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49 Cards in this Set

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Astronomical unit

The distance between the Earth and the Sun (1AU)

Big Bang theory

A theory of the origin of the universe.

It states that the universe came into existence about 13 billion years ago, due to the creation of space-time and the partial conversion of energy into matter.

Cosmic background radiation

The electromagnetic radiation in space that remains following the Big Bang.

This radiation cooled as the universe expanded, and is now at an average temperature of 3 degrees above absolute zero (3 K or -270 C)


A vast collections of stars that are held together by gravitational forces.

Light year

The distance light travels in one Earth year.

Nuclear fusion

The process in which nuclei of light elements join together, with the release of large amounts of energy.

Red shift

The shift in frequencies of visible spectral lines towards the red end (low frequency) of the electromagnetic spectrum.

A red shift occurs when the object emitting the radiation is moving away from the detector.

A red shift in characteristic emission and absorption spectra from distant stars and galaxies indicates that they are moving away from us. This is used as evidence of an expanding universe.

One astronomical unit in kilometres?

1 AU = 150 million kilometres

One light year in kilometres?

1 ly = 9.461 x 10^12 km


A cloud of gas and stellar dust

Nova star

A star that shines more brightly than usual since its outer layers have been removed by explosions.


A star that is exploding and shines billions of times more brightly than usual.


A small, very dense object about 20 km across with a mass similar to that of our Sun.

They emit pulses of radio waves as well as short bursts of X-rays and gamma rays along the direction of their magnetic axes.


A compact region surrounding a supermassive black hole. The quasar emits huge amounts of energy due to mass falling onto the black hole's accretion disk.

Black hole

A region of spacetime with such strong gravitational effects that nothing, not even light, can escape from it.

Our Sun, and stars of similar mass, will eventually evolve into...

A white dwarf

Large stars, 5 to 10 times heavier than our Sun, eventually evolve into...

A neutron star

Massive stars, 30x to 50x heavier than our Sun, will eventually evolve into

A black hole

How long does it take for a star like our Sun to form?

Around 40 million years.

The closest star to our solar system.

Proxima Centauri


The largest division of the geological time scale.


Remains, or impressions, of past life forms.

Igneous rocks.

Rocks that have formed from magma or lava.


The outer rigid layer of the Earth, including the crust and upper mantle.

Plate tectonics

A study of the forces that cause the moment of crustal plates.


A volcanic explosion that releases hot rock fragments and ash.


A break in geological time between younger and older strata.

Radiometric dating

Determining the age of rocks or fossils using the known half-lives of radioisotopes.


Versions of elements that have the same atomic number but different mass numbers.

Atomic number

The number of protons in the nucleus

Mass number

The number of protons plus neutrons in the nucleus.


The study of earthquakes.


Layers of rock.

Cenozoic Era

Up to 6.5 million years before present day

Mesozoic Era

Between 248 Ma and 6.5 Ma before present day. This was the era when dinosaurs dominated, until the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period.

Palaeozoic Era

Between 545 Ma and 248 Ma before present day.

This was the era which began with a period of rapid evolution. Animals evolved from marine invertebrates to fish, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

The era ended with the largest mass extinction of marine invertebrates.

Precambrian Era

Up to 545 million years before present day.

Life forms appear in the fossil record in the Archean eon.

Convergent plate boundary.

Also called a collision zone.

A zone where continental plates push into each other and form mountain ranges.

Destructive plate boundary.

Also called a subduction zone.

A zone where an ocean plate slides underneath a continental plate.

Divergent plate boundary

Also called a spreading zone.

Two plates are moving apart, forming new land in between them.

Transform fault zone

A zone where plates slide past each other, e.g. the San Andreas fault in California.

Continental drift

How the locations of the continents have changed over geological time.


The site where the earthquake originates. This may be deep underground.


A point on the Earth's surface immediately above the focus.

Primary (P) wave

A compression wave that can travel through solids, liquids or gases.

Secondary (S) wave

A transverse shear wave that travels through solid but not liquids or gases.

Land surface (L) wave

A seismic wave which originates at the epicentre of the earthquake and travels along the surface of the Earth.

These seismic waves travel the slowest and cause the greatest damage.


A machine for detecting and recording earthquake waves.

Richter scale

A scale measuring the energy released from an earthquake. It is not a linear scale. An increase in one unit represents approx. 31 x greater energy released.