4 Years

More about these orbits...

The relative radii of the orbits shown is approximately correct, and Jupiter has a diameter about one-tenth that of the Sun, so the representation here is not unreasonable. But the diagram in no way represents actual orbital distances compared with the diameter of the Sun: that would not be possible with a digital picture of this size. In fact, the distance of Jupiter from the Sun is about five hundred times the diameter of the Sun!

As with the inner planets, the actual orbits are ellipses, but again, they are close to circles. Jupiter varies at most 5% from a circular orbit of radius 5.2AU (where one AU, or astronomical unit, is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun). Saturn varies at most 5% from a circle of radius 9.5AU, Uranus less than 5% from 19AU, and Neptune around 1% from 30AU.

The orbits are in planes through the center of the Sun, not quite in the same planes as each other or the Earth, but at angles of one or two degrees to the Earth's orbital plane (called the ecliptic -- it's equivalent to the apparent path of the Sun relative to the stars in our sky -- think about it).

Detailed quantitative planetary information is available at, for example, this site .

Code by Lawrence Hook.