Astrobiology Glossary O – Space

Term Definition
Observable Universe The portion of the entire universe that can be seen from Earth.
Oort Cloud A vast spherical region in the outer reaches of our solar system where a trillion long-period comets (those with orbital periods greater than 200 years) reside. Comets from the Oort Cloud come from all directions, often from as far away as 50,000 astronomical units.
Opacity The degree to which light is prevented from passing through an object or a substance. Opacity is the opposite of transparency. As an object’s opacity increases, the amount of light passing through it decreases. Glass, for example, is transparent and most clouds are opaque.
Open Cluster Also known as a galactic cluster, an open cluster consists of numerous young stars that formed at the same time within a large cloud of interstellar dust and gas. Open clusters are located in the spiral arms or the disks of galaxies. The Pleiades is an example of an open cluster.
Open Universe A geometrical model of the universe in which the overall structure of the universe extends infinitely in all directions. The rules of geometry in an open universe are like those that would apply on a saddle-shaped surface.
Optical Telescope A telescope that gathers and magnifies visible light. The two basic types of optical telescopes are refracting (using lenses) and reflecting (using mirrors). The Hubble Space Telescope is an example of a reflecting telescope.
Organelle Membrane enclosed structures in eukaryotic cells such as the mitochondria and chloroplasts.
Ozone Layer A region in the upper atmosphere that has high concentrations of ozone (triatomic oxygen, 03). The ozone layer protects the Earth by absorbing the Sun’s high-energy ultraviolet radiation.

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