On Friday, November 5th, 2021, Stars and Science Austin will be having an Outer Planets Star Party at the Lakeview Pavilion in Round Rock. We will be seeing Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. To commemorate this special Star Party, here is some cool information about each Outer Planet.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System. The 4th Brightest Object in the Sky. Following The Sun, Moon, and the Planet Venus in that order. It is a little more than five times further from the Sun than Earth is. It has seventy-nine moons and Ganymede is its largest. What makes Jupiter unique is that is wanders through two portions of the Asteroid Belt: The Jovian Belt and the Trojan Belt. Overtime, some of these asteroids get caught by Jupiter’s Gravity and become satellites of the planet. Its Great Red Spot that has existed for 5 centuries has been rotating around the same latitude! If Jupiter were eighty times bigger it could have enough nuclear fusion in its core to ignite to become a star, like our nearest star Proxima Centauri.
Saturn is the second largest planet after Jupiter. The most distant planet one can see with the naked eye! It is known for its full set of rings, all named after letters of the English Alphabet! The rings are made from Ice, dust, and rock. Its ten times further from the Sun than Earth is. It has eighty-four known moons and Titan is the largest. What makes Saturn unique are two things. One, if we had a big ocean to put Saturn in, it would float. Two, deep within Saturn’s atmosphere rains liquid helium. Like Jupiter, Saturn has no solid surface. A very odd hexagon feature originally found by Voyager 1 in 1980 exists above Saturn’s North Pole. If you look at Saturn’s rings close from the photos taken from Voyager, you see that the rings look like that of a phonograph record!
Uranus is the seventh planet out from the Sun and the Solar System’s 3rd largest. It was the first planet ever to be found using a telescope. It was discovered by William Herschel on March 13, 1781, in the constellation of Taurus, The Bull. At one time in the distant past, a huge object hit the pole of the planet causing it to tip on its side. Therefore, one pole receives 42 years of sunlight, and the opposite pole receives 42 years of darkness. When looking at the planet through a telescope, the planet, its twenty-seven moons and its rings are wandering around the planet like a merry-go-round. You can see the planet barely with the naked eye. On a clear night, far from any light pollution, if you have excellent eyesight and know exactly where to look. You can find it in the constellation of Aries, The Ram.
Neptune is the eighth planet out from the Sun. Its also the Solar System’s 4th largest planet. It is also the Solar System’s outermost planet. A little more than thirty times further from the Sun than Earth is. It was discovered by Johann Gottfried Galle on September 23, 1846. It was found in the constellation of Aquarius, The Water Bearer. It gets its bluish color due to stronger concentrations of Methane in its atmosphere. It also possesses the strongest winds ever recorded in the Solar System. Over 1,300 miles per hour! The Great Dark Spot which was found by Voyager 2 when it flew by Neptune in 1989 was a storm that is as big as Earth. It dissipated a few months after and a new one was found near its North Pole. If you travel beneath the planet’s clouds, you will encounter diamonds! In fact, the fusion of diamonds causes Neptune to give off more heat than it receives from the Sun. A good pair of binoculars will do the trick when observing the windiest planet in the Solar System.
Pluto, the former ninth planet out from the Sun. Now classified as a Dwarf Planet. It is forty times further from the Sun than Earth is. It is also the largest Dwarf Planet in the Solar System. Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. It was found in the constellation of Gemini. The reason to its demotion from planet to dwarf planet is because it wanders through a region of our Solar System called The Kuiper Belt. A region of icy bodies left over from the formation of the Solar System. Pluto spins on its side like Uranus. The Sun also rises in the west and sets in the east. If you ever wonder what its like to be on Pluto do this. Three minutes after the Sun goes down or three minutes before sunrise. Look outside. This is called Pluto Time. This is where the Sun is directly overhead at Pluto’s High Noon. So, it’s not as a dark world as people might think.
The Outer Planets can be found in the Following Constellations.
Jupiter – Capricorn
Saturn – Capricorn
Uranus – Aries
Neptune – Aquarius
Pluto – Sagittarius
Children Ages 0-5 is free
Children Ages 5 - 12 is $3.00
Adults $5.00 Families (Of 4 or More) $15
For more information about pricing, contact us at 512-333-4724
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