Space Environment

How do objects in space travel?

What are the orbital lengths and distances of objects in our solar system?

Space is huge, and even our immediate environment is gigantic. We are the third planet from the Sun, and the third of three inner planets, all of which are right next to the Sun compared to others. The picture below shows the planets in their orbits on the orbital plane. You have to look carefully to see our home. The four inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) are in the tiny disk in the center, inside of Jupiter's orbit.

Image from The Nine Planets, a Multimedia tour of the Solar System by Bill Arnett

The planets are far from the Sun, travel huge distances in space, and take a long time to do so. Pluto takes almost 250 years to go around the Sun completely and travels almost 23 billion miles to do so!


Distance from Sun (average)

Distance traveled in one complete orbit of the Sun (one "year.") Amount of time for one complete orbit of the Sun (one "year.")
Sun 0 miles    
Mercury 36,800,000 miles 223,700,000 miles 3 Earth months
Venus 67,200,000 miles 422,500,000 miles 7 Earth months
Earth 93,000,000 miles 584,000,000 miles 1 Earth year (365.25 days)
Mars 141,600,000 miles 888,000,000 miles 23 Earth months. Almost 2 Earth years.
Jupiter 483,600,000 miles 3,037,000,000 miles 142 Earth months. Almost 12 Earth years.
Saturn 886,500,000 miles 5,565,900,000 miles 354 Earth months. (29.5 Earth years)
Uranus 1,783,700,000 miles 11,201,300,000 miles 1009 Earth months. (84 Earth years)
Neptune 2,795,200,000 miles 17,562,300,000 miles 1979 Earth months (almost 165 Earth years)
Pluto 3,670,100,000 miles 22,698,700,000 miles 2977 Earth months (248 Earth years)

The distance from the Sun is average because the orbits of the planets do not make perfect circles, but rather very slightly flattened ones, or ellipses.

What causes an orbit to happen?
What is an orbit?
How do scientists know what the path of an object in space will be?
What is a satellite?

What are planets made of?
How do asteroids orbit?
How is an ellipse different from a circle?
Are there orbits within orbits?
What is the orbital plane?

How do we know what's in space?
How do spacecraft use an orbit to move from planet to planet?