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9 surprising facts about the solar system

By Veronica Linares

A compilation of unexpected facts about the planets in our solar system.

1. Venus' average temperature could melt tin and lead

PLANET VENUS

Photo courtesy of NASA
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Despite being the second planet from the sun, Venus' atmospheric thickness and composition make its average temperature about 875 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 75 degrees warmer than the highest temperature on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

2. Pluto is smaller than the United States

New Horizons Spacecraft nears closest point to Pluto

Photo courtesy of NASA/APL/SwRI/

With a diameter of just over 1,475 miles, the dwarf planet is considerably smaller than the United States, where the greatest distance between two mainland points within contiguous states is 2,892 miles from Point Arena, Calif. to West Quoddy Head, Maine.

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3. Saturn isn't the only planet with rings

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Captures Mosaic of Saturn

Photo courtesy of NASA

All of the larger planets including Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus have rings, but they are difficult to see because of distance.

RELATED Study: Many exoplanets may be hiding water in their clouds

4. Jupiter is the solar system's garbage disposal

DETAILED VIEW OF JUPITER RELEASED BY NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

The largest planet of the solar system uses its powerful magnetic field to attract space debris and other dangerous objects into its orbit, thus shielding other planets.

5. Neptune's winds can be as fast as a jet fighter

NEPTUNE FROM VOYAGER 2

Photo courtesy of NASA

The winds of Neptune can travel at more than 1,500 mph, which is the maximum speed of a Lockheed Martin F-16 jet fighter.

6. Uranus is tilted

WIDER VIEW OF URANUS BY HUBBLE

Photo courtesy of NASA

The seventh planet from the Sun orbits the star on its side. NASA says a collision with an Earth-like object might have caused the planet to tip.

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7. Mercury has freezing temperatures

NASA's Messenger spacecraft photographs Mercury

Photo courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

While being the closest planet to the Sun allows Mercury to reach temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit, its light atmosphere impedes the planet from entrapping heat. Night temperatures can drop to -279 degrees Fahrenheit.

8. Earth's slowing rotation could make for longer days in the future

Eearth

Photo courtesy of NASA

The slow and inconsistent shift of Earth's acceleration -- think 17 milliseconds per hundred years -- could bring about 25-hour days in 140 million years.

9. Mars rocks have been found on Earth

UPI Pictures of the Year 2015 -- NEWS & FEATURES

Photo courtesy of NASA

Martian rocks have been found in Antartica, the Sahara Desert and other places. The meteorites -- believed to have been violently ejected from the Red Planet -- presumably collided with Earth after lingering as space debris for years.

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