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Planet
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This article is about the astronomical object. For other uses, see Planet (disam
biguation).
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Planetary-sized objects to scale:
Top row: Uranus and Neptune; second row: Earth, white dwarf star Sirius B, Venus
; bottom row (reproduced and enlarged in lower image) above: Mars and Mercury; b
elow: the Moon, dwarf planets Pluto and Haumea.
A planet (from Greek ðëáíÞôçò áóôÞñ "wandering star") is a celestial body orbiting a star o
nt that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enoug
h to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of plan
etesimals.[a][1][2]
The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science, mythology, and religi
on. The planets were originally seen by many early cultures as divine, or as emi
ssaries of the gods. As scientific knowledge advanced, human perception of the p
lanets changed, incorporating a number of disparate objects. In 2006, the Intern
ational Astronomical Union officially adopted a resolution defining planets with
in the Solar System. This definition has been both praised and criticized, and r
emains disputed by some scientists.
The planets were thought by Ptolemy to orbit the Earth in deferent and epicycle
motions. Though the idea that the planets orbited the Sun had been suggested man
y times, it was not until the 17th century that this view was supported by evide
nce from the first telescopic astronomical observations, performed by Galileo Ga
lilei. By careful analysis of the observation data, Johannes Kepler found the pl
anets' orbits to be not circular, but elliptical. As observational tools improve
d, astronomers saw that, like Earth, the planets rotated around tilted axes, and
some shared such features as ice-caps and seasons. Since the dawn of the Space
Age, close observation by probes has found that Earth and the other planets shar
e characteristics such as volcanism, hurricanes, tectonics, and even hydrology.
Planets are generally divided into two main types: large, low-density gas giants
, and smaller, rocky terrestrials. Under IAU definitions, there are eight planet
s in the Solar System. In order of increasing distance from the Sun, they are th
e four terrestrials, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, then the four gas giants,
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Six of the planets are orbited by one or m
ore natural satellites. Additionally, the Solar System also contains at least fi
ve dwarf planets[3] and hundreds of thousands of small Solar System bodies.
Since 1992, hundreds of planets around other stars ("extrasolar planets" or "exo
planets") in the Milky Way Galaxy have been discovered. As of December 2010, ove
r 500 known extrasolar planets are listed in the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedi
a, ranging from the size of terrestrial planets somewhat larger than Earth to ga
s giants larger than Jupiter.[4]
Contents
[hide]
* 1 History
o 1.1 Babylon
o 1.2 Greco-Roman astronomy
o 1.3 India
o 1.4 Medieval Muslim astronomy
o 1.5 European Renaissance
o 1.6 19th century
o 1.7 20th century
o 1.8 21st century
+ 1.8.1 Extrasolar planet definition
+ 1.8.2 2006 definition
o 1.9 Former classifications
* 2 Mythology and naming
* 3 Formation
* 4 Solar System
o 4.1 Planetary attributes
* 5 Extrasolar planets
* 6 Planetary-mass objects
o 6.1 Rogue planets
o 6.2 Sub-brown dwarfs
o 6.3 Satellite planets and belt planets
* 7 Attributes
o 7.1 Dynamic characteristics
+ 7.1.1 Orbit
+ 7.1.2 Axial tilt
+ 7.1.3 Rotation
+ 7.1.4 Orbital clearing
o 7.2 Physical characteristics
+ 7.2.1 Mass
+ 7.2.2 Internal differentiation
+ 7.2.3 Atmosphere
+ 7.2.4 Magnetosphere
o 7.3 Secondary characteristics
* 8 Related terms
* 9 See also
* 10 Notes
* 11 References
* 12 External links
History
Further information: History of astronomy and Definition of planet
See also: Timeline of solar system astronomy
Printed rendition of a geocentric cosmological model from Cosmographia, Antwerp,
1539
The idea of planets has evolved over its history, from the divine wandering star
s of antiquity to the earthly objects of the scientific age. The concept has exp
anded to include worlds not only in the Solar System, but in hundreds of other e
xtrasolar systems. The ambiguities inherent in defining planets have led to much
scientific controversy.
The five classical planets, being visible to the naked eye, have been known sinc
e ancient times, and have had a significant impact on mythology, religious cosmo
logy, and ancient astronomy. In ancient times, astronomers noted how certain lig
hts moved across the sky in relation to the other stars. Ancient Greeks called t
hese lights ðëÜíçôåò ?óôÝñåò (planetes asteres "wandering stars") or simply "ðëáíÞôïé" (pla
today's word "planet" was derived.[6][7] In ancient Greece, China, Babylon and
indeed all pre-modern civilisations,[8][9] it was almost universally believed th
at Earth was in the center of the Universe and that all the "planets" circled th
e Earth. The reasons for this perception were that stars and planets appeared to
revolve around the Earth each day,[10] and the apparently common-sense percepti
on that the Earth was solid and stable, and that it was not moving but at rest.
The name for planets in Chinese astronomy had the same motive as the Greek name,
?? "moving star". In Japanese during the Edo period there were two competing te
rms, ?? "confused star" and ?? "wandering star". In modern Japan, terminology wa
s unified in favour of ??, but in science-fiction the alternative term ?? retain
s some currency.
Babylon
Main article: Babylonian astronomy
The first civilization known to possess a functional theory of the planets were
the Babylonians, who lived in Mesopotamia in the first and second millennia BC.
The oldest surviving planetary astronomical text is the Babylonian Venus tablet
of Ammisaduqa, a 7th century BC copy of a list of observations of the motions of
the planet Venus that probably dates as early as the second millennium BC.[11]
The Babylonian astrologers also laid the foundations of what would eventually be
come Western astrology.[12] The Enuma anu enlil, written during the Neo-Assyrian
period in the 7th century BC,[13] comprises a list of omens and their relations
hips with various celestial phenomena including the motions of the planets.[14]
The Sumerians, predecessors of the Babylonians who are considered as one of the
first civilizations and are credited with the invention of writing, had identifi
ed at least Venus by 1500 BC.[15] Shortly afterwards, the other inner planet Mer
cury and the outer planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were all identified by Babyl
onian astronomers. These would remain the only known planets until the invention
of the telescope in early modern times.[16]
Greco-Roman astronomy
See also: Greek astronomy
Ptolemy's "planetary spheres" Modern the Moon Mercury Venus
the Sun Mars Jupiter Saturn
Medieval Europe [17] ? LVNA ? MERCVRIVS +VENVS ? SOL > MARS ? IVPITE
R ? SATVRNVS
Because they were not as interested in divination as the Babylonians, the ancien
t Greeks initially did not attach as much significance to the planets. The Pytha
goreans, in the 6th and 5th centuries BC appear to have developed their own inde
pendent planetary theory, which consisted of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and planets r
evolving around a "Central Fire" at the center of the Universe. Pythagoras or Pa
rmenides are said to have first identified the evening star and morning star (Ve
nus) as one and the same.[18] In the 3rd century BC, Aristarchus of Samos propos
ed a heliocentric system, according to which the Earth and planets revolved arou
nd the sun. However, the geocentric system would remain dominant until the Scien
tific Revolution.
By the 1st century BC, during the Hellenistic period, the Greeks had begun to de
velop their own mathematical schemes for predicting the positions of the planets
. These schemes, which were based on geometry rather than the arithmetic of the
Babylonians, would eventually eclipse the Babylonians' theories in complexity an
d comprehensiveness, and account for most of the astronomical movements observed
from Earth with the naked eye. These theories would reach their fullest express
ion in the Almagest written by Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE. So complete was th
e domination of Ptolemy's model that it superseded all previous works on astrono
my and remained the definitive astronomical text in the Western world for 13 cen
turies.[11][19] To the Greeks and Romans there were seven known planets, each pr
esumed to be circling the Earth according to the complex laws laid out by Ptolem
y. They were, in increasing order from Earth (in Ptolemy's order): the Moon, Mer
cury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.[7][19][20]
India
Main articles: Indian astronomy and Hindu cosmology
In 499 CE, the Indian astronomer Aryabhata propounded a planetary model which ex
plicitly incorporated the Earth's rotation about its axis, which he explains as
the cause of what appears to be an apparent westward motion of the stars. He als
o believed that the orbit of planets are elliptical.[unreliable source?][21] Ary
abhata's followers were particularly strong in South India, where his principles
of the diurnal rotation of the earth, among others, were followed and a number
of secondary works were based on them.[22][page needed]
In 1500, Nilakantha Somayaji of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics,
in his Tantrasangraha, revised Aryabhata's model.[23][24] In his Aryabhatiyabhas
ya, a commentary on Aryabhata's Aryabhatiya, he developed a planetary model wher
e Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn orbit the Sun, which in turn orbits t
he Earth, similar to the Tychonic system later proposed by Tycho Brahe in the la
te 16th century. Most astronomers of the Kerala school who followed him accepted
his planetary model.[23][24][25]
Medieval Muslim astronomy
Main articles: Astronomy in medieval Islam and Islamic cosmology
In the 11th century, the transit of Venus was observed by Avicenna, who establis
hed that Venus was, at least sometimes, below the Sun.[26] In the 12th century,
Ibn Bajjah observed "two planets as black spots on the face of the Sun," which w
as later identified as the transit of Mercury and Venus by the Maragha astronome
r Qotb al-Din Shirazi in the 13th century.[27] However, Ibn Bajjah could not obs
erve a transit of Venus, as none occurred in his lifetime.
European Renaissance
Renaissance planets Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn
See also: Heliocentrism
With the advent of the Scientific Revolution, understanding of the term "planet"
changed from something that moved across the sky (in relation to the star field
); to a body that orbited the Earth (or that were believed to do so at the time)
; and in the 16th century to something that directly orbited the Sun when the he
liocentric model of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler gained sway.
Thus the Earth became included in the list of planets,[28] while the Sun and Moo
n were excluded. At first, when the first satellites of Jupiter and Saturn were
discovered in the 17th century, the terms "planet" and "satellite" were used int
erchangeably although the latter would gradually become more prevalent in the fo
llowing century.[29] Until the mid-19th century, the number of "planets" rose ra
pidly since any newly discovered object directly orbiting the Sun was listed as
a planet by the scientific community.
19th century
Planets in early 19th century Mercury Venus Earth Mars Vesta Juno
Ceres Pallas Jupiter Saturn Uranus
In the 19th century astronomers began to realize that recently discovered bodies
that had been classified as planets for almost half a century (such as Ceres, P
allas, and Vesta) were very different from the traditional ones. These bodies sh
ared the same region of space between Mars and Jupiter (the Asteroid belt), and
had a much smaller mass; as a result they were reclassified as "asteroids." In t
he absence of any formal definition, a "planet" came to be understood as any "la
rge" body that orbited the Sun. Since there was a dramatic size gap between the
asteroids and the planets, and the spate of new discoveries seemed to have ended
after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, there was no apparent need to have a fo
rmal definition.[30]
20th century
Planets from late 19th century to 1930 Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter
Saturn Uranus Neptune
However, in the 20th century, Pluto was discovered. After initial observations l
ed to the belief it was larger than Earth,[31] the object was immediately accept
ed as the ninth planet. Further monitoring found the body was actually much smal
ler: in 1936, Raymond Lyttleton suggested that Pluto may be an escaped satellite
of Neptune,[32] and Fred Whipple suggested in 1964 that Pluto may be a comet.[3
3] However, as it was still larger than all known asteroids and seemingly did no
t exist within a larger population,[34] it kept its status until 2006.
Planets from 1930 to 2006 Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter
Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
In 1992, astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery
of planets around a pulsar, PSR B1257+12.[35] This discovery is generally consi
dered to be the first definitive detection of a planetary system around another
star. Then, on October 6, 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the University
of Geneva announced the first definitive detection of an exoplanet orbiting an
ordinary main-sequence star (51 Pegasi).[36]
The discovery of extrasolar planets led to another ambiguity in defining a plane
t; the point at which a planet becomes a star. Many known extrasolar planets are
many times the mass of Jupiter, approaching that of stellar objects known as "b
rown dwarfs".[37] Brown dwarfs are generally considered stars due to their abili
ty to fuse deuterium, a heavier isotope of hydrogen. While stars more massive th
an 75 times that of Jupiter fuse hydrogen, stars of only 13 Jupiter masses can f
use deuterium. However, deuterium is quite rare, and most brown dwarfs would hav
e ceased fusing deuterium long before their discovery, making them effectively i
ndistinguishable from supermassive planets.[38]
21st century
Planets from 2006 to present Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter
Saturn Uranus Neptune
With the discovery during the latter half of the 20th century of more objects wi
thin the Solar System and large objects around other stars, disputes arose over
what should constitute a planet. There was particular disagreement over whether
an object should be considered a planet if it was part of a distinct population
such as a belt, or if it was large enough to generate energy by the thermonuclea
r fusion of deuterium.
A growing number of astronomers argued for Pluto to be declassified as a planet,
since many similar objects approaching its size had been found in the same regi
on of the Solar System (the Kuiper belt) during the 1990s and early 2000s. Pluto
was found to be just one small body in a population of thousands.
Some of them including Quaoar, Sedna, and Eris were heralded in the popular pres
s as the tenth planet, failing however to receive widespread scientific recognit
ion. The announcement of Eris in 2005, an object 27% more massive than Pluto, cr
eated the necessity and public desire for an official definition of a planet.
Acknowledging the problem, the IAU set about creating the definition of planet,
and produced one in August 2006. The number of planets dropped to the eight sign
ificantly larger bodies that had cleared their orbit (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mar
s, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), and a new class of dwarf planets was c
reated, initially containing three objects (Ceres, Pluto and Eris).[39]
Extrasolar planet definition
In 2003, The International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group on Extrasolar
Planets made a position statement on the definition of a planet that incorporate
d the following working definition, mostly focused upon the boundary between pla
nets and brown dwarves:[2]
Comparison of Eris, Pluto, Makemake, Haumea, Sedna, Orcus, 2007 OR10, Quaoar, an
d Earth (all to scale)
1. Objects with true masses below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion
of deuterium (currently calculated to be 13 times the mass of Jupiter for object
s with the same isotopic abundance as the Sun[40]) that orbit stars or stellar r
emnants are "planets" (no matter how they formed). The minimum mass and size req
uired for an extrasolar object to be considered a planet should be the same as t
hat used in the Solar System.
2. Substellar objects with true masses above the limiting mass for thermonucl
ear fusion of deuterium are "brown dwarfs", no matter how they formed or where t
hey are located.
3. Free-floating objects in young star clusters with masses below the limitin
g mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium are not "planets", but are "sub-bro
wn dwarfs" (or whatever name is most appropriate).
This definition has since been widely used by astronomers when publishing discov
eries of exoplanets in academic journals.[41] Although temporary, it remains an
effective working definition until a more permanent one is formally adopted. How
ever, it does not address the dispute over the lower mass limit,[42] and so it s
teered clear of the controversy regarding objects within the Solar System. This
definition also makes no comment on the planetary status of objects orbiting bro
wn dwarfs, such as 2M1207b.
One definition of a sub-brown dwarf is a planet-mass object that formed through
cloud-collapse rather than accretion. This formation distinction between a sub-b
rown dwarf and a planet is not universally agreed upon; astronomers are divided
into two camps as whether to consider the formation process of a planet as part
of its division in classification.[43][44] One reason for the dissent is that of
tentimes it may not be possible to determine the formation process: for example
an accretion-formed planet around a star may get ejected from the system to beco
me free-floating, and likewise a cloud-collapse-formed sub-brown dwarf formed on
its own in a star cluster may get captured into orbit around a star.
Dwarf planets from 2006 to present Ceres Pluto Makemake Haumea
Eris
The 13 Jupiter-mass cutoff is a rule of thumb rather than something of precise p
hysical significance. The question arises: what is meant by deuterium burning? T
his question arises because large objects will burn most of their deuterium and
smaller ones will burn only a little, and the 13 MJ value is somewhere in betwee
n. The amount of deuterium burnt also depends not only on mass but on the compos
ition of the planet, on the amount of helium and deuterium present.[45]
Another criterion for separating planets and brown dwarfs, rather than deuterium
burning, formation process or location is whether the core pressure is dominate
d by coulomb pressure or electron degeneracy.[46][47]
2006 definition
Main article: 2006 definition of planet
The matter of the lower limit was addressed during the 2006 meeting of the IAU's
General Assembly. After much debate and one failed proposal, the assembly voted
to pass a resolution that defined planets within the Solar System as:[1]
A celestial body that is (a) in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mas
s for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydros
tatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood ar
ound its orbit.
Under this definition, the Solar System is considered to have eight planets. Bod
ies which fulfill the first two conditions but not the third (such as Pluto, Mak
emake and Eris) are classified as dwarf planets, provided they are not also natu
ral satellites of other planets. Originally an IAU committee had proposed a defi
nition that would have included a much larger number of planets as it did not in
clude (c) as a criterion.[48] After much discussion, it was decided via a vote t
hat those bodies should instead be classified as dwarf planets.[49]
This definition is based in theories of planetary formation, in which planetary
embryos initially clear their orbital neighborhood of other smaller objects. As
described by astronomer Steven Soter:[50]
The end product of secondary disk accretion is a small number of relatively
large bodies (planets) in either non-intersecting or resonant orbits, which prev
ent collisions between them. Asteroids and comets, including KBOs [Kuiper belt o
bjects], differ from planets in that they can collide with each other and with p
lanets.
In the aftermath of the IAU's 2006 vote, there has been controversy and debate a
bout the definition,[51][52] and many astronomers have stated that they will not
use it.[53] Part of the dispute centres around the belief that point (c) (clear
ing its orbit) should not have been listed, and that those objects now categoris
ed as dwarf planets should actually be part of a broader planetary definition.
Beyond the scientific community, Pluto has held a strong cultural significance f
or many in the general public considering its planetary status since its discove
ry in 1930. The discovery of Eris was widely reported in the media as the tenth
planet and therefore the reclassification of all three objects as dwarf planets
has attracted a lot of media and public attention as well.[54]
Former classifications
The table below lists Solar System bodies formerly considered to be planets:
Body (current classification) Notes
Star Dwarf planet Asteroid Moon
Sun The Moon Classified as planets in antiquity, in a
ccordance with the definition then used.
Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto The four largest
moons of Jupiter, known as the Galilean moons after their discoverer Galileo Ga
lilei. He referred to them as the "Medicean Planets" in honor of his patron, the
Medici family.
Titan,[b] Iapetus,[c] Rhea,[c] Tethys,[d] and Dione[d]
Five of Saturn's larger moons, discovered by Christiaan Huygens and Giovanni Dom
enico Cassini.
Ceres[e] Pallas, Juno, and Vesta The first known
asteroids, from their discoveries between 1801 and 1807 until their reclassifica
tion as asteroids during the 1850s.[55]
Ceres has subsequently been classified as a dwarf planet in 2006.
Astrea, Hebe, Iris, Flora, Metis, Hygeia, Parthenope, Victoria,
Egeria, Irene, Eunomia More asteroids, discovered between 1845 and 1851
. The rapidly expanding list of planets prompted their reclassification as aster
oids by astronomers, and this was widely accepted by 1854.[56]
Pluto[f] The first known Trans-Neptunian object (
i.e. minor planet with a semi-major axis beyond Neptune). In 2006, Pluto was rec
lassified as a dwarf planet.
Mythology and naming
See also: Week-day names and Naked-eye planet
The gods of Olympus, after whom the Solar System's planets are named
The names for the planets in the Western world are derived from the naming pract
ices of the Romans, which ultimately derive from those of the Greeks and the Bab
ylonians. In ancient Greece, the two great luminaries the Sun and the Moon were
called Helios and Selene; the farthest planet was called Phainon, the shiner; fo
llowed by Phaethon, "bright"; the red planet was known as Pyroeis, the "fiery";
the brightest was known as Phosphoros, the light bringer; and the fleeting final
planet was called Stilbon, the gleamer. The Greeks also made each planet sacred
to one among their pantheon of gods, the Olympians: Helios and Selene were the
names of both planets and gods; Phainon was sacred to Cronus, the Titan who fath
ered the Olympians; Phaethon was sacred to Zeus, Cronus's son who deposed him as
king; Pyroeis was given to Ares, son of Zeus and god of war; Phosphoros was rul
ed by Aphrodite, the goddess of love; and Hermes, messenger of the gods and god
of learning and wit, ruled over Stilbon.[11]
The Greek practice of grafting of their gods' names onto the planets was almost
certainly borrowed from the Babylonians. The Babylonians named Phosphoros after
their goddess of love, Ishtar; Pyroeis after their god of war, Nergal, Stilbon a
fter their god of wisdom Nabu, and Phaethon after their chief god, Marduk.[57] T
here are too many concordances between Greek and Babylonian naming conventions f
or them to have arisen separately.[11] The translation was not perfect. For inst
ance, the Babylonian Nergal was a god of war, and thus the Greeks identified him
with Ares. However, unlike Ares, Nergal was also god of pestilence and the unde
rworld.[58]
Today, most people in the western world know the planets by names derived from t
he Olympian pantheon of gods. While modern Greeks still use their ancient names
for the planets, other European languages, because of the influence of the Roman
Empire and, later, the Catholic Church, use the Roman (or Latin) names rather t
han the Greek ones. The Romans, who, like the Greeks, were Indo-Europeans, share
d with them a common pantheon under different names but lacked the rich narrativ
e traditions that Greek poetic culture had given their gods. During the later pe
riod of the Roman Republic, Roman writers borrowed much of the Greek narratives
and applied them to their own pantheon, to the point where they became virtually
indistinguishable.[59] When the Romans studied Greek astronomy, they gave the p
lanets their own gods' names: Mercurius (for Hermes), Venus (Aphrodite), Mars (A
res), Iuppiter (Zeus) and Saturnus (Cronus). When subsequent planets were discov
ered in the 18th and 19th centuries, the naming practice was retained with Neptu
nus (Poseidon). Uranus is unique in that it is named by a Greek deity rather tha
n his Roman counterpart.
Some Romans, following a belief possibly originating in Mesopotamia but develope
d in Hellenistic Egypt, believed that the seven gods after whom the planets were
named took hourly shifts in looking after affairs on Earth. The order of shifts
went Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon (from the farthest to the
closest planet).[60] Therefore, the first day was started by Saturn (1st hour),
second day by Sun (25th hour), followed by Moon (49th hour), Mars, Mercury, Jup
iter and Venus. Since each day was named by the god that started it, this is als
o the order of the days of the week in the Roman calendar after the Nundinal cyc
le was rejected and still preserved in many modern languages.[61] Sunday, Monday
, and Saturday are straightforward translations of these Roman names. In English
the other days were renamed after Tiw, (Tuesday) Woden (Wednesday), Thunor (Thu
rsday), and Frige (Friday), the Anglo-Saxon gods considered similar or equivalen
t to Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus respectively.
Earth is the only planet whose name in English is not derived from Greco-Roman m
ythology. Since it was only generally accepted as a planet in the 17th century,[
28] there is no tradition of naming it after a god (the same is true, in English
at least, of the Sun and the Moon, though they are no longer considered planets
). The name originates from the 8th century Anglo-Saxon word erda, which means g
round or soil and was first used in writing as the name of the sphere of the Ear
th perhaps around 1300.[62][63] As with its equivalents in the other Germanic la
nguages, it derives ultimately from the Proto-Germanic word ertho, "ground,"[63]
as can be seen in the English Earth, the German Erde, the Dutch Aarde, and the
Scandinavian Jorde. Many of the Romance languages retain the old Roman word terr
a (or some variation of it) that was used with the meaning of "dry land" (as opp
osed to "sea").[64] However, the non-Romance languages use their own respective
native words. The Greeks retain their original name, ÃÞ (Ge or Yi).
Non-European cultures use other planetary naming systems. India uses a naming sy
stem based on the Navagraha, which incorporates the seven traditional planets (S
urya for the Sun, Chandra for the Moon, and Budha, Shukra, Mangala, B?haspati an
d Shani for the traditional planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) an
d the ascending and descending lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu. China and the countrie
s of eastern Asia historically subject to Chinese cultural influence (such as Ja
pan, Korea and Vietnam) use a naming system based on the five Chinese elements:
water (Mercury), metal (Venus), fire (Mars), wood (Jupiter) and earth (Saturn).[
61]
Formation
Main article: Nebular hypothesis
It is not known with certainty how planets are formed. The prevailing theory is
that they are formed during the collapse of a nebula into a thin disk of gas and
dust. A protostar forms at the core, surrounded by a rotating protoplanetary di
sk. Through accretion (a process of sticky collision) dust particles in the disk
steadily accumulate mass to form ever-larger bodies. Local concentrations of ma
ss known as planetesimals form, and these accelerate the accretion process by dr
awing in additional material by their gravitational attraction. These concentrat
ions become ever denser until they collapse inward under gravity to form protopl
anets.[65] After a planet reaches a diameter larger than the Earth's moon, it be
gins to accumulate an extended atmosphere, greatly increasing the capture rate o
f the planetesimals by means of atmospheric drag.[66]
An artist's impression of protoplanetary disk
When the protostar has grown such that it ignites to form a star, the surviving
disk is removed from the inside outward by photoevaporation, the solar wind, Poy
nting-Robertson drag and other effects.[67][68] Thereafter there still may be ma
ny protoplanets orbiting the star or each other, but over time many will collide
, either to form a single larger planet or release material for other larger pro
toplanets or planets to absorb.[69] Those objects that have become massive enoug
h will capture most matter in their orbital neighbourhoods to become planets. Me
anwhile, protoplanets that have avoided collisions may become natural satellites
of planets through a process of gravitational capture, or remain in belts of ot
her objects to become either dwarf planets or small bodies.
The energetic impacts of the smaller planetesimals (as well as radioactive decay
) will heat up the growing planet, causing it to at least partially melt. The in
terior of the planet begins to differentiate by mass, developing a denser core.[
70] Smaller terrestrial planets lose most of their atmospheres because of this a
ccretion, but the lost gases can be replaced by outgassing from the mantle and f
rom the subsequent impact of comets.[71] (Smaller planets will lose any atmosphe
re they gain through various escape mechanisms.)
With the discovery and observation of planetary systems around stars other than
our own, it is becoming possible to elaborate, revise or even replace this accou
nt. The level of metallicity an astronomical term describing the abundance of ch
emical elements with an atomic number greater than 2 (helium) is now believed to
determine the likelihood that a star will have planets.[72] Hence, it is though
t that a metal-rich population I star will likely possess a more substantial pla
netary system than a metal-poor, population II star.
Solar System
Planets and dwarf planets of the Solar System. (Sizes to scale, distances not to
scale)
The inner planets. From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars (sizes to
scale)
.
The four gas giants against the Sun: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune (Sizes to
scale, distances not to scale)
Main article: Solar System
See also: List of gravitationally rounded objects of the Solar System
According to the IAU's current definitions, there are eight planets and five dwa
rf planets in the Solar System. In increasing distance from the Sun, the planets
are:
1. ? Mercury
2. + Venus
3. ? Earth
4. > Mars
5. ? Jupiter
6. ? Saturn
7. ? Uranus
8. ? Neptune
Jupiter is the largest, at 318 Earth masses, while Mercury is smallest, at 0.055
Earth masses.
The planets of the Solar System can be divided into categories based on their co
mposition:
* Terrestrials: Planets that are similar to Earth, with bodies largely compo
sed of rock: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. At 0.055 Earth masses, Mercury is t
he smallest terrestrial planet (and smallest planet) in the Solar System, while
Earth is the largest terrestrial planet.
* Gas giants (Jovians): Planets largely composed of gaseous material and sig
nificantly more massive than terrestrials: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Jup
iter, at 318 Earth masses, is the largest planet in the Solar System, while Satu
rn is one third as big, at 95 Earth masses.
o Ice giants, comprising Uranus and Neptune, are a sub-class of gas gi
ants, distinguished from gas giants by their significantly lower mass (only 14 a
nd 17 Earth masses), and by depletion in hydrogen and helium in their atmosphere
s together with a significantly higher proportion of rock and ice.
* Dwarf planets: Before the August 2006 decision, several objects were propo
sed by astronomers, including at one stage by the IAU, as planets. However in 20
06 several of these objects were reclassified as dwarf planets, objects distinct
from planets. Currently five dwarf planets in the Solar System are recognized b
y the IAU: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. Several other objects in bot
h the Asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt are under consideration, with as many as
50 that could eventually qualify. There may be as many as 200 that could be dis
covered once the Kuiper belt has been fully explored. Dwarf planets share many o
f the same characteristics as planets, although notable differences remain namel
y that they are not dominant in their orbits. By definition, all dwarf planets a
re members of larger populations. Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt
, while Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake are members of the Kuiper belt and Eris is a
member of the scattered disc. Scientists such as Mike Brown believe that there
may soon be over forty trans-Neptunian objects that qualify as dwarf planets und
er the IAU's recent definition.[73]
Planetary attributes
Name Equatorial
diameter[a] Mass[a] Orbital
radius (AU) Orbital period
(years)[a] Inclination
to Sun's equator (°) Orbital
eccentricity Rotation period
(days) Named
moons[c] Rings Atmosphere
Terrestrials Mercury 0.382 0.06 0.39 0.24 3.38 0.206
58.64 0 no minimal
Venus 0.949 0.82 0.72 0.62 3.86 0.007 ?243.02 0
no CO2, N2
Earth[b] 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 7.25 0.017 1.00 1
no N2, O2
Mars 0.532 0.11 1.52 1.88 5.65 0.093 1.03 2 no
CO2, N2
Gas giants Jupiter 11.209 317.8 5.20 11.86 6.09 0.048
0.41 49 yes H2, He
Saturn 9.449 95.2 9.54 29.46 5.51 0.054 0.43 52 yes
H2, He
Uranus 4.007 14.6 19.22 84.01 6.48 0.047 ?0.72 27 yes
H2, He
Neptune 3.883 17.2 30.06 164.8 6.43 0.009 0.67 13
yes H2, He
Dwarf planets
Ceres 0.08 0.000 2 2.5 3.0 4.60 10.59 0.080 0.38 0
no none
Pluto 0.19 0.002 2 29.7 49.3 248.09 17.14 0.249 ?6.39
3 no temporary
Haumea 0.37?0.16 0.000 7 35.2 51.5 282.76 28.19 0.189
0.16 2
Makemake ~0.12 0.000 7 38.5 53.1 309.88 28.96 0.159
? 0 ? ? [d]
Eris 0.19 0.002 5 37.8 97.6 ~557 44.19 0.442 ~0.3
1 ? ? [d]
a Measured relative to the Earth.
b See Earth article for absolute values.
c Jupiter has the most secured satellites (63) in the solar system.[74]
d Like Pluto, when near perihelion, a temporary atmosphere is suspected.
Extrasolar planets
Main article: Extrasolar planet
Exoplanets, by year of discovery, through 2010-10-03.
The first confirmed discovery of an extrasolar planet orbiting an ordinary main-
sequence star occurred on 6 October 1995, when Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of
the University of Geneva announced the detection of an exoplanet around 51 Pega
si. Of the more than 500 extrasolar planets discovered by December 2010, most ha
ve masses which are comparable to or larger than Jupiter's, though masses rangin
g from just below that of Mercury to many times Jupiter's mass have been observe
d.[75] The smallest extrasolar planets found to date have been discovered orbiti
ng burned-out star remnants called pulsars, such as PSR B1257+12.[76] There have
been roughly a dozen extrasolar planets found of between 10 and 20 Earth masses
,[75] such as those orbiting the stars Mu Arae, 55 Cancri and GJ 436.[77] These
planets have been nicknamed "Neptunes" because they roughly approximate that pla
net's mass (17 Earths).[78] Another new category are the so-called "super-Earths
", possibly terrestrial planets far larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune o
r Uranus. To date, about twenty possible super-Earths (depending on mass limits)
have been found, including OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb and MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb, frigid i
cy worlds discovered through gravitational microlensing,[79][80] COROT-7b, a pla
net with a diameter estimated at around 1.7 times that of Earth, (making it the
smallest super-Earth yet measured), but with an orbital distance of only 0.02 AU
, which means it probably has a molten surface at a temperature of 1000 1500 °C,[81]
and five of the six planets orbiting the nearby red dwarf Gliese 581. Gliese 58
1 d is roughly 7.7 times Earth's mass,[82] while Gliese 581 c is five times Eart
h's mass and was initially thought to be the first terrestrial planet found with
in a star's habitable zone.[83] However, more detailed studies revealed that it
was slightly too close to its star to be habitable, and that the farther planet
in the system, Gliese 581 d, though it is much colder than Earth, could potentia
lly be habitable if its atmosphere contained sufficient greenhouse gases.[84]
Size comparison of HR 8799 c (gray) with Jupiter. Most exoplanets discovered thu
s far are larger than Jupiter, though discoveries of smaller planets are expecte
d in the near future.
It is far from clear if the newly discovered large planets would resemble the ga
s giants in the Solar System or if they are of an entirely different type as yet
unknown, like ammonia giants or carbon planets. In particular, some of the newl
y discovered planets, known as hot Jupiters, orbit extremely close to their pare
nt stars, in nearly circular orbits. They therefore receive much more stellar ra
diation than the gas giants in the Solar System, which makes it questionable whe
ther they are the same type of planet at all. There may also exist a class of ho
t Jupiters, called Chthonian planets, that orbit so close to their star that the
ir atmospheres have been blown away completely by stellar radiation. While many
hot Jupiters have been found in the process of losing their atmospheres, as of 2
008, no genuine Chthonian planets have been discovered.[85]
More detailed observation of extrasolar planets will require a new generation of
instruments, including space telescopes. Currently the COROT and Kepler spacecr
aft are searching for stellar luminosity variations due to transiting planets. S
everal projects have also been proposed to create an array of space telescopes t
o search for extrasolar planets with masses comparable to the Earth. These inclu
de the proposed NASA's, Terrestrial Planet Finder, and Space Interferometry Miss
ion programs, and the CNES' PEGASE.[86] The New Worlds Mission is an occulting d
evice that may work in conjunction with the James Webb Space Telescope. However,
funding for some of these projects remains uncertain. The first spectra of extr
asolar planets were reported in February 2007 (HD 209458 b and HD 189733 b).[87]
[88] The frequency of occurrence of such terrestrial planets is one of the varia
bles in the Drake equation which estimates the number of intelligent, communicat
ing civilizations that exist in our galaxy.[89]
Planetary-mass objects
A planetary mass object, PMO, or planemo is a celestial object with a mass that
falls within the range of the definition of a planet i.e. a mass greater than th
at of a minor object, yet smaller than that of a nuclear reactive brown dwarf or
star. By definition all planets are planetary mass objects but the purpose of t
he term is to describe objects which do not conform to typical expectations for
a planet. Free floating planets not orbiting a star may be rogue planets ejected
from their system, or objects that have formed through cloud-collapse rather th
an accretion (sometimes called sub-brown dwarfs).
Rogue planets
Main article: Rogue planet
Several computer simulations of stellar and planetary system formation have sugg
ested that some objects of planetary mass would be ejected into interstellar spa
ce.[90] Some scientists have argued that such objects found roaming in deep spac
e should be classed as "planets", although others have suggested that they could
be low-mass stars.[91][92]
Sub-brown dwarfs
Main article: Sub-brown dwarf
Stars form via the gravitational collapse of gas clouds, but smaller objects can
also form via cloud-collapse. Planetary-mass objects formed this way are someti
mes called sub-brown dwarfs. Sub-brown dwarfs may be free-floating such as Cha 1
10913-773444, or orbiting a larger object such as 2MASS J04414489+2301513.
For a brief time in 2006, astronomers believed they had found a binary system of
such objects, Oph 162225-240515, which the discoverers described as "planemos",
or "planetary mass objects". However, recent analysis of the objects has determ
ined that their masses are probably each greater than 13 Jupiter-masses, making
the pair brown dwarfs.[93][94][95]
Satellite planets and belt planets
Some large satellites are of similar size or larger than the planet Mercury, e.g
. Jupiter's Galilean moons and Titan. Alan Stern has argued that location should
not matter and only geophysical attributes should be taken into account in the
definition of a planet, and proposes the term satellite planet for a planet-size
d object orbiting another planet. Likewise planet-sized objects in the asteroid
belt or Kuiper belt should also be planets according to Stern.[96]
Attributes
Although each planet has unique physical characteristics, a number of broad comm
onalities do exist among them. Some of these characteristics, such as rings or n
atural satellites, have only as yet been observed in planets in the Solar System
, whilst others are also common to extrasolar planets.
Dynamic characteristics
See also: Kepler's laws of planetary motion
Orbit
The orbit of the planet Neptune compared to that of Pluto. Note the elongation o
f Pluto's orbit in relation to Neptune's (eccentricity), as well as its large an
gle to the ecliptic (inclination).
According to current definitions, all planets must revolve around stars; thus, a
ny potential "rogue planets" are excluded. In the Solar System, all the planets
orbit the Sun in the same direction as the Sun rotates (counter-clockwise as see
n from above the Sun's north pole). At least one extrasolar planet, WASP-17b, ha
s been found to orbit in the opposite direction to its star's rotation.[97] The
period of one revolution of a planet's orbit is known as its sidereal period or
year.[98] A planet's year depends on its distance from its star; the farther a p
lanet is from its star, not only the longer the distance it must travel, but als
o the slower its speed, as it is less affected by the star's gravity. Because no
planet's orbit is perfectly circular, the distance of each varies over the cour
se of its year. The closest approach to its star is called its periastron (perih
elion in the Solar System), while its farthest separation from the star is calle
d its apastron (aphelion). As a planet approaches periastron, its speed increase
s as it trades gravitational potential energy for kinetic energy, just as a fall
ing object on Earth accelerates as it falls; as the planet reaches apastron, its
speed decreases, just as an object thrown upwards on Earth slows down as it rea
ches the apex of its trajectory.[99]
Each planet's orbit is delineated by a set of elements:
* The eccentricity of an orbit describes how elongated a planet's orbit is.
Planets with low eccentricities have more circular orbits, while planets with hi
gh eccentricities have more elliptical orbits. The planets in the Solar System h
ave very low eccentricities, and thus nearly circular orbits.[98] Comets and Kui
per belt objects (as well as several extrasolar planets) have very high eccentri
cities, and thus exceedingly elliptical orbits.[100][101]
*
Illustration of the semi-major axis
The semi-major axis is the distance from a planet to the half-way point al
ong the longest diameter of its elliptical orbit (see image). This distance is n
ot the same as its apastron, as no planet's orbit has its star at its exact cent
re.[98]
* The inclination of a planet tells how far above or below an established re
ference plane its orbit lies. In the Solar System, the reference plane is the pl
ane of Earth's orbit, called the ecliptic. For extrasolar planets, the plane, kn
own as the sky plane or plane of the sky, is the plane of the observer's line of
sight from Earth.[102] The eight planets of the Solar System all lie very close
to the ecliptic; comets and Kuiper belt objects like Pluto are at far more extr
eme angles to it.[103] The points at which a planet crosses above and below its
reference plane are called its ascending and descending nodes.[98] The longitude
of the ascending node is the angle between the reference plane's 0 longitude an
d the planet's ascending node. The argument of periapsis (or perihelion in the S
olar System) is the angle between a planet's ascending node and its closest appr
oach to its star.[98]
Axial tilt
Earth's axial tilt is about 23°.
Planets also have varying degrees of axial tilt; they lie at an angle to the pla
ne of their stars' equators. This causes the amount of light received by each he
misphere to vary over the course of its year; when the northern hemisphere point
s away from its star, the southern hemisphere points towards it, and vice versa.
Each planet therefore possesses seasons; changes to the climate over the course
of its year. The time at which each hemisphere points farthest or nearest from
its star is known as its solstice. Each planet has two in the course of its orbi
t; when one hemisphere has its summer solstice, when its day is longest, the oth
er has its winter solstice, when its day is shortest. The varying amount of ligh
t and heat received by each hemisphere creates annual changes in weather pattern
s for each half of the planet. Jupiter's axial tilt is very small, so its season
al variation is minimal; Uranus, on the other hand, has an axial tilt so extreme
it is virtually on its side, which means that its hemispheres are either perpet
ually in sunlight or perpetually in darkness around the time of its solstices.[1
04] Among extrasolar planets, axial tilts are not known for certain, though most
hot Jupiters are believed to possess negligible to no axial tilt, as a result o
f their proximity to their stars.[105]
Rotation
The planets rotate around invisible axes through their centres. A planet's rotat
ion period is known as a stellar day. Most of the planets in the Solar System ro
tate in the same direction as they orbit the Sun, which is counter-clockwise as
seen from above the sun's north pole, the exceptions being Venus[106] and Uranus
[107] which rotate clockwise, though Uranus's extreme axial tilt means there are
differing conventions on which of its poles is "north", and therefore whether i
t is rotating clockwise or anti-clockwise.[108] However, regardless of which con
vention is used, Uranus has a retrograde rotation relative to its orbit.
The rotation of a planet can be induced by several factors during formation. A n
et angular momentum can be induced by the individual angular momentum contributi
ons of accreted objects. The accretion of gas by the gas giants can also contrib
ute to the angular momentum. Finally, during the last stages of planet building,
a stochastic process of protoplanetary accretion can randomly alter the spin ax
is of the planet.[109] There is great variation in the length of day between the
planets, with Venus taking 243 Earth days to rotate, and the gas giants only a
few hours.[110] The rotational periods of extrasolar planets are not known; howe
ver their proximity to their stars means that hot Jupiters are tidally locked (t
heir orbits are in sync with their rotations). This means they only ever show on
e face to their stars, with one side in perpetual day, the other in perpetual ni
ght.[111]
Orbital clearing
The defining dynamic characteristic of a planet is that it has cleared its neigh
borhood. A planet that has cleared its neighborhood has accumulated enough mass
to gather up or sweep away all the planetesimals in its orbit. In effect, it orb
its its star in isolation, as opposed to sharing its orbit with a multitude of s
imilar-sized objects. This characteristic was mandated as part of the IAU's offi
cial definition of a planet in August, 2006. This criterion excludes such planet
ary bodies as Pluto, Eris and Ceres from full-fledged planethood, making them in
stead dwarf planets.[1] Although to date this criterion only applies to the Sola
r System, a number of young extrasolar systems have been found in which evidence
suggests orbital clearing is taking place within their circumstellar discs.[112
]
Physical characteristics
Mass
A planet's defining physical characteristic is that it is massive enough for the
force of its own gravity to dominate over the electromagnetic forces binding it
s physical structure, leading to a state of hydrostatic equilibrium. This effect
ively means that all planets are spherical or spheroidal. Up to a certain mass,
an object can be irregular in shape, but beyond that point, which varies dependi
ng on the chemical makeup of the object, gravity begins to pull an object toward
s its own centre of mass until the object collapses into a sphere.[113]
Mass is also the prime attribute by which planets are distinguished from stars.
The upper mass limit for planethood is roughly 13 times Jupiter's mass for objec
ts with solar-type isotopic abundance, beyond which it achieves conditions suita
ble for nuclear fusion. Other than the Sun, no objects of such mass exist in the
Solar System; but there are exoplanets of this size. The 13MJ limit is not univ
ersally agreed upon and the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia includes objects up
to 20 Jupiter masses,[114] and the Exoplanet Data Explorer up to 24 Jupiter mas
ses.[115]
The smallest known planet, excluding dwarf planets and satellites, is PSR B1257+
12A, one of the first extrasolar planets discovered, which was found in 1992 in
orbit around a pulsar. Its mass is roughly half that of the planet Mercury.[75]
Internal differentiation
Illustration of the interior of Jupiter, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep la
yer of metallic hydrogen
Every planet began its existence in an entirely fluid state; in early formation,
the denser, heavier materials sank to the centre, leaving the lighter materials
near the surface. Each therefore has a differentiated interior consisting of a
dense planetary core surrounded by a mantle which either is or was a fluid. The
terrestrial planets are sealed within hard crusts,[116] but in the gas giants th
e mantle simply dissolves into the upper cloud layers. The terrestrial planets p
ossess cores of magnetic elements such as iron and nickel, and mantles of silica
tes. Jupiter and Saturn are believed to possess cores of rock and metal surround
ed by mantles of metallic hydrogen.[117] Uranus and Neptune, which are smaller,
possess rocky cores surrounded by mantles of water, ammonia, methane and other i
ces.[118] The fluid action within these planets' cores creates a geodynamo that
generates a magnetic field.[116]
Atmosphere
See also: Extraterrestrial atmospheres
Earth's atmosphere
All of the Solar System planets have atmospheres as their large masses mean grav
ity is strong enough to keep gaseous particles close to the surface. The larger
gas giants are massive enough to keep large amounts of the light gases hydrogen
and helium close by, while the smaller planets lose these gases into space.[119]
The composition of the Earth's atmosphere is different from the other planets b
ecause the various life processes that have transpired on the planet have introd
uced free molecular oxygen.[120] The only solar planet without a substantial atm
osphere is Mercury which had it mostly, although not entirely, blasted away by t
he solar wind.[121]
Planetary atmospheres are affected by the varying degrees of energy received fro
m either the Sun or their interiors, leading to the formation of dynamic weather
systems such as hurricanes, (on Earth), planet-wide dust storms (on Mars), an E
arth-sized anticyclone on Jupiter (called the Great Red Spot), and holes in the
atmosphere (on Neptune).[104] At least one extrasolar planet, HD 189733 b, has b
een claimed to possess such a weather system, similar to the Great Red Spot but
twice as large.[122]
Hot Jupiters have been shown to be losing their atmospheres into space due to st
ellar radiation, much like the tails of comets.[123][124] These planets may have
vast differences in temperature between their day and night sides which produce
supersonic winds,[125] although the day and night sides of HD 189733 b appear t
o have very similar temperatures, indicating that that planet's atmosphere effec
tively redistributes the star's energy around the planet.[122]
Magnetosphere
Schematic of Earth's magnetosphere
One important characteristic of the planets is their intrinsic magnetic moments
which in turn give rise to magnetospheres. The presence of a magnetic field indi
cates that the planet is still geologically alive. In other words, magnetized pl
anets have flows of electrically conducting material in their interiors, which g
enerate their magnetic fields. These fields significantly change the interaction
of the planet and solar wind. A magnetized planet creates a cavity in the solar
wind around itself called magnetosphere, which the wind cannot penetrate. The m
agnetosphere can be much larger than the planet itself. In contrast, non-magneti
zed planets have only small magnetospheres induced by interaction of the ionosph
ere with the solar wind, which cannot effectively protect the planet.[126]
Of the eight planets in the Solar System, only Venus and Mars lack such a magnet
ic field.[126] In addition, the moon of Jupiter Ganymede also has one. Of the ma
gnetized planets the magnetic field of Mercury is the weakest, and is barely abl
e to deflect the solar wind. Ganymede's magnetic field is several times larger,
and Jupiter's is the strongest in the Solar System (so strong in fact that it po
ses a serious health risk to future manned missions to its moons). The magnetic
fields of the other giant planets are roughly similar in strength to that of Ear
th, but their magnetic moments are significantly larger. The magnetic fields of
Uranus and Neptune are strongly tilted relative the rotational axis and displace
d from the centre of the planet.[126]
In 2004, a team of astronomers in Hawaii observed an extrasolar planet around th
e star HD 179949, which appeared to be creating a sunspot on the surface of its
parent star. The team hypothesised that the planet's magnetosphere was transferr
ing energy onto the star's surface, increasing its already high 7,760 °C temperatu
re by an additional 400 °C.[127]
Secondary characteristics
Several planets or dwarf planets in the Solar System (such as Neptune and Pluto)
have orbital periods that are in resonance with each other or with smaller bodi
es (this is also common in satellite systems). All except Mercury and Venus have
natural satellites, often called "moons." Earth has one, Mars has two, and the
gas giants have numerous moons in complex planetary-type systems. Many gas giant
moons have similar features to the terrestrial planets and dwarf planets, and s
ome have been studied as possible abodes of life (especially Europa).[128][129][
130]
The rings of Saturn
The four gas giants are also orbited by planetary rings of varying size and comp
lexity. The rings are composed primarily of dust or particulate matter, but can
host tiny 'moonlets' whose gravity shapes and maintains their structure. Althoug
h the origins of planetary rings is not precisely known, they are believed to be
the result of natural satellites that fell below their parent planet's Roche li
mit and were torn apart by tidal forces.[131][132]
No secondary characteristics have been observed around extrasolar planets. Howev
er the sub-brown dwarf Cha 110913-773444, which has been described as a rogue pl
anet, is believed to be orbited by a tiny protoplanetary disc.[91]
Related terms
* Double planet
* Dwarf planet
* Exoplanet celestial body outside that solar system
* Mesoplanet
* Minor planet celestial body smaller than a planet
* Planetar (astronomy)
* Planetary mnemonic
* Planetesimal
* Protoplanet
* Rogue planet
See also
Astronomy portal
Solar System portal
Space portal
* Extraterrestrial skies
* List of hypothetical Solar System objects
* Landings on other planets
* Space exploration
* List of planet-satellite systems
* Planetary habitability
* Planetary science
* Exoplanetology
* Theoretical planetology
* Planets in astrology
* Planets in science fiction
Notes
1. ^ This definition is drawn from two separate IAU declarations; a formal de
finition agreed by the Union in 2006, and an informal working definition establi
shed by the Union in 2003. The 2006 definition, while official, applies only to
the Solar System, while the 2003 definition applies to planets around other star
s. The extrasolar planet issue was deemed too complex to resolve at the 2006 IAU
conference.
2. ^ Referred to by Huygens as a Planetes novus ("new planet") in his Systema
Saturnium
3. ^ Both labelled nouvelles planetes (new planets) by Cassini in his Decouve
rte de deux nouvelles planetes autour de Saturne
4. ^ Both once referred to as "planets" by Cassini in his An Extract of the J
ournal Des Scavans.... The term "satellite", however, had already begun to be us
ed to distinguish such bodies from those around which they orbited ("primary pla
nets").
5. ^ Recently reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.
6. ^ Regarded as a planet from its discovery in 1930 until redesignated as a
trans-Neptunian dwarf planet in August 2006.
References
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External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Planets
Look up planet in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
* International Astronomical Union website
* Photojournal NASA
* NASA Planet Quest Exoplanet Exploration
* Illustration comparing the sizes of the planets with each other, the Sun,
and other stars
* "IAU Press Releases since 1999 "The status of Pluto: A Clarification"". Ar
chived from the original on 2007-12-14. http://web.archive.org/web/2007121404370
4/http://www.iau.org/STATUS_OF_PLUTO.238.0.html.
* "Regarding the criteria for planethood and proposed planetary classificati
on schemes." article by Stern and Levinson
* Planetary Science Research Discoveries (educational site with illustrated
articles)
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