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Newspapers in education: Love to learn, Lift off! Week 4

This article has been specially written for thousands of pupils from across Northern Ireland who are doing the Belfast Telegraph cross-curricular project themed on space. Over a six-week period, we will focus on the solar system and influential scientists and astronomers.

Meteorites have made an impact

Astronomers spend a lot of time studying asteroids, comets, meteorites and meteors.

It is extremely important to try and find out as much information about all of the above, which are generally small pieces of rock and/or ice that aren't part of a major planet.

An asteroid is a relatively small, inactive rocky body orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt. Most asteroids have unusual shapes.

A comet is a small, at times active, object composed mostly of ice and dust that grows a tail when it approaches the sun. Also, when a comet nucleus nears the sun, solar energy begins to heat the ice and vaporise it.

There is also a meteoroid, which is a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the sun, and a meteor, which is a light phenomena resulting when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporises.

A meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands on the surface.

It is incredible to think that 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles bombard Earth and once a year an asteroid the size of a car hits the Earth's atmosphere and creates a fireball before burning up prior to reaching the surface.

It is around every 2,000 years that a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes damage.

About 50,000 years ago a meteorite smashed into the Arizona desert in America causing a big explosion and creating a massive crater about one mile wide and 570ft deep.

It is called the Barringer Meteorite Crater, above, and is also known as 'Meteor Crater' and is a huge hole in the middle of the desert.

Through the years geologists and scientists found the meteorite was made of nickel-iron and estimated to have weighed an astonishing 300,000 tons.

NASA has established research units to learn more about potentially hazardous asteroids and comets.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a satellite!

By Samantha Rotherham, education officer at Armagh Observatory  and Planetarium

Have you ever looked at the night's sky, only to see what looks like a bright star moving at a steady speed?

Well, you have probably seen a satellite, more than likely the International Space Station, where astronauts live and work…but wait, what is a satellite and how did it get there?

Satellites are man-made objects placed in space, usually in orbit around the Earth or another planet like Mars. They are used to collect information or for communication, such as for TV signals or telephone calls.

There are thousands of satellites in orbit around the Earth and they help scientists gather information about the Earth's land, air and water. Many take pictures and can even help in predicting the weather, watching storms or even volcanoes.

Satellites fly high above the Earth's atmosphere, so they can see big areas of land and water, but if they face away from our planet, satellites have a perfect view of space.

One of the most well-known satellites is the Hubble Space Telescope; it orbits the Earth and takes pictures of objects far away from our solar system, such as galaxies, stars and nebulae where stars are born. The Hubble Space Telescope can see space better than any telescope on the ground because it is above the Earth's atmosphere, so no clouds can block its view.

Satellites come in different shapes and sizes, but most have the same two parts, an antenna and a power source.

The antenna is used to send and receive information and the power source can be a battery or a solar panel that makes power by turning sunlight into electricity.

The first satellite to go into space was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, Sputnik 1.

It was about the size of a basketball, but weighed as much as a person. Since then satellites have been getting bigger, such as the International Space Station, which is as wide as football field and can accommodate six or more astronauts.

At present there are 2,271 satellites in orbit around the Earth, according to Goddard Space Flight Centre. Russia has the most satellites, with 1,324, and the United States of America has 658, but many countries are now investing in space exploration, so that number will increase.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is an American mathematician who worked for the USA space programme and calculated the flight paths of many spacecraft, helping send astronauts to the Moon.

Born in West Virginia in 1918, Katherine had a fascination with numbers when she was a child and it soon became clear that she was a highly intelligent person.

In 1939 she was one of the first black students to be offered a place at the prestigious West Virginia University. Fourteen years later Katherine began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), where with a group of African American women she manually performed complex mathematical calculations which were essential to the early success of the US space programme.

Some called Katherine and her colleagues 'human computers'.

In 1960 she co-wrote a paper about calculations for placing a spacecraft into orbit and played a key role in NASA's Mercury programme of manned spaceflights. In 1961 she calculated the path for the 'Freedom 7', the spacecraft which put the first American astronaut, Alan B Shepard Jr, in space.

Katherine was part of the team that calculated the best time and place to launch the rocket for the 1969 'Apollo 11' mission that sent the first three men to the Moon. She retired from NASA in 1986.

Thirty years on, NASA named a building, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, after her. The year before, this remarkable lady received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, American's highest civilian honour.

Planet profile: Mars

Mars is a planet which is 142 million miles from the sun.

Red dust covers almost all of Mars, so you may not be surprised to learn that it is known as the Red Planet. It gets its red colour from the iron in its soil.

Mars is a very cold planet, with an average temperature of minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is a rocky place, with canyons, volcanoes and craters and has clouds and wind just like Earth.

In diameter it is 4,220 miles and has about one third the gravity of Earth. A year on Mars lasts 687 days, which is a lot more than the 365 days on Earth.

Mars has two moons, called Phobos and Deimos, and in 2014 NASA found evidence that water once flowed on Mars, suggesting there may be, or may have been, life on the planet.


On Mars, things weigh less than they do on Earth. For instance, a boy or girl who weigh 100 pounds on Earth would only weigh 37 pounds on Mars because there  is less gravity

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