Mars

Though details of Mars’ surface are difficult to see from Earth, telescope observations show seasonally changing features and white patches at the poles. For decades, people speculated that bright and dark areas on Mars were patches of vegetation, Mars was a likely place for advanced life forms, and water might exist in the polar caps. When the Mariner 4 spacecraft flew by Mars in 1965, photographs of a bleak, cratered surface shocked many – Mars seemed to be a dead planet. Later missions, however, showed that Mars is a complex planet and holds many mysteries yet to be solved. Chief among them is whether Mars ever had the right conditions to support small life forms called microbes.

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Earth’s Moon

The fifth largest moon in the solar system, Earth’s moon is the only place beyond Earth where humans have set foot. The brightest and largest object in our night sky, the moon makes Earth a more livable planet by moderating our home planet’s wobble on its axis, leading to a relatively stable climate. It also causes tides, creating a rhythm that has guided humans for thousands of years. The moon was likely formed after a Mars-sized body collided with Earth. Continue reading

Venus

Venus is the second planet from the sun and our closest planetary neighbor.Similar in structure and size to Earth, Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction most planets do. Its thick atmosphere traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect, making it the hottest planet in our solar system with surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead.

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Mercury

Mercury’s eccentric orbit takes the small planet as close as 47 million km (29 million miles) and as far as 70 million km (43 million miles) from the sun. If one could stand on the scorching surface of Mercury when it is at its closest point to the sun, the sun would appear more than three times as large as it does when viewed from Earth.