Radio emissions from Saturn indicate that the body of Saturn and its magnetosphere rotate with a period of 10 hr 39 min 25 sec. The approximately 28.5-min difference between these two times indicates that Saturn’s equatorial winds have a velocity close to 1,700 km/h (1,060 mph). In 1988 scientists identified, from studies of Voyager photos, apuzzling atmospheric feature around Saturn's north pole. What may be a standing-wave pattern, repeated six times around the planet, makes cloud bands some distance from the pole appear to form a huge, permanent hexagon.



Saturn's magnetic field is substantially weaker than that of Jupiter, and its magnetosphere is only about one third the size of Jupiter's. Saturn's magnetosphere consists of a set of doughnut-shaped radiation belts in which electrons and atomic nuclei are trapped. The belts extend to more than 2 million km (1.3 million mi) from the centre of Saturn and even farther in the direction away from

the Sun, though their precise size depends on the intensity of the solar wind (the flow of charged particles from the Sun) that, together with Saturn's rings and satellites, supplies the trapped particles. The magnetosphere interacts with Saturn’s ionosphere, the uppermost layer of the planet’s atmosphere, causing auroral emissions of ultraviolet radiation. Between the orbit of Saturn's largest satellite, Titan, and that of Rhea, is an enormous toroidal cloud of neutral hydrogen atoms. A disc of plasma, composed of hydrogen and possibly oxygen ions, extends from outside that of Tethys almost to the orbit of Titan. The plasma rotates almost synchronously with Saturn's magnetic field.



The visible rings stretch to a distance of 136,200 km (84,650 mi) from the center of Saturn, but in many places they may be only 5 m (16 ft) thick. They are thought to consist of aggregates of rock, frozen gases, and water ice ranging in size from less than 0.0005 cm (0.0002 in) to about 10 m (33 ft) in diameter—from dust to boulder size. An instrument aboard Voyager 2 counted more than 100,000 thin rings in the Saturnian system. The apparent separation between the A and B rings is called Cassini's division, after its discoverer, the French astronomer Giovanni Cassini. Voyager's television cameras imaged five new, faint rings within Cassini's division. The wide B and C rings appear to consist of hundreds of thin rings, some slightly elliptical, that exhibit rippling density variations. The gravitational interaction between the rings and satellites, which causes these density waves, is still not completely understood. The B ring appears bright when viewed from the side illuminated by the Sun, but dark on the other side because it is dense enough to block most of the sunlight. Voyager images have also revealed radial, rotating spoke-like patterns in the B ring.



Thirty satellites have been discovered orbiting Saturn. Their diameters range from 20 to 5,150 km (12 to 3,200 mi). They consist mostly of the lighter, icy substances that prevailed in the outer parts of the great cloud of interstellar gas and dust from which the solar system was formed, where radiation from the distant Sun could not evaporate the frozen gases. The five larger inner satellites—Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea—are roughly spherical in shape and composed mostly of water ice, though rocky material may constitute up to 40 per cent of Dione's mass. Their surfaces are heavily cratered by meteoroid impacts. Enceladus has a smoother surface than the others, the least cratered area being less than a few hundred million years old. (Enceladus may still be undergoing tectonic activity; see Plate Tectonics.) Astronomers suspect that Enceladus supplies particles to Saturn’s E ring, which adjoins its orbit. The surface of Mimas displays an impact crater one third the diameter of the satellite itself. Tethys also has a large crater and a valley 100 km (62 mi) in width that stretches for more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) across the

surface. Both Dione and Rhea have bright, wispy streaks on their already highly reflective surfaces. Some scientists conjecture these were caused either by ice ejected from craters by meteoroid impacts, or by fresh ice that has migrated to the surface from the interior. Several small satellites have been discovered immediately outside the A ring and close to the F and G rings. Possibly four so-called Trojan satellites of Tethys and one of Dione have also been discovered. The term Trojan is applied to bodies such as satellites or asteroids occurring in regions of stability that lead or follow a body in its orbit around a planet or the Sun. See Solar System. The outer satellites Hyperion and Iapetus also consist mainly of water ice. Iapetus has a very dark region that contrasts with most of its surface, which is bright. This dark region and the rotation of the satellite are the cause of brightness variations that were noticed by Cassini in 1671. Phoebe, the farthest satellite from Saturn, moves in a retrograde orbit that is highly inclined to Saturn's equator. It is probably a cometary body captured by Saturn's gravitational field.

Between the inner and outer satellites orbits Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Its diameter is 5,150 km (3,200 mi), larger even than the planet Mercury. The diameter of its surface, however, is not known, because it is hidden by a dense orange haze probably about 300 km (186 mi) thick. Titan has a nitrogen atmosphere with traces of methane, ethane, ethyne (acetylene), ethene (ethylene), hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. On the surface, the temperature is about -182° C (-296° F), and methane and/or ethane may be present in the form of rain, snow, ice, and vapour. The interior of Titan probably consists of equal amounts of rock and water ice. No magnetic field has been detected. The southern hemisphere of Titan appears to be slightly brighter than the northern hemisphere. In recent years, observations by the Hubble Space Telescope have provided some further information, indicating the presence of a large elevated area on the surface. The idea that Titan may have a liquid ocean of ethane and other hydrocarbons recently gained support when scientists using the Keck I telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, obtained images showing dark areas. More details may be obtained by the Cassini spacecraft, which is due to reach Saturn in

Saturn (mythology)
Saturn (mythology), in Roman mythology, ancient god of agriculture. In later legends he was identified with the Greek god Cronus, who, after having been dethroned by his son Zeus (in Roman mythology, Jupiter), fled to Italy, where he ruled during the Golden Age, a time of perfect peace and happiness. Beginning on December 17 of each year, during the festival known as the Saturnalia, the Golden Age was restored for seven days. All business stopped and executions and military operations were postponed. It was a period of goodwill, devoted to banquets and the exchange of visits and gifts. A special feature of the festival was the freedom given to slaves, who during this time had first place at the family table and were served by their masters.

Saturn was the husband of Ops, goddess of plenty. Besides Jupiter, who was ruler of the gods, Saturn's children also included Juno, goddess of marriage; Neptune, god of the sea; Pluto, god of the dead; and Ceres, goddess of the grain. In art Saturn is usually shown bearded, carrying a sickle or an ear of corn.

Pluto (planet), ninth planet from the Sun and outermost known member of the solar system. Pluto was discovered as the result of a telescopic search inaugurated in 1905 by the American astronomer Percival Lowell, who conjectured the existence of a distant planet beyond Neptune as the cause of slight perturbations (see Orbit) in the motions of Uranus. Continued by members of the Lowell Observatory staff, the search ended successfully in 1930, when the American astronomer Clyde William Tombaugh found Pluto near the position Lowell had predicted. The new planet’s mass, however, seemed insufficient to account for the perturbations of Neptune, and the search for a possible tenth planet continues. Pluto revolves about the Sun once in 247.7 years at an average distance of 5.9 billion km (3.67 billion mi). The orbit is so eccentric that at certain points along its path Pluto is closer to the Sun than is Neptune. No possibility of collision exists, however, because Pluto’s orbit is inclined by more than 17.2° to the plane of the ecliptic and never actually crosses Neptune’s path. Visible only through large telescopes, Pluto is seen to have a yellowish colour. For many years very little was known about the planet, but in 1978 astronomers discovered a relatively large moon orbiting Pluto at a distance of only about 19,000 km (12,000 mi) and named it Charon. The orbits of Pluto and Charon caused them to pass repeatedly in front of one another from 1985 to 1990, enabling astronomers to determine their sizes fairly accurately. Pluto is 2,284 km (1,420 mi) in diameter, and Charon is 1,192 km (740 mi) in diameter, making them even more like a doubleplanet system than are the Earth and its moon. Pluto was also found to have a thin atmosphere, probably of methane, exerting a pressure on the planet’s surface that is about 100,000 times weaker than the Earth’s atmospheric pressure at sea level. The atmosphere appears to condense and form polar caps during Pluto’s long winter. The first map of Pluto’s surface was made by the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows vague light and dark regions of unknown origin. With a density about twice that of water, Pluto is apparently made of much rockier material than are the other planets of the outer solar system. This may be the result of the kind of coldtemperature/low-pressure chemical combinations that took place during the formation of the planet. Some astronomers have suggested that Pluto may be a former satellite of Neptune, knocked into a separate orbit during the early days of the solar system. Charon would then be an accumulation of the lighter materials resulting from the collision.

Pluto (mythology)
Pluto (mythology), in Roman mythology, god of the dead, the husband of Proserpine, and the Latin counterpart of the Greek god Hades. Pluto assisted his two brothers, Jupiter and Neptune, in overthrowing their father, Saturn. In dividing the world among them, Jupiter chose the Earth and the heavens as his realm, Neptune became the ruler of the sea, and Pluto received as his kingdom the lower world, in which he ruled over the shades of the dead. He was originally considered a fierce and unyielding god, deaf to prayers and unappeased by sacrifices. In later cults and popular belief the milder and more beneficent aspects of the god were stressed. Believed to be the bestower of the blessings hidden in the earth, such as mineral wealth and crops, Pluto was also known as Dis or Orcus, the giver of wealth.

Neptune (planet)
Neptune (planet), fourth-largest of the planets and eighth major planet in order of increasing distance from the Sun. The mean distance of Neptune from the Sun is 4.5 billion km (2.796 billion mi), and its mean linear diameter is approximately 49,400 km (30,700 mi), or about 3.8 times that of the Earth. Its volume is about 72 times, its mass 17 times, and its mean density 0.31 that of the Earth, or 1.7 times that of water. The albedo of the planet is high; 84 per cent of the light falling on it is reflected. The period of rotation is about 16 hours, and the period of revolution about the Sun is 164.79 years. The average stellar magnitude of the planet is 7.8, and it is therefore never visible to the naked eye, but it can be observed in a small telescope as a small, round, greenishblue disc without definite surface markings. The temperature of the surface of Neptune is about 218° C (-360° F), much like Uranus, which is more than 1.5 billion km (1 billion mi) closer to the Sun. Scientists assume, therefore, that Neptune must have some internal heat source. The atmosphere consists mostly of hydrogen and helium, but the presence of up to three per cent methane gives the planet its striking blue colour. Eight known satellites orbit Neptune, two of which are observable from Earth. The largest and brightest is Triton, discovered in 1846, the year in which Neptune was first observed. Triton, with a diameter of 2,705 km (1,680 mi), is only slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. It has a retrograde orbit—that is, opposite to its primary’s direction of rotation—unlike any other major satellite in the solar system. Despite its extreme coldness, Triton has a nitrogen atmosphere with some methane and some form of haze, and winds with speeds up to 1,500 km/h (900 mph) in the equatorial zone. It also displays an active surface of geysers that spout an unknown subsurface material. There are furrowed, smooth, and “canteloupe” types of terrain. The surface has few impact craters, and appears to be relatively youthful. Nereid, the second satellite (discovered in 1949), has a diameter of only about 320 km (200 mi). Six more satellites were discovered by the Voyager 2 planetary probe (seeSpace Exploration) in 1989. Neptune is also circled by five thin rings. Its magnetic field is tilted by more than 50° to the rotation axis.

The discovery of Neptune was one of the triumphs of celestial mechanics. In 1846, to account for perturbations in the orbit of the planet Uranus, the French astronomer Urbain Jean Joseph Leverrier calculated the existence and position of a new planet. In that year the German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovered the planet within 1° of that position. The position of Neptune was calculated independently by the British mathematician John Couch Adams, but observers in Britain did not act promptly enough to make the discovery of the planet.

Neptune (mythology)
Neptune (mythology), in Roman mythology, god of the sea, son of the god Saturn, and brother of Jupiter, king of the gods, and Pluto, god of the dead. Originally a god of springs and streams, he became identified with the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. His festival was celebrated on July 23.

Uranus (planet)
Uranus (planet), major planet, seventh in order of distance from the Sun, revolving outside the orbit of Saturn and inside the orbit of Neptune (see Solar System). It is of the sixth magnitude, so that it is just visible to the naked eye. Uranus was accidentally discovered in 1781 by the British astronomer William Herschel and was originally named Georgium Sidus (Star of George) in honour of his royal patron, George III. The planet was later, for a time, called Herschel in honour of its discoverer. The name Uranus, which was first proposed by the German astronomer Johann Elert Bode, was in use by the late 19th century. Uranus has a diameter of 51,120 km (31,771 mi), and its mean distance from the Sun is 2.87 billion km (1.78 billion mi). Uranus takes 84 years for a single revolution, or orbit, and 17 hr 15 min for a complete rotation about its axis. The axis is inclined at an angle of only 8° to the plane of the planet's orbit around the Sun. In other words, the planet's axis is “lying down” in relation to its orbit. The consequence is that each pole faces the Sun for 42 years (half the “year” of Uranus) and then is in darkness for 42 years. Furthermore, the north pole (the one that rotates anticlockwise when viewed from above) is “below” the plane of the orbit, so that the rotation is technically retrograde, or in the opposite sense to that of the Earth and most of the other planets. Uranus's atmosphere consists largely of hydrogen and helium, with a trace of methane. Through a telescope the planet appears as a small, bluish-green disc with a faint green periphery. Compared to the Earth, Uranus has a mass 14.5 times greater, a volume 67 times greater, and a gravity 1.17 times greater. Uranus's magnetic field, however, is only a tenth as strong as the Earth's, with an axis tilted 55° from the rotational axis. The density of Uranus is approximately 1.2 times that of water. In 1977, while recording the occultation of a star behind the planet, the American astronomer James L. Elliot discovered the presence of five rings encircling Uranus in the plane of its equator. Named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon (starting from the innermost ring), they form a belt 9,400-km (5,840-mi) wide, extending to 51,300 km (31,860 mi) from the planet's centre. Four

more rings were discovered in January 1986 during the exploratory flight of Voyager 2, and still more have been discovered since then. In addition to its rings, Uranus has 17 satellites (7 discovered telescopically, 10 discovered by Voyager 2); all revolve about its equator and move in the same sense as the planet revolves. The two largest moons, Oberon and Titania, were discovered by Herschel in 1787. The next two, Umbriel and Ariel, were found in 1851 by the British astronomer William Lassell. Miranda, the innermost of the satellites known before Voyager, was discovered in 1948 by the American astronomer Gerard Peter Kuiper. Voyager 2 images of Miranda reveal huge valleys, roughly aligned with faults, suggesting that the moon may have been disrupted by a massive impact, following which it reassembled. SeeSpace Exploration.

Uranus (mythology)
Uranus (mythology), in Greek mythology, the god of the heavens and husband of Gaea, the goddess of the Earth. Uranus was the father of the Titans, the Cyclops, and the 100-handed giants. The Titans, led by their ruler, Cronus, dethroned and mutilated Uranus, and from the blood that fell upon the Earth sprang the three Erinyes, or Furies, who avenge crimes of patricide and perjury. Although Uranus may have been worshipped as a god by earlier inhabitants of Greece, he was never an object of worship by the Greeks of the historical period. In its Greek form his name is spelt Ouranos.