Saturday, 17 January 2015

Top Ten Amazing Space Facts

Top Ten Amazing Space Facts!

(Boost your general knowledge!)

I’ve had my nose buried in the books this week, as I’ve somewhat belatedly rediscovered my love for science (which has luckily coincided with writer’s block!).
My only regret is that I didn’t study this stuff more when I was younger (hating being stuck in school was probably one reason for that – ironic isn’t it!), as now my memory is rather damaged – the result of living a crazy life since leaving school all those years ago...
At least I suppose one benefit of having a poor memory is being able to enjoy the same thing again and again, like when my mother watches repeats of murder mysteries on TV as she can never remember ‘who dunnit’ in the first place!

Currently on the tables next to my bed, sofa and in the kitchen are the following brilliant books:

‘History Year by Year’ and ‘The Natural History Book’ from DK Publishing, the ‘Space’, ‘Body’ and ‘Science’ Encyclopedias from Miles Kelly, and (also highly recommended) Bill Bryson’s 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' – no other book is as informative and amusing at the same time!
Some of the things I’ve recently learned from the above books are just as remarkable as anything I’ve ever read in any fiction.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing this information with you in the form of the 'Top Ten Amazing Facts' that I can find, starting today with the ‘Space Encyclopedia’ which covers everything from unimaginably small electrons whizzing around inside atoms to clusters of galaxies spreading out over trillions and trillions of kilometers.
It also tells us about the Earth, what it’s made of, its atmosphere, the tides, you name it! For instance, have a chew on these amazing space-related facts...
A Concise Space Encyclopedia
A Concise Space Encyclopedia

Top Ten Space facts

Space Fact 10: Crazy Cosmonaut

Cosmonaut Valeri Poliakov spent 437 consecutive days in space! He couldn’t even walk when he landed back on Earth because of the return to gravity. If the air pressure on his spacecraft were to break, his blood would have boiled! To remain in orbit 200km above Earth, he had to fly at 8 km per second. Check out this clip of footage taken by astronauts from space:

Footage of Earth from space
Footage of Earth from space

Space Fact 9: Voyager Catapult

The Voyager 2 probe has already flown over 10 billion km from Earth and is still going. It uses the gravity of planets it passes by to catapult it onwards.
Learn more Voyager 2 space probe
Learn more about the Voyager 2 space probe

Space Fact 8: Scouse Astronomy

You can see about 2000 stars at night with your ‘naked’ eye. You can only ever see 3% of what is in the universe, as the rest is dark energy and matter... Galileo was the first person to recognise the Milky Way through a telescope, describing it as ‘conergies of innumerable stars.’
My own hero of astronomy is Jeremiah Horrocks of Liverpool, who was the first person to predict and chart the transit of Venus aged just 19 years old! (if you ever visit the World Museum Liverpool, they have a really cool exhibit about him next to the Planetarium).
life of Jeremiah Horrocks
Read here about the remarkable life of Jeremiah Horrocks

Space Fact 7: Far, far away...

Light travels at 300,000 km per second (it takes 8 minutes for light to reach us from the sun). Space is so big that distances are measured in light years (ly) with 1ly being 9.5 trillion km(!!!).

Space Fact 6: Seeing into the past!

Since the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, most galaxies have been moving outwards, with some travelling at 90% the speed of light. When your TV goes fuzzy, you are in fact watching cosmic radiation from the start of the universe itself.
Big Bang Theory chart
Click here for info on the Big Bang Theory - not the great TV show!
When you are looking at the stars and galaxies, you are effectively looking back in time. For instance, the star Deneb is 1800ly away, so you are seeing it as it was in the time of Roman Emperor Septimus Severius in 200AD. However, the most powerful telescopes can see galaxies 2 billion(!) ly away.

Space Fact 5: We are made of star dust?

A supernova (exploding star) releases 125,000 trillion times the energy that came from the murderous Hiroshima bomb and shines brighter than 100 billion stars combined! They only last for less than a week and many of the elements that make up our bodies (such as carbon and iron) actually come from them.
Supernova Explosion
Supernova Explosion
Even brighter than a supernova is a quasar, which can glow as brightly as 100 galaxies and has the mass of a hundred million suns due to the black hole at its center.
 learn more about Quasars
Click here to learn more about Quasars

Space Fact 4: Death by sand!

The heart of a star can reach 16 million degrees Celsius. A grain of sand at this temperature would burn you to death from 150 km away (COOL!).
Inside a star - how hot can it get
Inside a star - how hot can it get?

Space Fact 3: Magnetic Whiskers

- Neutron (collapsed) stars are so dense that just a table spoon of one weighs about a million tons. They have incredibly strong magnetic fields (billions of times stronger than that of the Earth) which stretch atoms out into ‘frizzy’ whiskers on the star’s surface. Because neutron stars are so dense they have an enormous gravitational pull for such small space objects (they sometimes only measure about 20 km across).
Neutron stars and their magnetic fields
Learn more about Neutron stars and their magnetic fields
Isaac Newton’s theory on gravity and his 3 other laws of motion have helped astronomers work out the pull and movement of every planet, star and galaxy they can see in the universe. He was one of the cleverest people who ever lived, but he also stared at the sun and stuck a spike in through his eye socket just to see what would happen – an eccentric genius eh (more on that in the upcoming post on ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’).
eccentric genius Isaac Newton
Find out more about the eccentric genius Isaac Newton

Space Fact 2: Human Spaghetti

Black holes have so much gravity that they keep entire galaxies intact and spinning around them. Indeed, the reason most galaxies are brighter in the middle is because light cannot escape a black hole so it ‘sticks’ on its ‘event horizon’ (edge).

If a human were sucked into a black hole, they would be stretched out like spaghetti. Black holes (sucking you in) and white holes (spitting you out) can join together to form ‘wormholes’ which can distort space and time, as the crew of the Red Dwarf discovered in Season 6's hilarious 'Rimmerworld'.
Red Dwarf crew white hole
The Red Dwarf crew

Space Fact 1: Out of reach...

There are over 500 billion galaxies in the universe, each one containing up to trillions of stars. The Milky Way is 100,000 ly across and 1000 ly deep, containing over 100 billion stars. The sun takes 200 million years to orbit around it and the next nearest star to us is trillions of kilometers away.

It appears quite a challenge for aliens to visit us after all, and if they went to the trouble of travelling all that way, do you think they’d just hover in the sky for a moment and disappear again? Or maybe they do because they just don’t like the look of us... which is understandable!
Our galaxy: the Milky Way
Our galaxy: the Milky Way

Well, there you have it. I highly recommend that you take a break from whatever fiction you’re in the middle of (unless it's one of my books!) and also learn more about the ‘the miracle of science and nature’ and our place in the universe and how it works (we can never know enough eh).

Space distances, the size and number of galaxies, the speed and age of the Earth, if we’re not finding out about this stuff or aware that we can actually be experiencing it all around us, then are we spending our time here wisely? Or are we too busy following our egos and chasing things we want but don’t need, while missing what’s right there in front of us? Hmmm, tough one, though it’s not my place to judge...

Coming soon...

Top Ten Scientific facts...
Top Ten Human Biology facts...
Top Ten Natural History facts...
Top Ten Human History facts...

Do you have any Amazing Space Facts to share? Let us know...

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