Resource 5: Solar system – facts and figures

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

Axial rotationTime in orbitDiameter in kmKm from sun (in millions)Miles from sun (in millions)Gravity (Earth =1)Mass (Earth =1)Density (Water =1)
Mercury56 days88 days4,87857.9360.380.5555.4
Many craters on the surface make Mercury look like our moon. Because there is no atmosphere to keep temperatures steady, they fall from 425 °C at midday to 180 °C before dawn. It is made of rock with no water.
Venus243 days225 days12,103108.267.20.90.815.2
The white clouds prevent us seeing the surface but make it the brightest planet in our sky. It is sometimes called the morning star or evening star. It is made of rock and very hot with an atmosphere of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Earth23 h 56 m365.25 days12,756149.693115.5
Two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, which gives it its blue colour. It is the only planet known to support life. It has an atmosphere containing oxygen.
Mars23 h 37 m687 days6,786227.9141.60.380.113.9
It is the fourth planet from the sun and is commonly referred to as the red planet. The rocks, soil and sky have a red or pink hue.
Jupiter9 h 50 m11.86 yrs142,984778483.62.63181.3
The atmosphere has a stripy appearance with a giant red spot. It is a huge ball of the gases hydrogen and helium.
Saturn10 h 14 m29.45 yrs120,5361,426886.70.9950.7
A set of rings can be seen round Saturn, caused by millions of circling ice, dust and rock particles. Another gas giant made of hydrogen and helium.
Uranus10 h 49 m84.01 yrs51,1182,8711,7830.8151.3
It appears bluish-green because of the methane gas reflecting sunlight. It has a small ring system and has an axis of rotation at right angles to other planets. Another gas giant.
Neptune15 h 40 m 165.79 yrs49,5284,4972,7941.1171.6
It appears bluish and has a small ring system. It is sometimes called the twin of Uranus. The last gas giant.
Pluto16 h248.43 yrs2,2845,9133,6660.040.0022

Pluto is primarily composed of rock and ice. It has three moons – Charon, Nix and Hydra.

On 24 August 2006, the International Astronomical Union defined the term ‘planet’ for the first time. This definition excluded Pluto, and so Pluto was added to the list of minor planets.

Resource 4: The moon and its relationship to the Earth and the sun – background for the teacher

Resource 6: A scale model of the solar system