Sizes and Scales

There are many popular misconceptions concerning the size and scale of objects in the Solar System. These mostly have to do with a failure to realize the relative radii of planets and the Sun, and the failure to appreciate how large the outer solar system is relative to the inner solar system.

The Relative Radii of the Sun and Planets

The Sun and the gas giant planets like Jupiter are by far the largest objects in the Solar System. The other planets are small specks on this scale, as the following figure illustrates.

The Sun and planets drawn to scale


Indeed, on this scale the smaller planets like Pluto and Mercury are barely visible.


Masses and Densities

The masses of the planets are also concentrated in the Gas Giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, as the following graph indicates.

However, the large mass of these planets comes from their absolute sizes, not their densities. The inner planets are by far the most dense, as the following graph indicates:

This distribution of masses and densities in the Solar System is a key observation that a theory of the origin of the Solar System must explain.

Here is an astrophysical calculator that will display basic astronomical constants and solar system data at the touch of a button, and also allow calculations using these quantities.


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