The more we learn about our solar system, the more fascinating it becomes. The sun's atmosphere is hotter than its surface. Venus suffers from a greenhouse effect run amok. On Mars, geologic forces unlike those seen on Earth help to sculpt the landscape. Tiny moons stabilize the ethereal rings around the gas giants. Jupiter's satellite Europa has icy niches where life might evolve.
Though astronomers have begun to detect planetary systems around other stars, the uniqueness of ours is so far intact. Many planets in far-off systems seem to be freakishly large and moving in bizarre orbits that would devastate any alien Earths out there. One of the greatest mysteries of our solar system may be why it is so stable.
This special edition of Scientific American provides the latest developments about our corner of the cosmos, in articles written by the experts who are leading the investigations. Let the pages that follow guide your tour of our solar system, and savor the fact that you can visit these extraordinary nearby worlds and still be home for supper.