With this project I wanted to communicate to people what we've managed to accomplish in space exploration in simple terms; I found that many people don't know much about the subject because of how it's typically communicated, with scientific and technical jargon. Through the use of infographics that simply and clearly illustrated a lot of information, people could easily take a brief look at one infographic and even without looking closer grasp that we've managed to send a lot of things and people to the moon for example, and looking closer they could see that China has plans for a manned lunar mission within the next few years, for example. This simple and easy to understand approach is meant to encourage people to look into the field more, and the OMG SPACE name is meant to encourage excitement about space exploration, especially amongst younger people. Infographics for the dwarf planets Haumea and Makemake were not created due to a lack of imagery available for use; it should be noted though that there have no no expeditions to either of thiese dwarf planets to date, and no expeditions are currently planned.
These infographics were intended for print, and thus the copy on most of them isn't easily legible when reduced in size and resolution for the web. I have included the blurbs about each planet below the image for easy reading. I researched and wrote all the blurbs myself, specifically choosing facts about each planet that I thought were particularily interesting, rather than standard facts like mass and age and geological make-up, to help people look at these planets in a different way than usual.
There is also a website associated with this project, omgspace.net
. Aside from promotion, I used the web and the lack of limitations in web design to illustrate the true scale of our solar system. The images of all the planets and the distances between them are completely to scale, and there are links at the bottom of the page to take each visitor to whichever planet they choose; I also included the asteroid belt and the heliosphere for the sake of illustration, which are also placed correctly and sized to scale.
OMG SPACE comes in two parts: infographics and a website. The website displays all planets and the sun and moon in our solar system to scale. That is, all the celestial bodies are displayed at their proper size relative to each other, and the distances between them are also to scale. This is something that could only be achieved in website format; the distances and sizes are too large to do in print without going to extraordinary lengths. Designed and coded entirely by myself, omgspace.net is actually quite simple; it is the scale of our part of the universe that is really something to wonder at.
The sun is a yellow dwarf star at the center of Earth's solar system, and it is approximately 4.57 billion years old. It is estimated that in about 5 billion years the Sun will become a red dwarf, and as it's mass increases it will envelope the Earth, but it will not explode as a supernova due to a lack of necessary mass; it will eventually shed it's outer layers forming a planetary nebula and become a white dwarf instead. The sun is roughly 109 times the size of Earth, and about 149.6 million kilometers away, meaning it takes light from the Sun 8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach Earth. It is currently traveling through the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, while orbiting it's center; it will finish one orbit of the galaxy's center in approximately 225 - 250 million years.
Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system, and the closest planet to the sun, completing one orbit around the sun in about 88 Earth days. Due to the slow rotation of the planet on it's axis, one Mercurian day is two Mercurian years long, which is equivalent to 176 Earth days. Due to it's closeness to the sun, the planet's surface can reach temperatures of up to 700 Kelvin, or 427°C (800°F). So far, only two probes have been out near enough to Mercury to map the planet's surface with significant detail, and we've only covered about 75% of the planet; it is the least understood of the terrestrial planets.
Venus is the second planet from the sun, and often referred to as Earth's "sister planet" due to the similarity in size. The planet rotates on its axis more slowly than any other planet, so slow that one Venutian year is about 1.92 Venutian days long, and the Venutian day is about 243 Earth days long. Venus is always brighter than any stars in the night sky, and has come to be known as the morning star and evening star as it is brightest at those times. It is hypothesized that Venus had oceans like Earth millions of years ago, but the water evaporated as the temperature rose. Lightning has been observed in the upper atmosphere, possibly due to ash from volcanoes. No rain accompanies the lightning, although it does occasionally rain sulfuric acid which evaporates before it reaches the planet's surface.
Earth is the third planet from the sun, putting it in the "Goldilocks Zone", so the mean temperature doesn't get too hot or too cold for life as we know it to exist. It has the fastest rotation of any planet in our solar system and is the only planet with active tectonic plates. It is also the only planet within our solar system that is known to contain life. It contains millions of species and the only sentient species known to exist in the solar system: humans. There are 6.8 billion humans on the Earth currently, and that is expected to increase to 9.2 billion by 2050. It is estimated that the planet formed 4.54 billion years ago. Life first appeared one billion years after formation, and it is expected that the planet will continue to support life for another 500 million years.
The moon is the fifth largest natural satellite in the solar system, and one quarter the diameter of Earth. The presence of the moon orbiting the Earth actually slows down Earth's rotation on it's axis. The effect is slight, but it's enough to make the Earth day about 2 milliseconds longer every one hundred years. Under the Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967, the moon remains free for people of all nations to land on and explore; it is not owned by any one nation, despite pennants and flags from both the Soviet Union and the United States being planted on it's surface.
The planet Mars is infamous for it's red colour, which is due to a large amount of iron oxide on it's surface. The surface of Mars has many Earth-like features, including valleys, deserts, volcanoes and even polar ice caps similar to Earth's. Mars is home to the highest peak in the solar system (Olympus Mons, about three times the height of Mount Everest), and the deepest canyon (Valles Marineris). It also contains the largest dust storms in the solar system, sometimes covering a small area and sometimes covering the entire planet. In the past decade frozen water has been found at both poles of the planet; the existence of water suggests that life on the planet could possibly exist, or may have existed in the past.
Ceres is the first dwarf planet from the sun, but it was considered the fifth planet from the sun for nearly fifty years after it was first discovered in 1801. However, after it was seen that Ceres sits within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and it was similar to and shared it's orbit with the asteroids residing there, it was for a time considered to be one of them, despite being the largest object within the belt; Ceres contains 32% of the belt's total mass, and is about 950 km in diameter. In 2006 when the definition of a planet was finally determined, scientists decided that the title of dwarf planet best fit Ceres as it only meets two of the three requirements to be a planet. It is theorized that Ceres may contain an ocean of liquid water beneath it's surface.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, and the fifth furthest from the sun. It is a gas giant, and is often grouped with the other gas giants of our solar system: Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These four are often known collectively as the "outer planets", as they're all out past the asteroid belt that comes just before Jupiter. Jupiter has 63 natural satellites and a very faint ring system which appears to be made of dust (as opposed to Saturn's rings which are made primarily of ice). Jupiter's great red spot is a famous, distinctive feature of the planet; it appears to be a stable anticyclonic storm that has been to known to exist since 1831; Giovanni Cassini noticed a "permanent spot" on the planet in 1665. Jupiter has no surface; it is made up of gas and liquid matter.
Saturn is the seventh planet from the sun, and most notable for it's rings. Although some other planets have rings as well, Saturn's are the most notable. There are nine individual rings, averaging a thickness of only 20 meters; the rings are made up of particles ranging in size from a dust speck to objects the size of a car. Like Jupiter, Saturn regularly shows a "Great White Spot", a storm in the planet's atmosphere that appears approximately once every 29.5 Earth years, or one Saturnian year. The storm appears in the northern hemisphere when it is tilted towards the sun, essentially during Saturn's summer solstice.
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun, discovered in 1781 by Sir William Herschel. Uranus' axis is tilted at 97.77°, so that it's poles are almost sideways compared to the poles of most planets (Earth's axis is only tilted at 23° in comparison). Likewise, it's rings appear sideways compared to those of Saturn. Uranus has a system of 13 rings (that we know of so far), some of which vary slightly in colour: the outermost is blue, a middle one is red, and the rest appear grey. It was named Uranus after the Greek good of the sky Ouranos; astronomers suggested that it be named after the father of Saturn, as Saturn is named after the father of Jupiter. Neptune was also proposed as a name. The planet's moons were named after characters from various Shakespearian plays.
Neptune is the eighth and last planet in our solar system, the furthest from the sun. In 1821, after observing the orbit of Uranus, Alexis Bouvard determined that anomalies in Uranus' orbit were most likely due to another planet in the vicinity, and this prompted astronomers, including Urbain Le Verrier, to start attempting to calculate the location of such a planet. In 1846 Bouvard's hypothesis was proved correct and Le Verrier had determined Neptune's location to within one degree of where it was found in the sky. Neptune, like Uranus, is an ice giant: it has a core of ice and rock, a mantle of ammonia, methane and frozen water, and an atmosphere of various gases. It also has rings which appear to be quite unstable and have shown signs of decay; one of the rings, the Liberte arc, may disappear in less than a century.
Pluto is the fourth dwarf planet from the sun, the tenth planetary body from the Sun, and the second largest dwarf planet orbiting the Sun. It is thought to be the largest known object from the Kuiper belt, a belt of frozen ices found beyond the orbit of Neptune, similar to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but about 20 times larger. Previous to its discovery, a tenth planet was theorized due to perturbations in Uranus' orbit which Neptune didn't completely account for. Until it was discovered in 1930, researchers named the planet they were searching for "Planet X". After the discovery of Eris, a body almost the same size as Pluto, the IAU decided to redefine the term "planet" in 2006, which Pluto did not fit, and it was therefore redefined as a dwarf planet.
Eris is the fifth dwarf planet from the sun, making it the eleventh planetary body from the Sun, and the most distant known natural object from the sun. According to data gathered on the planet and observations it appears to be bigger than Pluto, but due to it's distance from Earth it is hard to get proper readings on Eris and therefore have accurate data to work with and calculate things like size, mass and density. It was originally labelled our solar system's tenth planet because at the time it appeared to be bigger than Pluto, and it was this that moved the International Astronomical Union to define the term "planet", officially labeling it, and Pluto, a dwarf planet. Eris' orbital path is inclined 44 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic, meaning it is tilted 44 degrees compared to orbits of most planets, including Earth.