Join us on Wednesday, April 7th at 2 p.m. for a fun filled session of STEM Club, where we will learn even more about our solar system!

Our solar system consists of our star, the Sun, and everything bound to it by gravity — the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, dwarf planets such as Pluto, dozens of moons and millions of asteroids, comets and meteoroids. Beyond our own solar system, we have discovered thousands of planetary systems orbiting other stars in the Milky Way. Our planetary system is located in an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

Why Is It Called The “Solar” System?

There are many planetary systems like ours in the universe, with planets orbiting a host star. Our planetary system is named the “solar” system because our Sun is named Sol, after the Latin word for Sun, “solis,” and anything related to the Sun we call “solar.”

There are more planets than stars in our galaxy. The current count orbiting our star: eight. The inner, rocky planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The outer planets are gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, and ice giants, Uranus and Neptune.

Interesting Planet Facts:

  • Mercury – The smallest and fastest planet, it zips around the Sun in only 88 Earth days.

  • Venus – Venus’ thick atmosphere makes it the hottest planet in our solar system.

  • Earth – The only planet in our solar system with liquid water on the surface.

  • Mars – Mars was a wet and warm planet billions of years ago.

  • Jupiter – The largest planet, its dark red spot is a storm larger than Earth.

  • Saturn – Saturn has the brightest, most massive and most complex ring system of any planet.

  • Uranus – Uranus is tipped on its axis by almost 90-degrees.

  • Neptune – Neptune was the first planet discovered through mathematical calculations, rather than observation.

What is a Planet?

This seemingly simple question doesn’t have a simple answer. Everyone knows that Earth, Mars and Jupiter are planets. But both Pluto and Ceres were once considered planets until new discoveries triggered scientific debate about how to best describe them—a vigorous debate that continues to this day. The most recent definition of a planet was adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 2006. It says a planet must do three things:

  • It must orbit a star (in our cosmic neighborhood, the Sun).

  • It must be big enough to have enough gravity to force it into a spherical shape.

  • It must be big enough that its gravity cleared away any other objects of a similar size near its orbit around the Sun.

Discussion—and debate—will continue as our view of the cosmos continues to expand.

If you want to make a model of our solar system during STEM Club you will need the following:

  • 2 copies of Planets Coloring Sheet (printed on cardstock if you can)

  • Coloring materials (crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc.)

  • A Pencil

  • A 12×12 inch square of cardboard or cardstock

  • Yarn or string

  • Scissors

  • Tape