A Backyard View of The Solar System Moons

There are many, many moons of the Solar System. Both Jupiter and Saturn have 60 or more of these natural satellites.

Six of the eight planets have orbiting bodies. Mercury and Venus do not. Earth has one, and Mars has two though they are relatively small.


The outer planets have many but most of these are not like ours here on Earth.

There are regular and irregular natural satellite systems.

Regular types, which this website will mostly concentrate on, are similar in appearance to our own... if we were viewing from its parent planet.

These celestial bodies orbit their planet in the same direction that the planet orbits the Sun...with the exception of Neptune's Triton. This is known as a pro-grade orbit.

Regular planetary satellites are also tidally locked to the parent. This means that the same side always faces the planet. There isn't really a “dark side” as the whole surface gets exposed to sunlight during the lunar phases, as the body orbits the parent planet. There is just a side which never faces the planet...and is never seen except from space.

Hyperion of Saturn is the only known exception to this. The gravitational influence of Titan is the cause.

Irregular types are too far away from their parent to become tidally locked. They also come in various shapes as they are not massive enough to have achieved hydrostatic equilibrium. Hydrostatic equilibrium occurs when a celestial body becomes rounded by gravitational forces. An example of course is the planets.

Irregular planetary satellites also tend to have retro-grade orbits, meaning they orbit the parent planet in the opposite direction than the planet orbits the Sun.

Earth has one of the largest satellites in the solar system. It is the closest celestial body to the planet.

The two largest of the solar system's natural satellites, Ganymede of Jupiter and Titan of Saturn, are larger than the planet Mercury... although they're not as dense.

These links will offer a glimpse into some of the natural satellites  in the solar system.

The four Galilean or Jovian satellites are fun, easy viewing in a small telescope such as this one...

Orion GoScope II 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope

or even binoculars.

The 8 lunar phases are explained on the page of monthly cycles.

The traditional names of the full moons are listed on this page.

› MOONS
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