Portal:Outer space

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The Outer space Portal


The lower half shows a blue planet with patchy white clouds. The upper half has a man in a white spacesuit and maneuvering unit against a black background.
Because of the hazards of a vacuum, astronauts must wear a pressurized space suit while off-Earth and outside their spacecraft.
The interface between 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, commonly referred to simply as space, is the expanse that exists beyond Earth and its atmosphere and between celestial bodies. Outer space is not completely empty; it is a near-perfect 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 °C; −455 °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 kinetic temperature of millions of kelvins. Local concentrations of matter have condensed into stars and galaxies. Intergalactic space takes up most of the volume of the universe, but even galaxies and star systems consist almost entirely of empty space. Most of the remaining mass-energy in the observable universe is made up of an unknown form, dubbed dark matter and dark energy.

Outer space does not begin at a definite altitude above 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. Certain portions of the upper stratosphere and the mesosphere are sometimes referred to as "near space". 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. The economic cost of putting objects, including humans, into space is very high, limiting human spaceflight 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 has a negative effect on human physiology that causes both muscle atrophy and bone loss. (Full article...)

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View of Mars from Hubble Space Telescope

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is known as the Red Planet due to its reddish appearance as seen from Earth. The planet is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. A terrestrial planet, Mars has a thin atmosphere and surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth. It has the highest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, and the largest canyon, Valles Marineris. Mars' rotational period and seasonal cycles are also similar to those of the Earth. Of all the planets in the Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbor liquid water, and perhaps life. Mars is currently host to three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is more than any planet except Earth. The surface is also home to the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity). Geological evidence gathered by these and preceding missions suggests that Mars previously had large-scale water coverage, while observations also indicate that small geyser-like water flows have occurred in recent years. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped.

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