Google Maps Navigates Through Solar System

In addition to finding any place on Earth,  Google Maps now lets you navigate through space too.  It has recently added two dwarf planets, Pluto and Ceres, as well as some of the moons of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter  to its service.

Users can now explore the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon . You can see lakes and rivers of methane beneath its clouds . About half a million images  come from the Cassini mission ,which  explored Saturn and its moons for  15 years before it burned up in the planet’s atmosphere.

Other highlights include close-ups of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus , where water was discovered beneath the surface. Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede are also included in Google Map’s new version. A total of 16 planets and moons can now be explored by users.

Exploring space  works like any place on Earth would.  Just choose a planet or moon and zoom around. Google Map offers the most important physical features of each celestial body as well as corresponding names.

Google Maps started out as a service that let users navigate land . In the past, years the world’s oceans have been added to the map service and in 2014 Google added images of our moon and Mars. Since 2017 users can take a tour of the International Space Station. Most of the material comes from various explorations carried out by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

 

Artist's drawing of how Titan's surface may look like
Artist’s drawing of how Titan’s surface may look like

 

Words

  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • celestial = about the sky or heaven
  • close-up = film or picture in which the camera is very close to an object
  • corresponding names = names that are connected to the objects in the map
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • dwarf planet = object in space that is too large for a moon and too small to be planet
  • explore = to travel around a place in order to find out more about it
  • offer = give to the user
  • in addition = also
  • include = to contain; have in it
  • methane = gas that you cannot see or smell; it can be burned to give heat
  • navigate = to find your way around from one place to another
  • physical features = the landscape with mountains, rivers etc..
  • recently = a short time ago
  • service = here: something that the company lets users do
  • surface = top part of a planet
  • various = many different
  • zoom = to move very quickly

 

60 Years Ago – Sputnik First Satellite in Space

60 years ago , on October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union  launched the first man-made satellite into space. Sputnik showed that the Soviets were willing to overtake American technology.  The launch was also the beginning of a new episode in the Cold War – the Space Race.

Sputnik looked like a big basketball and weighed 84 kilograms. Two radio transmitters  and four antennae were attached to it. The satellite sent out a beeping signal and could be seen on Earth with the naked eye.

The Soviet satellite orbited the Earth over 1,400 times in a period of three months before it burned up in the atmosphereA month later Sputnik 2 was launched, this time with the first animal on board, a dog named Laika.

Sergei Korolev was the father of the Soviet space program. He oversaw the creation of a booster rocket that sent Sputnik into orbit. Korolev was also responsible for bringing  German engineers to the Soviet Union after World War II.

While Sputnik took the rest of the world by surprise, the Soviet Union told their people about the historic launch only a few days later.

In January 1958 the Americans were able to launch their first satellite into orbit. Explorer I  remained in orbit until 1970 and was the  first satellite to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.  Later that year Congress passed a law that created NASA , the American space agency.

 

Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1

Words

  • antenna = a long  piece of wire used to receive radio or television signals
  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that is around the Earth
  • booster rocket = a rocket that has enough power to send a satellite into Earth orbit
  • Cold War = unfriendly relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union after World War II
  • detect = to show that something existed
  • engineer = here: person who can understands how to build rockets and satellites
  • episode = time during which something happens
  • launch = start ; here: send into space
  • naked eye = without the help of a telescope
  • orbit = to go around a planet or star
  • oversee = to be in charge of ; the leader of
  • overtake = here: to do something more quickly than someone else
  • remain = stay
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country in the world ; it existed between 1917 and 1991
  • space agency = government organisation that controls space travel and the study of space
  • transmitter = object that sends out radio signals
  • Van Allen radiation belt  = particles of energy that are kept together by the Earth’s magnetic field
  • weigh = how heavy something is

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NASA’s Mission to the Sun

The American space agency NASA is planning a mission to the sun in order to explore the outer atmosphere of our solar system’s star.

The Parker Solar Probe and will launch in the summer of 2018. It is planned to go into orbit about 4 million miles from the sun’s surface, closer than any other man-made object in history. Astronomers expect to get information on the corona, the gases and plasma of the sun’s atmosphere.

The probe will also explore solar winds, storms and magnetic fields. These phenomena can affect communication and electric signals on Earth. In addition, scientists expect to get more data on space weather, which is important for longer future missions to Mars.

The probe, named after American solar astronomer Eugene Parker, can provide insight into the structure of our solar system and give us more information on how stars, like our sun, work.

The Parker Solar Probe  must cope with extreme  heat and radiation. The specially designed heat shield is over 10 cm thick and can withstand temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius.

The 7-year mission will be made up of 24 orbits around the sun. The probe will pass by Venus 7 times and use the planet’s gravity to position itself inside the sun’s outer atmosphere.

Up to now, the closest a spacecraft ever got to the sun was Helios 2 , which passed the star at a distance of 27 million miles in 1976.

 

Parker Solar Probe
The Parker Solar Probe – artist’s drawing

Words

  • affect = influence
  • astronomer = scientist who studies the stars and planets
  • atmosphere = the gases around a planet or the sun
  • cope = deal with a problem
  • data = information
  • explore = to find out more about something
  • gravity = the power or force that causes an object to be pulled towards a planet
  • heat shield = piece of metal that protects you from fire or extreme heat
  • in addition = also
  • insight = being able to understand something
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • mission = longer trip to an unknown place
  • orbit = to move around an object in circles
  • phenomena = something that happens or exists in nature and is studied because it is difficult to understand
  • position = to move to the correct place
  • radiation = waves of energy that come from light or heat
  • solar = about the sun
  • space agency = organisation that plans missions to planets and stars
  • surface = the top layer of a planet or star
  • withstand = to be strong enough to protect something

Mission Cassini Coming To An End

After 20 years in space NASA’s Cassini mission is coming to an end in April. The  spacecraft  , which was  launched  in 1997 to explore Saturn and its moons, is running out of  fuel  and will crash on Saturn’s surface .

Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, after a 7-year long journey. It carried the Huygens probe , which landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. In the last  decade Cassini has been exploring  the planet and its moons.  Recently , the spacecraft has  revealed that there are giant oceans under the frozen surfaces of some of Saturn’s moons. It also  discovered  the existence of  hydrogen  , one of the  building blocks  of life.

In its last task  before hitting Saturn’s surface , Cassini will pass through the space between the planet’s surface and its rings.  It will travel closer to Saturn than ever before. NASA  scientists expect Cassini to find out even more about the Saturn’s mysterious  rings than we already know.

NASA's Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn
NASA’s Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn

 

Words

  • arrive = here: to get to a planet
  • building block = an element that is needed to produce something else
  • decade = ten years
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • explore = to find out more about something that has just been discovered
  • fuel = energy that an object uses to travel
  • giant = very large
  • hydrogen =  a colourless gas; the lightest of all gases
  • journey = trip
  • launch = to start a journey
  • mission = long trip, often to a place that is not known very much
  • mysterious = strange and unusual
  • probe = a small unmanned spacecraft
  • recently = a short time ago
  • reveal = show
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • spacecraft = object that can fly through space and to other planets
  • surface = the top layer of a planet
  • task = job; something to do