Ten things you may not know about the solar system | Space | EarthSky

EarthSky // Blogs // Space Larry Sessions Aug 14, 2012 Ten things you may not know about the solar system Image via New Scientist Here’s a collection of 10 unexpected and intriguing facts about our solar system – our sun and its family of planets – you probably did not know! googletag.cmd.pushfunction { googletag.displaydiv-gpt-ad-1336062812552-0; }; 10 things you may not knowMy friend and colleague Dr. Victor Andersen of the Community College of Aurora, CO gave a talk called “Ten Things You May Not Know About the Solar System,” a bit in the sense of David Letterman’s Top Ten List. I thought it was a great talk and so decided to give my own commentary on Victor’s list. While the list is Victor’s, any errors are purely my own.So here we go:10 The hottest planet isn’t closest to the sunMany people know that Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, well less than half of the Earth’s distance. It is no mystery, therefore, why people would assume that Mercury is the hottest planet. We know that Venus, the second planet away from the sun, is on the average 30 million miles farther from the sun than Mercury. The natural assumption is that being farther away, it must be cooler. But assumptions can be dangerous. For practical consideration, Mercury has no atmosphere, no warming blanket to help it maintain the sun’s heat. Venus, on the other hand, is shrouded by an unexpectedly thick atmosphere, about 100 times thicker than our own on Earth. This in itself would normally serve to prevent some of the sun’s energy from escaping back into space and thus raise the overall temperature of the planet. But in addition to the atmosphere’s thickness, it is composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. The carbon dioxide freely lets solar energy in, but is far less transparent to the longer wavelength radiation emitted by the heated surface. Thus the temperature rises to a level far above what would be expected, making it the hottest planet. In fact the average temperature on Venus is about 875 degrees F, hot enough

via Ten things you may not know about the solar system | Space | EarthSky.

 

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