Portal:Outer space

The Outer space Portal

Introduction

The interface between the Earth's surface and outer space. The Kármán line at an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) is shown. The layers of the atmosphere are drawn to scale, whereas objects within them, such as the International Space Station, are not.

Outer space is the expanse that exists beyond Earth and between celestial bodies. Outer space is not completely empty—it is a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles, predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, neutrinos, dust, and cosmic rays. The baseline temperature of outer space, as set by the background radiation from the Big Bang, is 2.7 kelvins (−270.45 °C; −454.81 °F). The plasma between galaxies is thought to account for about half of the baryonic (ordinary) matter in the universe, having a number density of less than one hydrogen atom per cubic metre and a temperature of millions of kelvins. Local concentrations of matter have condensed into stars and galaxies. Studies indicate that 90% of the mass in most galaxies is in an unknown form, called dark matter, which interacts with other matter through gravitational but not electromagnetic forces. Observations suggest that the majority of the mass-energy in the observable universe is dark energy, a type of vacuum energy that is poorly understood. Intergalactic space takes up most of the volume of the universe, but even galaxies and star systems consist almost entirely of empty space.

Outer space does not begin at a definite altitude above the Earth's surface. The Kármán line, an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) above sea level, is conventionally used as the start of outer space in space treaties and for aerospace records keeping. The framework for international space law was established by the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force on 10 October 1967. This treaty precludes any claims of national sovereignty and permits all states to freely explore outer space. Despite the drafting of UN resolutions for the peaceful uses of outer space, anti-satellite weapons have been tested in Earth orbit.

Humans began the physical exploration of space during the 20th century with the advent of high-altitude balloon flights. This was followed by crewed rocket flights and, then, crewed Earth orbit, first achieved by Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union in 1961. Due to the high cost of getting into space, human spaceflight has been limited to low Earth orbit and the Moon. On the other hand, uncrewed spacecraft have reached all of the known planets in the Solar System.

Outer space represents a challenging environment for human exploration because of the hazards of vacuum and radiation. Microgravity also has a negative effect on human physiology that causes both muscle atrophy and bone loss. In addition to these health and environmental issues, the economic cost of putting objects, including humans, into space is very high. (Full article...)

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Titan, as photographed by the Cassini spacecraft in 2009

Titan is the largest moon of Saturn, the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found. Discovered on 25 March 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, Titan is the sixth ellipsoidal moon from Saturn. Frequently described as a planet-like moon, it is the second-largest natural satellite in the Solar System, after Jupiter's moon Ganymede, and it is larger by volume than the smallest planet, Mercury. Titan itself is primarily composed of water ice and rocky material. Its dense, opaque atmosphere meant that little was known of the surface features or conditions until the Cassini–Huygens mission in 2004. Although mountains and several possible cryovolcanoes have been discovered, its surface is relatively smooth and few impact craters have been found. Owing to the existence of stable bodies of surface liquids and its thick nitrogen-based atmosphere, Titan has been cited as a possible host for microbial extraterrestrial life or, at least, as a prebiotic environment rich in complex organic chemistry.

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