Updated: May 30
Our solar system is made up of 8 planets that orbit our Sun. In this post, we'll list all the planets in sequence from the sun, give you useful information about each planet and the moons, and go over some interesting facts about our solar system. We'll also discuss why Pluto and other dwarf planets are not considered planets.
What is the Order of the Eight Planets from the Sun?
Here is the correct order of the planets from nearest to farthest from the sun:
Let's learn more about the composition of each planet, their distance, temperature, and how many moons they have. We'll also discuss planetary astrophotography and see which planets are the easiest to photograph with a telescope!
What is the Solar System?
The Solar System hosts the Sun, the planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, meteoroids, and comets all within the same gravitational boundaries. The Sun is the most important object in our solar system, and is what holds it all together! Without the gravity of the sun, every planet and millions of other objects in our solar system would drift randomly into space. There is only one solar system in the universe, but a gigantic number of planetary systems within the Milky Way galaxy. Our solar system got its name from the scientific name of the sun, "Sol."
Our Solar System was born 4.6 billion years ago and is located in the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way. It orbits our galaxy at a speed of 515,000 miles per hour, or 828,000 kilometers per hour. Even at this speed, our solar system takes 230 million years to fully orbit the Milky Way's galactic center!
No extra-terrestrial life has ever been found in our solar system, but NASA and other space agencies are always looking deeper and farther in the hopes of finding evidence of life on other planets. Two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, launched in 1977, have now escaped the boundaries of our Solar System and are officially "interstellar." Three others, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, and New Horizons are expected to also leave our solar system in the future.
What is a Planet?
A planet is a spherical object that orbits a star. It has a strong enough gravity that it clears away other bodies in the vicinity of its orbital path around the sun.
The exact definition of a planet has changed many times over the years. In ancient Greeks times, our moon and the sun were considered planets... while Earth wasn't. Some dwarf planets, like Ceres and, of course, the beloved Pluto, were once considered planets until being reclassified.
As of today, the official definition of a planet by the IAU (International Astronomical Union) states that:
A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
All other objects, except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".
Don't worry, if scientists decide to once again include Pluto in the list of official planets, we'll update this post!
The Inner Planets - Rocky Planets
Rocky planets, also known as terrestrial planets, are the four closest planets to the Sun. They are often called the Inner Planets due to their orbit being closer than the asteroid belt of the Solar System. Rockey planets have a solid surface and are mostly made up of silicate rocks and metals. Earth is the largest rocky planet in the Solar System.
All terrestrial planets have a metallic core which is mostly made up of iron and surrounded by a silicate mantle. The image above shows what the interior structure of the inner planets in the solar system looks like. Earth's moon is also visible as it is often considered a type of terrestrial planet.
The inner planets in our Solar System in order from the sun are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Let's learn about each of them!
Name Origin: Roman God of Speed
Discovered in: Ancient Times
Radius: 2,439.7 km
Temperatures: -173, 427°C
Distance from Sun: 58 million km
Day: 59 Earth days
Orbit: 88 Earth days
Natural Satellites (moons): 0
Light speed from Sun: 3.88 min
Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and is the closest planet to the Sun. Being the nearest planet to the Sun, you might think that Mercury is also the hottest, but its temperature is actually just under Venus'. This is because the atmosphere on Mercury is much less dense than the atmosphere of Venus.
Mercury does not have any moon. The planet rotates much slower than Earth but orbits faster due to how close it is to the Sun. It takes 59 Earth days for Mercury to complete a spin around itself, and a year on Mercury equals 88 days on Earth.
Could There be Life on Mercury?
Finding life on Mercury is extremely unlikely. Because of its proximity to the sun, the planet faces extreme temperatures and solar radiation all year round, making survival almost impossible.
The planet does not have a layered atmosphere like the Earth to retain heat, instead, it has a surface boundary exosphere meaning the surface temperatures vary from one extreme to the other, and range from -173 °C during the night to 427 °C in the daytime (-280 °F to 800 °F).
It is possible that microorganisms could have lived on the planet millions of years ago, but no living thing is believed to be able to survive on the planet today.
Interesting facts about Mercury:
Mercury is the fastest planet in the Solar System and completes an orbit around the Sun in just 88 Earth days going 29 miles (47 kilometers) per second.
From the ground, the Sun would be three times larger and seven times brighter than it is from the surface of Earth.
Mercury is only slightly larger than our moon. It is 2.6x smaller than Earth.
2 NASA spacecraft explored Mercury, Mariner 10, and MESSENGER.
Name Origin: Roman Goddess of Love
Discovered in: Ancient Times
Radius: 6,051.8 km
Distance from Sun: 108 million km
Day: 243 Earth days
Orbit: 225 Earth days
Natural Satellites (moons): 0
Light speed from Sun: 5.97 min
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, between Mercury and the Earth. Venus has a very thick atmosphere that is full of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that traps all the heat coming from the sun, making Venus the hottest planet in our solar system. Surface temperatures on Venus reach 475 degrees Celsius (900 degrees Fahrenheit). The planet is made up of a rusty-colored surface that hosts thousands of volcanoes and extreme mountains.
Venus's rotation is very interesting. The planet spins in the opposite direction of most other planets, and does so very slowly, making a Venusian day longer than a year!
Could There Be Life on Venus?
Venus is very similar in size and structure to our planet, and is often called: "Earth Twin". A better word for it would be "Toxic Twin". There is simply no way that living organisms could survive on Venus. Besides the extreme heat, Venus is home to clouds full of sulfuric acid and an overall toxic atmosphere. If you thought this isn't too bad, also know that the air pressure on Venus is 90 times more crushing than on Earth.
Despite this, scientists do not reject the possibility of life for tiny organisms and theorize that microbes could exist high within the clouds, where the temperatures are cooler.
Interesting facts about Venus:
One day on Venus is longer than one year.
On Venus, the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East.
On 1962, Venus was the first planet to be explored by a spacecraft, Mariner 2.
The toxic clouds on Venus are believed to smell like rotten eggs.
Because of the intense heat on the surface, the spacecraft that landed on Venus only survived for a couple of hours at most.
Name Origin: "Ground"
Discovered in: N/A
Radius: 6,371 km
Temperatures: -88, 58°C
Distance from Sun: 150 million km
Day: 1 Earth day
Orbit: 365 Earth days
Natural Satellites (moons): 1
Light speed from Sun: 8.4 min
Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the largest of the four terrestrial planets. In our Solar System, Earth is the fifth largest planet. Earth is, as you know, our home planet, and the only planet so far where life and liquid water have been discovered.
The water on Earth covers 70% of the planet's surface. Our atmosphere is made up of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and 1 percent of other things. This beautiful mix is what provides the perfect balance for life on Earth to thrive.
Earth only has one natural satellite, the Moon, but is orbited by thousands of artificial satellites that help study our planet, provide Internet and cellular connection, spy on other countries, and more.
The Moon is the only place in the universe besides Earth where humans have walked. More than a hundred spacecraft have visited the Moon so far, but only a few had a crew. It is located at a distance of 240,000 miles (385,000km) from Earth and is the fifth-largest moon in the Solar System. Because of the weak atmosphere (called exosphere), the air is not breathable, and the lack of liquid water means that life on the Moon is not possible.
Interesting facts about Earth:
Contrary to some beliefs, the Earth is not flat.
Name Origin: Roman God of War
Discovered in: Ancient Times
Radius: 3,390 km
Temperatures: -153, 20°C
Distance from Sun: 228 million km
Day: 24.6 Earth hours
Orbit: 687 Earth days
Natural Satellites (moons): 2
Light speed from Sun: 11.73min
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is smaller than Earth. Also called the Red Planet, it is believed to have been much more active in the past, with water and warm weather. Today, Mars is mostly a large desert with cold temperatures and a very thin atmosphere. After Earth, it is the most studied planet in our solar system and several landers have roamed its surface. As of 2021, we now even have a helicopter on the planet named Ingenuity!
Could There be Life on Mars?
Despite a large number of missions to Mars, no proof of life has been found so far. Today, the planet's environment is too harsh for a living organism to survive. If that's not enough, its thin atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide, argon, and nitrogen; the planet is often hit by meteorite impacts, strong winds, volcanic activity, and crust movement.
The question scientists ponder isn't if there is life on Mars today, but rather "Was there ever any life on Mars?" and "Will there ever be life?". The planet was much more habitable millions of years ago when life could have been present. As for the future, it is the best option humans have to inhabit if we are able to terraform it, so will humans ever colonize the planet?
Dive deep into stats and history about Mars in our post all about the Red Planet.
Interesting facts about Mars:
Mars is known to have sunrises and sunsets that appear blue. Earth is known as "the Blue Planet" although its sunrises and sunsets appear red.
The two moons orbiting Mars are called Phobos and Deimos, named after the two horses that pulled the chariot of the Greek god of war, Ares.
The Martian moons are potato-shaped and may have been asteroids captured by the planet's gravity.
The Outer Planets - Giant Planets
Giant planets, also known as the outer planets or Jovian planets, are the four farthest planets from the sun, located beyond the asteroid belt. The giant planets in order from closest to farthest are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Together, they make up 99% of the total mass of all objects orbiting the Sun.
Giant planets are made up of volatile gases, making them very different than our terrestrial inner planets. It is not possible to land on any of these four planets, as they do not have hard surfaces. If you tried landing on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, or Neptune, you would sink through the gases forever.
Jupiter and Saturn are known as Gas Giants and are mostly composed of Hydrogen and Helium.
Uranus and Neptune are known as Ice Giants and are mostly composed of Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen, and Sulfur.
Jupiter is the largest outer planet in the Solar System and the closest of the four.
Type: Gas Giant
Name Origin: King of the Roman Gods
Discovered in: Ancient Times
Radius: 69,911 km
Distance from Sun: 778 million km
Day: 10 Earth hours
Orbit: 4,333 Earth days
Natural Satellites (moons): 79
Light speed from Sun: 41.23 min
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun. Gigantic, it is the largest planet in the Solar System by far and is twice as massive as all the other planets combined!
Jupiter has beautiful horizontal bands, which are actually dense clouds of ammonia and water, mixed with hydrogen and helium.
There can be no life on the planet, but several of Jupiter's 79 moons are believed to be home to oceans beneath their surface, which could potentially support life.
The Great Red Spot of Jupiter
The most famous aspect of Jupiter is its Great Red Spot. It is a massive storm with 400mph+ winds that have been active for several centuries, and is larger than Earth itself!
The first ever report of this anticyclonic storm dates from, May 1664 after being observed by Robert Hooke. A year later, Giovanni Cassini confirmed the sighting.
The Great Red Spot rotates counter-clockwise and measures 16,350 km (10,160 mi). The highest clouds are 8 km (5 miles) higher than other clouds on Jupiter.
Learn more about the planet Jupiter in our article taking a deep dive into the mysterious planet.
Interesting facts about Jupiter:
You could line up 11 Earths across Jupiter to reach both sides of the planet.
Jupiter has a ring system, discovered in 1979.
Jupiter is the fastest-spinning planet in the Solar System.
So, what planet is after Jupiter?
Type: Gas Giant
Name Origin: Roman God of Agriculture and Wealth
Discovered in: Ancient Times
Radius: 58,232 km
Distance from Sun: 1.4 billion km
Day: 10.7 Earth hours
Orbit: 29 Earth years
Natural Satellites (moons): 83
Light speed from Sun: 82 min
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System. Just like Jupiter, it does not have a solid surface and is made entirely of gas.
Saturn is the most beloved planet in the Solar System, by both visual astronomers and amateur astrophotographers. Why? The rings of course!
Saturn has a total of 7 rings, each home to millions of chunks of ice and rocks orbiting the planet.
Saturn's rings have gaps between them, one gap in particular, known as the Cassini Division, is very noticeable in both professional and amateur observations. The ring system is just about 30 feet (10 meters) thick, but extends up to 175,000 miles (282,000 kilometers)!
Life on Saturn is not possible, due to the lack of solid ground, and its atmosphere is made up of hydrogen (H2) and helium (He). There is a much better chance to find traces of life on several of Saturn's moons though, where water has been discovered and conditions are less harsh.
The Moons of Saturn
Saturn is the planet in our Solar System that has the most moons, with a count of 83! Jupiter follows right behind with 79 moons.
Some of these moons are huge (larger than Mercury) but some others are tiny (the size of a football arena). The two most important moons for science today are Enceladus and Titan.
Titan (left) and Enceladus (right) by NASA
Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere, clouds with rain, and liquids in the form of lakes, rivers, and seas on the surface. The liquids on Titan's surface are mostly methane and so are not believed to be able to host life, but there is actual water under the crust of the moon where life could be more likely to form. The atmosphere on Titan is similar to Earth, but the pressure is 50% higher.
Enceladus is a smooth ice moon where the temperatures are extremely cold due to how much sunlight the surface reflects instead of absorbing. The reason why Enceladus is so interesting scientifically is that it has vast oceans of pure water underneath its icy surface. The moon also ejects liquid from the ocean into space, which has been captured as samples by spacecraft before. The water captured revealed that Enceladus does possess the required chemical ingredients for life to thrive.
Interesting facts About Saturn:
You could line up 9 Earths across Jupiter to reach both sides of the planet, and that's without counting the rings.
Saturn is not the only planet to have rings.
The planet's name also means "Father of Jupiter".
Type: Ice Giant
Name Origin: Greek God of the Sky
Discovered in: 1781
Radius: 25,362 km
Distance from Sun: 2.8 billion km
Day: 17 Earth hours
Orbit: 84 Earth years
Natural Satellites (moons): 27
Light speed from Sun: 164 min
Time to make every pre-teen burst with laughter... Here comes Uranus! Ha. Ha. Ha.
Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and is the third largest planet in the Solar System. It is an ice giant made of... ice, with water, methane, and ammonia.
Believe it or not, Uranus does have rings, 13 to be exact! They are just much less apparent than Saturn's rings.
Only one spacecraft has flown by Uranus since the dawn of time... Voyager 2. No other mission has ever been sent to study Uranus up close and personal.
The most unique feature of Uranus is its rotation. Just like Venus, Uranus rotates in the opposite way as other planets, East to West, but to make it even more unique, Uranus rotates on its side!
Interesting facts about Uranus:
Uranus was the first planet found using a telescope, by William Herschel.
Uranus could have instead been called "Georgium Sidus", which was William's Herschel idea to honor King George III. Instead, the scientific community decided to go with Bode's idea: Uranus, from the Greek God of the Sky.
Type: Ice Giant
Name Origin: Roman God of the Sea
Discovered in: 1846
Radius: 24,622 km
Distance from Sun: 4.5 billion km
Day: 16 Earth hours
Orbit: 165 Earth years
Natural Satellites (moons): 14
Light speed from Sun: 249 min
Neptune is the eighth and last planet in order from the Sun. It is a cold icy world with extremely fast supersonic winds.
Neptune is the only planet in the Solar System that is not visible to the naked eye when looking up at the sky.
Just like the other Ice Giant Uranus, only the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by the planet. No other mission has been done to study Neptune. Another similarity with Uranus is that Neptune also has faint rings. 5 main ring systems plus four ring arcs have been discovered so far.
Interesting facts about Neptune:
Neptune is so far from the Sun that the days are 900 times darker than on Earth.
Neptune was the first planet to be discovered using mathematical equations.
Why Isn't Pluto a Planet?
Not that long ago, Pluto was considered a planet in our Solar System, so why is it no longer the case?
Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930, and was officially classified as the ninth planet. It stayed this way until the 1990s when some new discoveries were made thanks to better scientific equipment. One of these discoveries was the Kuiper Belt in 1992, where thousands of icy objects (named Kuiper Belt Objects, or "KBO") were found orbiting the sun.
The Kuiper Belt happens to be in the same region as Pluto, and many scientists started to wonder if Pluto should instead be classified as a large KBO rather than a planet.
When you think about it, Pluto is much smaller than the other eight planets and even smaller than several of our planetary moons. It is also very different in composition compared to the other planets, and cannot be in any of the three categories (rocky, gas, or ice planet). On top of that, it has a huge moon, Charon, which does not orbit around Pluto but rather shares its orbit, making Pluto-Charon a double planetary system.
After reviewing all of these facts, scientists agreed that it was better to classify Pluto as the largest Kuiper Belt Object and not a planet. In 2006, after yet new discoveries (Eris, a large body similar to Pluto), the IAU decided to create a new category of space objects, dwarf planets, where Pluto and four other objects were added.
Pluto isn't the only body that was downgraded from planet to dwarf planet. Another good example is Ceres, which was discovered back in 1801 and immediately classified as a planet. Soon after, many other objects were found in that region, including asteroids and large bodies that resemble planets. Ceres was then classified as an asteroid.
All Dwarf Planets in the Solar System
As of today, there are a total of five dwarf planets in the Solar System recognized by the IAU. They are Pluto, Ceres, Makemake, Haumea, and Eris. But what makes these objects dwarf planets and not planets?
Dwarf planets are large objects that are round and orbit the Sun but have not cleared their orbital path from other similar objects. Each of these dwarf planets is located in the Kuiper Belt, besides Ceres which lies in the main asteroid belt.
Although only five dwarf planets have been officially classified so far, it is believed that several hundred more are present in the Solar System. Let's learn more about each of the five main dwarf planets. The order of the dwarf planets from closest to farthest from the Sun is Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.
Ceres is the only dwarf planet located in the inner Solar System and is the largest object in the asteroid belt. It was classified as an asteroid for a long time after its discovery by Giuseppe Piazzi on January 1st, 1801. It lies at an average distance of 413 million kilometers from the sun, and daytime temperatures fluctuate between -136°F to 28°F (-93°C to -2°C).
Ceres spins relatively fast, one day on Ceres is equivalent to just 9 hours on Earth. A full orbit of Ceres around the Sun equals 1682 days on Earth or 4.6 Earth years.
Ceres got its name from the Roman Goddess of corn and harvests. Scientists are very interested in Ceres because it contains water, and it was the first dwarf planet to be scanned by a spacecraft in 2015.
Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930, and was classified as a planet before being categorized as a dwarf planet in 2006. It has a radius of 1,188 kilometers and cold temperatures that go below -235°C. It is very far away from the Sun and has an elongated orbit with an average distance of 5.8 billion km. This large orbital path makes one year on Pluto equal to 248 years on Earth. Pluto also rotates approximately 6 times slower than Earth.
Pluto has 5 moons, including one very large one, Charon, with strong enough gravity that both bodies rotate around each other, making it a double planetary system.
The name "Pluto" comes from the Roman God of the Underworld, and was suggested by 11-years old Venetia Burney. Pluto is the brightest object in the Kuiper Belt visible from Earth.
Haumea is about the same size as Pluto but has the shape of a football due to its very fast rotation. One full day on Haumea is only four hours on Earth! It is very cold on the surface of the planet, and it is believed to be made of rock with a thick layer of ice. Haumea is one of the fastest-spinning objects in the Solar System. Haumea was discovered in 2003 using ground-based telescopes. Two years later, 2 moons were discovered orbiting Haumea. It is in 2008 that Haumea officially became a dwarf planet, and got its name from the Hawaiian Goddess of Fertility.
Haumea has a radius of 385 miles (620 kilometers) and is located at an average distance of 6,452,000,000 kilometers. It takes the dwarf planet 285 Earth years to orbit the Sun.
In 2017, scientists discovered that Haumea had rings, making it the first object in the Kuiper Belt to possess rings.
Makemake is the second brightest object in the Kuiper Belt visible from Earth. It has a radius of 715 kilometers and completes an orbit around the sun in 305 Earth years.
Because of the distance, scientists do not know this much about Makemake.
Makemake was discovered on March 31, 2005, but only announced four months later.
The dwarf planet got its name from the Rapanui God of Fertility and spins slightly faster than Earth.
Eris was discovered on January 5, 2005, when processing data acquired in 2003. It was first named "Xena" after the television warrior, but later renamed Eris as the Greek Goddess of Discord. Eris is the reason why the IAU decided to remote Pluto from the list of planets, and created the new "Dwarf Planets" category in 2006.
Eris is similar in size to Pluto, but three times farther from the Sun at 10 billion kilometers on average. Eris completes its path around the sun in 557 Earth years and spins a bit slower than Earth. It has a radius of 1,163 kilometers, and one moon has been discovered orbiting the planet so far.
Planets in Order of Size from Smallest to Largest
In case you were interested to know the correct order of the Solar System planets according to size, let's name them from smallest to largest:
How to Remember the Order of the Planets
There are several ways of remembering the order of the planets, but the most popular way is to remember a mnemonic. A mnemonic is a phrase where the first letter of each word represents something specific, in our case, planets.
You can create your own mnemonic, and it can be as silly as you want, as long as it works!
Another thing you can do is associate one planet for each of your fingers in order, with the asteroid belt and the Pluto assigned to your thumbs.
Some clever mnemonic phrases to remember the planets are:
"My Violent Evil Monster Just Scared Us Nuts"
Example: "My (Mercury) Violent (Venus) Evil (Earth) Monster (Mars) Just (Jupiter) Scared (Saturn) Us (Uranus) Nuts (Neptune)"
"My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos"
"My Very Easy Memory Jingle Seems Useless Now"
"Mary's Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights"
Another way of remembering the correct order of the planets is by remembering a song! This is popular among kids, and several songs can be found on YouTube, like the one below for example! Happy singing! 💃🕺
Interesting Facts about the Solar System
There have been 24 American astronauts so far who have gone to the Moon.
There are more than 200 moons orbiting the planets in the Solar System.
More than 300 spacecraft have been sent to explore other objects in our Solar System.
On Venus, a day is longer than a year.
Planetary Astrophotography: The Easiest Planets to Photograph
Taking a picture of a planet is easy and can be done with a DSLR camera attached to a telescope. If you do not own a telescope, it is not impossible to take a picture of the large planets with just a camera and a lens on a tripod.
If you are a complete beginner and have never attempted planetary astrophotography before, the three easiest planets in order we recommend you try are Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.
Both Jupiter and Saturn can be photographed without a telescope, although all you'll likely see in your image is a bright dot, with a few other dots nearby. These other dots are the moons, and are what makes it exciting to image a planet even without a telescope! The image on the left shows the planet Jupiter photographed with just an old Canon T3i camera, a stock 300mm lens, and a tripod. This was taken from a parking lot in the city.
I have annotated the image to show you the three bright moons present in the frame. Pretty cool when you're a complete beginner!
We do not recommend imaging Mars without a telescope. The two moons are too dim to be seen and the planet itself is much smaller than Jupiter and Saturn.
Planetary astrophotography is of course more fun with a telescope, especially if it has a long focal length! We have captured Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter several times using our beginner 8" reflector telescope at 800mm of focal length. We started with the Canon T3i and are now using a QHY462C.
If you plan to dig deeper into planetary astrophotography, here are what we believe are the most important tips:
Get a long focal length telescope
Take pictures on a night with good Seeing
Use a camera with a fast framerate
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We hope this post about how to learn the name of the planets in order was useful for you, and be sure to check out our individual pages for each planet to see our astrophotography attempts!
Antoine & Dalia Grelin