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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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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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