2010-05-11 @ 12:07:56
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth. Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are likewise similar to those of Earth. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature. Unlike Earth, Mars is now geologically and tectonically inactive.
Until the first flyby of Mars occurred in 1965, by Mariner 4, many speculated about the presence of liquid water on the planet's surface. This was based on observed periodic variations in light and dark patches, particularly in the polar latitudes, which appeared to be seas and continents; long, dark striations were interpreted by some as irrigation channels for liquid water. These straight line features were later explained as optical illusions, yet of all the planets in the Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbor liquid water, and thus to harbor life. Geological evidence gathered by unmanned missions suggest that Mars once had large-scale water coverage on its surface, while small geyser-like water flows may have occurred during the past decade. In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice at the poles, and at mid-latitudes. The Phoenix Lander directly sampled water ice in shallow martian soil on July 31, 2008.
Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Martian Trojan asteroid. Mars is currently host to three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. On the surface are the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and several inert landers and rovers, both successful and unsuccessful. The Phoenix Lander completed its mission on the surface in 2008. Observations by NASA's now-defunct Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap have been receding.
Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye. Its apparent magnitude reaches −2.91, a brightness surpassed only by Venus, the Moon, and the Sun, although most of the time Jupiter will appear brighter to the naked eye than Mars. Mars has an average opposition distance of 78 million km but can come as close as 55.7 million km during a close approach, such as occurred in 2003.
2010-04-18 @ 13:22:57
2010-04-18 @ 13:22:15
Venus is the second-closest planet to the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows. Because Venus is an inferior planet from Earth, it never appears to venture far from the Sun: its elongation reaches a maximum of 47.8°. Venus reaches its maximum brightness shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset, for which reason it is often called the Morning Star or the Evening Star.
Classified as a terrestrial planet, it is sometimes called Earth's "sister planet" because they are similar in size, gravity, and bulk composition. Venus is covered with an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. Venus has the densest atmosphere of all the terrestrial planets, consisting mostly of carbon dioxide, as it has no carbon cycle to lock carbon back into rocks and surface features, nor organic life to absorb it in biomass. A younger Venus is believed to have possessed Earth-like oceans, but these totally evaporated as the temperature rose, leaving a dusty dry desertscape with many slab-like rocks. The water has most likely dissociated, and, because of the lack of a planetary magnetic field, the hydrogen has been swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind. The atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface is 92 times that of the Earth.
Venus's surface was a subject of speculation until some of its secrets were revealed by planetary science in the twentieth century. It was finally mapped in detail by Project Magellan in 1990–91. The ground shows evidence of extensive volcanism, and the sulfur in the atmosphere may indicate that there have been some recent eruptions. However, the absence of evidence of lava flow accompanying any of the visible caldera remains an enigma. The planet has few impact craters, demonstrating that the surface is relatively young, approximately half a billion years old. There is no evidence for plate tectonics, possibly because its crust is too strong to subduct without water to make it less viscous. Instead, Venus may lose its internal heat in periodic massive resurfacing events.
2010-04-10 @ 18:03:42
Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System, orbiting the Sun once every 87.969 days. The orbit of Mercury has the highest eccentricity of all the Solar System planets, and it has the smallest axial tilt. It completes three rotations about the axis for every two orbits. The perihelion of Mercury's orbit precesses around the Sun at an excess of 43 arcseconds per century; a phenomenon that was explained in the 20th century by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Mercury is bright when viewed from Earth, ranging from −2.3 to 5.7 in apparent magnitude, but is not easily seen as its greatest angular separation from the Sun is only 28.3°. Since Mercury is normally lost in the glare of the Sun, unless there is a solar eclipse, Mercury can only be viewed in morning or evening twilight.
Comparatively little is known about Mercury; ground-based telescopes reveal only an illuminated crescent with limited detail. The first of two spacecraft to visit the planet was Mariner 10, which mapped about 45% of the planet’s surface from 1974 to 1975. The second is the MESSENGER spacecraft, which mapped a further 30% during its flyby of January 14, 2008. MESSENGERs final flyby took place in September 2009 and it is scheduled to attain orbit around Mercury in 2011, where it will begin mapping the rest of the planet.
Mercury is similar in appearance to the Moon: it is heavily cratered with regions of smooth plains, has no natural satellites and no substantial atmosphere. However, unlike the moon, it has a large iron core, which generates a magnetic field about 1% as strong as that of the Earth. It is an exceptionally dense planet due to the large relative size of its core. Surface temperatures range from about 90 to 700 K (−183 °C to 427 °C, −297 °F to 801 °F), with the subsolar point being the hottest and the bottoms of craters near the poles being the coldest.
Recorded observations of Mercury date back to at least the first millennium BC. Before the 4th century BC, Greek astronomers believed the planet to be two separate objects: one visible only at sunrise, which they called Apollo; the other visible only at sunset, which they called Hermes. The English name for the planet comes from the Romans, who named it after the Roman god Mercury, which they equated with the Greek Hermes (Ἑρμῆς). The astronomical symbol for Mercury is a stylized version of Hermes' caduceus.
2010-04-06 @ 21:21:15
A planet (from Greek πλανήτης, alternative form of πλάνης "wanderer") is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.[a]
The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science, mythology, and religion. The planets were originally seen by many early cultures as divine, or as emissaries of the gods. As scientific knowledge advanced, human perception of the planets changed, incorporating a number of disparate objects. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union officially adopted a resolution defining planets within the Solar System. This definition has been both praised and criticized, and remains disputed by some scientists.
The planets were thought by Ptolemy to orbit the Earth in deferent and epicycle motions. Though the idea that the planets orbited the Sun had been suggested many times, it was not until the 17th century that this view was supported by evidence from the first telescopic astronomical observations, performed by Galileo Galilei. By careful analysis of the observation data, Johannes Kepler found the planets' orbits to be not circular, but elliptical. As observational tools improved, astronomers saw that, like Earth, the planets rotated around tilted axes, and some share such features as ice-caps and seasons. Since the dawn of the Space Age, close observation by probes has found that Earth and the other planets share characteristics such as volcanism, hurricanes, tectonics, and even hydrology.
Since 1992, through the discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars, called extrasolar planets, scientists are beginning to understand that planets throughout the Milky Way Galaxy share characteristics with those in our Solar System. As of April 2010, there are 442 known extrasolar planets, ranging from the size of gas giants to that of terrestrial planets.
Planets are generally divided into two main types: large, low-density gas giants, and smaller, rocky terrestrials. Under IAU definitions, there are eight planets in the Solar System. In order of increasing distance from the Sun, they are the four terrestrials, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, then the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Apart from the planets, the Solar System also contains at least five dwarf planets and hundreds of thousands of small solar system bodies. With the exception of Mercury and Venus, all planets are orbited by one or more natural satellites.
2010-03-21 @ 14:36:33
A star is a massive, luminous ball of plasma that is held together by gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth. Other stars are visible in the night sky, when they are not outshone by the Sun. Historically, the most prominent stars on the celestial sphere were grouped together into constellations, and the brightest stars gained proper names. Extensive catalogues of stars have been assembled by astronomers, which provide standardized star designations.
For most of its life, a star shines due to thermonuclear fusion in its core releasing energy that traverses the star's interior and then radiates into outer space. Almost all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were created by fusion processes in stars. Astronomers can determine the mass, age, chemical composition and many other properties of a star by observing its spectrum, luminosity and motion through space. The total mass of a star is the principal determinant in its evolution and eventual fate. Other characteristics of a star are determined by its evolutionary history, including the diameter, rotation, movement and temperature. A plot of the temperature of many stars against their luminosities, known as a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (H–R diagram), allows the age and evolutionary state of a star to be determined.
A star begins as a collapsing cloud of material composed primarily of hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of heavier elements. Once the stellar core is sufficiently dense, some of the hydrogen is steadily converted into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. The remainder of the star's interior carries energy away from the core through a combination of radiative and convective processes. The star's internal pressure prevents it from collapsing further under its own gravity. Once the hydrogen fuel at the core is exhausted, those stars having at least 0.4 times the mass of the Sun expand to become a red giant, in some cases fusing heavier elements at the core or in shells around the core. The star then evolves into a degenerate form, recycling a portion of the matter into the interstellar environment, where it will form a new generation of stars with a higher proportion of heavy elements.
Binary and multi-star systems consist of two or more stars that are gravitationally bound, and generally move around each other in stable orbits. When two such stars have a relatively close orbit, their gravitational interaction can have a significant impact on their evolution. Stars can form part of a much larger gravitationally bound structure, such as a cluster or a galaxy.
2010-03-14 @ 17:00:43
2010-03-06 @ 16:59:01
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura (meaning "tail-less", from Greek an-, without + oura, tail), formerly referred to as Salientia (Latin salere (salio), "to jump"). Most frogs are characterized by long hind legs, a short body, webbed digits (fingers or toes), protruding eyes and the absence of a tail. Frogs are widely known as exceptional jumpers, and many of the anatomical characteristics of frogs, particularly their long, powerful legs, are adaptations to improve jumping performance. Due to their permeable skin, frogs are often semi-aquatic or inhabit humid areas, but move easily on land. They typically lay their eggs in puddles, ponds or lakes, and their larvae, called tadpoles, have gills and develop in water. Adult frogs follow a carnivorous diet, mostly of arthropods, annelids and gastropods. Frogs are most noticeable by their call, which can be widely heard during the night or day, mainly in their mating season..
The distribution of frogs ranges from tropic to subarctic regions, but most species are found in tropical rainforests. Consisting of more than 5,000 species described, they are among the most diverse groups of vertebrates. However, populations of certain frog species are declining significantly.
A distinction is often made between frogs and toads on the basis of their appearance, caused by the convergent adaptation among so-called toads to dry environments; however, this distinction has no taxonomic basis. The only family exclusively given the common name "toad" is Bufonidae, but many species from other families are also called "toads," and the species within the toad genus Atelopus are referred to as "harlequin frogs".
The name frog derives from Old English frogga, (compare Old Norse frauki, German Frosch, older Dutch spelling kikvorsch), cognate with Sanskrit plava (frog), probably deriving from Proto-Indo-European praw = "to jump".
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