The Exact Colors of the Planets

When we look at beautiful images of the planets of our Solar System, it is important to note that we are looking at is not always accurate. Especially where their appearances are concerned, these representations can sometimes be altered or enhanced. This is a common practice, where filters or color enhancement is employed in order to make sure that the planets and their features are clear and discernible.

So what exactly do the planets of the Solar System look like when we take all the added tricks away? If we were to take pictures of them from space, minus the color enhancement, image touch-ups, and other methods designed to bring out their details, what would their true colors and appearances be? We already know that Earth resembles something of a blue marble, but what about the other ones?

To put it simply, the color of every planet in our Solar System is heavily dependent upon their composition. If it is a terrestrial planet i.e. one composed of minerals and silicate rocks then its appearance will likely be grey or take on the appearance of oxidized minerals. At the same time, the planet’s atmospheres play a large role i.e. how they reflect and absorb sunlight will determines which colors they present to an external observer.

The presence of an atmosphere can also determine whether or not there is vegetation, or warm, flowing water on the planet’s surface. If, however, we are talking about gas or ice giants , then the planet’s color will depend on what gases make it up, their absorption of light, and which ones are closer to the surface. All of this comes into play when observing the planets of our Solar System.

Mercury is difficult planet to get good images of, and for obvious reasons. Given its proximity to the Sun, it is virtually impossible to take clear  pictures using ground-based instruments here on the Earth. As a result, the only decent photographs we have of this planet have been taken by spacecraft, specifically missions like Mariner 10 , and the more recent MESSENGER probe.

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