A body orbiting a planet is called a satellite.

The Moon is a natural satellites that orbits planet Earth.

Many planets have moons, and some planets have many moons - Saturn has more than 50.

The Earth has just one moon - the Moon.

Dwarf planets

Pluto is a dwarf planet.

The gravitational field of a dwarf planet is not strong enough to 'clear the neighbourhood', so there may be other objects in its orbit around the Sun.

The Solar System contains hundreds of dwarf planets, including Ceres (the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt).


Asteroids are made of metals and rocky material.

There are many asteroids in our solar system which orbit the Sun in oval or egg-shaped elliptical orbits which can take millions of years to complete.

There are large numbers of asteroids orbiting the Sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

There are also many in a region beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.


The solar system also contains small objects called comets.

Comets are similar to asteroids, but are made of ice, dust and rocky material.

As a comet approaches the Sun, it begins to vaporise, which means that it turns into a gas.

It then produces a distinctive tail.

The main difference between asteroids and comets is their composition, as in, what they are made of.

  • Asteroids are made up of metals and rocky material.
  • Comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky material.
  • Both asteroids and comets were formed early in the history of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago.