Introduction: Why is learning about Space Important?
Space is a fascinating topic that can be explored in many different ways. It’s important to learn about space because it can teach us about the universe and our place within it. Space exploration has been an ongoing process for centuries, but we are still learning more and more about it every day. Because of Space exploration, we have been able to make many discoveries about the things existing in our universe, including dark matter, black holes, and even possible life on other planets!
How has space exploration challenged our understanding of the universe and humanity’s place in it? It’s difficult to say what we could have understood without it, but space exploration has undoubtedly changed the way we view human existence. Your child has probably asked questions about the solar system, stars, and planets, and they may even be wondering about their own existence in this vast universe. This article will help answer some of their questions about space and provide more cool facts about the world that exists beyond our planet Earth.
What is in Space?
Space is the final frontier. Although it may appear to be just a vast emptiness that surrounds our planet, it’s actually the place where scientists have found some of the most interesting things in the universe.
Space is not empty, it's full of matter and energy. There are billions of galaxies, stars, planets, and other objects in space. We can't see them all because they are too far away or too small to see with our eyes alone. Within this larger universe lies our Solar System.
The Sun is the closest star to Earth, and it lies within the center of our solar system. The Sun has eight planets orbiting around it: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Our planet Earth is is incredibly small when compared to the universe as a whole. There are trillions of stars and planets in our galaxy and billions of galaxies in space. For example, the nearest star to us after the Sun Proxima Centauri. If we were to send a spacecraft to Proxima Centauri traveling at a speed of 17.3 km/s (38699 mph!), it would take 73,000 years to arrive. Even traveling at the speed of light, it would still take us 4.22 years reach to reach Proxima Centauri from Earth.
What is the Solar System?
Our Solar System contains the sun and all the objects that orbit it. It consists of planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, and meteoroids. The Sun is a star, a sphere of hot gas that gives off light and heat, and sits at the center of our solar system. The planets are large objects that orbit around the sun, and are made up of rock, ice, and gases like hydrogen and helium.
The Sun and its Planets
The sun's core is made up of hot, dense gases, mostly hydrogen and helium. The sun's outer layer is called the photosphere, and this is where most of the sun's energy comes from. It has a diameter of 864,400 km, which is about 109 times bigger than that of the Earth!
The sun is made up of three layers: the core, the radiative zone, and the convective zone. The core is the place where nuclear fusion takes place and temperatures can get the hottest— it’s about 15 million degrees Celsius in there! The radiative zone is where energy moves from the core to the surface through radiation. This layer has a temperature of about 2 million degrees Celsius. The convective zone is where energy moves from the surface to the top through convection, and this layer has a temperature of about 6,000 degrees Celsius.
As mentioned above and shown in the image, the sun has eight planets orbiting around it. Our Solar System also includes the Asteroid Belt, the Kuiper Belt, and four dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.
The planets in our solar system can be classified as terrestrial, gas giants, or ice giants. Our four inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, are classified as terrestrial planets. They are primarily made up of silicate rocks or metals.
Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and one of these terrestrial planets. It has no moons and its surface is heavily cratered. Venus is a terrestrial planet that has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, along with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. Because of its dense atmosphere, Venus is the hottest planet in the Solar System. Earth is a terrestrial planet with an atmosphere composed of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, and other gases. It is the only planet in our Solar System that can inhabit life. Mars is the next and last terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere composed mostly of carbon dioxide.
The next two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are our gas giants. As the name implies, gas giants have no solid surface. This means that if you drop a pen on either planet, it will never land! Outside of the planets themselves, Jupiter has 67 known moons and Saturn has 62.
Jupiter is the largest and most massive planet in our solar system. It has a radius of 71,492 km, and it is 11 times the size of Earth. Jupiter rotates so quickly on its axis that it completes one rotation every 10 hours. Saturn, although not as large, is known for having rings, which are made of many different particles. These particles include ice, dust, rocks, and even ammonia. The ice particles are made of water, methane, and ammonia. Dust comes from the outer solar system where there are not many planets and asteroids that could create it. Lastly, the rock particles likely came from Saturn's moons or other objects that have crashed into the planet's ring system.
Finally, we have our ice giants Uranus and Neptune. An ice giant is a large, gaseous planet that consists almost entirely of gas, with a small solid core. These planets are mostly composed of hydrogen gas (H2) and helium gas (He). Uranus has 27 known moons. The most unique fact about Uranus is that its axis is rotated 98 degrees! This means that, when it revolves around the Sun, Uranus looks like it is rotating on its side. The planet has an unusual orbit as well that takes it from just inside Earth's orbit out to another point more than three times as far away. The other ice giant, Neptune, has 13 known moons and is the last planet in our Solar System. As the last planet, it is, in fact, the coldest! Neptune has the strongest winds of any planet in the Solar System, and the presence of methane in its atmosphere gives Neptune its bluish color.
Our universe is a fascinating place. There are so many different things to learn about it, and it can be difficult to know where to start.
If you want your kids to learn more about space and our solar system, you can do a few things. There are plenty of books and videos available for them to learn from, or you can try making your own space-themed crafts together! Some example projects include creating the solar system out of items found around your house, or drawing the planets and cutting them out to place in the correct order (you can then seal them in place with glue or tape to create a permanent model)!
Here at Ivy Camps USA, we offer a course called Exploring Earth & Space, which give your child the opportunity to learn more about space and its many wonders. Head over to our homepage to learn more about our Certificate Pathway Programming this Fall!