Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have rings—or thin belts of rocks—around them. Jupiter’s ring is thin and dark, and cannot be seen from Earth. Saturn’s rings are bright, wide, and colorful. Uranus has nine dark rings around it, and Neptune’s rings are also dark, but contain a few bright arcs.
At one time all of the planets, Earth included, had rings. These rings were unstable and the material was either lost in space or collected into the satellites of these planets.
Most adult insects, including bees and dragonflies, have two large compound eyes, made up of separate, sometimes thousands, of lenses. They all point in different directions to give the insect a very wide field of vision.
The lenses also help the insect see movement, enabling it to react quickly to seize its prey or escape danger. You can witness this yourself as you try to swat a fly in your home it’s almost impossible to catch a flying insect!
Fixed groups of stars that seem to form a particular shape, such as that of a person, animal, or object, are called constellations. Astronomers have identified 88 constellations and many of them represent characters from Greek and Roman mythology.
For example, the name Hydra, the largest constellation, comes from the water snake monster killed by Hercules in ancient mythology. Some of the constellation names are in Latin; for example, Cygnus means Swan and Scorpius means Scorpion.
Earth Day is a national holiday that was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. It was created by Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. Senator Nelson decided to set aside one day aside for the entire nation to focus on environmental issues, learn about ways to improve the environment, and protest against the federal government’s unwillingness to help solve problems such as air pollution and the widespread destruction of forests.
After lots of hard work and publicity, on the first Earth Day 20 million Americans gathered at different places from the East to West coasts to hear speeches, participate in community-wide cleanup efforts, and demonstrate to the government that the environment is a major national issue. Ever since then, April 22 has been the date for celebrating Earth Day—a time when the United States (and now many countries all over the world) could participate in educational activities that celebrate Earth and think of new ways to preserve our natural resources. On Earth Day 2008, over 100 million people joined in the effort to celebrate and protect our planet.
Air is a mixture of gases that circle Earth, kept in place by gravity. Air makes up Earth’s atmosphere. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen gas, 21 percent oxygen, 0.9 percent argon, and 0.03 percent carbon dioxide, along with water vapor (floating molecules of water).
Also present are traces of other gases and tiny bits of dust, pollen grains from plants, and other solid particles. As our atmosphere extends higher and higher above Earth, toward outer space, air becomes thinner and the combination of gases in the air changes.
On the outside, most electric cars look exactly like gas-powered cars. An electric car does not have a tailpipe or a gas tank, but the overall structure is basically the same. Instead of a huge engine, an electric car uses an electric motor to convert electric energy stored in batteries into mechanical energy.
Different combinations of generating mechanisms—solar panels, generative braking, internal combustion engines driving a generator, fuel cells— and storage mechanisms are used in electric vehicles.
Our muscles, which make up about half of our body mass, control the way the body moves. Muscles work together all the time, whether we are actively playing sports, or quietly reading and writing. Muscles lie in bands just beneath the surface of the skin. A muscle is made up of thousands of fibers bundled together within a protective sheath that consists of blood vessels and nerves. These nerves can be up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. A muscle becomes stronger when you work it, which is why people Who regularly exercise have more defined muscle tone than those Who do not exercise. There are about 660 muscles in the human body. The three types of muscle tissue are skeletal, cardiac, and smooth. The main and most unique characteristic of muscle tissue is its ability to contract, or shorten, making some type of movement possible.
Skeletal muscles hold the bones together, and are often called “voluntary” muscles because the brain controls them. The cardiac muscle, which is found only in the heart, contracts to send blood from the heart into the arteries. The brain sends signals to the cardiac muscle to speed up or slow down its contractions, called the heartbeat. Smooth muscles, located in the internal organs such as the stomach and intestines, help these organs or tissues do their job, such as help you digest and eliminate your food.
All living things need water to survive. Without water, the human body stops working properly. Water makes up more than 50 percent of your body weight and a person cannot survive for more than a few days without it. Water flushes toxins out of your organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose, and throat tissues.
Water is also in lymph, a fluid that is part of your immune system, which helps you fight off illness. You need water to digest your food, to get rid of waste, and to sweat. Too little water in your body leads to dehydration, and it can make you tired and unable to function. Your body gets water from drinking it, but lots of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain water too.
Boats need a power source to move them forward in the water. In small vessels this power can be provided by people, who use oars to paddle along. Muscle power cannot move boats very fast or very far, though. The wind can be used, too, to move boats equipped with sails. But for a large boat that needs to go a long distance, the most reliable source of power is a motor-driven engine. Depending on the size of the boat, a gasoline engine, diesel engine, or steam engine does the job. Nuclear power is even used to run some boat engines, like those found in submarines. Motors rotate boat propellers, which have large twisting blades that radiate around a central hub.
These blades push water backward, and the boat moves forward as the disturbed water pushes back. Rotating propellers also create lower water pressure in the space in front of them, which sucks them forward, along with the vessel to which they are attached. (Using these same principles of movement, propellers can also power aircraft.) A boat is steered by a rudder, Which is a flat, upright, movable piece of wood or metal that is attached to its stern, or rear. When turned, the rudder changes the direction of the water around it, which pushes back, forcing the stern, and gradually the rest of the boat, to change direction, too.
Living species of sequoias are some of the biggest and widest trees in the world. The tallest trees are the coastal redwoods of California, while the widest ones are the giant sequoias, which have much larger trunks and branches. These trees grow in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California at elevations of about 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). The trees have survived for 2,000 or 3,000 years. Some of the largest sequoia trees measure 35 feet (10.6 meters) in diameter and up to 300 feet (91 meters) in height.
Their bark can be 4 feet (1.2 meters) thick! Many are found in California’s Sequoia National Park. The General Sherman, for example, is one of the tallest giant sequoias in the world, with a height of about 275 feet (85 meters).