Welcome to SpaceWander! SpaceWander.com is your first class ticket to outer space!

On this trip you will experience the existence of strange seeming and mysterious worlds and realities in the universe. These entities preside with majestic glory in deep space. Get ready to enjoy a wonderful deep space odyssey.

You are sitting in a spaceship and are about to begin an exciting journey to Mars and beyond. The region below from the height of the space shuttle contorts normal proportions. People are tiny and cars resemble toy miniatures. As you await takeoff, large sections of land seem to be composed of shapes, mostly varying-sized squares, and the roads resemble large lines.

Prepare for lift-off!

The announcement begins, "Auto-sequence start 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7... We have a "GO" for engine start! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Booster ignition and LIFT OFF!"

The engines below explode with energy carrying you and the shuttle further and further away from the earth. The image of the parts making up the environment below now changes more and more with the increasing distance. The lands and roads grow increasingly indistinct once we are 11 miles above the Earth. At 33.5 miles above the Earth, the empty blackness of outer space begins to make its appearance. The rounded edge (or limb) of the Earth is bright and alive compared to the empty blackness of space. It is at 8,000 miles above the earth, that you start to see the Earth as a "globe".

You are now traveling through the vast stillness and brilliance of space. Millions of still stars cover the black background, which is space. A huge ball with large continents, distinct and overwhelming blue oceans, and white swirls of cloud cover floats in this black starry landscape and slowly gets smaller and smaller. Another sphere, the moon, shortly follows and drifts behind the Earth like a secret admirer.

It has taken you 13 hours to reach the moon. You observe it. It is much smaller ball, 1/4 the size of Earth and unlike the vibrant and busy appearance of the Earth the moon is gray although not uniform in its grayness. It seems attached to Earth since as they are so close together and there is nothing really around them. Just the darkness of space and the far away millions of stars. You travel away from them and they seem to hang together. Their appearance shrinks as you travel away from them. Getting smaller and smaller, they quickly turn into marble sized objects and then, slowly, they completely disappear from your view.

We are now traveling at the incredibly fast speed of 16,800 miles per hour. However, it takes 6 to 12 months for our spaceship to reach Mars. Prepare for the descent into Mars. It takes our spaceship about 4 minutes to descend into Mars and land on the surface.

Welcome to Mars!

The surface of Mars is very dry, dusty, and rocky. In this particular spot where you have landed the environment is like a rocky desert and in the horizon there are two peaks. They are the famous mountains on Mars called Twin Peaks.

The next location on Mars that you stop to explore is Valles Marineris. Valles Marineris is a giant canyon on Mars. However, you observe it from above and from this height it resembles a large long (slightly diagonal) jagged cut on the dry orange surface of Mars. There are thin delicate "lines" branching out at the tips of the large cut of Mars otherwise known as Valles Marineris. In any case, Valles Marineris can be likened to the Grand Canyon on Earth except it is more than 9 times longer and 4 times deeper than the Grand Canyon. A closer view reveals the canyon to be not a long jagged line but smooth grooves of varying depths into the Mars surface.

Our last stop on Mars is at Olympus Mons, the biggest volcano on Mars and 100 times bigger that the biggest volcano on Earth. You experience it not from the surface of Mars but from an aerial view above it. It is like a crater growing out instead of in. The surrounding area around is bumpy and at the height of the volcano there is the opening which appears a tilted oblong circle. Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in our solar system. It is bigger than the state of Texas.

Another fact about Mars is that Mars is colder than the Earth because it is farther from the Sun. At night the temperature on Mars can be -117 F!

Prepare to leave Mars and head for Jupiter!

You are now leaving Mars and heading towards Jupiter. The surface of Mars seems smooth as you travel away from it. Eventually Mars appears as a orange marble ball in space with millions of tiny immobile stars as its backdrop. The ball seems to float away from you, getting smaller and smaller, until it disappears from your sight. But it is you traveling away from it on your way to Jupiter.

From Mars, it will take your spaceship 3 to 5 years to reach Jupiter. It took the Galileo spacecraft 6 years to get to Jupiter from the Earth. It took Cassini 3 years to fly by Jupiter on its way to Saturn. Between Mars and Jupiter there is an asteroid belt, 60 million miles wide. But the asteroids are so spread out, you would be lucky if you saw any!

Jupiter is a large imposing planet. Your spacecraft monitor shows a large planet with strips. Four very distinct stripes stand out encircling this massive planet. The white bands of Jupiter contain clouds similar to Earth's cirrus clouds but on Jupiter the clouds are made of ammonia, not water ice. Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System, its diameter is 11 times as big as Earth's! Also, Jupiter completes its revolutions, or spins, once every 10 hours. That is more than twice as fast as the Earth's rotation!

You take a snapshot of Jupiter using one of the available functions of your space craft. It captures Jupiter, one of it's twenty-eight (and possibly more) moons, Europa, and Europa's shadow, which consists of being a diminutive black dot on Jupiter. However tiny Europa seems to be in relation to Jupiter, the fact remains that it is one of Jupiter's largest moons. It is interesting to know Europa has a thin layer of ice covering a possible ocean and scientists wonder if there is some form of life in that ocean.

You have your spacecraft analyze Jupiter and it tells you that Jupiter is made of gas. The breakdown of the gas is 90% hydrogen, 9.9% helium and trace amounts of ammonia and water. At this time you begin to notice a relatively large distinct elliptical shape standing out from of the stripes of Jupiter.

Your spacecraft monitor zooms a close-up picture of this orange-red spot. It is a beautiful swirling picture that seems like a painting. It has gradations of color from a soft white to a soft orange-red. There is a softness to it that seems to add to the understanding that Jupiter is made up of gas. Indeed, there seems to be a cotton ball, cotton candy type of texture to this zoomed up picture of what is actually a huge storm.

You ask your spacecraft computer for more information and this is what it tells you. "The Great Red Spot is a giant storm that has been raging for over 300 years. The Great Red Spot is almost three times the size of Earth. The Great Red Spot is a high-pressure storm, similar to hurricanes on Earth but much, much bigger." In addition to the softness, swirls of color, and gradations of color, there are also intricate details in the picture of the storm. There are tiny long dots complicating the natural, fluid, and curving shapes of the picture.

It is now time for us to leave Jupiter and head out of the solar system! From near Jupiter, traveling at 16,800 mph, it would take you almost 3 years to get to Saturn, and 8 years to reach Uranus. From Jupiter it would take you 15 years to get to Neptune, and 21 years to arrive at Pluto!

Traveling by Jupiter gives your spaceship a gravitational push, increasing your speed to 60,000 miles per hour! Even traveling at 60,000 mph, it still takes you almost 6 years to get to Pluto and over 47,000 years to reach our nearest star neighbor, Alpha Centuari.

Alpha Centuari is located about 25,000,000,000,000 miles or 4.2 light years away from Earth. Alpha Centuari is a triple star system, with two stars approximately the size of your sun and one tiny companion star. Alpha Centuari is beautiful star system. Your view of Alpha Centuari is an amazing spectacle. It is like a large diamond, bright and white, glowing with energy and brilliance. In the background are millions of stars behind Alpha Centuari littering every inch of dark matter with festive brightness and light. Some stars seem closer and others further. The closet and most attention grabbing being Alpha Centuari.

In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope focused on a small portion of the sky- close to 1/30th the apparent size of the moon. The Hubble Telescope zoomed in and instead of finding an empty piece of the sky...it found 1,500 galaxies. Each of the galaxies contains billions of stars! This image is referred to as the Hubble Deep Field (HDF). You are now beholding some of the oldest deep space objects in the Universe- up to 10 billion years old! These 1,500 galaxies, each with billions of stars, are like small precious jewels strewn across black velvet.

Another way to view this spectacular grouping of galaxies is to liken them to different small shapes with varying colors (though there is a very jewel-like quality to them). Counting just a small portion of the HDF image, nine deep space objects seem larger and more distinct than the others, and another thirty are very small but still countable. Two of them seem like miniature swirl galaxies, another two translucent cubes and one of the objects is the Alpha Centuari you were just viewing.

We move on with our journey... You are now regarding a Dusty Spiral Galaxy 60,000,000 light years away from the earth that contains billions of stars. The Dusty Spiral Galaxy looks like a large smoky pearl surrounded by differing gases that are thick in some areas and thin in others. The motion of these substances may have added something to its name for it circles around the center like a spiral.

Some astronomers believe that galaxies have black holes in the center- even our galaxy! Some facts about the Dusty Spiral Galaxy are that the yellow and red stars in the center are the oldest while the blue stars in the outer region are the youngest. The dark areas are interstellar dust. The Dusty Spiral Galaxy, also called NGC 4414, is 56,000 light years wide.

The next galaxy we visit is a galaxy examined from its side. It is called a galaxy on its edge. This galaxy is 55,000,000 light years away from the Earth is very brilliant and very thick- approximately 500 light years or 3,000,000,000,000,000 miles. As you fly away from the galaxy, it appears as a line cutting across the fabric of deep space surrounded by dust and gas.

You are now 168,000 light years away from Earth in a nearby galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud where many, many stars are located. The tiny points of light are everywhere in a multitude not yet experienced by you till now. Galactic dust and gas and plasma unevenly fog up the scene a bit but also provide atmosphere for the usually empty seeming vacuum of blackness that space can sometimes appear to be. A few stars to your far right seem bigger and closer to you and therefore stand out against the numerous stars that fill the space skyscape. There is also an orange star that is bigger to your left. In between are the swarms of stars that seem at a distance from you yet powerful in their sheer number.

Inside the Large Magellanic Cloud is the Tarantula Nebula. The area on the right that contains 3 red supergiants. The rest that contains the dust, gas, and plasma will eventually form new stars. The blasted material from the supergiants is traveling at an incredible 200 miles per second. However, the scene seems serene and awe-inspiring.

We now travel back to our galaxy, The Milky Way. Welcome back! The Milky Way is home to a hundred billion stars and their planets. It seems like an closer aerial view directly above a spiral galaxy. There are two curving spiral arms that stand out. One curving line goes up from the center and the other arm from the center goes down. The whole picture seems full of cotton ball cloudy, dotty galactic material and can be likened to a fractal.

Your next stop is the Eagle Nebula, a birthplace to stars. Although only 7,000 light years away from Earth, these massive tall, vertical, awe-inspiring pillars of thick cottony gas with rounded tops contain little tiny nibs that are new forming stars. The star forming points are interstellar dust and gas globules called EGGs (evaporating gas globules) and are bigger than the diameter of our whole solar system. The Eagle Nebula is made of cold gas and dust. And it is illuminated from behind by starlight. The EGGs' are tiny compared to these imposing structures. A close up picture shows them to have a very interesting, complicated and fluffy texture.

You are now heading towards your next destination, the Cat's Eye Nebula. You are now 3,000 light years away from the Earth experiencing the Cat's Eye Nebula. The Cat's Eye Nebula is a symmetrical object in space composed of the energy and gas of a dying star. In the middle there is a tiny yet very clear point of light, this is the star. Two long oval shaped rings of gas crisscross and the star is at the center of these two rings. Two other half-moon curves of gas cup this complicated X like shape, one at the top left and the other at your bottom right. These lines are complicated with crisscross formations within themselves. There is a fog of gas also adding form to the image of this space spectacle. Soon SpaceWander will offer a braille picture book of Hubble images and you will be able to feel exactly what this complicated but beautiful nebula looks like!

The Cat's Eye Nebula formed when a sun (and possibly a companion star) exploded. The dying star, in the middle, is surrounded by ejected gas. The star in the middle of the Cat's Eye Nebula may have had a small companion star which contributed to the complicated pattern of the surrounding gas.

380 light years away from the Earth is The Reflection Nebula in Pleiades. You encounter this interstellar cloud that is being destroyed by strong radiation from a nearby star. A ghost-like appearance adds an eerie feel to this deep space object. It is like a white gassy sheet being pulled by several invisible strings to another light source. The cloud is racing through space at almost 25,000 miles per hour!

The next space entity you regard is The Bubble Nebula that is 6 light years wide. Large cloud forms of gas are covered by a dome of gas. As with most of the Hubble deep space objects you have observed there are unique qualities to the image of the gas. At parts the gas is thicker and in another area the gas is thinner. The gas formations within the dome-shaped gas is very thick seeming and in shape and structure it is similar to the Eagle Nebula. The bright point in the middle is a star. There are a few distant scattered stars as well. The Bubble Nebula is expanding at the incredible rate of 4 million miles/hr. If you could travel that fast, it would take you less than 4 seconds to fly from Los Angeles to New York! The star in the middle of the Bubble Nebula is 40 times as massive as the Earth's Sun.

You are now in the last stretch of your intergalactic journey. There are only three more sites to visit before you return home and begin to live with ground level perception again. But that is later. For now you behold the amazing Hourglass Nebula. This is one of the most inspirational deep space objects the Hubble Space Telescope has ever taken a picture of. The Hourglass Nebula formed after an old star cooled down and expanded into a Red Giant. It is a symmetrical formation that can be likened to the Cat's Eye Nebula. Two circles overlap each other like the number 8, one on top of the other. The area they overlap and share is filled with gas and has made the shape of a human eyeball. The eye seems to glow with intelligence. The top circle of gas splits into three distinct rings. The same is true for the bottom circle.

The Red Giant ejected its outermost layers, forming these plasma rings. Your space computer picture is sometimes partially or completely color coded for identification purposes of the different type of gases composing magnificent space entities. The Red rings of the Hourglass Nebula are ionized nitrogen, the green of the eyeball shape is hydrogen, and the blue in the middle of the shape is doubly-ionized oxygen.

The next nebula you visit is The Carina Nebula. The Carina Nebula is light and bright. It is a smoky picture of gas and dust 8,000 light-years away from the Earth. A few stars are visible within it. The nebula is made of hot, glowing gas, plasma, cold molecules and dust that forms stars. In fact, the nebula makes some of the hottest and most massive stars known. These stars that the Carina Nebula creates are 10 times as hot as our sun and 100 times as heavy!

Your last stop before returning to Earth is the Ant Nebula. This explosion of energy and gas has a very unusual shape. It is a image of force like an atom being split into two large halves. Translucent material makes up the picture of the nebula and rays of light and gas shoot out from both bubbled up ends. When the Earth's Sun dies in 4 or 5 billion years, it will look like the Ant Nebula! Charged winds move away from the star at millions of miles per hour contributing to the eerie look of the rays of material shooting out from both halves of the nebula.

Some scientists think that the symmetrical shape of the explosion is due to electromagnetic interaction with the plasma surrounding the star.

Prepare to return to Earth! As you approach the moon and the Earth, they increase in size. You pass the gray moon and, finally, you land and complete your space adventure. You are now back on Earth.

Thank you for Flying with SpaceWander!

Join our mailing list to be notified of future trips! It's free! Click here to join now!


If you want information about "Touch the Universe" a Braille/Large Print picture-book of Hubble Telescope Deep-Space Photos, click here!


For more information about the planets and Hubble deep-sky objects, visit our library. Or you can visit our Space Store for everything from NASA hats to astronaut space food to real trips to space!


If you want to tell a few friends about SpaceWander, click here!




More links:

Survey | | About us | | Multimedia Services | | Kids | | Teachers | | Awards | | Press | | Sponsors |

Main SpaceWander.com website

If you have partial eyesight, you can try the Flash version of our website which is not accessible with assistive technology. You can always reload www.spacewander.com to come back to the text-only version!

Click here for the English Flash Space-trip.

Check here for the French Flash Space-trip.


If you have any comments or suggestions about our website, please send them to feedback@spacewander.com

If you have questions about space, check out our Questions and Answers page!

Copyright 2001-2010 SpaceWander. SpaceWander is a registered trademark of SpaceWander Multimedia.

SpaceWander Privacy Policy