Dictionary of Space Concepts

The Dictionary of Space Concepts (DSC) provides not only the basis for the advanced English language classes of the Multilingualism Programme; it also serves as larger online support platform for all UNIVERSEH students, with the aim of training specific space terminologies across various fields connected to the space sector. The DSC combines core space concepts and with helpful illustrations, all in an open-project format, which is freely available to everyone inside and outside UNIVERSEH. We welcome your contributions, comments, and expertise!

Do you want to take part of developing the Dictionary of Space Concepts? Enrol in the Collaborative Dictionary of Space Concepts.


Browse the glossary using this index

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(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 2:24 PM)

Term "Astrobiology" on a blue circular background. It is decorated with white stars, two DNA strands and shows the logo of DL

Source: https://www.dlr.de/me/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-2016/

Short Definition:

Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary field of research concerned with the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. It encompasses research in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. 

Detailed Definition:

The goal of this study is to understand more about the origin and evolution of life on Earth, planetary system formation, organic compounds in space, and whether or not life exists or might exist elsewhere. Especially the frozen moons of the outer solar system, particularly Europa and Enceladus, as well as Mars, are of significant astrobiological interest. These solar system bodies are the focus of current and future multinational space missions, for example in the DLR.


astro - Ancient Greek - ἄστρον (astron) "star"

bio – Ancient Greek - βίος (bíos) “life”

logy – Ancient Greek -λογία (logía) “branch of study” or “to speak”

Sample Sentence(s):

“The research field of astrobiology is gaining more and more importance in the last decades.”

“Did you see the documentary on astrobiology last week?”


  • French: Astrobiologie
  • German: Astrobiologie
  • Polish: Astrobiologia 
  • Swedish: Astrobiologi

Links to Videos/Articles:



(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 3:56 PM)

The sky with clouds with different layers of blue, from lighter to darker



The mass of gas that surrounds an astronomical body, such as a planet, and is held in place by the gravity of this body.


From Greek ατμός (atmos)'vapor' + σφαιρα (sphaira)'sphere'

  • French: atmosphère (fem.) – [at.mɔsˈfɛʁ]
  • German: Atmosphäre (fem.) – [ʔatmoˈsfɛːʀə]
  • Polish: atmosfera (fem.) – [ˌatmɔˈsfɛra]
  • Russian: атмосфера (fem.) – [ɐtmɐˈsfʲerə]
  • Swedish: atmosfär (comm.) –[ʔatmoˈsfɒ]



(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 3:57 PM)

Mathematical formula for calculating barycenter

Visual representation of the mathematical formulae for calculating barycenter

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RudB-LLPaG4 

Short Definition:

Barycenter is a theoretical point that has several meanings according to the field in which it is employed:

  • In mathematics, this is the intersection point between the three medians of a triangle.
  • In statistics, this is the average of a set of numbers.
  • In physics, this is the center of mass of a system.

Detailed Definition:

The barycenter is a theoretical point usually with a mathematical value, which has different meanings depending on the field to which it is applied. From its etymology, Barycenter is usually used to express the center or average of a distribution of objects, values or data.

Originally, the mathematician and physicist Archimède introduced and described the notion of barycenter around 300 B.C.E. He first approached it from a physical perspective by stating: “Every heavy body has a well-defined centre of gravity in which all the weight of the body can be considered concentrated."

In astronomy, this notion describes the point around which a celestial body and its/their satellite(s) rotate. The illustration below depicts the barycenter with the red cross in the middle as well as the two bodies of different mass orbiting around it.

Visual diagram depicting the barycenter between two bodies of mass.


Barycenter comes from ancient Greek. Bary: βάρος (báros, “weight”) + center which comes from the Latin of centrum or even earlier from ancient Greek as kentron, κέντρον (single point). 

Sample Sentence:

"How well we understand the Solar System’s barycenter is critical as we attempt to sense even the smallest tingle to the web.”

  • Arabic: :مركز الثّقل
  • French: Barycentre
  • German: Baryzentrum (auch: Massenmittelpunkt)
  • Italian: Baricentro
  • Luxembourgish: Baryzentrum
  • Polish: Barycentrum
  • Swedish: Barycentrum

Links to Videos/Articles:

Big Bang

(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 3:57 PM)

The history of the universe from "Big Bang" to  "Today"

Source: https://home.cern/news/series/lhc-physics-ten/recreating-big-bang-matter-earth


According to the Big Bang Theory, this is the starting point of the known, observable universe, when a rapid expansion of matter took place.

According to the standard cosmological model (Big Bang Theory), the Big Bang occurred about 13.8 billion years ago. The model describes how the universe expanded from an initial state of high density and temperature, and offers an explanation for a broad range of observed phenomena, like the lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium.


From English big “of considerable size or extent” and bang “to (cause something to) make a sudden very loud noise or noises.”

The term was introduced in 1948 by the British astronomer Fred Hoyle. In a radio broadcast, Mr Hoyle made disparaging remarks about the hypothesis of the expanding universe and mocked its starting point as the "big bang", without suspecting that he was giving birth to a term that would become part of humankind's common vocabulary.


  • French: Big Bang (masc.) – [biɡ.bɑ̃ɡ]
  • German: Urknall (masc.) – [ˈuːɐ̯ˌknal]
  • Polish: Wielki Wybuch (masc.) – [ˈvjɛl.ki ˈvɨ.bux]
  • Portuguese: Big Bang (masc.) – [biɡ.bɑ̃ɡ]
  • Russian: Большой взрыв (masc.) – [bɐlʲˈʂoɪ̯ vzrɨf]
  • Swedish: Big Bang – [biɡ.bɑ̃ɡ]


(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 3:58 PM)

Visualization of biomining. Gold atoms accumulating on microbes

Diagram of bacterial cell mining pyrite.

Source: https://www.labiotech.eu/in-depth/biomining-sustainable-microbes/

Short Definition:

A process involving the extraction of a resource using biological tools. For example, with bacteria or algea.

Detailed Definition:

Biomining is an environmentally friendly and energy efficient way of extracting useful elements by using microbes to break down rocks to make soil or provide nutrients. Microbes are tiny organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that have a wide variety of functions. Some microbes have abilities that could be beneficial to humans, such as biomining.


Bio: From Ancient Greek βίο- (bo-), combining form and stem of βίος (bíos, “life”). Mining: Any activity that extracts or unearths minerals.

Sample Sentence:

You can use biomining to extract minerals from asteroids using bacteria or fungi."

  • Catalan: Biomineria
  • French: Extraction biologique
  • German: Biobergbau
  • Polish:
  • Swedish: Biomining/Biologisk brytning (av mineraler)

Links to Videos/Articles:




Canadian Space Agency

(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 2:40 PM)

Woman named to head Canadian Space Agency for the first time

Source: https://www.iheartradio.ca/cjad/news/woman-named-to-head-canadian-space-agency-for-the-first-time-1.13392314 


Canadian Space Agency is a national space agency of Canada, whose aim is to coordinate spaceflight activities. It is responsible for space exploration (focusing on physical processes in stars), as well as Earth observation and monitoring its resources.

Canadian Space Agency was established in 1989  and works on space science and exploration, satellite communications, and it also provides space awareness and promotes the activities of the organisation. International cooperation with other space agencies is also part of the CSA’s mission. The headquarters are located in Longueuil, Canada.

Sample Sentence(s):

"The Canadian Space Agency is now developing a next generation of satellites."

"The Canadian Space Agency is a founding member of the Charter."


  • French: Agence spatiale canadienne
  • German: Kanadische Weltraumorganisation
  • Polish: Kandyjska Agencja Kosmiczna
  • Swedish: kanadensiska rymdorganisationen

Links to Videos/Articles:



(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 3:58 PM)

ClearSpace-1 with captured Vespa

Source: ESA - ESA commissions world’s first space debris removal


ClearSpace-1 is a mission targeting the removal of the Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vega) which is planned for launch in 2025. The mission is brought forward as a service contract with a startup-led commercial consortium, to help establish a new market for in-orbit servicing, as well as debris removal.

The ClearSpace-1 ‘chaser’ will be launched into a lower 500-km orbit for commissioning and critical tests before being raised to the target orbit for rendezvous and capture using a quartet of robotic arms under ESA supervision. The combined chaser plus Vespa will then be deorbited to burn up in the atmosphere.


Sample Sentences(s):

  • French:
  • German:
  • Polish:
  • Swedish:

Links to Videos/Articles:

ESA - ESA commissions world’s first space debris

earth observation for sustainable development (esa.int) removal


Copernicus Programme

(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 2:46 PM)
The logo of the Copernicus Programme


European Earth observation programme aiming at monitoring land, atmosphere and the marine environment, supporting emergency management, ensuring civil security and mitigating the consequences of climate change.

The programme was officially established in 2014 by the European Commission and the European Space Agency, serving as a successor of the project GMES (Global Monitoring of Environmental Security), which has existed since 1998. Copernicus Programme utilizes the Sentinel missions for surveillance and observation of land, ocean and atmosphere, as well as a range of contributing missions organized by various countries.


The programme is named after Nicolaus Copernicus, who was a Renaissance scientist and the author of the heliocentric model of the Universe.

  • French:
  • German:
  • Polish:
  • Swedish:

Links to Videos/Articles:





(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 2:49 PM)

Visual depiction of cosmochemistry and its relation to scientific studies of dynamics of celestial bodies, their atmospheres.

Cosmochemistry charts




Short Definition:

The chemistry of cosmic objects or the chemistry of objects in space, such as the chemistry of the Moon, Mars, the Sun, asteroids, quasars, etc. and their effects on each other. 

Detailed Definition:

Cosmochemistry is the study of the chemical compositions of matter in the universe and the processes that led to those compositions. Cosmochemistry is primarily done by studying the chemical compositions of cosmic objects or the chemistry of objects in space.

For example, carbonaceous meteorites were among the earliest formed bodies in the solar system. Their organic carbon is an indicator of chemical processes that occurred before the dawn of life on Earth. By studying carbonaceous meteorites and the origin and fate of their organic compounds, we begin to understand the general process of chemical evolution of organic molecules from interstellar space. Cosmochemistry also advances our knowledge of the physical and chemical processes in the distant past that might have had a significant role in the development of life in the universe.


Cosmo = kosmos (latin) + Chemistry = Alchemy (Greek), khēmia (Egyptician)

Sample Sentence:

“The spectral research on sulphur-containing radicals is of great significance in many fields such as atmospheric chemistry, combustion chemistry, cosmochemistry and so on.”

  • French: Chimie Cosmique
  • German: Kosmochemie
  • Polish: Chemia Kosmiczna
  • Swedish: Kosmokemi

Links to Videos/Articles:


Dark energy

(Last edited: Monday, 1 August 2022, 3:59 PM)




Dark energy (not to be mistaken with dark matter) makes up approximately 68% of the universe, and it is distributed evenly not only in space, but also in time (therefore it has a global effect on the universe as a whole). This is a repulsive force, that accelerates the expansion of the universe. The rate of expansion and its acceleration can be measured by observations based on the Hubble law. The existence of dark energy is proven and its role in the universe can be described thanks to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. 

Example Sentence(s):

"Dark energy is generally accepted as contributing to the increased acceleration of the expanding universe, so understanding this relationship will help to refine how physicists and astrophysicists understand it."

"And there are still no final answers to the questions surrounding dark energy."

  • French: L'énergie sombre
  • German: Dunkle Energie
  • Polish: Czarna energia
  • Russian: тёмная энергия 
  • Swedish: Mörk energi

Links to Videos/Articles:

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