Space is a vast expanse. We’re still unearthing this great unknown and its mysteries. What’s Up, Germany? brings you a glossary of interesting space words. You may be familiar with some. If not, there’s even more to learn!
Asteroid A small rocky body that moves around the sun mainly between Mars and Jupiter.
Aurora Beautiful glowing lights in the sky at the North and South Poles, popularly known as the northern and southern lights.
Big Bang A theory that suggests that the universe was created by a massive expansion of space more than 13 billion years ago.
Black hole The core of a collapsed star where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape, not even light.
Blue moon A second full moon occurring in a month.
Binary star Two stars that revolve around a common centre of gravity.
Circumpolar star A star that is always visible above the horizon, for example, the North Star.
Comet Sometimes referred to as a dirty snowball, it is a small mass of rock and ice that orbits the sun.
Constellation A group of stars that form a pattern in the sky and have
Dark matter Most of the universe consists of this matter, which cannot be seen but can be detected by its gravitational effect.
Dwarf planet An object that is like a small planet but does not fit the description of a planet. Pluto, Eris and Ceres are all dwarf planets.
Dwarf galaxy The most common kind of galaxy in the universe, it contains only a few million stars.
Exoplanet A planet that orbits a star outside the Earth’s solar system.
Ecosphere The area around a star where conditions are right to
Flare A sudden burst of energy from a star like the sun.
Flyby A flight made by a spacecraft past an object for the purpose of observation.
Galaxy This is an extremely large collection of stars that extends over billions of light-years. Quite often, galaxies form a spiral or oval shape.
Gas planets Also called failed stars, they are large planets mainly made of gases like hydrogen and helium. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are gas giants.
Globular cluster A densely packed spherical collection of old stars in the outer regions of a galaxy.
Hubble’s Law The law of physics that states that the farther a galaxy is from us, the farther it is moving away from us.
Hypergalaxy A large spiral galaxy surrounded by dwarf satellite galaxies. The Milky Way and Andromeda are examples of hypergalaxies.
Inferior planets The planets in our solar system that lie between the sun and the Earth. Mercury and Venus fall under this category.
Intergalactic The space between galaxies.
Interstellar The space between the stars of a galaxy.
Jet stream High-speed winds that blow in the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere and influence the weather.
Kepler’s laws Three laws of planetary motion published by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler between 1609 and 1619.
Kuiper Belt This region in our outer solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit contains many comets. Pluto is one of the largest objects in this belt.
Light-year The distance that light can travel in one year. This is how distance is measured in space. One light-year is about 9.5 trillion kilometres!
Lunar eclipse A phenomenon caused by the Earth passing between the sun and a full moon, causing the Earth’s shadow to fall on the moon.
Major planet Any of the eight planets of our solar system, as opposed to an asteroid or moon.
Meridian An imaginary line from the North Pole to the South Pole.
Meteor A rock from space that enters Earth’s atmosphere and burns away as a streak of light. We also call it a shooting star. If a meteor survives the plunge and lands on Earth, it’s called a meteorite.
Milky Way This spiral-shaped galaxy contains our solar system and hundreds of billions of stars. It can be seen by the naked eye as a luminous band across the sky.
Nebula This giant cloud of dust and gas in space contains the raw materials stars are made of.
Neutron star A massive star that dies in a supernova explosion and collapses to create one of the densest objects in the universe.
Nova A star that suddenly shines brightly for a few months due to a nuclear explosion before returning to its original state.
Orbit The curved path a celestial object takes around a star, moon
Parallax An apparent change in a celestial object’s position when viewed from two different angles. Scientists use it to measure the distances of stars from the Earth.
Pulsar A rapidly spinning neutron star that emits radio waves.
Quasar Found in remote areas of the universe, this massive, exceptionally bright celestial object gives out incredible amounts of energy and is said to be powered by a black hole.
Red dwarf A small cool star that is less bright than the sun.
Red giant A huge cool star near the end of its life that gives out
a red light.
Rotation The spinning of a celestial body around its central axis.
Satellite An object that is sent into space and revolves around the Earth or another planet for the purpose of gathering information or communication.
Solar eclipse It is the total or partial obscuring of the sun by the moon when the Earth passes through the moon’s shadow.
Solar system The portion of our galaxy that orbits the sun. This includes the Earth, the other seven planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids and comets.
Star A large ball of burning gas in space that produces light, heat, ultraviolet light and X-rays.
Supernova A violent explosion that occurs upon the death of a star, causing it to suddenly become extremely bright for a few months.
Terrestrial planets The four planets closest to the sun—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—made up of rock and metal.
Transit The passage of a celestial body in front of a larger body or across the meridian.
Universe Everything that exists. All of space and time, including the planets, stars, galaxies and other forms of matter and energy. The observable universe is about 92 billion light-years!
Umbra The innermost and darkest part of a shadow cast by an illuminated body that blocks all light. The moon’s umbra causes total solar eclipses.
Variable star A star that fluctuates in brightness.
Void A vast region of empty space between galaxy clusters
White dwarf A small, dim dying star that has collapsed to roughly
the size of the Earth.
White hole Unlike a black hole from which nothing can escape,
a white hole spews out matter and light.
X-Class flares The most powerful explosions on the sun. They can trigger harmful radiation storms and radio blackouts.
X-Ray binaries Strong emitters of X-rays, binary stars comprise a normal star and a collapsed star, such as a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole.
Yellow dwarf This is a medium-sized star like the sun. Contrary to its name, it is usually white in colour! The sun only appears yellow through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Zenith Look straight up. The point in the sky directly above you is
Zodiac An imaginary belt in the sky that contains the 12 zodiacal constellations.