Why do the planets have different colors?

Planets have the colors that they have because of what they are made of and how their surfaces or atmospheres reflect and absorb sunlight. Mercury has a dark gray, rocky surface which is covered with a thick layer of dust. The surface is thought to be made up of igneous silicate rocks and dust. Venus is entirely covered with a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and sulphuric acid clouds which give it a light yellowish appearance. Earth shows its blue oceans and white clouds as well as its green and brownish land. Mars is covered with a fine dust which contains iron oxide (rust). This gives Mars its orange color. Jupiter is a giant gas planet with an outer atmosphere that is mostly hydrogen and helium with small amounts of water droplets, ice crystals, ammonia crystals, and other elements. Clouds of these elements create shades of white, orange, brown and red. Saturn is also a giant gas planet with an outer atmosphere that is mostly hydrogen and helium. Its atmosphere has traces of ammonia, phosphine, water vapor, and hydrocarbons giving it a yellowish-brown color. Uranus is a gas planet which has a lot of methane gas mixed in with its mainly hydrogen and helium atmosphere. This methane gas gives Uranus a greenish blue color Neptune also has some methane gas in its mainly hydrogen and helium atmosphere, giving it a bluish color.


Learn about IRAS, the first infrared telescope launched into Earth's orbit!