SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — We all know how wild weather on Earth can be, but what if I told you…weather on Earth isn’t nearly as wild as we think? What if the weather on other planets are way more extreme to anything we’ve seen here?
We have arrived at the 4 giant (2 Gas, 2 Ice) planets in our Solar System! Weather in the outer half of our solar system only gets colder, more windy, and crazier!
We are now starting off 484 million miles away from the sun. By being that far away, temperatures on Jupiter can fall around -250 degrees. This is our largest planet. It is so large that 1,300 Earths can fit into Jupiter. Just like our smallest planet, Mercury, Jupiter does not experience seasons. This planet axis is titled only 3 degrees.
It is best known for its Giant Red Spot. This is a giant wild storm that has been raging on for over 150 years. And the storm is HUGE! It’s about twice the size of Earth. It’s not Jupiter’s only storm.
In fact, the planet is covered in fast moving, swirling clouds throughout the atmosphere. This is what creates its striped appearance. How bright the stripes color turns out to be depends on the layers of clouds and their reaction to the sun’s light. Higher clouds of ammonia crystals gives off a lighter color. Lower clouds of water crystals has a darker color.
Jupiter rotates super fast. In fact…a full day is complete in less than 10 earth hours. A full year takes close to 12 Earth years to complete.
Our next Gas Giant is Saturn. Saturn is twice as far out as Jupiter. This means the sun is now 886 million miles away. This causes average temperatures to be around -285 degrees. This planet also has one fast day. A full day is complete in 10.7 hours. Completing a full year is a different story. It now takes 29 years to make a full orbit around the sun.
Just like Jupiter, this planet is covered in fast-moving, swirling clouds. These are much more faint and lightly colored. Saturn has even faster winds at 1,100 mph. In Saturn’s atmosphere, bright storms can appear with intense lightning discharges. These thunderstorms are called dragon storms because of the pattern of lightning.
The atmosphere most familiar to ours on Earth isn’t Saturn. It is actually Titan, Saturn’s moon. Titan experiences season’s. It has clouds and it rains. It’s atmosphere is made up of mostly nitrogen, like ours. The difference is the moon cycles methane instead of a water cycle. So instead of raining water, it rains methane.
If you thought we were already freezing by reaching Saturn, just wait as we reach for our first Ice Giant, Uranus. As we are now 1.8 billion miles away from the sun, Uranus experiences average temperatures of -350 degrees. Uranus is nicknamed ‘The Sideways Planet’ because it is practically orbiting on its side. It is titled on its axis by 98 degrees.
This planet has a very slow 84-years orbit. A slow orbit combined with a sideways tilt creates unusual seasons. During summer and winter, parts of the planet see nothing but sunlight or darkness for that entire season.
This does happen also on Earth, where parts of our planet collapse into darkness for a couple months. BUT A SEASON ON URANUS LASTS FOR 21 YEARS!! That is around 7665 days of either darkness or sunlight during summer and winter. On top of that…during the spring and fall season, the entire day cycle happens in just 17 hours.
This is the first planet discovered by using a telescope instead of the naked eye. It was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel, who wanted to name this planet Georgium Sidus after King George III.
We have arrived at our last ice giant and last planet in our Solar System. Neptune is the farthest planet from the sun at a staggering 2.8 billion miles. This is more than 30 times farther away from the sun compared to Earth. At this point, the sun would give off very dim light. It is so far away that this is the ONLY planet not visible to the naked eye in our night’s sky.
Also at this point, the frigid average temperature is nearly -400 degrees. This planet has the fastest winds in the Solar System. Neptune’s winds are as fast as 1,200 miles per hour. Because of how fast the winds blow, the clouds are constantly whipping around the planet.
Neptune is tilted on its axis by 28 degrees. Similar to Earth, this planet experiences seasons. However, each season lasts 40 years. It might look like it is freezing due to its deep blue hue, but that is due to the methane in the atmosphere. Methane’s composition absorbs red light while reflecting blue light.
While a full day on Neptune lasts for 16 hours, it takes 165 years to make one full orbit around the sun. In 2011, Neptune completed its first 165 year orbit around the sun since its discovery in 1846.
Sometimes Pluto, a dwarf planet who is farther away than Neptune, (Yes, I still believe Pluto is one of the main planets!) can be closer to the sun than Neptune. This is due to Pluto’s elliptical orbit. Don’t worry these two planets won’t crash into each other. Pluto takes a much higher orbit above the sun’s orbital plane, staying above Neptune.
Huge shout out to NASA and their Solar System Exploration website for giving me an in depth look at each of our planets in the solar system.