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jupiTER's sToRMY suRFAcE

The top layer of Jupiter's dense atmosphere forms different-colored bands and contains raging storms.

saturn's rings

Saturn has an extensive but thin system of rings. This false-color image shows individual ringlets, made up of thousands of pieces of dirty ice.

outer gas giants

The four largest planets, which lie beyond the main belt, are known as the gas giants, although they are only made in part of gas. Excluding the sun, these planets (Jupiter, saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are the biggest objects in the solar system. The visible surface of each is the top of their cloudy upper atmospheres. All four of these distant, cold worlds have large families of moons and are encircled by ring systems.

Earth

The only place in the solar —system known to harbor life

Mars

—This is half Earth's size but more distant and thus colder

, Pluto

This dwarf planet has a less circular and more tilted orbit than the classical planets

Mars

—This is half Earth's size but more distant and thus colder

Mercury

The innermost planet, and the one with the shortest and fastest orbit

Venus

The second planet from Sun but the hottest due to its thick atmosphere

Venus

The second planet from Sun but the hottest due to its thick atmosphere

Saturn

The second largest planet, it is encircled by an extensive ring system

Mercury

The innermost planet, and the one with the shortest and fastest orbit

?main belt

This ring of asteroids separates the inner and outer planets direction of planetary orbit

Saturn

The second largest planet, it is encircled by an extensive ring system direction of planetary orbit

Neptune

The smallest and most distant of the four gas giants

Neptune

The smallest and most distant of the four gas giants moons, asteroids, and comets

Billions of small objects exist in the solar system. Of these, over 140 are moons orbiting seven of the planets. The two largest are both bigger than Mercury; the smallest are potato-shaped lumps just a few miles across. Billions of space rocks, termed asteroids, make up the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Kuiper belt, which lies outside Neptune's orbit, consists of many thousands of icy rocky objects, and over a trillion comets exist in the Oort cloud.

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