Our Super Solar System

Now where did I park my car?
Now where did I park my car?

Everyone is fascinated with outer space, the area beyond our solar system. I can understand and appreciate that. The possibility of finding alien worlds, possibly alien life is exciting to think about. However, there’s an awful lot we can learn from the planets in our own system that can help us explore other systems. Here’s some revelations from our own corner of the neighborhood.

Some planets like it hot. How hot? Try 863 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead. Can you guess which planet gets that hot? I bet you said Mercury, and you would be wrong. Mercury may be the closest planet to the sun, but it’s Venus that’s the hottest. Venus has an atmosphere mostly made up of CO2 that traps the heat from the sun, making it hotter than Mercury even on its dark side.

You may be thinking I can’t trick you on the coldest planet. I’m not counting Pluto because it’s no longer a planet(yes it is!) That leaves Neptune as the farthest and therefore the coldest. Nope, you’re still wrong! Uranus is indeed the colder of the two outermost planets, with a minimum measured temperature of -371 degrees Fahrenheit. Current theories are that it’s a result of either Uranus’ screwy weather systems leaking heat into space, or the planet’s having tilted on it’s side millions of years ago.

The largest planet of our solar system is trick-free and kinda obvious. Jupiter reigns supreme as the king of the planets. The monstrous planet is nearly 90,000 miles in diameter. For reference, you could fit about 1,300 Earths inside Jupiter. In fact, when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plowed into the behemoth, one of the scars left behind was the size of earth. That’s one reason why Jupiter is seen as Earth’s protector: It takes the hits so we don’t have to!

Yep, time for the smallest planet. You already know where this is going: Neptune is the smallest planet in the solar system. It naturally used to be Pluto, but what changed? A group of astronomers discovered a planet beyond Pluto that they named Eris. This sparked a discussion about whether to make Eris a planet, or make Eris and Pluto dwarf planets. You can guess which side won the argument. That’s why Neptune is now the smallest planet in the solar system.

Space: The Ultimate Hangout

"Leaving me... Ha ha, guys... guys?"
“Leaving me… Ha ha, guys… guys?”

When we first started hurtling people out into the cold vastness of space at 17,500 miles per hour, we didn’t leave them hanging up there for too long. How long astronauts got to live in space became longer as technology progressed and space stations became a thing. Also, some of the things we shot off into space both before and after haven’t necessarily dropped back with any expediency either. Let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

Things got a lot more comfy for astronauts around the time the Russian space station Mir was put into orbit. It was only a little longer than that before we started seeing some serious records set. In fact it was a Russian cosmonaut by the name of Valeri Polyakov who has the honor of staying up in space for the longest amount of time. Mr. Polyakov went up into space on January 8, 1994 and didn’t fall back down until March 22 of the next year, for a total of 437 days. Hope he had some good books to read.

The Mir space station was de-orbited in 2001, but the International Space Station continues to rock it in Earth orbit. First launched in 1998, the ISS continues to house brave men and women, having done so for nearly seventeen continuous years and making it the current record holder. Some estimate that the station could be useful for up to thirty years.

For the longest anything sent into space by man, we turn to the Vanguard 1. The satellite was launched all the way back in 1958 to obtain geo-something something… It measured scientific stuff. Despite losing contact with it in 1964, the little metal ball that could is still swinging around our big blue marble. It’s estimated it will continue to do that for at least two more centuries. Now that’s staying power!