Vacuum - Outer Space

Outer Space

Outer space has very low density and pressure, and is the closest physical approximation of a perfect vacuum. But no vacuum is truly perfect, not even in interstellar space, where there are still a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter.

Stars, planets and moons keep their atmospheres by gravitational attraction, and as such, atmospheres have no clearly delineated boundary: the density of atmospheric gas simply decreases with distance from the object. The Earth's atmospheric pressure drops to about 3.2 × 10−2 Pa at 100 kilometres (62 mi) of altitude, the Kármán line, which is a common definition of the boundary with outer space. Beyond this line, isotropic gas pressure rapidly becomes insignificant when compared to radiation pressure from the sun and the dynamic pressure of the solar wind, so the definition of pressure becomes difficult to interpret. The thermosphere in this range has large gradients of pressure, temperature and composition, and varies greatly due to space weather. Astrophysicists prefer to use number density to describe these environments, in units of particles per cubic centimetre.

But although it meets the definition of outer space, the atmospheric density within the first few hundred kilometers above the Kármán line is still sufficient to produce significant drag on satellites. Most artificial satellites operate in this region called low earth orbit and must fire their engines every few days to maintain orbit. The drag here is low enough that it could theoretically be overcome by radiation pressure on solar sails, a proposed propulsion system for interplanetary travel. Planets are too massive for their trajectories to be significantly affected by these forces, although their atmospheres are eroded by the solar winds.

All of the observable universe is filled with large numbers of photons, the so-called cosmic background radiation, and quite likely a correspondingly large number of neutrinos. The current temperature of this radiation is about 3 K, or -270 degrees Celsius or -454 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read more about this topic:  Vacuum

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Famous quotes by outer space:

    I know, it must have been my imagination, but it makes me realize how desperately alone the Earth is. Hanging in space like a speck of food floating in the ocean. Sooner or later to be swallowed up by some creature floating by.... Time will tell, Dr. Mason. We can only wait and wonder. Wonder how, wonder when.
    Tom Graeff. Young astronomer, Teenagers from Outer Space, after just seeing the invading spaceship through his telescope, and dismissing it (1959)

    Gillian Taylor: You’re from outer space?
    James T. Kirk: No, I’m from Iowa; I work in outer space.
    Harve Bennett (b. 1930)