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Planets are solid heavenly bodies which revolve round the Sun in closed elliptical paths. A planet is made of rock and metal and produces no light of its own. A planet shines because it reflects the light of the Sun. Since the planets are much nearer than the stars, they appear to be big and do not twinkle at night. The planets move around the Sun from west to east, so the relative positions of the planets keep changing day by day. The planets are very small when compared to the Sun or other stars. There are nine major planets including the Earth. The planet nearest to the Sun is Mercury and the planet furthest to the Sun is Pluto. These planets in the order of increasing distances from the Sun are given below: The names of the planets along with their Indian names are given below in the order of increasing distances from the Sun:



1. Mercury (Budha): It is nearest to the Sun

2. Venus (Shukra)

3. Earth (Prithvi)

4. Mars (Mangal)

5. Jupiter (Brihaspati): Biggest planet

6. Saturn (Shani)

7. Uranus (Indra)

8. Neptune (Varun)

9. Pluto (Yama) Smallest planet: It is farthest from the Sun.

The nine planets of our solar system are shown in the Figure. Among the nine planets of the solar system, five planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be seen easily with the naked eye. They are referred to as Terrestrial planets which have solid and rocky surfaces. Three planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are very far away and have been discovered with the help of the telescope. These planets are referred to as Jovian planets. The planet Earth is called the green planet.



Did you know ?


Hubble telescope finds 'Tenth Planet' Slightly Larger Than Pluto.





For the first time, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has seen distinctly the "tenth planet," currently nicknamed "Xena," and found that it's only slightly larger than Pluto.




Mercury is the planet nearest to the Sun. It is smaller compared to earth and is nearly of the same size as that of the moon. It is occasionally visible just before sunrise or after sunset. Due to its brightness, it is often called morning or evening star. It is also seen in the western sky immediately after sunset during the months of March and April. Many features of Mercury have close resemblance to the moon. Like moon, Mercury too has a rocky surface and mountains.





Venus is the next planet nearest to the Sun. Venus is, however, the closest planet to our Earth. The planet Venus is the brightest object in the night sky (except the moon). It is visible in the early morning in the eastern sky or in the early evening in the western sky. Venus appears bright because it reflects about 75 per cent of the sunlight falling on it. The mass of Venus is 4/5 times that of the Earth while both are nearly the same size.



The Earth is the third planet from the Sun. The two planets which lie between the Sun and the Earth are Mercury and Venus. When viewed from the other space, the Earth appears blue and green due to the reflection of light from water and land on its surface. Earth is the only planet in our solar system which has sufficient oxygen, the gas we need in order to live. It is also the only planet to have large quantities of water. The earth is the only planet of the solar system on which life evolves (originates) and flourishes. It is the presence of life which makes Earth a unique planet.


The earth rotates about an imaginary axis that passes through the north and south pole. The axis is slightly tilted with respect to the plane of its orbit. The day and night on the Earth occur due to this rotation. The Earth completes its journey around the Sun in 365 days, which we call a year. The change in seasons on the Earth takes place due to the tilting of its axis of rotation and the change in its position with respect to the Sun. As a result of the tilting of the axis, the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth towards the Sun keep changing throughout the year. When the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, we experience summer, while it is winter season in the southern hemisphere. Autumn and spring occur when the Earth is in between these two extreme positions in its orbit.

On June 21, we have the longest day in the northern hemisphere while it is the shortest in the southern hemisphere. On December 22, the length of the day is the shortest in the northern hemisphere and the longest in the southern hemisphere. On September 23 and March 21, the duration of the day and night is equal in both the hemispheres.







Mars is the 4th planet from the Sun. Since the planet Mars is quite far off from the Sun, it is a cold planet. The planet Mars has an atmosphere containing traces of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen on Mars is too little for the survival of life there. In the beginning, Mars had conditions somewhat resembling those on the Earth. It must have had enough surface water and carbon dioxide gas in the beginning. But since Mars is a small planet having a small gravitational field (or gravitational pull), it could not hold on to the water and carbon dioxide, which ultimately escaped into the space.

Since there is not much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars, the green-house effect is greatly reduced. And since the solar energy is trapped in carbon dioxide, the planet Mars became extremely cold too support even the primitive form of life. But of late, astronomers have noticed some changes on the surface of Mars that gave them an idea that water may also be present on the planet and it may have life in some form. Investigations are still on, in this regard. Mars has two moons named Phobos and Deimos.




Jupiter is the 5th planet from the Sun and the biggest planet of the solar system. It is the first of the gaseous planets made up mainly of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter is a very bright object in the sky. Jupiter appears as a very colourful object when seen through a telescope.

Jupiter has some rings around it but these are extremely thin. Jupiter has a very deep atmosphere. The atmosphere of Jupiter consists of hydrogen, helium, methane and ammonia. Seen through the instruments on a space mission like the Discovery the most distinguishing feature of Jupiter is the presence of the ‘Great Red Spot’ in its atmosphere. The great red spot of Jupiter is believed to be a complex storm in its atmosphere which is long lived and has been going on for hundreds of years.

Jupiter is a very cold planet, its surface temperatures being -150ºC.

The mass of Jupiter is more than 3000 times the mass of the earth. Because of its extremely large mass, Jupiter exerts a very strong gravitational pull on other objects which pass by it. For example, a comet passing close to Jupiter experiences its very strong gravitational pull and gets deflected from its original path



Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun. Saturn is the second biggest planet of the solar system. Like Jupiter, Saturn is also made up of hydrogen and helium. Saturn is surrounded by hundreds of narrow rings that are visible. The presence of a well developed system of rings around Saturn makes it unique in the solar system.




Did you know ?


Saturn's density is lower than that of water and hence it would float if immersed in water.




Uranus is the 7th planet from the Sun. Uranus is the first planet to have been discovered by the use of a telescope. After Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus is the third biggest planet of the solar system. Uranus is also made up mainly of hydrogen and helium. It has also some rings around it. The most interesting point about Uranus is that it rotates on its axis from east to west whereas all other planets rotate from west to east.




Neptune lies just beyond Uranus. Counting outwards from the Sun, Neptune is the 8th planet of the solar system. Neptune is about the same size as Uranus, and it is the last of the large planets. Neptune also has some rings around it.




Pluto was the last planet to be discovered. It is the outermost of the known planets of the solar system. It is the 9th planet from the Sun. Please note that the planet ‘Pluto’ is furthest from the Sun as well as from the earth. Pluto is the smallest planet of the solar system. It is thought to consist mainly of frozen methane. Being furthest from the Sun, Pluto is the coldest planet of the solar system.


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