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Hubble ultra deep field.jpg

Space (or outer space) describes the vast empty regions between and around planets and stars. The study of these, and other, astronomical objects is called astronomy, one of the oldest sciences. It is often said that space exploration began with the launch of Sputnik 1, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth. Then, in an almost unbelievable feat of human achievement, in 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin travelled to the Moon and set foot on the surface during the Apollo 11 mission. Recently, it has become clear that the possibility of space colonization may no longer be exclusively reserved for science-fiction stories, and many controversial issues surrounding space have come to light, including commercial spaceflight, space laws and space weapons.

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The Moon as seen by an observer from Earth

The Moon is Earth's only permanent natural satellite and the fifth largest moon in the Solar System. The average centre-to-centre distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 kilometres (238,857 miles). The gravitational pull at its surface is about a sixth of Earth's. The Moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth every 27.3 days, and the periodic variations in the geometry of the Earth–Moon–Sun system are responsible for the lunar phases that repeat every 29.5 days. The gravitational, centripetal forces generated by the rotation of the Moon and Earth around a common axis, the barycentre, are largely responsible for the tides on Earth. The Moon is the only celestial body that humans have traveled to and landed on. The first artificial object to escape Earth's gravity and pass near the Moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 1, the first artificial object to impact the lunar surface was Luna 2, and the first photographs of the normally occluded far side of the Moon were made by Luna 3, all in 1959. The U.S. Apollo program has achieved the first (and only) manned missions to date, resulting in six landings between 1969 and 1972. Human exploration of the Moon ceased with the conclusion of the Apollo program, although as of 2015, several countries have announced plans to send either people or robotic spacecraft to the Moon.

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Planet Mars
Credit: NASA

Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is named after the Roman god of war because of its blood red color. Mars has two small, oddly-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos, named after the sons of the Greek god Ares. At some point in the future Phobos will be broken up by gravitational forces. The atmosphere on Mars is 95% carbon dioxide. In 2003 methane was also discovered in the atmosphere. Since methane is an unstable gas, this indicates that there must be (or have been within the last few hundred years) a source of the gas on the planet.

Astronomical events

4 May, 03:42 Full moon
7 May, 04:48 Mercury at greatest eastern elongation
8 May, 00:00 Eta Aquariids peak
14 May Comet MASTER at max brightness
15 May, 00:10 Moon at perigee
18 May, 04:13 New moon
23 May, 02:00 Saturn at opposition
26 May, 22:10 Moon at apogee
30 May, 16:54 Mercury at inferior conjunction

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