Astrobiology Glossary K – Space

Term Definition
Keck Observatory Two telescopes known as the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes, jointly operated by the California Institute of Technology and the University of California. The telescopes comprise the W.M. Keck Observatory and are located on the summit of Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano.
Kelvin Scale The temperature scale most commonly used in science, on which absolute zero is the lowest possible value. On this scale, water freezes at 273 K and boils at 373 K.
Kepler’s Laws Three laws, derived by 17th century German astronomer Johannes Kepler, that describe planetary motion.

Kepler’s first law: The orbits of planets are ellipses, with the Sun at one focus. Therefore, each planet moves in an elliptical orbit around the Sun.

Kepler’s second law: An imaginary line connecting any planet to the Sun sweeps over equal areas in equal intervals of time.

Kepler’s third law: The square of any planet’s orbital period is proportional to the cube of its mean distance from the Sun.

Kilometer (km) A measure of distance in the metric system equal to 1000 meters or about 0.6 of a mile.
Kinetic Energy The energy that an object has by virtue of its motion.
Kitt Peak Observatory The world’s largest collection of telescopes, located high above the Sonora Desert in Arizona. Eight astronomical research institutions share the 22 optical and two radio telescopes at Kitt Peak. The National Optical Astronomy Observatories oversee site operations at the observatory.
Kuiper Belt A region in our outer solar system where many short-period comets (possessing orbits of less than 200 years) originate. This region begins beyond Neptune’s orbit and encompasses an estimated distance of between 30 and 100 astronomical units. There may be as many as 100 million Kuiper belt comets.

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