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Space Lessons For Kids

Our home, the planet Earth, may seem pretty big, but it is just one planet of many others that make up the universe. The universe includes stars, meteorites, asteroids, and much more. Although scientists have learned a lot about space beyond Earth, there are still many things that remain a mystery. How big is the universe? Is there life on other planets? These are just some of the unanswered questions about space. As our technology becomes more advanced, we are finding more and more of these answers.
 

The Solar System

 
     
A solar system consists of a star in the center, with other planets or objects revolving around it because of its gravitational force. Just like an object dropped falls to the ground because of gravity, the planets are drawn to the sun: In fact, they're always falling toward the sun, but since they're also moving sideways, they fall sideways and don't get closer to the sun. Our solar system is one of many. It consists of the sun (a star) and eight major planets that revolve around it. It is part of a galaxy, a group of millions of stars that are also held together by gravity. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, consists of more than 100 billion stars! Some of those stars are centers of solar systems of their own and have planets or asteroids surrounding them.
     
 

Stars

 
Stars look like faraway specks of light when we look up at the night sky. Close up, however, they are massive balls of bright, fiery gasses, mostly hydrogen and helium. Our sun is the closest star to Earth. There are several types of stars. Some are small and emit blue light; they have cooler temperatures and longer life spans that can last billions of years. Others are hotter and larger and have shorter life spans lasting only a few million years. Cooler stars last longer because they don't use up all of their fuel as quickly. Stars start out as nebulae, or clouds of gas and dust, and nuclear reactions from the gases are what produce the energy and light that appears as a sparkle. Stars will end either as white dwarves, neutron stars, or black holes, depending on their mass and heat.
     
Groups of stars that are seen together in the night sky are referred to as constellations. You may have heard of the Little Dipper, Big Dipper, or Orion's Belt. These are all famous constellations that can be seen up above in different parts of the sky depending on Earth's position.
   
     
 

Comets

 
Comets look like snowballs flying through the sky. They are collections of particles that release gas and dust as they shoot by. Some comets can be seen on a regular basis in the inner solar system, within our view. Others exist beyond our solar system in an area past Pluto's orbit called the Oort Cloud. Comets are thought to be left over from the Big Bang, when the universe was created.
     
Comets contain a nucleus, which is made of rock, ice, dust, and other frozen or hard particles, and a coma, which is the stuff surrounding the nucleus. The coma contains gases that are warming and being emitted from the comet as it gets closer to the sun. Many comets, but not all, also have a tail.
   
     
 

Planets

 
Our solar system has eight major planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Planets are bodies in space, either rocky or gaseous, that orbit a sun and also have their own gravitational pull. Although there are only a handful of planets in our solar system, scientists believe there are more than 50 sextillion planets in the universe: That's 50 billion trillion planets! About 100 billion of those are believed to be similar to Earth.
     
Apart from the eight main planets in our system, there are also many dwarf planets. Dwarf planets also revolve around the sun, but they are smaller and don't meet the full definition of a planet. Pluto, once classified as a planet, is now considered a dwarf planet.
   
     
 

The Sun

 
The sun is the center of our solar system. It is what makes life for us possible on Earth. Because of its heat, the gases and elements present on Earth could combine to create life billions of years ago. The sun is responsible for day and night, hot and cold, and the seasons, which all depend on where we are on Earth and what part of Earth is facing the sun.
     
Although the sun is not the largest known star, it is quite a bit bigger than average stars found in the universe. It is about 110 times wider than Earth, and more than a million Earths could fit inside it. It is mostly made up of the gasses hydrogen and helium, and continuous nuclear fusion reactions keep the sun shining bright and providing heat and light to Earth. The sun has used up roughly half of its energy since its birth, and it should continue burning for the next 5 billion years.
   
     
 

The Moon

 
The moon orbits Earth. It is about 239,000 miles away from Earth at any given moment. It is made up of a core, mantle, and crust. Only one side of the moon, called the "near side," ever faces Earth. The other side, called the "far side" or "dark side," does not face Earth.
     
The moon affects the Earth in several ways. Its gravitational pull causes tides in the ocean. Its reflection of light from the sun allows Earth to receive some light even at night. Scientists differ in their views on how the moon was formed. Some believe it formed separately from Earth, and others think it is the result of a collision between Earth and another small planet many millions of years ago.
   
     
 

Meteorites

 
Meteors, similar to comets, appear as flashes of light in the sky. Also referred to as shooting stars, they result from debris in space coming into Earth's atmosphere and burning up in the process. The debris is often leftover pieces from a comet, asteroid, or other celestial body. If the chunk of debris successfully passes through the atmosphere and lands on Earth, what's left is called a meteorite. Thousands of meteorites make it to Earth's surface each year, although we don't find a lot of them because they land in places like bodies of water or forests.
   
     
 

Galaxies

 
A galaxy is a group of stars and other matter held together by gravity. Our solar system is part of a galaxy called the Milky Way, which contains billions of stars. Our home in the Milky Way is inside one of its spiral arms.
     
Galaxies can take on four different shapes: spiral, like the Milky Way; elliptical, or in an oval shape; lenticular, or disc-shaped; and irregular, not like any of the other shapes. Galaxies are thought to have a black hole in their center.
   
  Retrieved from http://www.e-aircraftsupply.com/articles/space-lessons-for-kids.aspx on August 22, 2017  
     
     
 

44 Closest Stars and How They Compare to Our Sun

 
Stars have captivated the imagination of humanity since the dawn of our existence. We know that the closest star to Earth is the sun, but what about the stars beyond our solar system? This infographic explores the 44 closest stars to us, examining the size, luminosity, constellations, systems, and potential planets of each star.
 
 
 

What Is the Closest Star to Earth After the Sun?

     

The closest star to Earth besides the sun is Alpha Centauri, at a staggering distance of about 4.3 light years away. Alpha Centauri is actually a triple star system, which includes Proxima Centauri at 4.244 light years away, Alpha Centauri A at 4.365 light years away, and Alpha Centauri B at 4.37 light years away. So technically, Proxima Centauri is the nearest star. Alpha Centauri A is the the largest and brightest star in the system. It is about 10% more massive, 22% larger, and 150% brighter than our sun.

The burning question is, does Alpha Centauri have planets? In 2016, scientists announced the discovery of a super-Earth exoplanet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, the smallest star of the system. The planet Proxima Centauri b is believed to be a rocky and temperate world. The (habitability of Proxima Centauri b) has not been established, but scientists speculate that immense solar flares from Proxima Centauri may make the planet incompatible with life. However, these flares may be rare, or the planet could be inhabited by UV-resistant organisms.

How long does it take to travel to Alpha Centauri? Alpha Centauri is 25.6 trillion miles away, or more than 276,00 times the distance from Earth to the sun. A conventional space rocket traveling at 17,600 mph would take about 165,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. At light speed, it would take approximately 4 years to reach Alpha Centauri … but unfortunately, we can’t travel that fast. In fact, our current understanding of physics and the natural world suggests that we will never be able to achieve light-speed or faster-than-light travel. So how will we get to Alpha Centauri? The Breakthrough Starshot Project plans to launch ultra-light nanocrafts toward Alpha Centauri. Equipped with lightsails, they would be propelled through space by a ground-based light beamer. They would have the potential to fly by Alpha Centauri in just more than 20 years, capturing images of the planet Proxima Centauri b. So while we currently do not have a means of reaching the planet physically, we may be able to gather more information on the closest planet outside our solar system in the not-so-distant future.

     
 

What Is the Brightest Star in the Sky?

 
     
The brightest star visible from Earth is Sirius, also known as the “Dog Star.” Its official name is Alpha Canis Majoris because it is the most prominent star in the constellation Canis Major. Sirius is about 25 times more luminous than the sun! Although it is white to blue-white in color, Sirius is called a rainbow star because it often flickers and twinkles a wide variety of colors. This twinkling is the product of the starlight hitting Earth’s swirling and ever-changing atmosphere.
     
  Retrieved from 44 Closest Stars and How They Compare to Our Sun (alansfactoryoutlet.com) on December 16, 2020 (Thank you, Hannah for the contribution!)  

 

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