Our solar system is an undeniably fascinating place, featuring an assortment of celestial oddities and wonders. Between the planets, moons, comets, and asteroids, there’s no shortage of places for us to explore. Slowly but very surely, we’re finding all sorts of incredible—and sometimes unexplainable—phenomena.
In this slideshow, we present to you some of the most dramatic and enigmatic places within our home star system.
product of excessive lava flows, likely the result of lower surface gravity and frequent eruption rates.
theorize that, millions of years ago, methane froze at Pluto’s high elevations and has been slowly evaporating into gas over time, in a rather unique form of erosion. Jupiter’s moon Europa exhibits similar features, the tallest of which measure five stories high.
spotted a 100-square-mile (260 square km) island-like geological formation in Ligeia Mare, one of Titan’s largest seas. Previous scans showed no signs of this feature, and it proceeded to disappear over the next several months. And then it appeared again.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what it is, citing such possibilities as waves, bubbles, floating solids, and suspended solids (like silt in a terrestrial delta). Also, because Titan was transitioning from spring into summer at the time of the observations, scientists believe the phenomenon is tied to the change of seasons. Like I said, Titan is a very alien place.
NASA, a free fall from top to bottom should take about 12 minutes, so you better bring something to read for the trip down. As to how this structure formed, scientists suspect a large impact or tectonic forces.
research suggests these moons—none of which is wider than 12 miles (20 km) across—formed from the same giant impact that spawned Saturn’s rings.
“The moons are giant shards left over from the impact,” Bonnie Buratti, an astronomer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, told Gizmodo in March of 2019. “The ‘skirts’ around their equators are particles from the rings that continue to accrete. The way the moons scoop out particles in their path could be a smaller example of how planets form from smaller particles.”
images it sent back soon after its brief encounter on New Year’s Day 2019. Arrokoth, as the object is now named, looks like a two-lobed snowman. Astronomers call it a contact binary, in which two distinct objects have fused together to form a singular structure. It’s very cool, if not a bit spooky.
according to the ESA, and an excellent place for studying the comet and how it formed.
In addition to an unusually flat swatch of real estate filled with fine-grained materials, Imhotep features many boulders (2,207 to be exact), rocky terrains, basins in which rocks and boulders have accumulated, fractured terraces indicative of internal layering, bright patches pointing to the presence of ice, and mysterious roundish features not seen elsewhere on the object. Comets, as Imhotep demonstrates, are far from boring.
periodic volcano, meaning its eruptions tend to follow a distinct pattern. Since 2013, Loki has been erupting at roughly 475-day intervals, with eruptions lasting for roughly 160 days.
Korolev Crater on Mars. Located in the northern lowlands of the Red Planet, the crater measures 51 miles (82 km) in diameter. The ice within this crater is a permanent feature, which, wow. Who’s up for the most epic game of hockey in the history of the solar system?
race across the planet at speeds reaching 224 miles per hour (360 km), blowing from east to west (opposite to how we do it here on Earth). Hurricane-strength winds perpetually blow across the entire globe, though at altitude. Oh, and these clouds are filled with sulfuric acid that rains down upon the planet’s surface, hot enough to melt lead. To add insult to injury, the planet has electric winds that stripped the planet of its atmospheric water. Venus also features one of the most impressive atmospheric structures in the solar system—a bow-like weather feature that stretches for nearly 6,200 miles (10,000 km) across the planet.
research. It’s undeniably weird, but yet another striking feature of the solar system’s most striking planet.
largest canyon in the solar system, stretching for a whopping 370 miles (600 kilometers). At its deepest, the canyon reaches a depth of 5 miles (8 km). The Grand Canyon in Arizona is a bit longer, but it’s only 1.1 miles (1.8 km) deep. Keep in mind, however, that the diameter of Mars is only slightly more than half of Earth’s diameter. Fair to say, if Mars had a vibrant tourist industry, Valles Marineris would be a must-see.
Our solar system is home to some really amazing and bizarre places, but absolutely nothing compares to Earth. Located in a stable orbit within the habitable zone, our home planet features a highly protective magnetic field, an oxygen-rich atmosphere, copious amounts of liquid water, plate tectonic activity, lots of terrestrial surfaces, regularly changing seasons, and of course, life.