Comparing Objects in our Solar System by Rotation, Size, and More
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Comparing Objects in Our Solar System by Rotation, Size, and More

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Comparison of Selected Objects in our Solar System

Our solar system is home to various celestial objects, including planets, moons, asteroids, and even dwarf planets.

All of these objects differ in many ways, yet work in perfect unison. A comparative study of the various features of these celestial bodies gives us some fascinating results.

The above animation from planetary scientist Dr. James O’Donoghue helps put in perspective the different objects in the solar system in terms of size, rotational speed, and the axial tilt at which they rotate.

Selected Solar System Objects to Scale

With such a diverse solar system of planets and other celestial objects, there is no shortage of questions to think about. Like what is the exact diameter of Jupiter, or how fast does Pluto rotate?

To answer them, here is a comparison of some select celestial bodies in our solar system, going from the biggest to smallest objects:

Celestial BodyDiameter (km)Rotational Period (Hours)Axial Tilt
Sun1.4M6487.2°
Jupiter140,9829.93.1°
Saturn120,53610.726.7°
Uranus51,118-17.297.8°
Neptune49,52816.128.3°
Earth12,75623.923.5°
Venus12,104-5832177.4°
Mars6,79224.625.2°
Mercury4,8791407.60.03°
Moon3,475655.76.7°
Pluto2,376-153.3122.5°
Ceres9469

Planets like Venus or Pluto rotate in the opposite direction to Earth, or in retrograde, and thus are denoted with a negative symbol before their values.

Another interesting observation is that the Sun rotates on its axis only once in about 27 days and has an axial tilt of about 7.25 degrees from the axis of Earth’s orbit. Hence, we see more of the Sun’s north pole in September of each year and the south pole in March.

How do the Various Objects Compare Against Earth?

The Earth we live on is a unique planet within our solar system containing water and air, and is where living things thrive. But, aside from those surface level differences, is our home really different from other planets and celestial objects?

In the table below, we compare other nearby celestial bodies with Earth, using ratios—this time, from smallest to largest:

Celestial BodyDiameter (ratio to Earth)Rotational Period (ratio to Earth)
Ceres0.070.37
Pluto0.186.41
Moon0.2727.4
Mercury0.3858.8
Mars0.531.03
Venus0.94-244
Earth11
Neptune3.880.67
Uranus4.01-0.72
Saturn9.450.44
Jupiter11.310.41
Sun10927

Though Jupiter is around 11 times wider than Earth, its rotational period is only 0.4 times as long as our planet’s—meaning it rotates at a much faster speed.

On the other hand, Venus uses a slow and steady approach, taking 244 times longer to make one rotation (in comparison to background stars) when contrasted to Earth.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Technology

All of the World’s Spaceports on One Map

This map is a comprehensive look at both existing and proposed spaceports and missile launching locations around the world.

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Mapped: The World’s Rocket Launch Sites

From Sputnik 1 to today’s massive satellite constellations, every object in space was launched from just a handful of locations.

The map above, from BryceTech, is a comprehensive look at the world’s spaceports (both orbital and sub-orbital) as well as ballistic missile test sites.

ℹ️ In sub-orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft reaches outer space, but it doesn’t complete an orbital revolution or reach escape velocity. In orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft remains in space for at least one orbit.

The World’s Major Spaceports

Though the graphic above is a detailed list of many types of rocket launch sites, we’ll focus on major sites that are sending satellites and passengers into sub-orbit, orbit, and beyond.

Launch FacilityLocationCountry
Cape Canaveral Space Force StationFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Cape Canaveral SpaceportFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Kennedy Space CenterFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Cecil Field SpaceportFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Colorado Air & Space PortColorado🇺🇸 U.S.
Vandenberg Air Force BaseCalifornia🇺🇸 U.S.
Mojave Air and Space PortCalifornia🇺🇸 U.S.
Oklahoma Air & Space PortOklahoma🇺🇸 U.S.
Poker Flat Research RangeAlaska🇺🇸 U.S.
Pacific Spaceport ComplexAlaska🇺🇸 U.S.
Spaceport AmericaNew Mexico🇺🇸 U.S.
Launch Site One (Corn Ranch)Texas🇺🇸 U.S.
Houston SpaceportTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
Midland Air & Space PortTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
SpaceX Development and Test FacilityTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
SpaceX StarbaseTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
Spaceport CamdenGeorgia🇺🇸 U.S.
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportVirginia🇺🇸 U.S.
Wallops Flight FacilityVirginia🇺🇸 U.S.
Reagan Test SiteKwajalein Atoll🇲🇭 Marshall Islands
Naro Space CenterOuter Naro Island🇰🇷 South Korea
Sohae Satellite Launching StationNorth Pyongan Province🇰🇵 North Korea
Kapustin YarAstrakhan Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Plesetsk CosmodromeArkhangelsk Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Vostochny CosmodromeAmur Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Yasny Launch BaseOrenburg Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Arnhem Space CentreNorthern Territory🇦🇺 Australia
Whalers Way Orbital Launch ComplexSouth Australia🇦🇺 Australia
Koonibba Test RangeSouth Australia🇦🇺 Australia
Bowen Orbital Spaceport Queensland 🇦🇺 Australia
Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1Wairoa District🇳🇿 New Zealand
Baikonur CosmodromeBaikonur🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
Space Port OitaŌita🇯🇵 Japan
Tanegashima Space CenterKagoshima🇯🇵 Japan
Uchinoura Space CenterKagoshima🇯🇵 Japan
Taiki Aerospace Research FieldHokkaido🇯🇵 Japan
Hokkaido SpaceportHokkaido🇯🇵 Japan
Ryori Launch SiteIwate🇯🇵 Japan
Sonmiani Satellite Launch CenterBalochistan🇵🇰 Pakistan
Integrated Test RangeOdisha🇮🇳 India
Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching StationKerala🇮🇳 India
Satish Dhawan Space CentreSriharikota🇮🇳 India
Guiana Space CentreKourou🇬🇫 French Guiana
Barreira do Inferno Launch CenterRio Grande do Norte🇧🇷 Brazil
Alcântara Space CenterMaranhão🇧🇷 Brazil
Stasiun Peluncuran RoketWest Java🇮🇩 Indonesia
Jiuquan Satellite Launch CenterGansu Province🇨🇳 China
Taiyuan Satellite Launch CenterShanxi Province🇨🇳 China
Wenchang Spacecraft Launch SiteHainan Province🇨🇳 China
Xichang Satellite Launch CenterSichuan Province🇨🇳 China
Palmachim AirbaseCentral District🇮🇱 Israel
Imam Khomeini Space Launch TerminalSemnan🇮🇷 Iran
Qom Lauch FacilityQom🇮🇷 Iran
El Arenosillo Test CentreHuelva🇪🇸 Spain
Spaceport SwedenLapland🇸🇪 Sweden
Esrange Space CenterLapland🇸🇪 Sweden
Andøya SpaceNordland🇳🇴 Norway
SaxaVord SpaceportShetland Islands🇬🇧 UK
Sutherland SpaceportSutherland🇬🇧 UK
Western Isles SpaceportOuter Hebrides🇬🇧 UK
Spaceport MachrihanishCampbeltown🇬🇧 UK
Prestwick SpaceportGlasgow🇬🇧 UK
Snowdonia SpaceportNorth West Wales🇬🇧 UK
Spaceport CornwallCornwall🇬🇧 UK
Orbex LP1Moray🇬🇧 UK
Spaceport Nova ScotiaNova Scotia🇨🇦 Canada

Editor’s note: The above table includes all sites that are operational, as well as under construction, as of publishing date.

The list above covers fixed locations, and does not include SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships. There are currently three active drone ships—one based near Los Angeles, and the other two based at Port Canaveral, Florida.

Two of the most famous launch sites on the list are the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and Cape Canaveral (United States). The former was constructed as the base of operations for the Soviet space program and was the launch point for Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The latter was NASA’s primary base of operations and the first lunar-landing flight was launched from there in 1969.

The global roster of spaceports has grown immensely since Baikonur and Cape Canaveral were the only game in town. Now numerous countries have the ability to launch satellites, and many more are getting in on the action.

Wenchang Space Launch Site, on the island of Hainan, is China’s newest launch location. The site recorded its first successful launch in 2016.

Location, Location

One interesting quirk of the map above is the lack of spaceports in Europe. Europe’s ambitions for space are actually launched from the Guiana Space Centre in South America. Europe’s Spaceport has been operating in French Guiana since 1968.

Low altitude launch locations near the equator are the most desirable, as far less energy is required to take a spacecraft from surface level to an equatorial, geostationary orbit.

Islands and coastal areas are also common locations for launch sites. Since the open waters aren’t inhabited, there is minimal risk of harm from debris in the event of a launch failure.

As demand for satellites and space exploration grows, the number of launch locations will continue to grow as well.

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Science

Animated Map: Where to Find Water on Mars

This new planet-wide animated map, based on a decade of space agency research, shows where water can be found on Mars.

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Animation: New Water Map of Mars

The hunt for water on Mars has always been a point of interest for researchers.

Earth has life almost everywhere water exists. Water is an ideal target for finding lifeforms, like microbes, that may exist on other planets.

And if Mars is to become a future home, knowing where water exists will be necessary for our survival.

Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have special instruments searching for water on the red planet. After 10 years of in-depth investigation, their latest findings suggest a new “water map” for Mars.

Where Did the Water Go?

Many people know Mars as a dry and dusty planet, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had a massive ocean called Oceanus Borealis. It dominated the northern hemisphere of the planet. Specific planetary conditions at that time let water exist on its surface. Changes in temperature, climate, and geology over the years gradually pushed water out to the atmosphere or into the ground.

Up to 99% of this ocean water is trapped within the planet’s crust, locked within special rocks called hydrous minerals.

Hydrous Minerals

Hydrous minerals are essentially rocks that have water (or its two main elements, hydrogen and oxygen), incorporated into their chemical structure.

There are four main classes of hydrous minerals: silicates, sulfates, silicas, and carbonates. While these minerals look pretty similar to the naked eye, their chemical compositions and structural arrangements vary. They are detectable by sophisticated equipment and can tell scientists how water geologically changes over time.

The new water map of Mars actually highlights the location of these hydrous minerals. It is a geological map of the rocks that are holding what remains of Mars’s ancient ocean.

Other Sources of Water on Mars

Despite being a “graveyard” for the bulk of the planet’s ocean, hydrous minerals are not the only source of water on Mars.

Water ice is present at both of Mars’s poles. The northern polar ice cap contains the only visible water on the planet, while the southern pole covers its water with a frozen carbon-dioxide cap.

In 2020, radar analyses suggested the presence of liquid water, potentially part of a network of underground saltwater lakes, close to the southern pole. In 2022, new evidence for this liquid water suggested that the planet may still be geothermally active.

More frozen water may be locked away in the deep subsurface, far below what current surveying equipment is able to inspect.

Mapping Out the Next Missions

The new water map is highlighting areas of interest for future exploration on Mars.

There is a small chance that hydrous minerals may be actively forming near water sources. Finding where they co-exist with known areas of buried frozen water provides possible opportunities for extracting water.

ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Rover will land in Oxia Planum, a region rich in hydrous clays, to investigate how water shaped the region and whether life once began on Mars.

Many more investigations and studies are developing, but for now, scientists are just getting their toes wet as they explore what hydrous minerals can tell us of Mars’s watery past.

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