24 Astronomy Facts You Never Learned in School
From a bar in the clouds to finding more water from the Moon, outer space is constantly surprising us.
The sun is bigger than you can even imagine
When you look up at the sky and see the sun beaming down at you, it’s hard to tell how truly big it is. So consider this: About a million duplicates of Earth could comfortably fit inside of it, according to NASA’s C. Alex Young, PhD. And if the sun didn’t supply our main energy, we’d be shivering in the dark; its core releases energy that is the equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs. That sure explains these strange ways the sun affects your body.
Hot ice is a thing
At 33 light-years away is an exoplanet called Gliese 436 b. The planet is composed of different water elements, which form burning ice. In other words, the ice on the planet remains solid due to pressure, while the extreme surface temperature of 570° F (300° C) super-heats the water, causing it to come off as steam. Whoa…
There’s a bar in the sky
Courtesy Herschel: Quang Nguyen Luong & F. Motte, HOBYS Key Program consortium, Herschel SPIRE/PACS/ESA consortia. XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton
It may seem like a bartender’s dream (or nightmare), but way up beyond our atmosphere, there’s a gas cloud made from alcohol about 1,000 times the diameter of our entire solar system. There’s enough alcohol there for about 400 septillion pints of beer (that’s 400 followed by 24 zeros!). To put that into perspective, ScienceAlert notes that’s “enough alcohol to supply 300,000 pints of beer every day to every single person on Earth for the next billion years.” Cheers!
Walking in space might cause you to crave a steak
Astronauts returning from a space walk have noted the aroma of various odors on their space suits ranging from metal to a charcoal-broiled steak. That’s due to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are by-products of dying stars. PAHs are also released from burning coal, wood, gasoline, and—you guessed it—charcoal-broiled meat. Learn more about what outer space actually smells like.
There’s a lot of trash out there
There may be a lot of garbage filling up our landfills on Earth, but there are over a million pieces of trash orbiting the earth, too, reports BBC News. Space junk is a real problem and even something as small as a paper clip could wreak havoc on our satellite system—that could mean no Netflix for you, among more serious issues like messing with our National Security system. Currently, there’s no great way to clean up space, but scientists are focusing on solutions.
Raspberries and rum in space
OK, you can’t actually go raspberry picking in space—yet. But, as it turns out, the main component that gives raspberries their distinctive flavor, ethyl formate, was discovered in the Milky Way in 2009. Ethyl formate is also a component of rum, but it’s also unlikely you’ll be able to order a rum and coke in the galaxy any time soon—especially since alcohol is one of the foods that are banned from space.
Uranus is quirky
As the only planet that rotates on its side, Uranus has scientists baffled. Some theories include that the planet may have been altered at some point by a titanic collision, says space.com. Either way, it’s the oddball in planet rotations.
Stargazing is (almost) like looking into the past
Courtesy NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
Since stars are so far away and their light takes so long to reach Earth, it’s possible the star you’re looking at is already dead. A good example is the Pillars of Creation, which are part of a region called the Eagle Nebula that’s 7000 light-years away from us. These pillar-like clouds of dust and gas were first imaged by the Hubble Telescope in 1995—but they were actually destroyed at least 6000 years ago by a supernova. What we’re seeing in Hubble’s 1995 image is what the Pillars of Creation looked like 7000 years ago. The good news: Those “already dead” stars are rare, so the majority of the stars in the sky are “still there and will be for some time,” says astronomer Phil Plait.
Lose weight by planet hopping
If you’re, say, 140 pounds, did you know you would be about 53 pounds on Mercury? Without getting caught up in complicated math, the reason behind the swift weight change is the planet’s gravitational field. As LiveScience explains, “your mass remains constant across the universe, while your weight changes depending on the gravitational forces acting on you, which vary from planet to planet.” Since Mercury’s gravitational field is less than Earth’s, you’d weigh less. If the gravitational field is more than the Earth’s, you’d, of course, weigh more. (Word to the wise: Avoid Jupiter, because it triples your weight!) These are the most baffling mysteries about the universe.
Move over, moon rocks
You don’t have to go all the ways to Mars to get a souvenir from space. When meteorites were tested on Earth from the Sahara Desert and Antarctica, it was revealed that some rocks come from Mars.