National Geographic's 'A Traveler's Guide to the Planets' Is Ultimate in Adventure Travel

travelers guide to the planets

It's an adventure like none you've ever experienced -- an out-of-this world journey through the solar system, compliments of earth's most advanced telescopes and state-of-the-art animation.

This week, National Geographic Channel's six-part series "A Traveler's Guide to Planets," takes viewers on heart-racing ride from the solar flares of Mercury to the canyons of Mars to the icy terrain of the dwarf planet Pluto, and beyond. The program premiered last night and continues tonight and tomorrow.

Combining views from high-tech telescopes with computer-generated imagery, the series explores Earth's neighbors in the most personal way technology can afford. National Geographic says, "It's the ultimate in adventure travel, but it's not for the faint of heart."

Below are a few of the stops on its spectacular tour of the planets.

Saturn and Its Moons

About a billion miles from earth, Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system. But though 755 earths could fit inside it, its density is so low scientists say the entire planet could float on water.

"Saturn is the most phenomenologically rich planetary system that we have in our solar system because of its rings and planet and magnetosphere and an enormous collection of very diverse moons. It has it all," Dr. Carolyn Porca, Cassini Imaging Team leader at the Space Science Institute, says in the first part of National Geographic's six-part series.

"If you wanted to ask fundamental questions about the solar system in general, Saturn would be the place you would go," she said.

The gaseous planet is not a friendly place for humans, but thanks to the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which began its orbital tour of Saturn in 1997, scientists are learning a great deal about the mysterious planet.

The computer-generated image above shows a view of Saturn from Enceladus, one of its many moons. The moon's surface is snowy white and scored with rows of geysers shooting water and ice crystals. With Cassini's help, scientists learned that some ice plumes on the moon's south pole move at 1,360 miles per hour.

Enceladus is not even 300 miles across, but though it's tiny, new evidence of liquid water on its surface is leading scientists to wonder if its conditions could even support life.

Jupiter and Its Moon Io

Larger-than-life Jupiter spins so quickly, one day only lasts 10 hours. The planet, which is the largest in the solar system, is so monstrous it could fit every single planet and moon in the solar system and still have room to spare.

It's famous red "eye" is actually a persistent storm at least 300 years old measuring more than twice the size of earth with a core temperature that surpasses that of the sun's surface.

The moons of this hydrogen and helium filled planet are also quite impressive.

Io, which is shown in the image above, is considered the most volcanic spot in the entire solar system and is one of Jupiter's four largest moons.

Mercury

Given its up close and personal proximity to the sun, temperatures on Mercury reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

It rotates at a snail's pace -- a single day takes 176 earth days -- and because it's the closest planet to the sun, the sun shines on the planet for three solid months at a time.

Scientists say Mercury's surface resembles that of the moon, it has flat plains and deep craters. But volcanoes also played a part in creating the planet's surface. The animation above shows a surface of Mercury shaped by volcanoes.

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