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Science Whizzkid Newsletter 3: Solar System

Original Research by P5/1 (2009) pupils

Edited by Mr Melvin Pao

For thousands of years, humans have looked up into the sky and wondered what lies beyond the sun and the moon and the stars.  With the advance of science and technology, humans have not only studied the sun and the moon, but also discovered that the space above our heads is far from being empty.  Before the 17th century, people thought that Earth was the centre of the universe and everything else revolved around it, including the Sun.  Today we know that the Earth is just one of the many planets and heavenly bodies that revolve around the Sun, collectively known as the Solar System.


What is The Solar System


The Solar System is the sun and everything that travels around it.  The Solar System as we know it today consists of the Sun (a main sequence star) and eight other major planets, in the order of increasing distance from the Sun:

  1. Mercury
  2. Venus
  3. Earth
  4. Mars
  5. Jupiter
  6. Saturn
  7. Uranus
  8. Neptune

You can remember the eight planets using this mnemonic: "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles".

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There is an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  It consists of many small rock and ice fragments left over from the formation of the solar system.

There are two types of planets: Terrestrial and Jovian.  Terrestrial planets are rocky and are relatively small in size.  Jovian planets, in contrast are mainly made up of gases and are much larger in size compared to the terrestrial planets.  There are four Terrestrial planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.  They are also known as the inner planets. The other four planets are the Jovian planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  They are known as the outer planets, or gas giants.

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Scaled model of the Jovian planets (left to right: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) against the Sun in the background. 

You can use this online calculator to help you calculate the size of a model of a solar system here.  Be prepared to use a lot of space if you decide to build a model!