- Mercury experiences no real seasons, since it stands erect rather than leaning on a tilted axis;
- Venus' dusk to dawn is the equivalent of two Earth months. Because of its rotation, the sun rises in the West and sets in the East;
- Mars has the highest mountains in the solar system;
- Jupiter is double the mass of all other planets combined, and is 300 times larger than Earth;
- The Saturnian ring system spans a disc of 180,000 miles wide from one ring tip to the other. Yet the depth barely exceeds a 32-story building;
- Uranus was discovered in 1781 by a novice astronomer with a homemade telescope in his garden. Two of the moons are named Oberon and Titania--the King and Queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream;
- Neptune was discovered by mathematicians, not astronomers, as a way to explain Uranus' irregular orbit;
- Pluto (no longer classified as a planet) is smaller than the moon.
"Former President Jimmy Carter, while serving as governor of Georgia, reported Venus to the state police. During World War II, a squadron of B-29 pilots mistook the planet for a Japanese plane and tried to shoot it from the sky."
The Chaldeans called the planet Ishtar, the love goddess ascending the heavens, and to the Semitic Sumerians she was Nin-si-anna, "the Lady of the Defenses of Heaven." Her Persian name, Anahita, associated her with fruitfulness. The dual (dawn and dusk) nature of Venus cast her by turns as virgin or vamp to her worshipers. (p.55)Venus, the wayward sister, preaches an important cautionary tale to careless humans, for her hostile environment proves how even small atmospheric effects can conspire over time to convert an earthly paradise into a hell-fire cauldron. Indeed, much current study of Venus aims to save humanity from itself by verifying, for example, the destruction that chlorine compounds wreak in high-altitude clouds. (p.59)