. Get acquainted with our star. The Solar System belongs to the Sun. More than 99% of all the matter in the Solar System is in the Sun. Everything else - planets, moons, asteroids, icy bodies, comets - is made from stuff left over from making the Sun. It's the Sun's gravity that holds everything together. And, of course, it makes. life on Earth possible.
. Mercury is close enough to the Sun for lead to melt during the day. Yet there is ice at the poles. Before we had space probes, Mercury was a mystery hidden in the Sun's glare, but that's changed now.
An international mission to Mercury is currently in progress. It's called Bepi-Colombo. Two spacecraft riding together will orbit and study the planet from unique vantage points. The European Space Agency (ESA) provided one orbiter, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) supplied the other. BepiColombo made its first flyby of Mercury on Oct. 1, 2021, and sent back several images. But several more planetary flybys will be used to steer the craft into orbit around Mercury in December 2025.
. The Moon has no air, no sound, no weather and no liquid water. It even has places that are colder than Pluto. But since gravity is weaker there, you could throw a ball a long way, and the footprint you left might last a hundred thousand years or more.
. Mars has no little green men, but it's a fascinating place. It has a mountain three times the height of Everest and a deep valley that dwarfs the Grand Canyon. Although Mars has no liquid water on the surface, if the southern polar icecap melted, it could cover the planet 36 feet deep in water.
Earth's moon is "the Moon” because it was the only one people had ever seen until 1610. That's when Galileo discovered moons orbiting Jupiter. Why did it take until 1877 for someone to find the moons of our neighbor Mars?
Beyond Mars, there is a belt of material, called the Asteroid Belt. It contains a dwarf planet and lots of small irregular bodies.
Observers used to call them 'vermin of the skies". Asteroids weren't interesting and their streaks ruined sky photos. But no more! They can tell us about the early Solar System. One of them may have finished off the dinosaurs, and more could be coming our way.
. NASA's Dawn mission spent 14 months orbiting the asteroid Vesta. Vesta's an unusual object, too small to be a dwarf planet. Yet it has the Solar System's tallest mountain, and canyons as big as Earth's Grand Canyon. And it may help scientists to understand the early Solar System.
, When Ceres was discovered in 1801, astronomers assumed it was a planet. But when many more of these bodies were found, they were all finally listed as asteroids. In 2006 Ceres became the only asteroid also to be listed as a dwarf planet.
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