Humans have wondered about the planets for centuries, but it is only in recent decades that spacecraft have revealed detailed views of them. To us they are no longer just specks of light, but worlds dramatically diverse yet bound by common processes that shape their surfaces and environments. Here, you can explore the planets, moons, asteroids, dwarf planets, and comets in our solar system, and learn about the spacecraft that travel great distances to study them.
Named after Roman gods, the planets of our solar system were known to the ancients as wandering stars. Do you know where the name "planet" comes from?
NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured these close-ups of Occator, a crater on the dwarf planet Ceres. About 90 kilometers (60 miles) across, it contains the brightest spots on the dwarf planet. Scientists believe the spots contain salts, specifically a magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite.
Launched in 2007, Dawn arrived at Ceres in March 2015. About 940 kilometers (584 miles) wide, Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It's believed to have a rocky core and a thick icy mantle.