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Name the planets in order

Planetary-Lineup-Pia03153-Ga
This is one of those questions I should know but stumps me at the end of a long day. Just before the final tuck and kiss good-night, one of my sons will often ask a question that I do not know the answer to, cannot answer yes or no, or touches on a subject like “Where do babies come from?” I try to think of a graceful way to evade the question because by nighttime I often long for a cup of tea and some time to myself.

I have not figured out yet what to tell them about where babies come from (any ideas would be helpful), but I can name the planets in order thanks to the recent National Geographic Contest. Maryn Smith of Great Falls, Montana, came up with a fun new mnemonic to help you and your kids remember the order of the planets starting closest to the sun in the solar system. This includes the dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, and Eris.


“My very exciting magic carpet just sailed under nine palace elephants.”

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Eris

And then Lisa Loeb wrote a song about it. Listen to her song, “11 Planets.”

The winner’s name and slogan will be featured in the upcoming National Geographic book about the planets, 11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System by David Aguilar.

Here are examples of other mnemonics. Share your favorites with us.

– ROY G. BIV – the colors in the light spectrum (aka colors of the rainbow)
– My Dear Aunt Sally – Multiply or Divide then Add or Subtract
– Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge – the notes represented by the lines on the treble cleff, bottom to top
– Spring ahead, Fall back — tells which way to turn our clocks for daylight saving time

The above montage of photos, taken by various NASA spacecraft, shows the order of planets in the solar system. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is at the top, followed by Venus, Earth (with its moon), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Photograph courtesy NASA/JP.

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1 comment
  • “thirty days hath september, april, june, and november” comes in handy for me every once in a while.

    i am not sure how the rest goes, but you don’t really need it (if you know that 31 is the default and february is weird.)