Pluto is a real jewel. The planet, that is.
- Pluto is a small dwarf planet and was formerly known as the ninth planet of the Solar System, and it is located in the Kuiper Belt at a distance from the Sun of 4.4 to 7.3 billion kilometres (2.7 to 4.5 billion miles), depending on its position in orbit.
- The diameter of Pluto is roughly 2370 kilometres (1473 miles), which is equal to around 0.18 of Earth’s diameter, and it has a volume equal to approximately 0.0064 of Earth and a mass equal to 0.178 of the Earth’s moon.
- Pluto has five official moons that orbit the planetary body, listed in order from largest to smallest: Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx.
- It takes almost 248 years for Pluto to complete a single orbit around the Sun, orbiting at a speed of 4.7 kilometres per second (2.9 miles per second).
- In the late 1800s there were suggestions of a ninth planetary body due to a strange observation in Neptune’s gravity field, and this led to further investigations that were conducted from 1906 until Pluto’s existence was discovered in early 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.
- ‘Pluto’ was named after the Roman god of the underworld, suggested by the then 11-year old British girl, Venetia Burney, and the suggested name reached authorities through family and friend contacts.
- Before its discovery, Pluto was referred to as ‘Planet X’, although this term has been scientifically revoked after a general consensus that they were not the same planet, and that Planet X never existed.
- Pluto has an orange, black, and white appearance, and the planet is made of ice and rock, reaching temperatures between -240 to -218 degrees Celsius (-400 to -360 degrees Fahrenheit), and its surface is at least 98% nitrogen ice, while other elements include carbon monoxide and methane.
- The first probe to visit Pluto was NASA’s New Horizons, launched in 19 January, 2006 and reached its nearest point to the planet on 14 July, 2015.
- In 2006, after significant discoveries from 1992 to 2005, the term ‘planet’ was officially defined, and as result Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet status in the same year, as it did not meet all of the three new conditions that were established for determining planets.
Life without the Sun is one thing that you should not try to imagine…
- The Sun is a star in the Solar System and Milky Way galaxy, that acts as Earth’s orbit point and provides Earth the ability to sustain life.
- The Sun is made of plasma heated at extreme temperatures and primarily contains the elements hydrogen and helium, said to represent almost 73.5% and 25% of the star respectively; and the remaining elements include carbon, iron, oxygen, neon and others.
- The Sun is almost 1.4 million kilometres (870,000 miles) in diameter, or 109 times the radius of Earth; and the star can burn spots onto a human’s retina if viewed directly for more than 100 seconds.
- White light is produced by the Sun, and therefore is its colour, although the star is often depicted or perceived as a yellow, orange or red colour; and the light emitted from it takes almost eight and a half minutes to reach Earth.
- Three main components form the Sun – the ‘core’, the ‘radiative zone’ and the outer section known as the ‘convection zone’; and the star also features an atmosphere that is often visible during solar eclipses.
- Temperatures throughout the Sun can vary from around 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,980 degrees Fahrenheit) to almost 15.7 million degrees Celsius (28.26 million degrees Fahrenheit); and the core is the hottest while the outer surface is the coolest.
- Large bursts of solar particles, named solar winds and solar flares, can emanate from the Sun, and if they reach Earth, they are blocked by its magnetic field, although they can cause power outages, and disturb radio and communication equipment.
- Many ancient civilisations, including Egyptians, Greeks, Aztecs and Incas, depicted the Sun as a supernatural god, and essential to their religion.
- Among the first people to suggest the Sun was not a deity, but rather a scientific phenomena, was the Greek Anaxagoras, a philosopher from the 5th century BC, who was nearly executed for heresy against the Greek religion.
- The first space probe to be used for examinations of the Sun was the Pioneer 6, and it was launched by NASA in late 1965.
Olympus Mons is reserved for the mightiest mountain.
- Olympus Mons is an extremely large volcano located on the surface of Mars, and it is a shield volcano created by lava piling.
- Despite the belief that it is one of Mars’ more recent volcanoes, Olympus Mons is the largest discovered volcano in the known solar system.
- Olympus Mons sits approximately 22 kilometres (13.7 miles) high above datum (zero level), or 26 kilometres (16 miles) above the plains, while Earth’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest is around a third the size, sitting 8.8 km (5.5 miles) above sea level.
- Olympus Mons has a diameter slightly larger than 600 kilometres (373 miles) and the volcano’s name can be translated from Latin into ‘Mount Olympus’.
- The location of Olympus Mons is situated in part of Mars’ dustiest areas, which, among other reasons, renders the site unsuitable for rover analysis.
- Olympus Mons’ considerable height was predicted during the mid to late 1800s, by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, and possibly others.
- The enormous size of Olympus Mons is thought to be due to the lack of strong gravitational pulls and tectonic plates that exist on Earth, that normally prevent lava from piling significantly.
- When the American probe Mariner 9 circled Mars from late 1971 to late 1972, Olympus Mons’ high peak was confirmed, and its volcanic nature was determined.
- ‘Olympus Mons’ was originally named ‘Nix Olympia’, or ‘Olympic Snow’ when translated from Latin, until further details were returned from the Mariner 9 probe.
- Olympus Mons is a similar colouring to the surface of planet Mars, a reddish rusty brown colour.
Artificial satellites zipping through space.
- Satellites are objects that orbit another larger object in space, launched by humankind and there are hundreds, if not thousands of satellites currently orbiting earth.
- Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to be successfully launched into space, by the USSR (Soviet Union) on 4 October 1957.
- Satellites are launched into space by rockets, and orbit up to and beyond 35,786 kilometres (22,236 miles) in altitude.
- Satellites can be very small, 10 cm (4 inch) cubes, or very large space stations, the largest being the International Space Station.
- Satellites can be in networks of multiple objects, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) network or a digital or media systems.
- The earth is not the only body that has orbiting satellites, as the sun, the moon and other neighbouring planets have orbiting artificial objects.
- Satellites can be destroyed by missile shootings, as Russia, the United States and China have all proven.
- Satellites have many capabilities and purposes, from navigation, monitoring and observation purposes including the weather, communication facilities, photography uses and space station homes.
- Satellites rarely collide in space, as they are launched into a satellite-avoiding orbit, and the first accidental collision was in 2009.
- Satellites are usually fitted with technology like computers that make use of radio signals to send or transmit data to earth.
Satellite, 2013, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite>
What is a Satellite?, 2010, NASA, <http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/what-is-a-satellite-58.html>
The light of the night, the Moon.
- The fifth biggest moon, or ‘natural satellites’ as they are called, in our solar system is the Moon, and it orbits the Earth.
- We only ever see one face of the Moon because it takes 27.3 days to complete one revolution on its axis and one orbit around the Earth.
- Humans only see the Moon because it reflects the light of the sun, and when you can see the moon, it outshines anything else in the night sky.
- The Moon is believed to have a small, hot core like the Earth, and it contains a significant amount of iron and magnesium as well as other natural materials.
- The Moon has many craters that will never disappear due to the lack of weather on the rock.
- The Moon has temperatures that range from -153°C to 134°C (-243°F to 273°F) depending on the position of the Moon and the sun.
- The Moon is responsible for tidal changes on Earth due to the gravitational force it creates, and low tides and high tides occur depending on which side of the Earth the Moon is on.
- The first spacecraft to visit and observe the Moon was sent by the Soviet Union in 1959, while the first humans to land on the moon was in 1969 in the spacecraft Apollo 11.
- The Moon is approximately 384,400 km (238,855 miles) from the Earth, although this varies due to the way it orbits the Earth.
- It is believed that more accidents occur on nights of a full moon since the gravitational force pulls at the brain’s fluids, but no proven evidence exists.
Choi C, Earth’s Moon: Formation, Composition and Orbit, 2013, < http://www.space.com/55-earths-moon-formation-composition-and-orbit.html>
Moon, Wikipedia, 2013, < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon>