The Skies Proclaim His Handiwork Day 4: The Planets
He set the earth on its foundation, so that it should never be moved. (Psalm 104:5, ESV)
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3, ESV)
You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6, ESV)
In our solar system, a planet is any large body that revolves around the sun. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we were taught the number of planets based on limited information at the time. Since then, Pluto got kicked out of the cool club and is now classified as a dwarf planet, leaving the current count at 8 and limited to the planets orbiting our sun. There are other planets out there that scientists refer to as exoplanets—outside our solar system.
The planets are fascinating to study, each having its own list of unique characteristics. Here are a few to share for our reading today:
Mercury—This is the smallest planet in our solar system and the closest to the sun. It is only slightly larger than our moon but is a quick mover, circling the sun every 88 earth days. Mercury has no moons or rings, and if you happened to weigh yourself there, you’d weigh only 38% of your weight on earth (can I get an amen?).
Venus—The second planet from the sun, it’s referred to as earth’s twin since their size and mass is quite similar. Venus is a hot planet, recording temperatures of 471 degrees Celsius. A day on Venus lasts longer than a year. Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky and it rotates in the opposite direction of most of the others. Venus is also known as the Morning or the Evening Star due to its brilliance and easy visibility.
Earth—With one moon, it’s the only planet to support life. Interestingly, it’s also the only planet not named after a god. The earth is the densest planet in the solar system and has a powerful magnetic field. Seventy percent of earth is covered in water, a necessary component for sustaining life. The surface temperature of earth is a habitable average of 14 degrees Celsius, with extremes recorded from -88 to 58 degrees Celsius. The earth’s rotation is gradually slowing approximately 17 milliseconds per hundred years.
Mars—Referred to as the red planet from its reddish appearance, it’s the fourth planet from our sun and the second smallest in our solar system. Mars is a chilly planet with temperatures ranging from -87 to -5 degrees Celsius. There is a very large mountain on this planet that shows evidence of volcanic activity. Dust storms are prevalent on the planet and cover its surface. Sunsets on Mars are blue—wouldn’t that be amazing to see?
Jupiter—It’s the largest planet, 2.5 times more massive than all others in the solar system combined. It’s made up of gases and is known as the “gas giant.” Jupiter has 79 moons, 4 rings and a surface temperature of -108 degrees Celsius. Jupiter boasts the shortest day of all the planets at 9 hours and 55 minutes. Jupiter’s Ganymede moon is the largest in the solar system. There is a Great Red Spot present on the planet—a raging storm that has been active for hundreds of years.
Saturn—Famous for its amazing ring system, Saturn is the 6th planet from the sun and second largest in our solar system. Boasting 82 moons and over 30 rings, it’s quite a beauty to behold. The surface temperature of Saturn is cold at around -139 degrees Celsius. Saturn is the flattest planet and orbits the sun every 29.4 earth days. It’s the planet furthest away that can be seen with the naked eye.
Uranus—The 7th planet from the sun, it has 13 rings and 27 moons. It’s also cold at -197 degrees Celsius. It is tilted on its axis at 98 degrees and looks like it rolls around on its side. It is often referred to as the “ice giant” because it has an icy mantle composed of ice and rock. Its upper atmosphere contains water, ammonia, and methane ice crystals which give it its pale blue color.
Neptune—This is the most distant planet from the sun and has 14 moons and 5 rings. A year on Neptune lasts 165 earth days. Neptune has a volatile climate with large storms swirling through its upper atmosphere. The winds are ferocious with speeds up to 600 meters per second. The surface temperatures of this planet are around -200 degrees Celsius.
While this is a short list of each of the planet’s characteristics, I think it should prompt us to be in awe of our Creator. The amazing details of these heavenly bodies cause us to appreciate His handiwork in each one. But I think what’s most notable is that just one of these planets was made suitable for man—and for the coming of God’s own Son, Jesus. Only earth was created as a habitable planet for mankind; its surface would one day hold the Promised King of kings, the One who would come to rescue the lost.