Mars is no place for the faint-hearted. Arid, rocky, cold and apparently lifeless, the Red Planet offers few hospitalities. Fans of extreme sports can rejoice, however, for the Red Planet will challenge even the hardiest souls among us. Home to the largest volcano in the solar system, the deepest canyon and crazy weather and temperature patterns, Mars looms as the ultimate lonely planet destination
Photo: Illustration of the Sun and eight planets (International Astronomical Union)
It is relatively easy to spot five of the planets in the Solar System. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all visible with the naked eye.
Under ideal conditions Uranus is just barely visible to unaided viewers, but it is best to use binoculars or a telescope. You will definitely need magnification to see the eighth planet, Neptune.
Pluto lost its planet status in 2006 and is now considered to be a dwarf planet.
The discovery of hundreds of exoplanets orbiting other stars means our eight planets have plently of company in the Universe.
On 6 December, the Cassini spacecraft sent back the first photos since starting its closest orbits yet to Saturn’s rings.
This penultimate phase of Cassini’s mission, called the Ring-Grazing Orbits, started on 30 November and will send Cassini on 20 week-long trips soaring above Saturn’s northern hemisphere before gliding back down just outside the planet’s main rings.
Juno arrived at Jupiter July 4 after a five-year journey, and this will be the closest approach of the entire mission, with the spacecraft grazing over the tops of Jupiter’s clouds at a distance of just 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) at a speed of 130,000 mph (208,000 km/h).