The concept of Space and Space exploration can lead to many questions. Why isn’t Pluto a planet? Can you hear anything in Space? How many space stations are there? What happens when an astronaut farts in Space? Want the answers to these questions and so much more? Here are 25 Space Facts You’ve Always Wanted To Know.
How old is the Sun?
About 4.6 Billion years. Billion, with a B. A Billion is a thousand millions.
Do astronauts really wear diapers?
Yep. During liftoff, returning to Earth, and anything they do outside of their spaceship or space station. They aren’t called “diapers” though, they’re called Maximum Absorbency Garment, or MAG.
Is it true that in Space, no one can hear you scream?
Well…yeah. What we hear is sound waves, which are actually vibrations in the air. There’s no air in space, so there’s nothing to vibrate. Radio and light waves travel through space, but they don’t need air to travel like sound waves do.
When will Halley's comet pass again?
Halley’s Comet will be visible from Earth again in 2061. Interestingly, Mark Twain was born under Halley’s Comet; then he died the next time it came around. Twain was quoted as saying, “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
Why is Space black?
Because most of the universe is empty of anything, including light. And it may be that there IS light in the black spot you’re looking at, we just can’t pick it up with the human eye, or the light-waves are still hundreds of light years away.
When will we really leave for Mars?
Right now, it’s looking like a planned 2030 mission to Mars is our most realistic timeline. One of the major issues with getting humans to Mars is financial. While more people are demanding money for NASA from the government, looking at the success of private programs such as Space X, it’s possible that the private sector or a collaboration may be the answer to getting us to Mars.
Are their really "Spy Satellites" in space?
You betcha. In fact Japan just launched one – “Radar 5” – to keep an eye on North Korea in March. Thanks for keepin’ an eye out, Japan!
The Full Moon isn't on the same date each month, so how long is a Lunar Cycle?
What are the names of the Planets in our Solar System, and what do they mean?
Except for Earth, all the planets in our Solar System are named after gods and goddesses of Greek & Roman Mythology. Pluto was the god of the Underworld; Mercury was the messenger to the gods; Venus was the goddess of love & beauty. Uranus, the only planet named after a Greek god, was the god of the sky; Saturn was the Roman god of Agriculture; Mars was the god of War; Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, was named after the King of the gods; Neptune was the god of the sea.
So then how did Earth get it's name?
We don’t actually know. We do know that the word “Earth” is a derivative of English and German words meaning “Ground.” Our planet is stunningly beautiful, mostly covered in water, and we name it…ground. Yay humans!
Is there really a mysterious "Planet X" we can't see in our Solar System?
Probably. NASA has found evidence for a Neptune-sized planet in an even larger orbit of the Sun than Pluto, taking an estimated 10,000 years or more to make a complete orbit of the sun.
Can you really get "Space Madness"?
No? But mental health issues present on earth would still be present in space, and if the stress of going to space was a trigger, astronauts could have a breakdown or episode in space, so..yes? NASA has done two separate studies on the mental health of astronauts (one on the ISS, another on the now defunct Mir Space Station) and the only interesting thing in the reports was “some tension,” which is basically what you would expect from ANYONE if they lived at work with their co-workers. There was no loss in overall mood or group cohesion. A test was run here on Earth that ended in 2016 simulating a year on Mars. The simulated astronauts couldn’t leave their 1,200 ft habitat unless they had a space suit on. There was some tension and stress, and some interpersonal issues. Like roommates in college, some will be lifelong friends and some will probably not even be Facebook friends. So there’s no specific evidence for time spent in space causing space-specific mental health issues; however, if you have them on Earth, you’ll still have them once you leave Earth (in theory).
What happens when you fart in space?
Well, for one thing, it doesn’t move because there’s no gravity to pull heavier air anywhere, and there’s no air currents to blow it about. You just hang out there, in your fart. Thankfully, spacesuits are made with modifications to filter such..uh..gasses, and astronauts have found their own ways to minimize sharing smells with the rest of the crew, such as directing their personal wind towards lesser used parts of the ISS.
Why do stars seem to "twinkle" or wink in and out?
Because their light has to pass through the various gasses in our atmosphere. Think of it as light passing through water, which distorts the light and makes it “sparkle.” Same basic principle.
Could your blood really boil in space without a space suit on?
Yes. This has to do with how pressure affects the boiling point of liquids. The lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point because it’s easier for molecules to move around and start to turn from a liquid into a gas. It’s why water boils more quickly in Colorado than it does in Key West. So the boiling point of blood could drop down to your natural body temperature in the vacuum of space.
What temperature is space?
It varies. Some parts – like near stars, for instance – are quite hot. As in, instantly vaporize you and your soul into ash hot. Then there are other parts in the deep dark and the surface of some planets that face away from suns or are far away that are quite cold. It really depends on where you are. For reference, the ISS (without thermal controls!) would be around 250 degrees F (121 C) on the sun facing size, and -250 Degrees F (-157 C) on the dark side.
How much junk have we left up there?
Um, well, we humans aren’t happy to just litter our own planet, so we’ve started littering outside the planet as well. There are currently over 500,00 pieces of “space junk” currently orbiting the earth and being tracked, as they can cause damage to space craft. While some of this is little pieces of meteors, etc, that have gotten caught in orbit, most of it is stuff we (humanity) put up and didn’t bring back down.
Did we really send a gold record to Aliens?
Yes. Or at least, we put it out there if there’s anyone to pick it up. The furthest man-made object in space is Voyager 1, and it was launched in 1977 along with Voyager 2. They were to visit the outer planets in the solar system, and Voyager 1 has gone on it’s merry way into interstellar space. Both Voyagers carried a golden record with greetings, music (Louis Armstrong and also some Peruvian panpies), noises of the sea, and people talking, as well as images.
Does space really look like that galaxy print stuff we see everywhere?
Not really. At least not to the naked human eye, sorry. Those super fantastical images are usually either processed in wavelengths of light that are normally invisible to the human eye, like infrared or ultraviolet, or they’re color enhanced. That doesn’t mean space isn’t fantastical and beautiful, it just means that literally everything is photo-shopped.
How many Space Stations are there?
Currently there are Two. The International Space Station (or ISS) and Tiangong-1, which belongs to China. While the ISS is always manned, the Tiangog-1 usually isn’t. The ISS is shared by Russia, the United States, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency.
How far away is the closest star, aside from Sol (our sun)?
4.24 light years. Her name is Proxima Centauri. The best way to kind of visualize that distance is, if you shrunk Sol and Proxima Centauri down to the size of grapefruits, they’d still be around 2,500 miles (from the East coast of the US to the West Coast) apart. Realistically, Sol alone is big enough you could fit well over 1 million Earths inside of it.
Do any private entities like Space X even have plans to go to Mars?
Yup, they do! In fact, Elon Musk (founder of Space X, Tesla, and PayPal) want to set up a human colony on Mars between 2050 and 2100 of one million people. While that sounds kind of crazy, Space X is doing amazing things, and the timeline shows it’s not a joke; it’s a realistic goal.
Pluto has been bumped from Planet to Dwarf Planet, so what's the difference between the two?
There’s really only one difference, and that’s if the celestial body in question has cleared the neighborhood around it’s orbit. A Planet has cleared the area surrounding it, a Dwarf Planet has not. The other two requirements that apply to Planets and Dwarf Planets are 1) that the planet in question is in orbit around a star but not itself a satellite, and 2) has sufficient mass to be round.
Since Pluto is now a Dwarf Planet, are there other Dwarf Planets in our Solar System?
Yep, there are five dwarf planets in our Solar System total: Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea. Pluto isn’t even the biggest one. The largest Dwarf Planet in our solar system is Eris. She’s about 27% bigger than Pluto. (Bonus fact, Eris was the goddess of discord in Greek Mythology.)
Is it possible for us to be invaded by aliens?
Yep! Is it likely to happen? Not really. There’s a few reasons for this: The HUGE distances between stars and galaxies in space. (Most of us can’t really comprehend it.) Plus, we have that pesky human problem. Why would a significantly advanced civilization spend years of time and resources to come here?
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Photos: Feature Image: Pixabay (public domain), 23. Luis Lima89989, Sound wave, CC BY-SA 3.0, 22. NASA Blueshift via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 20. ESO/M. Kornmesser, Eso1509a – Mars planet, CC BY 4.0, 14. Orin Zebest via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 13. No machine-readable author provided. Towsonu2003~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims)., Fart, CC BY-SA 3.0, 12. ESA/Hubble, Ngc6397 hst blue straggler, CC BY 4.0, 9. Miguel Soares, S4-space-junk-045, CC BY-SA 4.0, 5. Hubble ESA via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 4. Max Pixel (public domain), 2. NASA, ESA, and A. Schaller (for STScI), 2006-16-a-full-1-, CC BY 4.0