Extreme: Outer Space

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Not so. A gas cloud called the Boomerang nebula, light years away, has a temperature of only 1 K. The nebula is expanding rapidly, which actively cools its gas in the same way that expansion chills the coolant in a domestic refrigerator or aircon unit. Whether the Boomerang retains its status as the coldest known natural object remains to be seen, but this is ….

Existing subscribers, please log in with your email address to link your account access. In fact you can forget any images you might have of pristine space sick bays with comfy couches, flashing lights or medical probes that make futuristic squiggly noises. Fortunately, the medical problems experienced by successive ISS crews have not been life-threatening. There are, however, plenty of routine issues unique to the space environment.

Handling the heat

Will future Moon bases need their own hospitals? Because the ISS is only around kilometres miles above the Earth, the policy is to pack seriously sick or injured astronauts into a Soyuz spacecraft and get them home as quickly as possible. To investigate the challenge of emergency surgery in deep space, there have been several zero-g surgery experiments.

As far back as , when engineers were planning to fit the space station with a fully equipped sick bay, surgeons carried out operations on anaesthetised rabbits during zero-g parabolic aircraft flights. That is not the worst bit. The device not only prevents blood from spurting everywhere but also helps keep the wound clean. Because particles do not settle out, all sorts of bacteria are floating around in the space station air, thus massively increasing the risk of infection.

There are also concerns about pain control. This volume nearly coincides with a region of space known as the Local Bubble , which is characterized by a lack of dense, cold clouds. It forms a cavity in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, with dense molecular clouds lying along the borders, such as those in the constellations of Ophiuchus and Taurus.

Most Extreme Space Discoveries of 2012

This volume contains about 10 4 —10 5 stars and the local interstellar gas counterbalances the astrospheres that surround these stars, with the volume of each sphere varying depending on the local density of the interstellar medium. When stars are moving at sufficiently high peculiar velocities , their astrospheres can generate bow shocks as they collide with the interstellar medium.

For decades it was assumed that the Sun had a bow shock. Instead, these authors argue that a subsonic bow wave defines the transition from the solar wind flow to the interstellar medium. Intergalactic space is the physical space between galaxies. Studies of the large scale distribution of galaxies show that the Universe has a foam-like structure, with groups and clusters of galaxies lying along filaments that occupy about a tenth of the total space.

The remainder forms huge voids that are mostly empty of galaxies.

Surrounding and stretching between galaxies, there is a rarefied plasma [97] that is organized in a galactic filamentary structure. The density of the IGM is 5— times the average density of the Universe. At these temperatures, it is called the warm—hot intergalactic medium WHIM. Although the plasma is very hot by terrestrial standards, 10 5 K is often called "warm" in astrophysics.

Computer simulations and observations indicate that up to half of the atomic matter in the Universe might exist in this warm—hot, rarefied state. A spacecraft enters orbit when its centripetal acceleration due to gravity is less than or equal to the centrifugal acceleration due to the horizontal component of its velocity.

To achieve an orbit, a spacecraft must travel faster than a sub-orbital spaceflight. The rate of orbital decay depends on the satellite's cross-sectional area and mass, as well as variations in the air density of the upper atmosphere. There is no clear boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space, as the density of the atmosphere gradually decreases as the altitude increases. There are several standard boundary designations, namely:.

The Outer Space Treaty provides the basic framework for international space law. It covers the legal use of outer space by nation states, and includes in its definition of outer space the Moon and other celestial bodies. The treaty states that outer space is free for all nation states to explore and is not subject to claims of national sovereignty.

It also prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons in outer space. As of , state parties have either ratified or acceded to the treaty. An additional 25 states signed the treaty, without ratifying it. Since , outer space has been the subject of multiple United Nations resolutions. Of these, more than 50 have been concerning the international co-operation in the peaceful uses of outer space and preventing an arms race in space.

Still, there remains no legal prohibition against deploying conventional weapons in space, and anti-satellite weapons have been successfully tested by the US, USSR, China, [] and in , India [] The Moon Treaty turned the jurisdiction of all heavenly bodies including the orbits around such bodies over to the international community. However, this treaty has not been ratified by any nation that currently practices manned spaceflight. For the majority of human history, space was explored by observations made from the Earth's surface—initially with the unaided eye and then with the telescope.

Prior to the advent of reliable rocket technology, the closest that humans had come to reaching outer space was through the use of balloon flights. In , the U. The first spacecraft to reach escape velocity was the Soviet Luna 1 , which performed a fly-by of the Moon in It revealed the presence of the solar wind and performed the first fly-by of Venus , although contact was lost before reaching Venus. The first successful planetary mission was the fly-by of Venus by Mariner 2.

Outer space - Wikipedia

Since that time, unmanned spacecraft have successfully examined each of the Solar System's planets, as well their moons and many minor planets and comets. They remain a fundamental tool for the exploration of outer space, as well as observation of the Earth. The absence of air makes outer space an ideal location for astronomy at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. The interplanetary zodiacal dust emits a diffuse near-infrared radiation that can mask the emission of faint sources such as extrasolar planets.

Moving an infrared telescope out past the dust increases its effectiveness. Unmanned spacecraft in Earth orbit are an essential technology of modern civilization. They allow direct monitoring of weather conditions , relay long-range communications like television, provide a means of precise navigation , and allow remote sensing of the Earth. The latter role serves a wide variety of purposes, including tracking soil moisture for agriculture, prediction of water outflow from seasonal snow packs, detection of diseases in plants and trees, and surveillance of military activities.

The deep vacuum of space could make it an attractive environment for certain industrial processes, such as those requiring ultraclean surfaces. Interstellar travel for a human crew remains at present only a theoretical possibility. The distances to the nearest stars will require new technological developments and the ability to safely sustain crews for journeys lasting several decades. For example, the Daedalus Project study, which proposed a spacecraft powered by the fusion of Deuterium and He 3 , would require 36 years to reach the nearby Alpha Centauri system. Other proposed interstellar propulsion systems include light sails , ramjets , and beam-powered propulsion.

More advanced propulsion systems could use antimatter as a fuel, potentially reaching relativistic velocities. Despite the harsh environment, several life forms have been found that can withstand extreme space conditions for extended periods. A conjecture is that just such a scenario occurred early in the history of the Solar System, with potentially microorganism -bearing rocks being exchanged between Venus, Earth, and Mars. Even at relatively low altitudes in the Earth's atmosphere, conditions are hostile to the human body. The altitude where atmospheric pressure matches the vapor pressure of water at the temperature of the human body is called the Armstrong line , named after American physician Harry G.

It is located at an altitude of around At or above the Armstrong line, fluids in the throat and lungs boil away.

More specifically, exposed bodily liquids such as saliva, tears, and liquids in the lungs boil away. Hence, at this altitude, human survival requires a pressure suit, or a pressurized capsule. Out in space, sudden exposure of an unprotected human to very low pressure , such as during a rapid decompression, can cause pulmonary barotrauma —a rupture of the lungs, due to the large pressure differential between inside and outside the chest. As a consequence of rapid decompression, oxygen dissolved in the blood empties into the lungs to try to equalize the partial pressure gradient.

Once the deoxygenated blood arrives at the brain, humans lose consciousness after a few seconds and die of hypoxia within minutes. Ebullism is slowed by the pressure containment of blood vessels, so some blood remains liquid. This pressure is high enough to prevent ebullism, but evaporation of nitrogen dissolved in the blood could still cause decompression sickness and gas embolisms if not managed.


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  • Humans evolved for life in Earth gravity , and exposure to weightlessness has been shown to have deleterious effects on human health. This can cause nausea and vomiting , vertigo , headaches, lethargy , and overall malaise. The duration of space sickness varies, but it typically lasts for 1—3 days, after which the body adjusts to the new environment. Longer-term exposure to weightlessness results in muscle atrophy and deterioration of the skeleton , or spaceflight osteopenia. These effects can be minimized through a regimen of exercise. Lesser symptoms include loss of body mass, nasal congestion, sleep disturbance, and puffiness of the face.

    For long-duration space travel, radiation can pose an acute health hazard. Exposure to high-energy, ionizing cosmic rays can result in fatigue, nausea, vomiting, as well as damage to the immune system and changes to the white blood cell count.

    What Materials Can Survive in Space?

    Over longer durations, symptoms include an increased risk of cancer , plus damage to the eyes , nervous system , lungs and the gastrointestinal tract. However, the impact of the cosmic rays upon the shielding produces additional radiation that can affect the crew. Further research is needed to assess the radiation hazards and determine suitable countermeasures. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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