The Solar System is huge, and the distances are beyond our imagination. This website aims to give an impression of the vast space with all distances and graphical representations of the Sun, planets and moons in a proper relative scale. All sizes are calculated based on the diameter of the Sun of 720 pixels. Your path through the Solar System is accompanied by facts and trivia. If you get tired of scrolling or if you are in a hurry, there will be shortcuts after Mars.
The Sun is the star at the center of our Solar System. It is the largest object and contains 99.86 percent of the total mass of the Solar System. Its gravity holds the Solar System together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The Sun is composed of 92.1 percent hydrogen, 7.8 percent helium and 0.1 percent other elements. It is held together by gravitational attraction, producing immense pressure and temperature. At its core, the temperature is about 15 million degrees Celsius, which is sufficient to sustain thermonuclear fusion. The temperature at the surface is about 5,500 degrees Celsius. The outer atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, extends thousands of kilometers above the surface, gradually transforming into the solar wind that flows outward through our Solar System. The temperature increases with altitude, reaching as high as 2 million degrees Celsius. The source of this heating is a scientific mystery as temperature is expected to drop the further it gets from the source.
The Life and Death of the Sun
The Sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud that consisted mostly of hydrogen and helium. Scientific studies indicate that one or more supernovae of prior stars must have occurred near the location where the Sun formed. The Sun is in the main-sequence stage right now, slowly using up its hydrogen fuel. In about 5 billion years, the Sun will run out of hydrogen and expand to a red giant, where it consumes the inner planets, the Earth included. Finally, it will eject its outer layers and shrink back to a tiny white dwarf, a stellar core remnant.
The Solar System
The Solar System is located in the Milky Way, a spiral galaxy containing more than 100 billion stars. The System resides in one of the Milky Way's outer spiral arms, known as the Orion Arm, which contains most of the visible stars in the night sky, and is about 26,660 light-years away from the Galactic Center. It is more or less flat in terms of the planetary rotations, with the major planets all orbiting in a very thin plane surrounding the Sun. There is no universally accepted definition of how far the Solar System extends. A preferred model defines the true size of the Solar System by the reach of its gravity; how far away an object can still be said to orbit the Sun. This is about 2 light-years, or almost half the distance from the Sun to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.
1 Light Minute
The Sun's light takes about one minute to reach this point. A light minute expresses the distance light travels in a vacuum in one minute, which is approximately 18 million kilometers.
The Interplanetary Medium
The vast majority of the Solar System consists of a near-vacuum known as the interplanetary medium. It includes electromagnetic radiation, microscopic dust particles, magnetic fields, and hot plasma - charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, which stream from the Sun, called the solar wind. The interplanetary medium stops at the heliopause. The heliopause is the theoretical boundary where the Sun's solar wind is stopped by the interstellar medium.
A planet is an astronomical object that is in orbit around the Sun, has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape), and has "cleared the neighbourhood" around its orbit. "Clearing the neighbourhood" describes the object becoming gravitationally dominant such that there are no other objects of comparable size other than its natural satellites or those otherwise under its gravitational influence. There are eight known planets in the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. A non-satellite object fulfilling only the first two of these criteria is classified as a dwarf planet. Currently there are five objects accepted as dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea.
The Closest Planet
Slow down, you are approaching the closest planet to the Sun, Mercury.
Where is Mercury? Look closely, it's there. Just 1 pixel. Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. It is one of the most extreme worlds in our Solar Systems. Temperatures on Mercury's surface can reach 430 degrees Celsius. Because the planet has no atmosphere to retain that heat, nighttime temperatures on the Mercury's surface can drop to -180 degrees Celsius. Despite these temperatures, the existence of water ice and even organic molecules has been confirmed on Mercury’s surface. The surface resembles that of Earth's Moon, scarred by many impact craters resulting from collisions with meteoroids and comets.
Most planets of our Solar System are named after Roman gods. Mercury is named after the Roman god of commerce, Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Mars is the Roman god of war, Jupiter is the Roman king of gods of the divine pantheon, Saturn is the Roman god of wealth and agriculture, and Neptune is the Roman god of the sea. The name of Uranus references the ancient Greek deity of the sky. It is the only planet whose name is derived from a figure of Greek mythology.
0.5 Astronomical Units
Congratulations, you scrolled 0.5 astronomical units, meaning you are halfway to Earth. The astronomical unit is a unit of length, roughly the distance from Earth to the Sun and equal to 149,597,870 kilometers. The astronomical unit is used primarily for measuring distances within the Solar System or around other stars.
Congratulations, you scrolled 100,000,000 kilometers. Light takes about five minutes to travel 100 million kilometers in the near-vacuum of interplanetary space. A Boeing 747 would take about 12 years to travel this distance in the Earth's atmosphere, and the Koenigsegg Agera RS, one of the fastest cars on Earth, about 25 years on the Earth's surface. Maintenance, repair and refueling not included.
Venus is sometimes called Earth's sister planet because of their similar size, mass and proximity to the Sun. But conditions on Venus are among the most extreme. Venus is covered by a thick, rapidly spinning atmosphere which consists mainly of dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid. The thick atmosphere traps the Sun's heat, resulting in surface temperatures higher than 470 degrees Celsius. This makes the Venusian surface hotter than Mercury's and also the hottest planet in the Solar System, even though Venus is nearly twice Mercury's distance from the Sun. The surface is isothermal, which means that there is virtually no variation in Venus' surface temperatures between day and night, or the equator and the poles.
Unlike most other planets in the Solar System, Venus rotates clockwise, which is called retrograde. Also, it rotates very slowly. Here comes the fun part: A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. While it takes 243 days for the planet to spin around its axis, Venus completes its orbit around the Sun in 225 days. Even more strangely, the rotation appears to be slowing down. Studies suggest that the Venusian atmosphere is so thick that it grinds against the planet's surface and slows down its rotation.
1I/'Oumuamua is a cigar-shaped interstellar object passing through the Solar System. When discovered in 2017, it caused quite a stir. Speculations lead to a nitrogen iceberg, a hydrogen iceberg or even an alien object. It was named 1I/'Oumuamua – "1" because it is the first such object to be discovered, "I" for interstellar, and "'Oumuamua" is a Hawaiian word meaning "a messenger from afar arriving first". 'Oumuamua's planetary system of origin and the age of its excursion are yet unknown.
(The size of 1I/'Oumuamua is too small to be graphically displayed on this website.)
Chances are high that you are on this planet right now. Earth is the only astronomical object known to harbor life and the only planet in the Solar System that sustains liquid water on its surface. In fact, liquid water covers about 70.8 percent of the planet's surface. Earth's atmosphere consists of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 1 percent other ingredients, and reaches out to about 10,000 kilometers into space. The atmosphere affects Earth's long-term climate and short-term weather, shields from much of the harmful radiation coming from the Sun, and protects from meteors as well. Earth's axis is tilted approximately 23.4 degrees away from its orbital plane, which is responsible for producing seasonal variations on the planet's surface. When the North Pole is pointing towards the Sun, the northern hemisphere experiences summer and the southern hemisphere experiences winter, and vice versa.
Unlike Mercury and Venus, Earth is orbited by one permanent natural satellite, the Moon. From Earth, we always see the same face of the Moon because the Moon is spinning on its axis at the same speed that it is going around the Earth. The leading theory of the Moon's origin is that it was created roughly 4.5 billion years ago from a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized object known as Theia. This collision created a massive cloud of debris that began circling our planet, which eventually coalesced to form the Moon.
The Moon is spiraling away from the Earth at a rate of 3.78 centimeters per year. At the time of its formation, the Moon sat much closer to the Earth - a mere 22,500 kilometers away, compared with 402,336 kilometers between the Earth and the Moon today. The migration of the Moon away from the Earth is mainly due to the action of the Earth's tides. Without the Moon, the Earth will eventually slow down enough to become unstable. But don't panic, this would take billions of years.
The distance from Earth to Mars is approximately 78 million kilometers, and the voyage of a contemporary spaceship takes about 230 days. An astronaut could watch the movie "The Martian" (2016) 2,300 times in preparation for the arrival on the Red Planet. Another recommendation to familiarize with life on Mars: "Total Recall" (1990).
Congratulations, you scrolled 200,000,000 kilometers.
Mars is the second smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury, but it has a diverse geology and the highest volcanoes in the Solar System. Martian surface temperatures vary from lows of about -143 degrees Celsius at the winter polar caps to highs of up to 35 degrees Celsius in equatorial summer. Of all the planets in the Solar System, the seasons of Mars are the most Earth-like, due to the similar tilts of the two planets' rotational axes. The very thin atmosphere consists of 95 percent carbon dioxide, 3 percent nitrogen and 2 percent argon. Mars is also called the Red Planet. The reddish coloration is due to iron oxide, more commonly known as rust, distributed on the surface and in the atmosphere.
Deimos and Phobos
Mars has two moons called Deimos and Phobos, which measure about 12 kilometers and 22 kilometers in mean diameter. The latter, Phobos named for the Greek god of fear and panic, seems doomed. In about 30 million to 50 million years, Phobos is going to crash into Mars' surface or rip apart because of the tidal forces of Mars.
Congratulations, you made it through the inner planets of the Solar System. The eight planets are divided into four inner planets and four outer planets. The division defines two groups, which are very different from each other in chemical structure. The inner planets are composed mainly of silicates and metals, the outer planets are composed mainly of gases and ices. From now on, distances become much larger, so you may consider taking a shortcut to Jupiter. If you are not that much in a hurry, you may also skip to the next ensemble of objects, the asteroid belt. Or you can just continue scrolling and enjoy the size of the Solar System.
How would a shortcut work? Miguel Alcubierre, a theoretical physicist, showed that compressing spacetime in front of a spaceship while expanding it behind was mathematically possible within the laws of General Relativity. Rather than exceeding the speed of light, a spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, so that the spacecraft would arrive at its destination more quickly than light would in normal space without breaking any physical laws. Although the metric proposed by Alcubierre is consistent with the Einstein equations, actual construction and use of such a drive seems highly impossible.
The asteroid belt is a torus-shaped region in the Solar System with a clustered collection of asteroids located between the planetary orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Hundreds of thousands of asteroids are currently known, and the total number ranges in the millions or more, depending on the lower size cutoff. Nevertheless, the asteroids are spread over such a large volume that the asteroid belt is mostly empty. Due to the low density of materials within the belt, the odds of a spacecraft running into an asteroid are estimated at less than 1 in 1 billion. You can take a shortcut to the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, 4 Vesta.
4 Vesta is the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, and is the brightest asteroid visible from Earth. It has a mean diameter of 525 kilometers, a basaltic crust, ultramafic mantle rock, and, as can be inferred from its mean density, an iron-nickel core. 4 Vesta has a similar structure as the terrestrial planets and is the only known remaining rocky protoplanet of the kind that formed the terrestrial planets. Take a shortcut to another large asteroid, 3 Juno.
(The size of 4 Vesta is too small to be graphically displayed on this website.)
3 Juno is a larger asteroid in the asteroid belt. It has a mean diameter of 257 kilometers. Spectroscopic studies permit the conclusion that 3 Juno could be the progenitor of chondrites, a common type of stony meteorite composed of iron-bearing silicates such as olivine and pyroxene. Take a shortcut to the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, an actual dwarf planet, 1 Ceres.
(The size of 3 Juno is too small to be graphically displayed on this website.)
1 Ceres is the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt and the only object in the asteroid belt large enough to be a dwarf planet. It has a mean diameter of 939 kilometers and comprises nearly a third of the estimated mass of the asteroid belt. Due to its mass 1 Ceres is able to capture other asteroids into its gravitational field. It is rich in carbonates and ammoniated phyllosilicates. Furthermore, graphite, sulfur, and sulfur dioxide are present on 1 Ceres' surface. It also has a transient atmosphere of water vapor derived from exposed surface ice evaporated by the Sun.
(The size of 1 Ceres is too small to be graphically displayed on this website.)
2 Pallas is the third-largest asteroid in the Solar System by both volume and mass, and is a likely remnant protoplanet. It has a mean diameter of 513 kilometers. Based on spectroscopic observations, the primary component of the material on 2 Pallas' surface is a silicate containing little iron and water. You can take a shortcut to the fourth-largest object in the asteroid belt, 10 Hygiea.
(The size of 2 Pallas is too small to be graphically displayed on this website.)
10 Hygiea is the fourth-largest asteroid in the Solar System by both volume and mass. It has a mean diameter of 434 kilometers. Based on spectral evidence, 10 Hygiea's surface is thought to consist of primitive carbonaceous materials. 10 Hygiea is the main member of the Hygiean asteroid family that constitutes about 1 percent of asteroids in the asteroid belt. The family was formed when an object with a diameter of about 100 kilometers collided with proto-Hygiea about 2 billion years ago. Up next: The King of Planets, Jupiter.
(The size of 10 Hygiea is too small to be graphically displayed on this website.)
30 light minutes
The Sun's light takes about 30 minutes to reach this point. It travelled about 539,626,000 kilometers and has left the asteroid belt behind. Between here and Jupiter, there isn't anything of interest but the empty void of space. You may wish to take a shortcut to Jupiter.
Jupiter is the largest and most massive planet in the Solar System, containing more than twice the amount of material of the other objects orbiting the Sun combined. Actually, Jupiter is the most Sun-like planet. Most of the material left over after the formation of the Sun went to Jupiter, forming a type of planet called a gas giant. The composition of Jupiter's atmosphere is similar to that of the Sun. It is mostly made of hydrogen and helium in roughly solar proportions. Jupiter's rotation period is 9.92 hours, the fastest of all the planets in the Solar System, creating strong jet streams and forming clouds into bands across the planet. It is still unknown if Jupiter has a central core of solid material. The shortcut to Saturn.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot
The Great Red Spot is a persistent high-pressure region in the atmosphere of Jupiter, producing an anticyclonic storm that is one of the largest in the Solar System. It is not known what causes the reddish color. Hypotheses suppose that it may be caused by chemical products created from the solar ultraviolet irradiation of ammonium hydrosulfide and the organic compound acetylene.
Congratulations, you were crazy enough to scroll 1,000,000,000 kilometers.
Saturn is the second-largest planet in the Solar System. Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. It is the only planet in the Solar System that is less dense than water. Saturn has a pale yellow hue due to ammonia crystals in its upper atmosphere. The atmosphere gradually changes from the gaseous to the liquid state with increasing depth. At the center is a dense core of rock, ice, water, and other compunds made solid by the intense pressure and heat. Saturn is probably best known for the system of planetary rings. The distance to the next planet is even larger than before. You may consider taking a shortcut to Uranus.
Rings of Saturn
The rings of Saturn are the most extensive ring system of any planet in the Solar System. The structure is subdivided into seven smaller ring sets, each of which has a gap between it and its neighbor. They consist of billions of small particles, ranging in size from micrometers to meters, that orbit around Saturn. The ring particles are made almost entirely of water ice, with a trace component of rocky material. The ring system extends up to 282,000 kilometers from the planet, yet the vertical height is typically about 10 meters.
A ring system is a disc of solid material orbiting an astronomical object. The most prominent and most famous planetary rings in the Solar System are those around Saturn, but the other three giant planets Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune also have ring systems. Ring systems may also be found around other types of astronomical objects, including minor planets, moons, and as well, the interplanetary spaces between planets.
Uranus was the first planet found with the aid of a telescope. It is one of two ice giants in the outer Solar System. Despite being nearer to the Sun than Neptune, Uranus is the coldest planet in our Solar System. Unlike the other planets, Uranus gives off less heat than it absorbs from the Sun. 80 percent or more of the planet's mass is made up of a dense fluid of icy water, methane, and ammonia. The atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium. Like Venus, Uranus rotates retrograde. Strangely, Uranus' rotation is tilted almost parallel to its orbinal plane, so Uranus appears rotating on its side. This situation may be the result of a collision with a planet-sized object, which radically changed Uranus' rotation. The final shortcut to the farthest-known planet from the Sun, Neptune.
Rings of Uranus
The rings of Uranus are intermediate in complexity between the more extensive set around Saturn and the simpler systems around Jupiter and Neptune. The rings consist mainly of macroscopic particles and little dust, and are relatively dark. This indicates that they are probably composed of a mixture of ice and a dark material, but the nature of this material is unknown.
Neptune is the eighth and farthest-known planet from the Sun. From Earth, Neptune is not visible to the unaided eye. The ice giant was the first planet located through mathematical predictions rather than through regular observations. Neptune's atmosphere is composed of 80 percent hydrogen, 19 percent helium, and methane. It extends to great depths, gradually merging into water and other melted ices over a heavier, almost Earth-size solid core. Neptune is the Solar System's windiest planet. Despite its great distance and low energy input from the Sun, Neptune's winds can reach supersonic speed and are three times stronger than Jupiter's and nine times stronger than Earth's.
Kuiper belt and Oort cloud
The Solar System extends much farther than the eight planets that orbit the Sun. The 4.5 billion kilometers, that you travelled from the Sun to Neptune, are probably less than 1 percent of the size of the Solar System. The Solar System also includes the Kuiper belt that lies past Neptune's orbit. It is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger — 20 times as wide and 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed. Beyond the Kuiper belt is the Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is a vast reservoir of icy bodies, numbered in their trillons, that make up a ghostly shell around the entire Solar System. The Oort cloud is a theoretical concept that has never been directly observed, but its existence is predicted based on mathematical models.