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Portal:Outer space

The Outer space Portal

Introduction

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.
A view of the boundary between outer space and Earth, roughly where the yellow-green line of airglow is visible, as viewed from the International Space Station (ISS).

Outer space (or simply space) is the expanse beyond celestial bodies and their atmospheres. It contains ultra-low levels of particle densities, constituting a near-perfect vacuum of predominantly hydrogen and helium plasma, permeated by electromagnetic radiation, cosmic rays, neutrinos, magnetic fields and dust. 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.

The concept that the space between the Earth and the Moon must be a vacuum was first proposed in the 17th century after scientists discovered that air pressure decreased with altitude. The immense scale of outer space was grasped in the 20th century when the distance to the Andromeda galaxy was first measured. Humans began the physical exploration of space later in the same 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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Artist's rendering of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud

The Oort cloud (artist's rendering pictured) is a hypothesized spherical cloud of comets that may lie nearly a light-year from the Sun. It is thought to comprise two separate regions: a spherical outer Oort cloud and a disc-shaped inner Oort cloud, or Hills cloud; the outer extent of the cloud defines the boundary of the Solar System. Objects in the Oort cloud are largely composed of ices, such as water, ammonia, and methane and are thought to have formed close to the Sun, later being scattered into space by the gravitational effects of the giant planets early in the Solar System's evolution. Although no confirmed direct observations of the Oort cloud have been made, astronomers believe that it is the source of all long-period and Halley-type comets entering the inner Solar System, as well as many of the Centaurs and Jupiter-family comets.

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