The Universe and Space Exploration

English Vocabulary


An orbit is the path an object in space takes while it moves. Generally objects in space such as planets and comets take elliptical orbits around larger objects, such as a star.

An asteroid is a combination of rocks and iron that is too small to form a planet. There are many asteroids that orbit the sun between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.

A comet is a small body of gas and ice orbiting around the solar system. We can see the tail of the comet because it is the sun heating and melting the ice. The most famous comet is Halley's Comet which is visible from Earth every 75-76 years. The last time it appears was in 1986 and will next appear in 2061.

A star is made up of clouds of gas and dust. Many people love to go outside at night and count the stars, but there are so many that it is impossible for one person to count them all.

A constellation is a group of bright stars that form shapes or 'pictures' in the sky. The Southern Cross is a constellation in the Southern hemisphere that points towards the South Pole. The Big Dipper is a constellation in the Northern hemisphere that is in the shape of a ladle or a large spoon.

The sun is the star in the middle of our solar system. The eight planets in our solar system all orbit around the sun. The closest planet to the sun is Mercury and then comes Venus. The planet that we live on is called Earth. It is the third closest planet to the sun in our solar system. Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. It is a small red planet, named after the roman god of war. Jupiter is the largest of all the planets in the solar system. The next planet is Saturn which has thin rings around it. Uranus and Neptune are the next two planets after Saturn. Pluto used to be considered a planet, but now is called a dwarf planet because it is so small. Its orbit is further away from the sun than any of the other planets.

A solar eclipse is when the moon's orbit comes between the earth and the sun and it looks like the sun is blacked out. We can only see the edge of the sun around the moon. A lunar eclipse is when the earth prevents sunlight from reaching the moon.

Because the moon orbits the Earth and the Earth orbits the sun we can only see parts of the moon at a time. This cycle happens every month. A new moon is when we can not see any of it. This shows the beginning of the cycle. Half way through the month we can see the full moon. A full moon makes the sky bright at night because it reflects the light of the sun.

The galaxy we live in is called the Milky Way. It is made up of billions of stars.

A telescope is an instrument which has reflective lenses that allows us to see the objects in the sky closer and clearer. It magnifies objects that normally cannot be seen unaided. Some telescopes are very powerful and can be used to see thousands of light years away. There are many large powerful telescopes in the north of Chile.

An astronaut is a person who leaves Earth and goes into space. Many of them work in the international space station and do scientific experiments. Astronauts need to wear space suits because it is very cold in space and they do not have oxygen to breath.

A spacecraft is any type of vehicle used for travelling in space. There are many different types of spacecrafts. A space shuttle is a spacecraft used for repeated use in between earth and a space station and contains astronauts.

A rocket is the type of plane that astronauts used to use to fly into space. Now they are used to leave satellites in orbit around the Earth. It has a special cylindrical shape so that it can go very fast for a long distance.

A space probe is a type of space craft that does not have a person inside. Space probes can be sent to far away distances for long periods of time to gather information about different areas in space.

A lunar module is a small craft used for travelling between the moon and the larger space craft orbiting the moon. When the first men walked on the moon they came out of the lunar module. The first man to walk on the moon said "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Many people have said that they have seen unidentified flying objects, or UFOs but it is unclear what these objects are and who or what is inside of them. Some people believe they contain aliens.



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