50 Surprising Facts About Space You Didn't Know.
By : Samarjeet Singh | Updated On : 13 Aug, 2020
It has been famously saying, space is the final frontier. The greatest of unknowns, space is far vaster then we can comprehend, and filled with the phenomenon we barely understand. While we've been watching the heavens in awe for millennia, space exploration and discovery only began in earnest in the mid 20th century.
Yet even what are no doubt our primitive findings still point at a universe more incredible than we ever thought.
we're taking a look at 50 incredible facts about space!
50. Until 1923 scientists thought that the entire universe was just our milky way- until astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the astronomical feature known as Andromeda, a fuzzy spot in the night sky, was actually an entire other galaxies! Overnight the size of the universe was effectively doubled!
49. Hubble made his discovery from the Hooker telescope, built atop a mountain in California- it was the first mountain top telescope in the world and at the time, an incredible feat of engineering.
48. To measure the distance between galaxies in space, astronomers use Cepheids, or stars that periodically dim and brighten. Henrietta Leavitt discovered that by monitoring the time it took these stars to dim and brighten you could calculate how far away they were.
47. Leavitt's discovery of how to calculate distance based on the cycling of Cepheid stars allowed Hubble to prove that Andromeda was located outside the Milky Way, and was thus its own galaxy.
46. Hubble scanned Andromeda for nights on end looking for Cepheid stars, until finally discovering one in October 1923. After monitoring it for a week, he used Leavitt's formula and determined it was indeed located outside the Milky Way.
45. In 2011 the Hubble Space Telescope captured a picture of that star, called “Variable Number One”- or V1. It has been called “the most important star in the history of cosmology.”
44. Of all the planets in our solar system, only mercury and venus don't have moons.
43. The hottest planet in our solar system is not Mercury as most would assume, but Venus. Due to runaway global warming, Venus' temperature is an incredible 863 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).
42. Not only is Venus' atmosphere blazing hot, but it also has an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than the Earth's- that would crush you flat as a soda can if you walked on its surface!
41. In 1966 the Soviet Union's Venera 3 was the first man-made craft to land on Venus. Unfortunately, its communications system had failed long before reaching Venus and it was unable to relay back any data.
40. Although it crash-landed and didn't send any data back home, Venera 3 is the first human-made object to impact another planet's surface.
39. On the 18thof October 1967, Venera 4 became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet. The Soviets initially claimed the craft reached the surface intact, but when the American Mariner 5 spacecraft flew by Venus the very next day, it measured a surface pressure of 75-100 atmospheres, well out of the range of Venera's 4 25 atmosphere hull strength. The claim by the Soviet Union was quickly redacted.
38. Venus's atmosphere is so dense, that parachutes are only necessary to slow down. The Soviet Union's Venera 9 released its parachutes at an atmospheric height of 31 miles (50km) and landed at a speed of only 15 mph (7 m/s). It was also the first spacecraft to transmit photos from another planet!
37. Our solar system is about 4.6 billion years old, and scientists believe it will last another 5 billion years before our sun turns into a red giant.
36. The tallest mountain known to man is Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano on Mars with a peak 15 miles (25 km) high. It is nearly 3 times larger than Mount Everest.
35. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or 5.88 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
34. The width of our Milky Way galaxy according to NASA is about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilometres, or 621371192237333888 miles- or in astronomical terms: 100,000 light-years.
33. Because most stars are so far away, when you look up into the night sky you are not seeing them as they currently are, but as they were thousands of years ago- that's how long their light takes to reach us!
32. Our sun is 300,000 times larger than the earth, but in the universe, it's a lightweight.
31. The largest star in the known universe is VY Canis Majoris- it is 1,400 times larger than our own sun! If you stuck it in our solar system it would extend all the way past Jupiter.
30. Red Giants are really old stars that form when stars 10 times the mass of our sun runs out of hydrogen in its core. As it collapses the hydrogen in the outer shells begin the process of fusion and the entire star begins fusing hydrogen all at once. They will burn through all their fuel in just a few million years- unlike the billions it takes our sun- and shining 100,000 times brighter than our sun!
29. These stars often explode as a Supernova- the most powerful explosion in the universe.
28. The original universe consisted solely of hydrogen and helium- every other element on the periodic table and every single thing you see around you today was formed in the heart of exploding stars.
27. That's because when a star goes supernova it releases huge amounts of energy and neutrons, which produces heavier elements. The carbon in your body and the gold in the jewellery you wear were all made from exploding stars!
26. Only hydrogen and helium were formed from the Big Bang- next time you suck down helium from a party balloon you are sucking down a gas that probably formed just 3 minutes after the Big Bang!
25. Red Giant Betelgeuse, 1000 times larger than our sun, is a cosmic neighbour and expected to go supernova in the next 1,000 years!
24. Some scientists theorize that life is only possible in the outer edges of a galaxy, where large stars are rare and thus supernovas don't routinely sterilize worlds of life.
23. We ourselves are between two arms of the milky way, and in a relatively rural part of the galaxy.
22. Extending well past the orbit of Pluto is a massive sphere of icy objects known as the Oort Cloud. These are remnants from the formation of the solar system, held in place by the weak gravity of the very distant sun.
21. Every few million years as we orbit the centre of the Milky Way we enter a region of space full of cosmic debris. Some scientists theorize that this debris may disturb the fragile orbits of objects in the Oort Cloud and send them hurtling into the solar system. The timing of our entry into this region of the Milky Way coincides with several mass extinction events here on Earth.
20. Panspermia is the theory that life is transmitted like a virus from planet to planet by asteroid and comet impacts.
19. A meteorite discovered in Antarctica was found to originate from Mars, and after careful examination, some scientists believe it shows fossilized evidence of microscopic organisms- giving serious credibility to the Panspermia theory. We might all actually be Martians!
18. It's thought that this meteorite was launched into space from Mars when a massive asteroid struck the planet, sending debris hurtling out of the atmosphere. In time its orbit intersected with the Earth and may have brought its martian hitchhikers with it!
17. In 2008 an ESA mission sent tardigrades- tiny microscopic organisms- into space. After ten days of exposure to the vacuum of space, ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and cosmic rays, they were returned to Earth still alive!
16. Before the tardigrades, only some lichen and bacteria were known to survive exposure to space- meaning Panspermia may be a valid theory for the origin of life on earth.
15. Because there is no atmosphere on the moon, the footprints and tire prints left on the Moon by American astronauts will never disappear- unless an asteroid impact wipes them out.
14. Not only does Jupiter have the most moons in our solar system- with 79- but as of right now it has the most moons of any known planet in our galaxy.
13. Many scientists think that without Jupiter life on earth would be impossible. That's because the giant of our solar system exerts such strong gravity that it pulls in many comets and asteroids that might have impacted on Earth. Jupiter is like our personal bodyguard!
12. Once thought rare outside of the Earth, water has been found practically everywhere in the solar system- even on Mercury where scientists never dreamed it would be possible! In 2011 NASA's Messenger probe discovered water ice in craters on Mercury's north pole. That's despite a surface temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius) on the dayside.
11. Not only does the earth rotate as it orbits the sun, but the sun itself also rotates at a rate of once every 25-35 days.
10. Earth is the only Solar System planet not named after a god.
9. Pluto is smaller in diameter than the United States.
8. The first theory positing the existence of black holes was from an English clergyman named John Michell in November 1784. He even correctly noted that these features would not be visible to the naked eye, but that they could be detected by their gravitational effects on other bodies.
7. Despite proving through General Relativity that black holes could form, Einstein himself did not believe they could form in the natural world. It wouldn't be until 1972 that Cygnus X-1 became the first observed black hole, taking them from the realm of theory to the realm of reality.
6. In 2002 astronomers presented evidence that a super massive black hole lurks at the centre of our Milky Way.
5. In 2012 Suvi Gezari and his team published the first visual evidence of a black hole. Using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii, they photographed a supermassive black hole 2.7 million light-years away swallowing a red giant.
4. In 2015 gravity waves from the merging of a pair of black holes into one were detected. The violence of their merging created a ripple through space-time that was detectable here on Earth millions of light-years away!
3. Not only did general relativity predict that black holes were possible, but it also predicted that white holes could also be possible! The polar opposite of a black hole, a white hole is a region of space-time where matter cannot enter.
2. A growing theory suggests that white holes are the opposite ends of black holes and that our own Big Bang was a supermassive white hole that existed for fractions of a second.
1. Afraid that returning astronauts might be carrying unknown and deadly lunar germs, the Apollo astronauts were quarantined immediately after their arrival on earth.