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The Name Game

Though English is generally recognized as the international language for professional astronomy, other countries call the Sun by another name in their everyday language. How many can you pronounce? Do any astronomical sounds come from these names? Spanish and Latin: French: Italian: German: Greek Japanese: Korean: Hungarian: Sol Soleil Sole Sonne Helios Taiyou Taeyang Nap

Changing Lineup
very 238 years, Pluto's shaky orbit path brings it closer to the Sun than the orbit path of Neptune. Thus, depending on how far along it is in its orbit, Pluto can be either the eight or ninth planet from the Sun.

A space shuttle landing takes more than 30 minutes. The return to Earth begins when the astronauts slow the craft and ease it into Earth's atmosphere by using small rockets in the craft's nose and tail. After reentry, they steer it like an airplane, using rudders and flaps. Here it slows down from 1,000 to 100 meters (about 3,300 to 330 feet) per second and withstands temperatures of up to 1,800F (1,000C). Ideally, each shuttle mission ends with a landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. However, when weather conditions are poor there, mission control directs the shuttle to land on a dry, desert lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. From there, the shuttle rides back to Kennedy atop a Boeing 747. After being checked, it will be ready for another lift-off in two weeks' time.
. HJ.

STAR TOURS Q: Are there really shooting stars? A: Not exactly, but meteoroids traveling in outer space heat up and glow as they fall through Earth's atmosphere. They're called "falling stars" as they fall to Earth.



Weighty M a t t e r s
The entire atmosphere weighs 5,700,000,000,000,000 tons that's 57 trillion tons! The largest meteorite ever found on Earth fell in Namibia, Africa. It originally weighed 100 tons.

Through a telescope, Saturn looks squished. That's because it's mostly gas and liquid, and it becomes slightly compressed as it spins very quickly.

notable notes
Though Uranus w a s discovered in 1781, the only space expedition to it w a s Voyager 2, w h i c h f l e w by in 1986. M e r c u r y whizzes around the Sun at 30 miles (about 50 km) per second. If you are 12 years old on Earth, you'd be only 1 year old on Jupiter.

See for Yourself: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do stars twinkle? 2. How many stars can you see on a clear night? 3. Which planets can you see without a telescope? 4. Why does the Moon shine?

Venus is not only the closest planet to Earth, but also the brightest as seen from Earth. That's w h y you can sometimes see it in daylight. Orbitally speaking, the average Earth year is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.51 seconds. The average Earth day is 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.09 seconds. Saturn's ring particles vary in size from grains of sugar to the size of a house. W h e n a comet approaches the Sun, its tail is following; w h e n it moves away from the Sun, its tail is leading. That's because of the pull of the Sun's gravity. If you're on the equator, you can v i e w all of the constellations over the course of a year. If you are on the North or South Pole, you will be able to see only one half of the sky above you. The solar system orbits the galaxy about once every 250 million years. Thus, it has gone around the galaxy only 15 to 20 times.

War of the Worlds

On October 30,

1938, mass hysteria hit the United States when Martians invaded New Jersey ... or at least that's what people believed. An hour-long radio broadcast by actor Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater on the Air brought an 1894 book by H. G. Wells, called War of the Worlds, to life. In a mock news broadcast that broke into the station's regular music hour, the audience was told of an invasion by "monsters" attempting to wipe out civilization, beginning with New York and New Jersey. Though an announcement stating that it was a fictional play ran four times, many listeners tuned in for only a short time, hearing the message and reacting immediately. Police switchboards lit up across the country, and many people on the East Coast ran into the streets or called loved ones in panic, thinking they would not have long to live.

Have you ever heard of the man in the Moon? For generations, some Americans have claimed to see a human face in the crater-scarred moon. Other cultures have passed on their own tales about the figure. Native Americans tell a story of seeing a frog trying to protect the Moon from a bear that wants to swallow it. Scandinavian children are taught a folktale about Jack and Jill-type characters, Hjukl and Bill, who are holding a pail of water and tumbling down a hill as they are trying to run from their father.