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How birds fly

One of the requirements for heavier-than-air flying machines is a structure that combines strength with light weight. This is true for birds as well as planes. Birds have many physical features ...

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Artificial satellites

An artificial satellite is an object that people have made and launched into orbit using rockets. There are currently over a thousand active satellites orbiting the Earth. The size, altitude and ...

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Principles of flight

For thousands of years, people have wanted to fly. Our legends and fairy tales are full of humans and animals that can fly – effortlessly gliding through the air. In real life, of course, no one ...

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Wing aspect ratio

Wing shapes and sizes of both birds and planes determine how they might perform or what they might be capable of (for example, gliding, sustained high speed and manoeuvrability). One way in which ...

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Natural satellites

A satellite is anything that orbits around a larger object. A natural satellite is any celestial body in space that orbits around a larger body. Moons are called natural satellites because they ...

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Gravity and satellite motion

Gravity is a force that attracts all objects towards each other. People are attracted towards the Earth and the Earth towards people, the Moon and the Earth are attracted towards each other, and ...

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Feathers and flight

A bird is designed for flight. The combination of light weight, strength and shape, as well as precision control, is largely responsible for giving birds their special ability for sustained ...

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A progression of flight - timeline

Use this timeline to find out more about the progression of flight in human history. 1000 BCE - First kites Kites are invented in China. 852 BCE - A king tries to fly The English King Bladud is ...

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Wing loading

You can tell a great deal about how a bird lives or what a plane has been designed for just from its wing shape and size. Wings of both birds and planes determine how they might perform or what ...

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Light and telescopes

The universe is full of amazing things, but we need help to see most of them. There are many types of light that our eyes cannot see, so we use instruments, such as telescopes, that can detect ...

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Our Solar System – revolutionary ideas

Since the earliest times, humans have made observations of the night sky. These observations, particularly of the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets (visible to the naked eye), led to the development ...

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Wings and lift

For a plane or bird to fly, its wings must produce enough lift to equal its weight. Most wings used in flight are a special shape – called aerofoils (or airfoils). This shape is needed to help ...

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Launching satellites

Launching a satellite into orbit requires consideration of a number of major science ideas. These include gravity, circular motion and atmospheric drag. Atmospheric drag Satellites need to be ...

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People in flight history

People have always tried to imitate birds. People in legends and fairytales have been able to magically fly, and ancient Chinese, Persians, Romans, Arabs, monks, scholars, warriors and craftsmen ...

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Hang-gliders

Hang-gliders are unpowered aircraft. They maintain flight by employing a flying surface (wing) called an aerofoil. While powered aircraft use their own power source (motor and propeller or jet ...

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Satellite communications

Communications satellites are used to send and receive radio signals for television, phone or internet communications. Large concave reflectors called satellite dishes are normally used to send ...

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History of satellites – timeline

See key dates relating to early discoveries about natural and artificial satellites in this timeline. 6th century BCE – Ancient Greek geocentric model Ancient Greek astronomers believe the Earth ...

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Distances in space

Distances in space are really, really big. The Voyager 1 spacecraft is heading out of our Solar System at 62,000 km per hour, but even at that speed, it would take it 77,000 years to reach the ...

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Falling, floating, flying

All flying objects have some things in common. For some things, it is easy to decide if they are flying or not – a bird, a plane, Superman… But for some things it is not as easy to decide – a ...

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The Sun and white dwarfs

Professor Denis Sullivan studies white dwarfs – small and dense stars that are cooling down after being red giants. Our Sun, and most other stars, will eventually become a white dwarf. The life ...

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