Most planets in our solar system are named for Roman gods and goddesses from Roman mythology, particularly visible planets that can be seen with naked eyes. This is especially true of planets deemed visible with naked eye.
Mercury takes its name from Roman god Mercury; Venus represents love and beauty which ancient Romans valued highly.
Mercury completes its orbit around the sun in just 84 years – making it the fastest planet in our Solar System.
Ancient peoples knew Mercury to be near the sun, and since it moved so swiftly they named it after its namesake, Mercury. Additionally, Mercury is closely connected with Hermes – another Greek god associated with speed and commerce – making Mercury one of several possible candidates for its name.
Mercury may not have been one of Rome’s original deities, but his temple and festival, Mercuralia on 15 May were still commemorated today by traders who would splash water from a well dedicated to Mercury on themselves and their goods for good fortune.
His image often was one of an arrogant trickster and he carried the caduceus, an herald’s staff with two intertwining snakes given by Apollo. Like his brother Hermes, Mercury was revered as the patron god of travelers and messengers alike as well as boundaries and crossroads; some cultures venerated Wednesday as his day. Additionally, Mercury patronized ships and pilots.
Venus is an extremely hot planet with unforgiving conditions. The thick atmosphere creates an immense greenhouse effect which significantly raises its temperatures; spacecraft that have visited Venus have reported seeing temperatures that rarely dip below 1,000degF on its surface.
Venus is known as Earth’s evil twin due to their similar size and surface composition; however, there is no water present on Venus compared to Earth. Venus also holds the distinction of being the hottest planet in our Solar System.
Venus was revered in Roman mythology as the goddess of love, beauty, desire and sexuality. Julius Caesar dedicated an elaborate temple in her honor during his quadruple triumph celebrations – making her patron goddess both for himself and Rome.
Saturn was given its name to honor Roman God of Agriculture Saturn, as its slow movements likely reminded ancient sky-watchers of plowing or grazing oxen. Saturn is currently the slowest planet in its orbit and features retrograde rotation – meaning its path rotates counter-clockwise around the sun.
Scientists generally believe that Earth was formed simultaneously with its solar system and remains as one of the only living planets visible from space.
Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter were named after Roman gods and goddesses, respectively. Mercury served as messenger god while Venus represented love and beauty; Mars represented war and Jupiter ruled over all gods as King.
Neptune was named for Neptunus, the Roman god of the Sea; while Pluto, now classified as a dwarf planet, was named for Plutonius, Roman God of the Underworld.
Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, takes 84 Earth years to complete its orbit around us. Its distinctive reddish hue is caused by iron oxide-rich surfaces covering its surface which give it its unique hue; classical astronomers also coined this name after Roman god of war, Mars.
Mars, in Roman mythology, was both the god of war and protector of Rome’s founding twins Romulus and Remus. As one of Jupiter and Juno’s children, he is considered one of the most powerful deities.
Mars, unlike Venus, is often associated with conflict and war. Yet he still finds time for Aphrodite and Eros – his power couple that once charmed ancient cultures alike.
Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun, is an enormous gas giant with an amazing 79 known moons. Featuring a massive polar vortex and spectacular storms, it makes an excellent destination.
It features an outer shell composed of fluid metallic hydrogen rich in helium that surrounds its fuzzy core.
In Roman mythology, Jupiter was an almighty sky god responsible for keeping the stars and light visible to humanity. Like his Greek counterpart Zeus, Jupiter represented nature and justice – acting as both protector and witness in agreements between humans, leagues or treaties; patronising both state laws as well as its laws.
Romans worshiped many other solar system deities and goddesses besides Jupiter. These included Mars (god of war), Ceres (goddess of agriculture) and Vulcan (god of both beneficial and detrimental fire). Of their children were Romulus and Remus who are revered today as founders of Rome.
Saturn, commonly referred to by Romans as the Ringed Planet, was named by them after one of the Titans: Saturn was linked with wealth and agriculture themes in mythology; his ascension brought about a Golden Age in Italy. Additionally, its symbol represents death; in fact its astronomical symbol looks similar to a cross and scythe (see image at right).
Saturn is home to vast rings made up of frozen chunks of ice, while Enceladus hosts 101 geysers that spew jets of water vapor, molecular hydrogen, and other gases into space. Much like Earth, Saturn also experiences day and night cycles but their days are much shorter; hence why its name was often associated with people with an unpleasant disposition; ancient people believed this matched perfectly with Saturn himself who they thought had the temperament that befitted such a distant planet.
Many planets in our solar system are named for Roman or Greek gods; Mercury for instance was named after Mercury the Roman god of communication and travel, Venus after Venus the goddess of love and beauty and Mars after Mars the god of war.
Uranus stands out as being unique amongst these planets in that it does not bear any Roman god or goddess as its namesake. A gaseous cyan ice giant that lies 19 times farther from the Sun than Earth.
Uranus stands out in our solar system as being significantly different to its peers, in that it does not receive energy from the Sun and lacks dramatic weather systems or cloud bands. Instead, Uranus boasts an outer layer composed of hydrogen and helium extending one fifth further than those found on Jupiter or Saturn; therefore a day on Uranus lasts 17 hours with one year lasting 84 Earth years long.
Like Uranus, Neptune is one of two ice giants in our solar system. Its atmosphere contains dense levels of hydrogen, helium and methane atop an expanse of solid rock beneath a dense blanket of hydrogen clathrates.
Planet Neptune takes 164 Earth years to make one revolution around our Sun, making it the farthest planet from our solar system. Each of its 14 moons are named for sea deities or nymphs such as Triton (its largest moon).
Roman mythology depicted Neptune as the god of the sea and oceans, his brother Jupiter (Roman equivalent of Zeus) and Pluto (Roman counterpart of Hades). All three brothers would draw lots to determine which parts of earth each would rule over: Neptune would govern over sea and sky; Pluto over underworld/sky; while Jupiter governed over land/sky.
Neptune, as depicted by Ovid and Virgil in their poetry, typically displays dark hair with an azure or sea-green mantle, held up by his tridents which can either calm the seas or create new bodies of water. He wields them like weapons to maintain order while creating new bodies of water.
Astronomers followed Roman tradition when naming Uranus and Neptune; when Pluto was discovered, however, astronomers didn’t. Instead, an 11-year-old girl suggested it to her grandfather who in turn sent it off to Lowell Observatory as its official name.
Pluto was the Roman god of the Underworld and like his Greek counterpart Hades had a three-headed dog called Cerberus to guard his domain. One of Pluto’s duties included meeting souls that crossed over River Styx before binding and transporting them onward to their fate – those who lived good lives would go to Elysian Fields while those who led evil lives would end up in Tartarus.
Pluto didn’t play an especially prominent role in state religion or festivals, though its god of death was revered as one of the oldest deities in the Pantheon; representing death and rebirth cycles in his representation of death-rebirth cycles.