During the past three decades a myriad of space explorers have escaped the confines of planet Earth and have set out to discover our planetary neighbors. This picture shows the Sun and all nine planets of the solar system as seen by the space explorers. The size of the planets are not to scale. The dramatic view of the Sun was taken by the SOHO spacecraft which started it's solar mission on December 12, 1995.
The first row of planet nearest to the Sun are the Terrestrial planets, meaning Earth like. Starting from the left is Mercury the inner-most planet. The only spacecraft ever to visit Mercury was Mariner 10 which first flew past the planet on March 29, 1974. Next to Mercury is Venus. This image of Venus was also taken by Mariner 10 while on its journey towards Mercury. The image was acquired on February 5, 1974.
Earth comes third in line. This picture of Earth was taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts in December 1972. Mars has always attracted the interest of mankind and has been visited by a number of spacecraft. This particular picture was created from a Mosaic of numerous images taken by the Viking spacecrafts.
The outer row of planets includes the gas giants - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. All four of these images were acquired by the Voyager spacecrafts. Voyager 1 & 2 flew past Jupiter in 1979. In 1980 Voyager 1 made its encounter with Saturn and Voyager 2 in 1981. Another 5 years passed by before Voyager 2's encounter with Uranus in 1986 followed by the encounter with Neptune in 1989.
Pluto (top right) is the only planet not yet explored by spacecraft. This picture was made from a series of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
This image is Copyright © 1998 by Calvin J. Hamilton. Any commercial/for-profit use of this image needs to be addressed to Calvin J. Hamilton.