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Introduction

The lower half shows a blue planet with patchy white clouds. The upper half has a man in a white spacesuit and maneuvering unit against a black background.
Because of the hazards of a vacuum, astronauts must wear a pressurized space suit while off-Earth and outside their spacecraft.
Illustration of Earth's atmosphere gradual transition into outer space

Outer space (or simply space) is the expanse beyond celestial bodies and their atmospheres. Outer space is not completely empty; it is a near-perfect vacuum containing a low density of particles, predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, neutrinos, dust, and cosmic rays. The baseline temperature of outer space, as set by the background radiation from the Big Bang, is 2.7 kelvins (−270 °C; −455 °F).

The plasma between galaxies is thought to account for about half of the baryonic (ordinary) matter in the universe, having a number density of less than one hydrogen atom per cubic metre and a kinetic temperature of millions of kelvins. Local concentrations of matter have condensed into stars and galaxies. Intergalactic space takes up most of the volume of the universe, but even galaxies and star systems consist almost entirely of empty space. Most of the remaining mass-energy in the observable universe is made up of an unknown form, dubbed dark matter and dark energy.

Outer space does not begin at a definite altitude above Earth's surface. The Kármán line, an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) above sea level, is conventionally used as the start of outer space in space treaties and for aerospace records keeping. Certain portions of the upper stratosphere and the mesosphere are sometimes referred to as "near space". The framework for international space law was established by the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force on 10 October 1967. This treaty precludes any claims of national sovereignty and permits all states to freely explore outer space. Despite the drafting of UN resolutions for the peaceful uses of outer space, anti-satellite weapons have been tested in Earth orbit.

Humans began the physical exploration of space during the 20th century with the advent of high-altitude balloon flights. This was followed by crewed rocket flights and, then, crewed Earth orbit, first achieved by Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union in 1961. The economic cost of putting objects, including humans, into space is very high, limiting human spaceflight to low Earth orbit and the Moon. On the other hand, uncrewed spacecraft have reached all of the known planets in the Solar System. Outer space represents a challenging environment for human exploration because of the hazards of vacuum and radiation. Microgravity has a negative effect on human physiology that causes both muscle atrophy and bone loss. ( Full article...)

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Venus in true-color. The surface is obscured by a thick blanket of clouds.

Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. It has no natural satellite. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows. Because Venus is an inferior planet from Earth, it never appears to venture far from the Sun: its elongation reaches a maximum of 47.8°. Venus reaches its maximum brightness shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset, for which reason it has been referred to by ancient cultures as the Morning Star or Evening Star.

Venus is a terrestrial planet and is sometimes called Earth's "sister planet" because of their similar size, gravity, and bulk composition (Venus is both the closest planet to Earth and the planet closest in size to Earth). However, it has also been shown to be very different from Earth in other respects. It has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. The atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface is 92 times that of Earth's. With a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System. It has no carbon cycle to lock carbon back into rocks and surface features, nor does it seem to have any organic life to absorb it in biomass. Venus is shrouded by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. Venus may have possessed oceans in the past, but these would have vaporized as the temperature rose due to a runaway greenhouse effect. The water has most probably photodissociated, and, because of the lack of a planetary magnetic field, the free hydrogen has been swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind.

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