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NASA-JPL-Caltech - Double the Rubble (PIA11375) (pd).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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Major features of the Solar System (not to scale)

The Solar System consists of the Sun and its planetary system of eight planets, their moons, and other non-stellar objects. It formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant molecular cloud. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun, with most of the remaining mass contained in Jupiter. The four smaller inner planets, the terrestrial planets, are primarily composed of rock and metal. The four outer planets, the giant planets, are substantially more massive than the terrestrials. The Solar System also contains a number of regions populated by smaller objects. The asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is composed of material similar to that of the terrestrial planets. Beyond Neptune's orbit lie the Kuiper belt and scattered disc, linked populations of trans-Neptunian objects composed mostly of ices. These populations include objects large enough to have been rounded by their own gravity, termed dwarf planets. Identified dwarf planets include the asteroid Ceres and the trans-Neptunian objects Pluto, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake. Six of the planets, at least three of the dwarf planets, and many of the smaller bodies are orbited by natural satellites, usually termed "moons" after the Moon, Earth's natural satellite.

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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

7 November, 21:58 Moon at apogee
11 November, 17:47 New moon
16 November, 13:00 Iota Aurigids peak
17 November, 14:54 Mercury at superior conjunction; anti-transit
18 November, 04:00 Leonids peak
23 November, 20:15 Moon at perigee
25 November, 22:44 Full moon
30 November, 00:00 Saturn at conjunction

Space-related portals

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