Color Of Each Planet In The Solar System

Have you ever seen a picture of the solar system with all the colorful planets arranged in proper order? If you have, then you must be aware of the colors of all the planets, right?

Now, what if I tell you that most of the pictures that you see do not actually resemble the real color of the planets.

Yes, you read it right!

In most cases when seeing a picture of any planet, what we actually see is an image that is filtered or enhanced so as to make the structure of the planet sharper and detectable.

Let us see some factors that determine the color of a planet.

  1. Composition – depending on the material and the elements that make up the surface of the planet, the color varies. For instance, if the planet has silicate rocks and minerals then it is going to appear grey or some similar shade.
  2. Atmosphere – Some planets, in particular, the gas giants, have a huge atmosphere that surrounds it. Now, in this case, the color will be depending on how different chemical compositions in the uppermost layer of the atmosphere absorbs and reflects light.

So let us begin our journey towards capturing the true colors of all the planets.

What is the color of planet Mercury?

The color of the planet Mercury is dark grey and slightly brownish.

true colour of Mercury
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington [Public domain]

As we all know Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and as you must have guessed it, to capture even a fine image of Mercury from the Earth is pretty much hectic.

The solution – Mariner 10 and MESSENGER probe. These are the spacecraft that took a visit to Mercury and have captured tons of pictures.

What is the color of the planet Venus?

The color of the planet Venus is Pale Yellow.

true colour of Venus
A real-color image taken by the Mariner 10
Image processing by R. Nunes

Now I know you must have seen so many images of Venus portrayed as a Shiny shade of blue, but that again is an enhanced picture.

And before you quibble about its true color, having said that Venus is a terrestrial planet and a yellow landscape may sound a bit like a fairytale, I want to tell you that Venus has a very dense atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen, and Sulphur Dioxide.

OKAY, how does that help!!

Well, a dense atmosphere means that most of the light that you see won’t be coming from the surface but rather it will be the light reflected by the dense sulphuric clouds.

These clouds absorb all the blue light and the yellow light is reflected back.

However, if we could remove all the clouds that covered the planet, we would be left with the rugged surface that looks similar to that of our Earth but one without all the greenery and water. That would leave the planet Greyish in color.

What is the color of planet Earth?

The color of our most favorite planet, Earth is mostly blue with scattered white clouds.

true colour of Earth
Credit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

As you must have already guessed it, the blue marble-like shine is due to the oceans for sure, but also, there is this additional reason – The light scattering effect of our atmosphere.

The rich Nitrogen-Oxygen atmosphere of our planet is known to scatter blue light more than any other color because of its short wavelength.

The white stormy strokes are the clouds.

We can also see the surface features, like over an area which has substantial vegetation cover, we see green. Places mostly near the poles have mountains that are covered with white ice caps. And desserts range from shades of brown to yellow.

What is the color of planet Mars?

Mars has a reddish-brown color to it. Also, in addition, it has patches of white ice caps and dark regions.

true colour of Mars
ESA – European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team ESA/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA, OSIRIS Mars true colorCC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The color of the planet comes from its rocky iron oxide surface. The planet has a very thin atmosphere because of which the color on the surface becomes very expressive.

However, every so often, specks of clouds can be seen.

Also, there are patches of white polar ice caps.

What is the color of planet Jupiter?

The color of our solar system giant, Jupiter is mostly in shades of orange, red, brown, and yellow with whitish bands.

true colour of Jupiter
image credit – NASA

From here onwards we will see all the gas giants. And since there is no actual surface to these gas giants, the color of the planets comes entirely from their thick clouds.

These swirling clouds are made up of hydrogen-helium and other gases.

The bands of colors keep changing due to the storms and heavy winds that are consistent on the planet.

All the different chemicals reflecting the sunlight gives the planet its diverse range of shades.

What is the color of planet Saturn?

The color of the elegant planet Saturn is pale gold.

true colour of Saturn
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Cornell [Public domain]

Similar to Jupiter, Saturn also has a banded texture to it but unlike Jupiter’s bright contrasting shades, its bands are very faint and wider. This comes down to the low density of the planet.

The planet is comprised of mostly hydrogen, helium and then there are other volatiles like ammonia in trace amounts.

Here is how it gets the pale gold.

Due to the hydrogen in the atmosphere, the clouds acquire a deep red color. But this red color is obscured by the clouds of ammonia which makes up the outer most layer and covers the entire planet.

This outer layer of ammonia, however, is bright white in color due to its exposure to the Sun.

The deep red clouds when combined with the white ammonium, give the beautiful pale gold color.

What is the color of the planet Uranus?

Uranus has a pale blue color.

true colour of Uranus
NASA/JPL-Caltech, Uranus2, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Uranus, as we know, is an ice giant comprising of molecular hydrogen and helium along with other elements.

But what gives it the pale blue color is the Methane that is present in its atmosphere.

What is the color of planet Neptune?

Neptune has a pale blue color that is quite similar to Uranus but a bit darker.

true colour of Neptune
NASA/JPLUploaded by nagualdesign [Public domain]

This ice giant is also comprised of hydrogen, helium, and traces of hydrocarbons.

Though it looks similar in appearance to Uranus, there are some differentiating features to the planet like the Great dark spot which is an anticyclonic storm similar to the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. The spot can be easily differentiated from the rest of the planet’s color as it has a very dark shade of blue.   

What gives Neptune its blue color is its high proportions of methane and ammonia. Also, its distance from the Sun plays a role.


Sahil Asolkar

writer and co-founder

Sahil Asolkar is a writer, poet, and shows a good interest in astronomy. His work can be seen in the articles he writes for Astronomiac.

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