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Cosmology Project Sam Cato

The planets of our Solar System


Mercury has a much faster orbit than Earth; it takes only 88 days to orbit the sun. However, it turns extremely slowly on its axis, so slowly, in fact, that the sun only rises and sets twice on Mercury in a year. Mercury has no moons. Venus is a strange, abnormal planet. It is the only planet in the Solar System to orbit the sun clockwise, all the others orbit anti-clockwise. Also, Venus is the only planet where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. Vaporous, toxic fumes float above Venuss surface, making it impossible for humans to enter its atmosphere. It too, has no moons. Earth is the only planet proven to have existing life upon its surface. An essential of life as we know it is liquid water, and Earth is the only planet to have this. Earth has a solitary moon, which was probably formed by the impact of an asteroid. Mars is nicknamed the red planet because of its reddish surface of rust, or iron oxide. It has the largest volcano in the entire Solar System, 50 times larger than any on Earth. It has two moons, which are composed of rock and ice. It is possible that life once existed on Mars as remnants of bacteria have been found. Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System and has over 39 moons! One of these is called Europa and is one of the most likely planetary bodies to have life on it. It is one of the four gas planets.

Saturn is another gas planet. It has over 25 moons and one of these is the second largest in the Solar System. Its density is so low that that is would float on water, if there were a large enough ocean. It has rings around it, which are not solid, but made up of millions of chunks ranging from microscopic particles to pieces several metres in diameter. Uranus is also made of gas. Its the only planet to spin on its side. One year on Uranus is the same as 84 Earth years. It has 21 moons, and Oberon, a moon is one of the darkest worlds in the Solar System. Neptune is the last gas planet. It has winds of over 2000km per hour. Triton, a moon, can get as cold as Pluto (-235 degrees Celsius) It has a strange orbit, and will soon crash into Neptune or disintegrate. Pluto has a strange orbit. Mostly, it is the furthest planet from the sun, but it sometimes crosses paths with Neptune. Charon (a moon) is tidally locked meaning that the same side always faces Pluto.

Edwin Hubble
Edwin P. Hubble was possibly the most famous astronomer ever. He was born in Marshfield, Missouri, U.S.A in 1889. After moving to Illinois, he was noticed more for his sporting prowess than his intellectual ability, but still went on to study maths and astronomy at Chicago University. He then went on to be a high school teacher and basketball coach, and also served in the First World War, attaining the prestigious rank of major. Hubble is renowned in Science mainly for the discovery of further galaxies beyond the Milky Way. This discovery took place at Mount Wilson Observatory, where Hubble, who had been given a position at the observatory, used the newly completed Hooker Telescope to observe the nature of the skies at closer quarters. He subsequently realised that there were indeed many other galaxies totally independent from the Milky Way, and this discovery prompted an enormous alteration in mankinds idea of the Universe. Hubble also produced a system to identify and classify the galaxies by size, brightness, shape and distance. He died in 1953, shortly before his work was nominated for the Nobel Prize. The award is never awarded posthumously, so Hubble never received this honour that he no doubt deserved. However, he is remembered vividly by the science community as the most important and revolutionary telescope (the Hubble Space Telescope) is named after the great astronomer.

Stellar Evolution
This astronomical phraseology refers to the changes occurring in a star as it passes through its lifetime. The stars lifespan is said to be the period of time during which it emits light and heat. Changes in the appearance of a star happen too slowly to be detected, so astrophysicists created a model of stellar evolution by observing many different stars at certain points in their lifetimes. The first stage in the formation of a star is the collapse of a stellar nursery, caused by collision with another nursery, or by a supernova A star forming from a stellar nursery explosion. As the nursery collapses, fragments of gas break away and condense to form extremely hot gas spheres known as protostars. Depending on the mass and composition of the protostar, it may morph into a blue supergiant, a sun-like star, or a dwarf (red or brown). Small protostars do not reach high enough temperatures for nuclear fusion of hydrogen to occur, and will become brown dwarfs. However, if a high enough temperature is reached, a star may be formed. After millions of years or more, a stars hydrogen supply may begin to exhaust. When this happens, the star begins to lose energy rapidly. A variety of different entities may be formed, including a supernova, a black hole, or a red giant. Our sun is about halfway through its lifetime, and in about 5 billion years it will become a red giant and engulf the solar system.