26 Totally Amazing Space Facts

Steve Wozniak Was Arrested for Building a Fake Bomb
William the Conquerors Stomach Exploded

1 If Two Pieces Of Metal Touch In Space They Stick Together

two pieces of metal touch in space

Wow, I love science. It manages to throw amazing little gem up nearly every day. This just happens to be one of them. If two pieces of metal touch in space, that’s two identical pieces, such as two pieces of copper or two pieces of iron, they will stick together as if they were welded. Well, not as if they were welded, exactly the same, if not better than if they were welded. The process that causes this phenomenon is called cold welding.

Cold welding was discovered in the 1940’s. As the name suggests, it’s the process of welding two pieces of metal together without any heat. With normal welding, two pieces of metal are joined by applying heat to a joint. The heat fuses the two pieces together as one. Cold welding on the other hand requires several factors to work. Firstly, the two pieces must have a similar composition, such as copper and copper. Next, they must be in perfect condition. No rust, oil or grease. In other words, no foreign material at all can be present on the two pieces. Thirdly, a vacuum, not the household kind, is needed. The kind of vacuum that is in space. When all these things are present the two will fuse together, forming one solid piece. The reason for this is that the atoms in the metals can’t tell if they are on different pieces of metal, and form just one continuous piece. If there is a foreign object, such as rust, oil or grease, the atoms kind of know that the two pieces are different, and will not stick together.

Now, as you could imagine, this could be a bit of a problem for NASA and other space agencies. The space craft and tools that they use are made out of metals. They need to be strong and durable to survive launch, orbit and re-entry. Plastic and other materials just wouldn’t cut it, especially if repairs were needed to be carried out. However, as we have said, metals will stick together in space, which could mean that a wrench could stick to the space craft, or even a pair of scissors might become completely useless because the moving parts would fuse together. But the NASA geeks had this little problem sorted.

What NASA does is give the tools a little coating of plastic or other thin coating material to prevent the two surfaces from physically touching. This provides a thin coat to tools and other objects that are used in space. But the coating isn’t really that necessary.

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The reason that NASA doesn’t have to coat the metal tools so if two pieces of metal touch in space they wont stick together is because the metal is forged here on Earth. Earth isn’t the perfect environment for metals. The oxidizing atmosphere immediately contaminates the surfaces of the metals. When they are sent into space, this contamination will prevent the two from sticking together. B ut if the metal is forged in space, they will stick like shit to a blanket.

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cold welding

2 A Moon Rock Has Been Lost In Ireland

moon rock lost in ireland

Oopsy Daisy. In what can be described as a monumental mistake of gargantuan proportions, a moon rock has been lost in Ireland. Not only was it lost, it was lost in a dump. Furthermore, it may never ever be recovered and comes at a staggering cost of $5 million.

I know, I know. A rock is a rock, right? I mean, it doesn’t take all that mush effort to find stones laying about. But moon rocks on the other hand are a different story. They aren’t exactly on every street corner. They are kind of rare on Earth.

Over the six successful moon landings, the astronauts have returned 2196 moon samples weighing 381.69 kilograms (841.6 pounds). These samples were subsequently broken up into smaller fragments making up a total of 35,600 individual pieces. So even though there are all of these pieces, they are still rare, and given the fact that no manned missions have been planned to our moon, it’s unlikely that there are going to be any further samples collected again in the near future. This makes the fact that a moon rock was lost in Ireland even that more disturbing. So what exactly happened for Ireland to lose a moon rock?

Everyone makes mistakes, so lets not judge. When Apollo 17 returned to Earth in 1972 it had a brick sized piece of rock on board that was headed for president Nixon. It was Nixon’s intention to have the rock broken into pieces and distributed around the world as gifts to different nations. Each piece was to be mounted on a plaque with a flag of the country it was going to. Of the 135 pieces from this one small rock, one was sent to Ireland and ended being housed in the Dunsink Observatory.

As many of you are aware, before long interest in moon missions soon waned, and people found the whole idea rather boring. Because public interest was no longer focused on the moon, the small commemorative fragment of rock from the moon was soon forgotten about. SO it was presumably just thrown into a spare closet somewhere in the building.

In 1977  disaster struck the observatory when it burned down. As a consequence of people forgetting about it, when the site was cleaned no one bothered to first look for an expensive piece of rock. It was sent to the local dump, along with the rest of the destroyed observatory. It appears that no one was even aware that it may have been in the building. Now it is buried, hidden somewhere among the countless other bits of debris in the dump.

Even though a moon rock is lost in Ireland, it hasn’t stopped some people dreaming. With financial difficulties in the country, and the lure of a a valuable chunk of rock, some people have tried to find the missing piece of moon. So far it remains lost.

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moon rock lost in ireland

3 The First Liquid Fuel Rocket

First Liquid Fuel Rocket

Rockets have been around for a very long time. The Chinese were the first to capitalize on the idea of using a flammable substance to propel an object through the air. Although these first rockets were only made out of bamboo and black powder, an early form of gunpowder, they began a revolution that would eventually lead to the space age.

Ever since the first rockets entered the scene, they were solid fuel.  Initially consisting of gunpowder, innovations continued with better propellants that could provide more thrust. But there has always been one major problem with solid fuel. It burns extremely quickly, and it can be rather expensive. Surely a better option could be found. Enter liquid feul rockets.

The idea of a liquid fuel for rockets was a real innovation in rocket science. It worked by mixing two liquids that would react in the engine and burn, providing thrust. It would mean longer burn times, and more control over the burn. Only one problem, no one had ever done something like this before.

On March 16, 1926, in Auburn, Massachusetts, Dr. Robert H. Goddard successfully launched the first liquid fuel rocket. He used liquid oxygen and gasoline as the propellants for his new rocket. Two affordable and easily attainable liquids. Although it wasn’t overly large, the first liquid fuel rocket changed rocket science forever. Unfortunately, liquid fuel rockets would prove to cause havoc during WWII when the Germans launched the liquid powered V1 and V2 rockets on England.

This first successful flight is regarded by many flight historians as being as important as the first flight by the Wright Brothers.

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First Liquid Fuel Rocket

4 How Fast is Space Travel?

how fast space travel

How fast is space travel? Lets face it, space travel is very very fast. The only speed limit in space is the speed of light, but humans haven’t yet been able to come anywhere near that speed. But we have launched some rockets into space that have been able to attain some extraordinary speeds. All of the super fast rockets have been deep space satellites. How do they get them to go so fast?

When rockets are launched into space they are already going at breakneck speeds. Even though these speeds are very fast, in most cases additional measures are needed to accelerate the spacecraft. The way that this is done is by making the spacecraft slingshot of other planets. The craft uses the gravitational pull of the planet to accelerate it before jettisoning off at a faster speed. But sometimes NASA scientists are able to reach amazing speeds through pure firepower alone, as was the case with Deep Space 1.

Talk about going places fast. Only four days after it was launched, the Deep Space 1 spacecraft (pictured) was about one million (1,000,000) kilometers (about 600,000 miles) from Earth. To put this into perspective, it would take you 6 weeks non stop in a jet to travel the same distance.

BONUS FACT

Did you know that it takes less time for a manned space rocket to reach the moon then it did for a horse and carriage to travel the length of England? It takes a total of 3 days, 3 hours and 49 minutes for a rocket to travel to the moon. In comparison, a comfortable journey through the length of England would have taken well over a week to complete. That is of course taking into consideration sleeping and so forth. The benefit of a space ship is that it will continue to move even while the astronauts are sleeping, and will still safely arrive at the destination. The same can not be said for a horse and carriage ride.

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how fast space travel

5 According To Stephan Hawking – Black Holes Lose Mass and Disappear

Stephan Hawkings - Black Holes Lose Mass

According to world famous scientist, Stephen Hawking, black holes lose mass. This is an amazing reversal of his long held belief that once something enters a black hole, nothing will ever escape.

For the world’s scientists, including Stephen Hawking, black holes have remained an absolute mystery. They have been incredibly difficult to find, and as they normally swallow everything in their path, learning about their composition is nigh on impossible. But that hasn’t stopped the worlds leading scientists from hypothesizing about them. One in particular has devoted much of his adult life to the study of them, and has recently made a massive reversal of his previous position.

According to a new theory by Stephen Hawking, black holes lose mass. It was a common held belief among the scientific community that nothing could ever escape the gravitational pull of these space monsters. But that idea just didn’t explain one thing. If a black hole consumes everything in its path like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, why can we see the particles that they emit?

Stephen Hawking revised his theory on black holes and believes that they may be actually lose mass. Because the cosmic vacuum cleaners gradually shed particles, that we can see, they become smaller. As with everything that exists, the more you remove, the less you have left of it remaining. He believes that if the process is left long enough, it will result in a black hole completely disappearing from the universe. They essentially behave like a puddle of water. At one point the hole is full, but if left over time, it will eventually evaporate away until nothing remains.

But don’t wait around for one to “disappear” because it will take trillions and trillions of years to happen, and by that time even our planet wont be around any more.

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black hole

6 Venus Doesn’t Spins Counter Clockwise Like Every Other Planet

venus spins counter clockwise

Did you know that Venus doesn’t spin counter clockwise? So what, right. But keep on reading and you will find the reason this is unusual.

Every crowd has one, and it appears as though the solar system we sit in is no different. I’m talking about nonconformists, those who want to stand out from the crowd and be individuals. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and it’s certainly a way to get the attention you desire. So I guess you’re wondering who or what the nonconformists is in our solar system?

Well you could really point the finger at any number of items or planets. There’s Earth for example that is the only one with known life. While we know for sure that there is life on Earth, we can’t rule out for certain that some kind of simple life form exists somewhere else in the solar system.

There’s also any of the gas giants that have climates that would simply confound the more simple minded of us. But for the purposes of this particular fact we are talking about the direction that Venus spins.

All of the planets in the solar system turn counter-clockwise on their own axis when looking down on the Suns north pole, all except Venus. Venus doesn’t spin counter clockwise and is the only planet that turns clockwise. The reason Venus doesn’t spin counter clockwise like the rest? It is thought a comet or meteor struck it in the solar systems infancy, and the impact or collision caused it to rotate in the wrong direction, at an extremely slow rate. It’s a rate that is so slow that a day on Venus is longer than its year. A day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days, and it takes  224.65 days to orbit the sun.

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7 What Does Equinox Mean

what does equinox mean

What does equinox mean? It’s a word and event that we come across twice a year, yet how many people know the meaning behind the word and where it originated from?

What does equinox mean?

The word equinox literally means equal night. An equinox occurs when the sun appears over the equator and the number of daylight hours for the northern and southern hemispheres are equal. Everywhere around the world, no matter how far you are from the equator, the length of the night time hours are the same, or equal. An equinox occurs twice a year, once in Autumn and once in Spring. So you now know that it means equal daylight and night time hours, but where did the word originate from?

The ancients have known for a very long time about the changing seasons. Many civilizations based their very existence on knowing when the warmer months were approaching. They needed to know this so that they could prepare their crops, or in the case of an approaching winter, prepare for it. When it came down to naming the event, there’s little doubt that every different culture had their own name for it. But as always the case, history is written by the victor, and only one name could survive.

As with many things scientific in nature, they have a Latin origin. Equinox is no different. The word equinox originates from Latin. The original word was aequinoctium, which just like equinox means equal night.

An equinox occurs about the 22 September and 20 March each year.

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what does equinox mean

8 Saturn Wind Speed is over 4 Times Faster Than That on Earth

Saturn Wind Speed

Well blow me down. Saturn’s wind speed is about four times as fast as anything ever recorded on Earth. But get this…. It’s not the fastest in the solar system either.

Wind has a history on Earth of being a bit like the in-laws. Welcome when you need it, but unwelcome when you don’t need it. To demonstrate what we mean when we say this, take a sailing vessel. Without wind it’s basically just a fancy bobbing decoration for the ocean. Add a little wind and it becomes an effective mode of transportation. A similar situation arises with kite flying. If there’s no wind you have a pretty useless paper weight, like many second rate smart phones that get released. Throw some wind in and let the fun begin. The in-laws.. You want some privacy and they knock on the door, need a loan and they are there for you. Get the drift?

But that’s the good points of having wind, and the inconvenience of not having it around. What about when it starts to really blow? Wind can be destructive. Under the right circumstances it can literally destroy everything in its path. The fastest winds ever recorded on Earth come from tornadoes. The highest wind ever recorded on Earth was in the 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado where the wind reached 484 km/h (301 mph). The second highest winds come from hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. The fastest wind from one of these monsters came from Tropical Cyclone Olivia on 10 April 1996, when the speeds reached gusts of 408 km/h (253 mph). These are obviously very destructive winds, but don’t even come close to the wind speeds on Saturn.

Do you know how fast the wind speed of Saturn is? It can reach speeds of 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) per hour around its equator. That’s about four times as fast as the fastest winds ever recorded on Earth, and second only to Neptune which blows at 2,100 km/h (1,300 mph), but isn’t dense enough to fly a kite. 

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saturn

9 Saturn’s Rings Are Made of Ice, Rock and Dust

Saturn's Rings Are Made Of

Would you believe that Saturn’s rings are made out of many common things and aren’t solid at all? From earth they look as though they are solid and thin, but in reality they are like a dust cloud circling Saturn.

To many amateur astronomers, and even the professionals, one of the most beautiful sights in the night sky is that of Saturn. Of all of the planets that can be seen by most ordinary people with ordinary factory telescopes, Saturn is simply beautiful to gaze upon. I’m speaking from experience here. I love astronomy. I’ve seen quite a few things in the sky with my telescope, but when it comes to the planets, only two made me giddy with excitement. One was the giant Jupiter, which itself offers a wonderful experience. The other is Saturn with its glorious rings. While both are magnificent planets, and Jupiter is closer, larger, has more detail and is easier to find, Saturn has a beauty about it that Jupiter doesn’t, and I think it comes down to its rings. But did you know that despite the fact that they appear to be solid, Saturn’s rings are made out of ice, rock and dust? As if a dirt rally has been doing circles around the planet.

As Saturn’s rings are made out of ice, rock and dust, some of the ice and dust are simply monstrous. Some of them are as small as a grain of sand and some are as big as a sky scraper. It’s not something I’d be too willing to navigate through, not for anything. But I’d sure love to get a closer view. It would be magnificent. 

Have you seen Saturn through a telescope? Tell everyone about it below.

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saturns rings are made of

10 Saturn’s Moon Titan is Eerily Earth Like

saturn moon earth like

The universe is a massive place. We can only see a mere fraction of the stars that are present within our own galaxy, let alone the rest of the universe. When  gazing at the stars I often think to myself just how many other planets out there are like the one we inhabit? With the sheer number of stars and possible planets orbiting them, the odds are in favor of another inhabited planet out there somewhere. But before we go looking to far afield for imitation Earths, we should begin closer to home. Why I hear you ask? Saturn’s moon Titan is eerily earth like.

Titan is the second largest moon in our solar system, second only to Ganymede. What sets Titan apart from all of the other celestial bodies is its dense atmosphere and its resemblance to Earth. Just like Mars, Titan also has a landscape that has been formed by liquid flows, but there’s a massive difference between the two. The liquid is still there on Titan.

Saturn’s moon Titan is Earth like due to its atmosphere and geography. But mn will be in no rush to take a step on the surface of this satellite of Saturn. You see, although it is Earth like in many ways, it is as alien as they come. The liquid flows on the surface of the planet are not from liquid water, they are liquid methane. To put it into perspective, liquid methane has a boiling point, the point in which liquid turns into vapor, of −161.49 °C  (−258.68 °F; 111.66 K). That’s freaking cold. Far colder than any place on Earth. To make matters worse, liquid methane is the stuff that they use in rockets! In other words, NO NAKED FLAMES!

So why are scientists so interested in Titan? Scientists are interested in it because they believe it’s atmosphere resembles Earths long ago. By learning about Titan they will be able to learn more about early Earth.

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saturn moon earth like

11 How Big is Jupiter

How Big Is Jupiter

How big is Jupiter I hear you ask. Well it’s fair to say that it’s pretty darn big. So big in fact, that it will blow your mind.

Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. It’s one of the four gas planets that circle our sun, and it is intriguing, to say the least. Easily identifiable due to its brown bands and giant red spot, it is among the favorite celestial bodies for amateur astronomers.

The planet has been known for generations, although it hasn’t always been known as a planet. In a time before knowledge about other planets, it was known as one of the wandering stars, stars that move and change position in the sky. This is something that only the five visible planets would do. It has always been easy to identify in the night sky due to its brightness, which is among the brightest stars in the sky.

Enough with the background information, how big is Jupiter already? Jupiter has a radius of 69,911 km, and its mass is 1.898E27 kg, or 318 times the mass of the Earth. That’s very big, but we can put into more context if you like?

Did you know that Jupiter’s mass is 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets in the Solar System combined? You can actually fit every other planet in the solar system inside Jupiter, even Saturn which is a gas giant like Jupiter. The red spot, which looks very small through a telescope, can actually hold about three Earth sized objects. That’s how big Jupiter is. It’s really big!

It’s size has massive implications for our patch of dirt also. Due to the size of the planet, the gravitational field that it generates attracts many outer bodies that could possibly cause havoc with the inner planets, ours included.

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12 Saturn’s Rings Disappear Every 14 Years

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNwTO3njTX0

Eerie. Does the title of this fact really say that Saturn’s rings disappear approximately every 14 years? You better believe it, because Galileo couldn’t believe his eyes when he witnessed it for the first time. But how could this be? How could something that’s always there, has been recorded in numerous telescope images and even captured by the Cassini satellite that flew by the planet, disappear. Read on and all will be revealed.

Think of Saturn as this solar systems best magician. While it appears as though a magician performs magic, there’s no magic involved at all. Many modern magicians have even refereed to themselves as illusionists, not magicians. The reason is because they use slight of hand techniques, and other optical distortions to make what they do appear to be magical. Some of the simplest tricks involve making something disappear. But s we all know, the item doesn’t go anywhere, it’s just an illusion. This is Saturn’s trick.

When Saturn’s rings disappear around every 14 years they don’t go anywhere. How could they? They’re immensely huge and a little difficult to misplace. But they are also thin. When the planet faces Earth edge on, which happens roughly every 14 years, something marvelous appears to happen. Saturn’s rings disappear, if ever so briefly.

When Galileo first witnessed this he began to question his sanity as the rings would be there, and then vanish, only to return later. The poor guy must have thought the universe was drunk, or he somehow was entering early dementia.

Here’s a bonus fact. Even though other planets have rings around them, Saturn’s rings are the only ones visible from Earth, even with a small telescope.

Watch the amazing video above for more on Saturn.

saturns rings disappear

13 Are All Stars In Galaxies? Not Really

Are All Stars In Galaxies

Question time. Are all stars in galaxies? I bet it’s a question that you probably haven’t ever put much thought into, but it’s probably a question you are looking for an answer to now. Well prepare for a shock, because the correct answer might not be what you expect.

Our little patch of space is a nice and cozy one. We are sitting just right, in a perfect position near our sun to be comfortable and thrive. It’s not too hot, and not too cold. As Goldilocks would say, it’s just right. Our sun is of course the center of our solar system. All the planets that are in our solar system revolve around it. The sun itself it but one of millions upon millions, and maybe even even billions of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. A galaxy is a collection of stars, dust and gas that are held together by gravity, much the same as our very own solar system. So it would make perfect sense then if all stars were in galaxies, or would it?

So, are all stars in galaxies?

Not at all. Astronomers have discovered stars that are moving between galaxies that are millions of light years apart. The stars that are roaming through the universe as solitary loners are thought to be the remnants of collisions between galaxies. When galaxies collide, they cause changes in gravitational pull. Some stars may actually be flung out of their own galaxy to roam the universe alone. But this is where things get even more interesting.

These stars that are between galaxies might even have planets. Now if you can, what do you see on a clear night? A star filled sky, right? Not if you were on a planet circling one of these rogue stars. If you were to stand on one of these planets the only thing you would see would be it’s own star during the day, and at night, no stars, just millions of galaxies. That would be amazing.

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14 The Moon Smells Like Gunpowder

The Moon Smells Like Gunpowder

This is very interesting and probably something that no one has ever thought of asking before. What does the moon smell like? Well the answer is…. The moon smells like spent gunpowder. But how can anyone smell the moon?

Well it goes back to when the astronauts were walking on the moon during the Apollo moon landings. But wait… The astronauts had space suits on, right? They sure did and with the suits on they could not smell the moon. But when they went for walks on the moon dust from the surface attached itself to the spacesuits. The astronauts could not get all of the dust off the suits no matter how much they tried. It was when they entered the safety of the Lunar Lander and their suits were removed that they could smell the dust.

So the question now is, “is moon dust made from the same stuff as gunpowder? The answer is no. Gunpowder is made out of a mixture of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin which are organic flammable molecules not found on the moon. About half of the moon dust is made out of silicon dioxide glass formed by meteoroids hitting the moon. It is also rich in calcium, magnesium  and iron that is bound up in minerals like olivine and pyroxene, so it is nothing like gunpowder.

If the moon smells like gunpowder are there side effects from smelling it?

Another amazing thing about moon dust is Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan even developed hay fever from the dust, the first and only ever recorded case of extraterrestrial hay fever. Apparently the hay fever came on very fast, but his immune system quickly built up a resistance to the new substance.

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15 GPS Satellite Clocks Tick Faster Because Time Slows for Them

GPS_Wrong

GPS is something nearly all modern day travelers take for granted. It has allowed the modern day explorers a way of getting from point A to point B with ease. It is also used by rescue organisations the world over and has saved many lives. It was initially a development of the US military, but it was later released to the general public. But did you know that the clocks on the gps satellites need to tick faster to make the adjustment for their own form of time travel? In a way this is kind of correct. The clocks in gps satellites tick faster because of time travel, because they travel so fast time has been slowed down. The reason for this is due to the speed of light constant. Einstein’s theory states that light is a constant, and that it will be viewed the same from all observers. So what does this mean, and how does it fit in with a gps satellites travelling through time. Lets try and explain.

Imagine that you are in a car travelling nearly at the speed of light, lets say 1 metre per second slower. You turn your headlights on. An observer on the side of the road will see the beam of light travel at the speed of light, and just behind it will be you in the car. Every second the car will fall one metre behind the speed of light. Now change observers to you in the car. When you turn on the headlights you will see the light speed away from you at the speed of light. So how is this possible? Einsteins theory is that light is a constant speed, and as such all observers will see light the same.For the stationary observer on the side of the road, they see the light from the headlights in front of the car slowly move away from the car that is travelling just a tad slower than the speed of light. For you in the car, the reason you see the light speed away from you is because you have slowed time, and as such, when you turn on the lights it will travel away from you at the speed of light because light is viewed the same from all observers.

This is what is happening to gps satellites. Because they move so fast the clocks on the gps satellites need to be adjusted for the slowing of time, hence their time travel. Essentially what is happening is the clocks appear to be ticking slower than they actaully are from us here on Earth, so they have to run faster so we can observe them at “normal” speed. Because of the accuracy needed with gps satellites if they didn’t adjust their clocks for their slowing of time the positions given by the satellites would be off by up to 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) every day. So after 1 day it would be 11 kilometres, two days 22 kilomteres and so on. Thankfully, this is what the scientists took into account when they designed the gps system. How much faster do the clocks on the gps satellites tick? They have been adjusted to tick 38 microseconds faster.

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16 The Largest Moon in the Solar System

The largest moon in the solar system is not our own moon. Our own moon doesn’t even come anywhere close to the monstrous size of the largest moon in the solar system. Though the moon orbiting Earth is large in comparison to its parent planet compared to other natural satellites, it even has a tail like a comet, it’s only the 5th largest one in our solar system. So if our moon isn’t all that big, which one holds the record?

It seems only fitting that the largest planet in the solar system also has the largest moon orbiting it. Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the largest satellite orbiting a planet. It’s so massive that it is larger than the dwarf planet Pluto, and even the inner most planet, Mercury.

The largest planet in the solar system, Ganymede, is a celestial body that more resembles the inner planets than it does its parent, Jupiter. As Jupiter is a gas giant, and without a doubt the king of the planets circling our sun, one would think that the satellites circling it are gas also. In fact, NASA scientists have for a long time suspected that Ganymede had a liquid ocean. Their suspicions were confirmed in 1990 when the Galileo mission confirmed a liquid surface between ice sheets. It also has other characteristics of solid bodies such as a molten iron core.

How big is the largest moon in the solar system?

We have already mentioned that it is even larger than the planet Mercury, but how much bigger? Well, Ganymede measures 5,268 km at the equator and Mercury measures 4879 km. Ganymede is fractionally larger than the second biggest satellite Titan, which is a moon orbiting Saturn. Titan measures 5,150 km at its equator. Titan is the only other known celestial body that contains surface liquid

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largest moon in solar system

17 The Moon Has A Tail Like A Comet

moon has a tail

Did you know that the moon has a tail? Yep, it’s up there wagging around, happy, and at times excited to be going on its celestial walk around the sun with its owner, the Earth. Obviously we’re being a little facetious, but the moon certainly does have a tail, it’s just that we can’t see it from Earth.

Hold on a moment. Did we just say that the moon has a tail just like comets? That has to be BS, right? When we look up at the moon there’s nothing there but the moon, and certainly no tail. But it does have a tail, and it’s massive.

The tail of the moon was first detected in 1998 by astronomers who were observing the Leonid meteor storm. The moon tail is far too faint for the naked human eye to detect, and even many telescopes are unable to see this tail. So if it is there, and barely even visible to even the best telescopes, what is the tail made out of?

The tail is formed by atomic sodium gas that is constantly being ejected by the moon. Unlike most comets that eject water vapor into space, the moon has a serious lack of the liquid substnce, so has to eject something for it to be visible.

How was the moon tail detected?

In 1998, the Leonid meteor storm actually intensified the tail, tripling the mass of atomic sodium gas being ejected. The plus side of this was that it made the tail much easier to see.

That just leaves one question unanswered. How long is the tail?

The tail of the moon is massive in human terms, but small in astronomical terms. It stretches for hundreds of thousands of miles away from the sun. It is going away from the sun because it is the sun that is forcing the tiny particles off its surface.

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18 Interesting Sputnik 1 Facts

sputnik 1 facts

Not too long ago there weren’t very many satellites orbiting earth. In fact, there was really only the moon and the occasional extra moon that pops by Earth every so often. Apart from those two, there were no others. But with the dawn of the space age things were about to change. Before long the space around Earth would become cluttered with space debris and satellites. The debris is obviously not very good, but the satellites have changed the world and our understanding of it in many ways. And to think it all started in 1957 with Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite. So to celebrate this first leap in technology, we have compiled a list of Sputnik 1 facts.

Cool Sputnik 1 facts

The Sputnik 1 satellite was the worlds first man made satellite and was about the size of a basketball. Although it was physically small, it weighed about 83 kg (183 pounds). If you ask me, that’s one hefty little basket ball.

Sputnik reached an orbital height of about 500 miles. While it was in orbit it traveled at the breakneck speed of 28,900 Km/h (18,000 miles) an hour, taking only 98 minutes to complete one orbit of the Earth.

Sputnik 1 didn’t spend a lot of time in space either. It completed approximately 1,440 orbits before beginning its re-entry into Earth atmosphere. Its battery actually expired before it began its journey back to Earth.

When it came back into Earth it didn’t survive the re-entry process. It’s thought that it broke up somewhere above the Western US. One man reported seeing something glowing in his backyard one morning in Encino, CA. Tests were conducted that proved it was a type of tube used on Sputnik 1, but it hasn’t been able to be proven.

Becoming the first man made satellite into space wasn’t its only accomplishment. It provided scientists with important information about the Earths upper atmosphere, and that radio signals could be returned to Earth.

Those Sputnik 1 facts were pretty cool, but this one about the second edition in the program wasn’t so nice. With the launch of Sputnik 2, the Russian scientists placed a dog, called Laika, aboard the space craft. this dog became the first animal to enter space. But it didn’t survive the ordeal. The intense heat killed the dog after a few hours, even though it was provided with enough food and water to sustain life.

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19 There is No Sound in Space

sound in space

Is there sound in space? It seems like a no brainer doesn’t it? Astronauts go into orbit aboard rockets and space stations and can communicate quite easily with words.  Not to mention every Hollywood movie set in space with laser blasters and cool explosions have sound. But there is no sound in space, not even a whisper. Would you like to know why?

The reason there’s no sound in space

Saying that there is no sound in space is a little confusing. If you were to exit a space ship without a suit (assuming that you can survive that is), and yell out as loudly or quietly as you could, you just made a sound. But here’s the catch. If you had a fellow astronaut with you, no matter how close they are to you or how loudly you yell, they wouldn’t be able to hear you. You would have heard yourself due to the structure of your skull, with the sound passing to your ears via your own body. But no one else would have. Even the Big Bang, the single biggest event ever in the history of the universe, was silent. The reason for this is the complete vacuum of space.

Think about this for a moment. When you hear a really loud sudden noise, or even extremely loud speakers at a concert, you can feel the noise. You can feel the noise from the sound because it travels through some form of material. All sound, no matter what it is, can only move through a medium, such as air, water or even steel. It works by vibrating the molecules in the material. As each molecule vibrates it passes on a part, but not all of the vibration to the next. That’s why sound gets quieter the further away from the source you are. Space, as it would have it, is void of all these requirements to pass sound waves along.

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sound in space

20 Brightest Comet Ever

Brightest Comet Ever

When Comet ISON approached late 2013 it promised to be the brightest comet ever, and most visible. But so far as comets come and go the most notable is Halley’s Comet which has an orbit of 75 to 76 years and is the only short term comet that is visible to the naked eye. But what about other comets? There have been some comets throughout history that have been quite spectacular.

For those among us who don’t understand the importance of brightness it is the ability to see it in the night sky. The lower a magnitude it has, the easier the object is to see. If the moon had a high magnitude, we would still be able to see it, but the details visible to us would be far less detailed.

I can still remember as a young child when Halley’s comet last paid us a visit. I was awestruck, to say the least. It was a magnificent sight to behold. But now as an adult, with the prospect that I may not get a chance to witness it again, I now look for other comets, generally long period comets to take a peek at. I must admit that I was surprised to learn that Halley’s isn’t that bright at all. Especially hen compared to some of the brightest comets ever.

The two brightest comets in recorded history occurred almost two thousand years apart. They both had very close perihelion’s (the point of closest approach to the sun) and a negative magnitude. A negative magnitude signifies that it is extremely bright.

The first of these comets, and as far as some regard as the brightest, was Caesar’s Comet of 44BC. It was said to have appeared at the death of Julius Caesar and was visible for seven days. Many writers of the day claimed it was sent to carry the soul of Caesar off to make him a star to watch over the forum. Historians and physicists believe this comet may have been -4 magnitude.

The second comet in contention to be brightest was the Great Comet of 1882. It had a negative magnitude of -7 and was bright enough to be visible next to the sun during it’s perihelion.

It is difficult to compare comets from centuries ago as the scientific apparatus used to detect brightness is a relative new invention. Historians and physicists must rely on eye witness accounts from the day and draw their conclusions from that. Either way, whether it was Caesars Comet or the Great Comet of 1882 that was the brightest comet ever, both would have been a magnificent sight to see.

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21 Father Of The Big Bang Theory Was A Catholic Priest

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The theory of the beginning of the universe is called the big Bang theory. It’s hypothesis suggests that everything in the universe came about from this one massive explosion. The first person to suggest the idea of a Big Bang came from the most unlikely of backgrounds. He was Georges Lemaître, a Belgian astronomer and professor of physics, and also a catholic priest.

Lemaître called his theory the hypothesis of the primeval atom. The framework for the Big Band theory relies on Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Lemaître’s Big Bang theory was not his only ground breaking theory. He also proposed the theory of the expansion of the universe, which has been misattributed to Edwin Hubble. He was also the first to derive what is known as Hubble’s law, and he also made the first estimate of what is now known as the Hubble constant. He published this a full two years before Hubble’s article. The only problem was that the data Lemaître used didn’t allow him to prove that there was an actual linear relation. Edwin Hubble did that in his paper two years later.

Lemaître  can also be attributed with stopping Papal proclamations about cosmology.  Lemaître  contacted the director of the Vatican Observatory and the Pope’s science advisor, Daniel O’Connell, and suggested that together they could keep the Pope quiet on cosmology. This would have served him well, as it would have prevented some embarrassment to the supporters of the Big Bang theory, and also avoid any potential difficulties for the church. To the surprise of many, the Pope was compliant, and agreed that the Big Bang would no longer be a matter suitable for Papal addresses.

Given the obstacles Lemaître would have faced, such as the scientific idea that would have possibly made him question his faith, his discoveries have altered our understandings of the universe we live in.

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22 Monks Witnessed A Moon Explosion

monks moon explosion

Medieval monks in England saw something quite spectacular in the sky one night in the 12th century. The monks saw a moon explosion, quite literally, and it must have been horrifying to witness. Even for people living today, the sight of something so magnificent would cause panic and confusion among the masses.

Place yourself into the shoes of the monks who saw a moon explosion. Your general knowledge of the universe is limited, to say the least. You know that the moon goes through phases that take 28 days, and you believe that the Earth is flat and the center of the universe. Even the mere idea of an explosion at the idea would have been relatively unheard of. What they saw, and described, must have shaken them to the core. I can guarantee that if anyone alive today saw such an event, especially as described by these holy men, widespread pandemonium would have ensued.

What did the monks see in the moon explosion?

The monks who witnessed the moon explosion reported that the moon shook and throbbed. They went on to say that it spewed a flame out into space before resuming its normal shape. That would have been spectacular to witness, and it may even fit in with more recent research about moon quakes and it ringing like a bell.

It is thought that a meteor or asteroid hit the moon causing the explosion seen by the monks. There is a theory that this impact created the 22 kilometre wide Giordano Bruno crater, however, determining its age is difficult, and an impact that size should have rained debris on Earth for a week, but none was reported.

But don’t discredit this report as being misguided or fabricated. In May 2013, NASA astronomers reported seeing a brief explosion on the surface of the moon that may have been visible to the naked eye. It wasn’t as spectacular as the medieval one, but it still created some excitement in the space agency.

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23 Mars Is Inhabited Solely By Robots, Making It The Only Known Planet Like It

mars inhabited by robots

Did you know that Mars is inhabited solely and entirely by robots? It is a planet that takes diversity to an all time low, and we are to blame, because we are already colonizing the red planet.

Now here is something that I have never put a great deal of thought into, but once I did I was amazed beyond belief. Did you know that Earth isn’t the only planet in our solar system that is inhabited? While the majority of us usually think of a planet as being inhabited by living beings, there are a few other planet that have non-living beings. In nearly all instances these items have not survived beyond a few hours, but on one planet they have managed to survive, and maybe even thrive.

This little fact could be reminiscent of the Terminator films. A world occupied by machines. It’s the thing of nightmares, or blockbuster films. Thankfully though, the little robots inhabiting Mars are more like Wall-E than the T1000.

Over the course of the last 60 years, humans have been reaching for the stars. We have landed and walked on the moon, and sent our space ships not only to other planets, but also beyond our solar system. The reach of humanity is a far reaching one. So it should come as no surprise that we have already started colonizing Mars.

While space agencies around the world have certainly sent spaceships to other planets, Venus and Jupiter for example, they were not designed to survive. When the Russians landed successfully on Venus several times, the heat from the scorching atmosphere soon destroyed the equipment. Robots briefly occupied the fiery planet of love, but only for hours. When it came to other outer planets like Jupiter and some moons around them, the trips were only ever a suicide mission. The eventual impact, and entry into the dense atmosphere saw their demise. But Mars is different. The moon does have machinery stationed on it as leftovers from manned missions, however they possess no artificial intelligence and require a human to operate.

How many Mars rovers are there inhabiting Mars (robots)?

Since 1971 the world has sent 12 artificial items to the surface of the planet. The USSR was the first to try and land, however after three failed attempts the Americans became the first to successfully land in 1976. It seems that just like with the moon, the USSR could certainly get it up, but failed to finish the job. Of all of these attempts to reach the surface, a total of five ended in total failure.

So far, the USA is the only country to successfully land on the red planet. Of their seven successful landings, and subsequent explorations, five of the rovers have succumbed to old age or other unknown cause of malfunction. But it’s not a total loss. Two remain, the Opportunity Rover (2004) and Curiosity (2012) continue to be the functioning robots inhabiting Mars.

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mars inhabited by robots

24 Uranus was Called George

uranus george

Uranus was originally called George. No, this is not one of those silly innuendo jokes about your derriere, Uranus really was originally called George.

When Uranus was officially discovered in 1781, its discoverer, Sir William Herschel, at first thought it was a comet. That is how he first recorded the planet, as a comet. But within two years of his initial discovery it was confirmed, and widely accepted as being another planet. So when a planet is discovered it needs a name, and George for Uranus just didn’t quite fit so well.

Why was Uranus originally called George?

Sir William Herschel who had the naming rights of the new planet could possibly be described as a progressive thinker in astronomical terms. He felt that naming planets after Roman mythical gods was rather antiquated, and didn’t really fit the era. So Sir Herschel originally named Uranus, George, or Georgium Sidus (George’s Star or Georgian Planet), after King George III.

Outside of Britain the name Georgium Sidus wasn’t too popular. It didn’t take long for other suggestions to begin to pop up. Oddly enough, many of the alternative names included Neptune, the next planet to be discovered, and also George in the name, sometimes in combination. A few examples were Neptune Great Britain and Neptune George III. Neptune was suggested as a way to commemorate victories of the British Royal Naval during the American Revolutionary War. Clearly that wouldn’t have been very popular in the new United States of America. Other suggestions were Herschel in honour of its discoverer.

But those suggestions weren’t to be for the new planet George. Uranus as its name was soon to gain momentum. Johann Elert Bode, a German astronomer who determined the orbit of Uranus suggested its name. The reason he suggested Uranus was because as Saturn was the father of Jupiter in Roman mythology, he felt it appropriate to continue the tradition. Uranus was the father of Saturn, and continuing that tradition seemed fitting. In 1789 a new element was discovered that was named uranium to support Bode’s suggestion.

Soon enough Uranus was the widely used name for Georgium Sidus. But it wasn’t until 1850 when the last bastion of support for George as the name for Uranus,  HM Nautical Almanac Office, finally capitulated to popular use and named the planet Uranus.

Oh, and by the way. If you were wondering what Uranus means, it was the Latinized form of the Greek god Ouranos who was the god of the sky.

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25 Apollo 12 Left The Moon Ringing Like A Bell For Over An Hour

apollo 12 moon ringing

Who would have thought that it would have been possible? Apollo 12 left the moon ringing like a bell for over an hour after NASA crashed a 2.5 ton chunk of metal into the surface of our celestial partner. This wasn’t just a one off event either, it was replicated.

Following the successful landing of Apollo 11, and the peculiar ringing sound of the moon after Apollo 12, NASA had questions they wanted answered. In the first successful moon landing, Buzz Aldrin laced a seismometer in the Sea of Tranquillity to record moon quakes. This seismometer, and later ones that were deployed around the moons surface beamed back information to Earth. What NASA scientists discovered was that the moon also experiences quakes similar to those on Earth, but they last a lot longer. It experiences four types of quakes. Deep ones that are over 700 km below the surface, vibrations caused by meteorites, thermal quakes which are caused by the extremely cold surface being heated and expanding, and shallow quakes at a depth of about 20 to 30 km. 

Did Apollo 12 really leave the moon ringing like a bell?

This is rather dubious to say with any certainty. One reason being that the moon has no atmosphere and there is no sound in space. With the inability to hear sound waves in the vacuum of space makes it pretty much impossible to hear a bell ringing, let alone the moon. Also, the actual belief that Apollo 12 made the moon ring, and Apollo 13 accomplishing a similar feat can be put down to a misquote from Clive R. Neal which you can read below.

What actually happened was a series of reverberations, moon quakes if you would, that lasted for a considerable amount of time. The impact of the heavy chunks of metal did cause significant reverberations, but what really leaves the moon ringing are the shallow quakes. These can be violent and last a very long time.

The moon was ringing like a bell

~Clive R. Neal, associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame who examined the data of the seismic activity, talking about moon quakes.

While Apollo 12 didn’t actually leave the moon ringing like a bell, it did cause shock waves that raised many questions about the structure of the moon.

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26 Can You See The Andromeda Galaxy Without A Telescope?

can you see andromeda galaxy without telescope

Can you see the Andromeda galaxy without a telescope? Is it even possible? After all, even though they are massive celestial objects, galaxies, like Andromeda, are so far away. Surely a telescope would be needed, or at the very least, a pair of very powerful binoculars. But get this. You can see the Andromeda galaxy without a telescope, and once you see it you will always see it.

Looking at the night sky there are a lot of things that you can see. There are the millions upon millions of stars, which are actually suns with possibly their own orbiting planets. But there are also galaxies, super novas and nebula, all of which are difficult to see. The furthest object you can see with the naked eye is 2.4 million light years away and it is the Andromeda galaxy. It can be seen on a clear dark night as a large gray cloud or smudge in the sky. The easiest way to locate the Andromeda galaxy is to use an app like Google sky maps on your smart phone or tablet device. It may be listed as M31 or NGC 224, depending on the list the software uses. Obviously, a telescope or even binoculars will provide a much more detailed experience for you, but they are really not necessary.

Once you have found Andromeda without a telescope it is one of those things that once you see it, you can’t un-see it.

As a bonus fact, the Andromeda galaxy isn’t the only deep space object that you can see without the need of a telescope. One of the most awe inspiring objects that you can see, and a favorite with amateur astronomers  who are just starting out is the Great Orion Nebula. It can be seen near the belt of Orion, in the Orion constellation. But once again, it’s much better through a telescope, as when I first saw it myself I literally gasped at what I was witnessing.

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andromeda

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