A Collection of Celestial Facts: Neptune & Mars
Space and Astrology 8/29/11
By: Yona Williams
Do you know which planet in the Solar System is farthest from the Sun? What characteristic does Mars possess that is the same as Earth? In this article, you will learn more about the two planets, as well as information on a couple of asteroids.
The planet furthest from the Sun is Neptune, which has a total of 13 moons. It takes Neptune 164 years and 298 days to orbit the Sun Ã¢â‚¬â€œ so long that we haven't lived to see its completion since it was discovered. The first orbit around the Sun that we've detected occurred on July 12, 2011. Reaching speeds of up to 2,000 km/h, the surface winds of the planet are the strongest of any planet. One of Neptune's popular moons is called Triton is special because it is the only known large moon in the Solar System that was a retrograde orbit. The moon was discovered in 1846 and revolves around the planet in the opposite direction to the planet's rotation.
Astronomers describe Mars as a cold desert climate that possesses half the diameter of Earth. Earth shares some of the same dry land characteristics with Mars, which also displays polar ice caps, seasons, volcanoes, canyons, and changes in weather. For example, space probes have identified a volcano on Mars that has been called Olympus Mons, which measures 17 miles high. This is more than 3 times the height of the infamous Mount Everest.
If you have any thoughts about a second planet for humans, think again. The atmosphere of Mars is too thin for liquid water to exist for long stretches of time on the surface. While we know signs of ancient floods have been detected, the only evidence of water on Mars (something we need to survive) is in icy soil and thin clouds.
Mars possesses two moons (Phobos and Deimos), which were named after the Greek mythological sons of the war god, Ares (who was the counterpart of the Roman god named Mars). Phobos means fear or panic, while Deimos means flight.
It takes the planet 686.98 days to orbit the Sun.
In 1989, the asteroid named Toutatis was discovered Ã¢â‚¬â€œ being named after a Celtic god. The asteroid passes Earth every four years and is one of the biggest space objects to come that close. It's last visit was on November 9, 2008.
In previous years, Ceres was once thought of as the largest asteroid, but in recent time, it has been given a different class Ã¢â‚¬â€œ dwarf planet. Measuring 582 miles in diameter, Ceres was found on New Year's Day in 1801. Since its discovery, thousands of asteroids have been identified. It is estimated that there are most likely more than 1 million asteroids larger than half a mile in diameter.