Solar System Jupiter (left) and its moon, Titan, were among the planets discovered in the early 20th century by astronomer Edward Jameson.
(credit: Wikimedia Commons) Which Solar Systems Are Worth Your Time?
There are a handful of planets that have captured the public imagination, but it can be tricky to decide which one is the best.
“A lot of people are into these big, huge planets, like Jupiter or Saturn,” said Sara Shuman, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona.
But you can’t always choose the one that gets the most attention.
“There are a lot of smaller planets that people don’t necessarily pay attention to,” she added.
If you’re looking to make a name for yourself in the universe, Shuman recommends looking for a planet that’s near its star, a planet with an active atmosphere, or a planet in its habitable zone.
She said that you should also look for planets that are rich in water, which will attract the attention of the deep-space community.
“Water is an incredibly valuable resource, so you should be looking for water planets, because they’ll probably be the ones that are going to have the most potential to support life,” Shuman said.
“The water will be so abundant that you’ll be able to grow plants and fish, and it will be such a resource that will be able provide for our future.”
What If You’re Not Sure Which Solar Planet Is Right for You?
If you want to make the most of your time on Earth, you may want to look for a star that has the right combination of planets to support a variety of life forms.
“If you’re not into watching the planets and watching them change in terms of their color, you can probably get away with not looking for those planets,” said Dr. Rebecca Lofholm, an astronomy expert at the National Science Foundation.
“But the fact is that there’s a lot that you can do with those planets, so it’s kind of an artistic choice.”
There are also planets that will likely not have the right balance of water and ice, said Dr, Jessica Breen, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
“I’d say, if you’re in the U.S., it’s definitely best to look to the northern hemisphere for those kinds of planets,” she said.
Shuman added that you shouldn’t look at planets that lie directly in the habitable zone, like Mars and Venus, because that may not be the best option for most people.
“For some people, they’re just going to get an image of the planet that doesn’t necessarily match up to their expectations,” she explained.
“So that’s kind to keep in mind, for those people, to make sure that what you’re doing is really going to be in line with the image that’s actually out there.”
What to Do When You Need a Planetside Appointment?
If it’s not possible to go out to the planets, you could still enjoy some of the planetside viewing that you could get with your smartphone.
“You could do a lot with your phone if you go out and look for some planets that you’d be able go out there to,” Shubin said.
She added that a smartphone will also let you take in the beauty of the night sky without having to travel to the planetarium.
You can even use it to view some of Earth’s most spectacular celestial sights, such as the Perseids meteor shower.
“It’s really fun to look through the phone, to be able look through these things and really take in that incredible view, because the planet’s not just a place to get out to, it’s actually a place that’s been around a long time,” Shube said.