Our universe is a wild place and for all of history man has been trying to make sense of it. Although we’ve come a long way in our understanding, with every passing day new discoveries are made. Whether it’s an alcoholic gas cloud floating in the center of our galaxy or Einstein’s theories of relativity, it’s enough to make an astrophysicist go wild. But don’t worry, this stuff is cool enough that by the time you finish reading these 25 crazy facts about the universe we’re pretty sure you’ll be going wild too.
The Milky Way
Tonight, when the sun goes down look up. Depending on how dark it is outside you can probably see several thousand stars up there, all of which come from our own galaxy, the Milky Way. If you look a bit closer though, you might be able to spot one of only a few galaxies other than our own that is visible with the naked eye.
If this makes you feel small, it should, because scientists estimate that there are hundreds of billions more galaxies in the universe, none of which you can see without a telescope. Moreover each one of these galaxies has billions of stars which brings the grand total number of stars in the universe to 10 billion trillion which is 10 followed by 21 zeros. Thats more stars than the number of grains of sand on the Earth.
All the stars, galaxies, and black holes in the universe only compose about 5% of its mass. As crazy as it sounds, the other 95% is unaccounted for. Scientists decided to label this mystery material “dark matter” and to this day they are still not sure where or what it is.
The Alcoholic Space Cloud
For those of you considering opening your own pubs, there is probably no place better than Sagittarius B. Although it is 26,000 light years away this interstellar cloud of gas and dust contains over a billion billion billion liters of vinyl alcohol. Okay, so its not really drinkible but it is a very important organic compound that is critical to the existence of life.
Nuking the Moon
In the late 1950′s, by way of something labeled Project A119 the United States decided it would be a good idea to launch a nuclear missile at the moon. Why? Evidently they felt it would give them a leg up in the Space Race. Fortunately, however, the plan was never executed.
The Ponzo Illusion
Have you ever noticed that when the moon is directly on the horizon it appears to be a lot closer and larger? Well, it’s not. What’s happening is actually something that your brain does all the time. Think about what happens when you see one of your friends on the horizon. Although they appear to be really small your brain doesn’t actually interpret them as being that tiny. Something similar is going on with regards to the moon. Known as the Ponzo illusion, your brain inflates the size of the moon to make it appear larger than it really is. Don’t believe it? Next time you’re looking at an oversized moon block everything else out with your hands and watch it shrink.
The Moon smells like gunpowder
Upon leaving the moon astronauts on the Apollo missions described moon dust as smelling like gunpowder and feeling extremely soft. Scientists, however, are still not exactly sure why this is because the two have extremely different compositions with moon dust consisting mosty of small shards of silicone dioxide glass.
Biggest Diamond Ever
In 2004 scientists discovered the largest diamond ever. In fact it’s a collapsed star. Measuring 4000 km across and having a core composed of 10 billion trillion trillion carats it’s roughly 50 light years from the Earth.
Venus’s day is longer than its year
Strangely enough Venus completes an entire orbit around the sun before it manages to turn on its axis once. This means that its day is actually longer than its year and in Venusian time, World War II ended only 56 days ago.
As big as the planet Saturn is, if you were to put it in a glass of water, it would float. This is because its density is .687 grams per cm cubed while water’s is the famous .998 g per cm cubed. Unfortunately though, you would need a glass that is over 120,000 km in diameter to witness this.
This is a phenomenon used to describe the fact that whenever two pieces of metal in outerspace touch each other, they are more or less permanently stuck together. While welding usually requires heat, in this case the vacuum of space does the trick, hence the the name. You might think then, how do space shuttles accomplish anything out there? Well, typically metals on Earth have a layer of oxidized material covering their surface that prevents this, so on shuttle missions the risk of accidently welding the shuttle to itself is negligible.
Earth has more than 1 moon
Okay, not really, they’re more like moon wannabes but scientists have discovered several asteroids that are more or less following the Earth as it moves around the sun.
Earth does, however, have over 8,000 objects orbiting around it. Most of these would be classified as “space junk” or debris left over from spacecraft and missions in the past.
Each year scientists have determined that the moon moves about 3.8 cm further from the Earth. As a result, Earth’s spin has slowed by about .002 seconds every day over the course of the last century.
The Sun’s rays on your skin are 30,000 years old
While most of us know that the light hitting Earth took 8 minutes to cross the 93 million miles between our skin and the surface of the Sun, did you know that the energy in those rays started their life over 30,000 years ago deep within the core of the sun? They were formed by an intense fusion reaction and spent most of those thousands of years making their way to the Sun’s surface.