Outer Space

Outer space, or simply space, is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos. Observations and theory suggest that it also contains dark matter and dark energy. The baseline temperature, as set by the background radiation left over from the Big Bang, is only 2.7 Kelvin (K); in contrast, temperatures in the coronae of stars can reach over a million Kelvin. Plasma with an extremely low density (less than one hydrogen atom per cubic meter) and high temperature (millions of Kelvin) in the space between galaxies accounts for most of the baryonic (ordinary) matter in outer space; local concentrations 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.

There is no firm boundary where space begins. However the Kármán line, at an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) above sea level, is conventionally used as the start of outer space for the purpose of space treaties and aerospace records keeping. The framework for international space law was established by the Outer Space Treaty, which was passed by the United Nations in 1967. This treaty precludes any claims of national sovereignty and permits all states to explore outer space freely. In 1979, the Moon Treaty made the surfaces of objects such as planets, as well as the orbital space around these bodies, the jurisdiction of the international community. Additional resolutions regarding the peaceful uses of outer space have been drafted by the United Nations, but these have not precluded the deployment of weapons into outer space, including the live testing of anti-satellite weapons.

Humans began the physical exploration of space during the 20th century with the advent of high-altitude balloon flights, followed by the development of single and multi-stage rocket launchers. Earth orbit was achieved by Yuri Gagarin in 1961 and unmanned spacecraft have since reached all of the known planets in the Solar System. Achieving orbit requires a minimum velocity of 28,400 km/h (17,600 mph); much faster than any conventional aircraft. Outer space represents a challenging environment for human exploration because of the dual hazards of vacuum and radiation. Microgravity has a deleterious effect on human physiology, resulting in muscle atrophy and bone loss. As of yet space travel has been limited to low Earth orbit and the Moon for manned flight, and the vicinity of the Solar System for unmanned; the remainder of outer space remains inaccessible to humans other than by passive observation with telescopes.

Read more about Outer Space:  Discovery, Environment, Boundary, Legal Status, Space Versus Orbit, Regions, Exploration and Applications

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Famous quotes related to outer space:

    After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say ‘I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER.’
    William Burroughs (b. 1914)