File Name: interesting facts about space and planets .zip
Alien worlds may be all the rage, with their mystique and promise, but the orb we call home, planet Earth, has all the makings for a jaw-dropping blockbuster movie: from the drama of explosive volcanoes, past meteor crashes and catastrophic collisions between rocky plates to the seeming fantasy of the ocean's deep abysses swirling with odd life and tales of the coldest, hottest, deepest, highest and all-out extreme spots.
50 Interesting Facts About Earth
Humans have always looked at the heavens and wondered about the nature of the objects seen in the night sky. Well before technology made these achievements possible, however, space exploration had already captured the minds of many people, not only aircraft pilots and scientists but also writers and artists.
Achieving spaceflight enabled humans to begin to explore the solar system and the rest of the universe, to understand the many objects and phenomena that are better observed from a space perspective, and to use for human benefit the resources and attributes of the space environment. All of these activities—discovery, scientific understanding, and the application of that understanding to serve human purposes—are elements of space exploration.
For a general discussion of spacecraft , launch considerations, flight trajectories, and navigation , docking, and recovery procedures, see spaceflight. Although the possibility of exploring space has long excited people in many walks of life, for most of the latter 20th century and into the early 21st century, only national governments could afford the very high costs of launching people and machines into space.
This reality meant that space exploration had to serve very broad interests, and it indeed has done so in a variety of ways. Government space programs have increased knowledge, served as indicators of national prestige and power, enhanced national security and military strength, and provided significant benefits to the general public. In areas where the private sector could profit from activities in space, most notably the use of satellites as telecommunication relays, commercial space activity has flourished without government funding.
In the early 21st century, entrepreneurs believed that there were several other areas of commercial potential in space, most notably privately funded space travel. In the years after World War II , governments assumed a leading role in the support of research that increased fundamental knowledge about nature, a role that earlier had been played by universities, private foundations, and other nongovernmental supporters. This change came for two reasons. First, the need for complex equipment to carry out many scientific experiments and for the large teams of researchers to use that equipment led to costs that only governments could afford.
Second, governments were willing to take on this responsibility because of the belief that fundamental research would produce new knowledge essential to the health, the security, and the quality of life of their citizens.
Thus, when scientists sought government support for early space experiments, it was forthcoming. Since the start of space efforts in the United States , the Soviet Union , and Europe , national governments have given high priority to the support of science done in and from space.
From modest beginnings, space science has expanded under government support to include multibillion-dollar exploratory missions in the solar system. Examples of such efforts include the development of the Curiosity Mars rover, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moons, and the development of major space-based astronomical observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in used the fact that his country had been first to launch a satellite as evidence of the technological power of the Soviet Union and of the superiority of communism. Although U. Dwight D. Eisenhower had decided not to compete for prestige with the Soviet Union in a space race, his successor, John F. Kennedy , had a different view. Other countries also viewed having a successful space program as an important indicator of national strength.
Even before the first satellite was launched, U. Following on the success of its photoreconnaissance satellites, which began operation in , the United States built increasingly complex observation and electronic-intercept intelligence satellites. The Soviet Union also quickly developed an array of intelligence satellites, and later a few other countries instituted their own satellite observation programs.
Intelligence-gathering satellites have been used to verify arms-control agreements, provide warnings of military threats, and identify targets during military operations, among other uses. In addition to providing security benefits, satellites offered military forces the potential for improved communications, weather observation, navigation, timing, and position location.
This led to significant government funding for military space programs in the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the advantages and disadvantages of stationing force-delivery weapons in space have been debated, as of the early 21st century, such weapons had not been deployed , nor had space-based antisatellite systems—that is, systems that can attack or interfere with orbiting satellites. The stationing of weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies is prohibited by international law.
Governments realized early on that the ability to observe Earth from space could provide significant benefits to the general public apart from security and military uses.
The first application to be pursued was the development of satellites for assisting in weather forecasting. A second application involved remote observation of land and sea surfaces to gather imagery and other data of value in crop forecasting, resource management, environmental monitoring, and other applications.
The U. These satellites quickly found numerous civilian uses in such areas as personal navigation, surveying and cartography, geology, air-traffic control , and the operation of information-transfer networks. They illustrate a reality that has remained constant for a half century—as space capabilities are developed, they often can be used for both military and civilian purposes. Another space application that began under government sponsorship but quickly moved into the private sector is the relay of voice, video, and data via orbiting satellites.
Satellite telecommunications has developed into a multibillion-dollar business and is the one clearly successful area of commercial space activity. A related, but economically much smaller, commercial space business is the provision of launches for private and government satellites. In a privately financed venture sent a piloted spacecraft, SpaceShipOne , to the lower edge of space for three brief suborbital flights. Although it was technically a much less challenging achievement than carrying humans into orbit, its success was seen as an important step toward opening up space to commercial travel and eventually to tourism.
More than 15 years after SpaceShipOne reached space, several firms were poised to carry out such suborbital flights. Companies have arisen that also use satellite imagery to provide data for business about economic trends. Suggestions have been made that in the future other areas of space activity, including using resources found on the Moon and near-Earth asteroids and the capture of solar energy to provide electric power on Earth , could become successful businesses. Most space activities have been pursued because they serve some utilitarian purpose, whether increasing knowledge, adding to national power, or making a profit.
Until humans resume such journeys of exploration, robotic spacecraft will continue to serve in their stead to explore the solar system and probe the mysteries of the universe.
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External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. John M. Logsdon John M. Britannica Quiz. Astronomy and Space Quiz. What makes a planet a dwarf planet? How many miles are in a light-year?
What exactly is a quasar? Launch into other worlds while testing your knowledge about space, celestial bodies, and the solar system. This detail of a composite image taken by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope reveals a glowing column of dust and cold gas populated by embryonic stars forming from molecular hydrogen within the column.
Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Learn about the various scientific efforts to study the planet Mars, including the Curiosity rover. Two U. Corona reconnaissance satellite images made a year apart—in mid top and mid bottom —revealing the construction of a new Soviet SS-7 Saddler R intercontinental ballistic missile site.
The first series of U. TIROS spacecraft, placed into Earth orbit —65, paved the way for the development of satellite systems to conduct routine daily weather and atmospheric monitoring. Load Next Page.
This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Review planet order and relative sizes in our solar system. Ask students to point out the location of Earth. Then challenge them to identify all of the planets, outward from the sun left to right : inner planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars; outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Remind students that Pluto is no longer considered a planet in our solar system; it was downgraded to the status of dwarf planet in Point out the locations of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and Kuiper belt past Pluto if they were included in this illustration. Explain to students that the illustration shows the planets in relative size.
Neptune is the eighth and farthest-known Solar planet from the Sun. In the Solar System , it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. It is 17 times the mass of Earth , slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus. Neptune is denser and physically smaller than Uranus because its greater mass causes more gravitational compression of its atmosphere. The planet orbits the Sun once every
February 17, While the universe is a big place to study, we shouldn't forget our own backyard. With eight planets and a wealth of smaller worlds to look at, there's more than enough to learn for a few lifetimes! So what are some of the most surprising things about the planets? We've highlighted a few things below. The closest planet to the Sun does indeed have ice on its surface.
It includes planets, stars, galaxies, and all of space, matter, and energy. Looking at the night sky, you can sense how small Earth is in the vastness of space. A.
Planetary Size and Distance Comparison
The Solar System includes the Sun, the Earth where you are now! The biggest planet is Jupiter — you could fit 1, Earths inside Jupiter. The Sun is even bigger than Jupiter — it would take 1.
The universe is filled with billions of star systems. Located inside galaxies, these cosmic arrangements are made up of at least one star and all the objects that travel around it, including planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and meteoroids. Astronomers believe it formed about 4. Along with the sun, our cosmic neighborhood includes the eight major planets.
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