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Thursday Thirteen #33
My husband recently got a job working with NASA. I adore NASA, so you can imagine how happy this makes me. This week I bring you Thirteen Things in our Solar System in his honor.

13 Things in the Heavens:
1. The Sun – Our very own star doesn’t seem to have its own proper designation, beyond the Latin “Sol” so beloved of Science Fiction writers. It burns in space a mere 92.96 million miles away from us. At its core, the temperature is a toasty (approximately) 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Ceres – Ceres is a dwarf planet named after a Roman goddess. It lives in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is the most massive known body there. It is 950 kilometers in diameter.

3. Jupiter – The largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter has a whopping 49 officially named moons. Its Great Red Spot is a huge spinning storm that has been going on for a very long time.

4. Neptune – Spinning serenely through space 2.8 billion miles away from the Sun, it takes Neptune 165 years to make one complete orbit. The reason for Neptune’s bluish color is still unknown.

5. Mars – I love the red planet. Did you know that Olympus Mons is the largest volcanic mountain in the solar system? For more information about this planet, check out the Phoenix Mars Mission site.

6. Venus – Only slightly smaller than the Earth, Venus actually rotates in the opposite direction. Venus has no moons.

7. MakeMake – Named after a creator god of Rapa Nui, MakeMake was officially named and listed among the ranks of the plutoid dwarf planets on July 2008. Now…if only I knew how to properly pronounce that…

8. The Kuiper Belt – No, this has nothing to do with Sports Announcer, Dwayne Kuiper. It’s an area of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Its existence was only confirmed a decade ago.

9. Io – Io is one of Jupiter’s moons, and the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

10. The Oort Cloud – Not, as you might imagine, a cloud of Oorts. The Oort Cloud is the outer edge of the solar system and its vast spherical cloud of icy bodies is the source of long-period comets.

11. Pluto – Poor Pluto was downgraded to a “dwarf planet” on 24 August 2006. It lurks in the Kuiper Belt. No spacecraft has visited Pluto at this point, but New Horizons is on its way.

12. Saturn – Saturn may not be the only planet with rings, but it certainly has the most beautiful ones. It is listed as having sixty moons at this point, but not all of them have been officially named.

13. Eris – Eris was originally known as Xena. It is a Kuiper Belt Object that is larger than Pluto.

Sources:
* Encyclopedia of the Solar System (2nd ed.), Edited by Lucy-Ann McFadden, Paul R. Weissman, and Torrence V. Johnson
* NASA: Solar System Exploration

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