Virtual Cubes

Astro Cube

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Astro Cube

The Astro Cube displays 6 planets: Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune together with 13 of their largest satellites. Comet Halley is able to orbit around all cube faces. The Sun and the inner planets Mercury and Venus are hidden inside the physical core of the cube.

In any solved state, all 13 satellites are positioned around their respective planets and the comet orbit is an unbroken loop. Up to 36 solved states do actually exist, because Comet Halley can travel to any of the 6 cube faces. In addition, satellites Moon, Io, Titan, Ariel and Triton can be positioned at different spots around their respective planets. Note that the labels of satellites of a same planet share a same and unique color.

Discover astronomical facts, for instance the order of the planets in the solar system by following the comet path. Try to recognize the planets from their images and learn more about the largest 13 satellites in the solar system. The cube also visualizes the very elongated orbit of Halley that enables the comet to travel long distances from Earth (actually from Venus) to Neptune.

The layout of the Astro Cube was created in 2010 by Stefan Berinde.

Halley's Comet (front face)

Category: short-period comet
Orbital period: 75.3 Julian years
Last perihelion: 9 February 1986
Next perihelion: 28 July 2061
Dimensions: 15.3 x 7.2 x 7.2 km

Halley's Comet or Comet Halley is the best-known of the short-period comets, and is visible from Earth every 75 to 76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and thus the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Other naked-eye comets may be brighter and more spectacular, but will appear only once in thousands of years. Halley's returns to the inner Solar System have been observed by astronomers since at least 240 BC, and recorded by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but were not recognized as reappearances of the same object. The comet's periodicity was first determined in 1705 by English astronomer Edmond Halley, after whom it is now named. Halley's Comet last appeared in the inner Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061.

Halley's orbital period over the last three centuries has been between 75 and 76 years, though it has varied between 74 and 79 years since 240 BC. Its orbit around the Sun is highly elliptical. The perihelion, the point in the comet's orbit when it is nearest the Sun, is just 0.587'21 AU (between the orbits of Mercury and Venus), while its aphelion, or farthest distance from the Sun, is 35.33 AU (roughly the distance of Pluto). Unusually for an object in the Solar System, Halley's orbit is retrograde; it orbits the Sun in the opposite direction to the planets, or clockwise from above the Sun's north pole. The orbit is inclined by 18° to the ecliptic, with much of it lying south of the ecliptic. Due to Halley's highly eccentric orbit, it has one of the highest velocities, relative to the Earth, of any object in the Solar System. The 1910 passage was at a relative velocity of 70.56 km/s.

The Solar System

In increasing distance from the Sun, the planets and some dwarf planets of the Solar System are:

Mercury

Category: planet
Orbital period: 87.969'1 days
Radius: 2'439.7 km (0.382'9 Earths)
Satellites: none

Venus

Category: planet
Orbital period: 224.700'69 days
Radius: 6'051.8 km (0.949'9 Earths)
Satellites: none

Earth (front face)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 365.256'363'004 days
Radius: 6'371.0 km
1 satellite: The Moon

Mars (left face)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 686.971 days (1.88 years)
Radius: 3,396.2 km (0.533 Earths)
2 satellites: Phobos, Deimos

Ceres

Category: dwarf planet
Orbital period: 1'681.63 days (4.60 years)
Radius: 473 km (0.074 Earths)
Satellites: none

Jupiter (top face)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 4'332.59 days (11.861'8 years)
Radius: 71'492.0 km (11.209 Earths)
67 satellites: Ganymede, Callisto, Io, Europa

Saturn (back face)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 10'759.22 days (29.457'1 years)
Radius: 60'268.0 km (9.449'2 Earths)
Satellites: About 200 observed satellites with at least 62 moons:
Titan, Rhea, Iapetus

Uranus (right face)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 30'688.5 days (84.020'5 years)
Radius: 25,559.0 km (4.007 Earths)
27 satellites: Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel

Neptune (bottom face)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 60'182.0 days (164.8 years)
Radius: 24'764.0 km (3.883 Earths)
14 satellites: Triton

Orcus

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 89'552.0 days (245.18 years)
Diameter: 917.0 km
1 satellite: Vanth

2003 AZ84

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 90'352.0 days (247.37 years)
Diameter: 727.0 km
1 satellite: discovered in 2007, unrecovered in 2012

Huya

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 90'477.0 days (247.72 years)
Diameter: 406.0 km
1 satellite: S/2012 38628 Huya 1

Pluto

Category: dwarf planet
Orbital period: 90'581.0 days (248.0 years)
Radius: 1'187.0 km (0.18 Earths)
5 satellites: Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos, Styx

Ixion

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 91'295.847 days (249.95 years)
Diameter: 617.0 km
Satellites: none

2005 RN43

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 97'192.0 days (266.10 years)
Diameter: 679.0 km
Satellites: none

2002 MS4

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 269.06 years
Diameter: 934.0 km
Satellites: none

Salacia

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 99'088.0 days (271.29 years)
Diameter: 854.0 km
1 satellite: Actaea

2004 GV9

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 271.55 years
Diameter: 680.0 km
Satellites: none

2002 UX25

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 101'758.0 days (278.60 years)
Diameter: 665.0 km
1 satellite: not named yet

Varuna

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 102'646.1 days (281.02 years)
Diameter: 668.0 km
Satellites: none

Haumea

Category: dwarf planet
Orbital period: 103'774.0 days (284.12 years)
Radius: 718.0 km
2 satellites: Hi'iaka, Namaka

Quaoar

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 104'451.3 days (285.97 years)
Diameter: 1'110.0 km
1 satellite: Weywot

2005 UQ513

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 104'955.0 days (287.35 years)
Diameter: 498.0 km
Satellites: none

Makemake

Category: dwarf planet
Orbital period: 112'897.0 days (309.09 years)
Radius: 715.0 km
Satellites: none

Chaos

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 309.100'6 years
Diameter: 600.0 km
Satellites: none

Varda

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 113'779.342 days (311.51 years)
Diameter: 705.0 km
Satellites: none

2002 AW197

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 118'761.0 days (325.14 years)
Diameter: 768.0 km
Satellites: none

2007 OR10

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 546.6 years
Diameter: 1'535.0 km
Satellites: none

Eris

Category: dwarf planet
Orbital period: 203'830.0 days (558.04 years)
Radius: 1'163.0 km
1 satellite: Dysnomia

2007 UK126

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 234'324.7 days (640.55 years)
Diameter: 599.0 km
1 satellite: not named yet

2012 VP113

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 4'268.0 years
Diameter: 450.0 km
Satellites: none

Planet Nine (2016 hypothesis)

Category: planet
Orbital period: 10'000 to 20'000 years
Radius: 13'000 to 26'000 km (2 to 4 Earths)
Satellites: unknown

Sedna

Category: possible dwarf planet
Orbital period: 11'400.0 years
Diameter: 995.0 km
Satellites: none
© Walter Randelshofer. All rights reserved.