If you’re anything like me, you’re fascinated by the night sky and the fact that there’s an interminable universe out there; bigger than you can ever imagine and full of mystery. Yet here you are, on a tiny fleck on dust floating aimlessly in that endless blackness. Hopefully you’re amazed rather than depressed by this and if you’re not, you will be after reading the following far-out space facts.
1) There are more stars in the universe than there are grains on sand on the earth – heard that before? Well you were lied to. According to popular physicist Michio Kaku, in truth there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on 10,000 earths. Attempting to put this into numbers (as best we can), NASA has said that there are zillions of uncountable stars. A zillion is any uncountable amount. A national University study in Australia estimates about 70 sextillion stars in the universe – that’s 70,000 million.. million million stars.
2) Our home, earth, is located in a galaxy known as the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy – the nearest major galaxy to our own and much bigger (it contains at least twice the number of stars as the Milky Way) is approaching our own galaxy at a rate of around 110 kilometres per second – that’s 68 miles per second. Eventually the two will collide having drastic implications for both galaxies, forming one giant elliptical galaxy. But fear not, for it won’t happen for around another 3.75 billion years.
3) In the constellation Aquila which resides about 10,000 lightyears away from us, there is a cloud made almost entirely of alcohol. The cloud in question has a diameter 1,000 larger than that of our own solar system and contains enough ethyl alcohol to serve up to 400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0 beverages.
4) A monolithic water reservoir which contains over 140 trillion times the mass of water in all the earth’s oceans has been located some 10 billion lightyears away, floating around a black hole. The vapour cloud is the so large that it is the largest body of water ever found. On top of this, any free-moving liquid in outer space will form itself into a sphere, due to surface tension. Interesting, no?
5) A fact that has always baffled me, if a civilisation 450 light years away could view us through a telescope right now, they would be seeing the earth as it was 450 years ago, with the likes of Shakespeare walking down the street as though still alive and well. This is due to the light from our ‘present’ having not yet reached them. More so, if someone on a planet 65 million light years away could look at our own planet, they would be looking at an earth inhabited by dinosaurs.
6) In 1801, Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres, an asteroid that is so big that it is also categorised as a dwarf planet. Stretching 600 miles in diameter, Ceres is the largest known asteroid to date. At 600 miles in diameter, this asteroid is huge – for reference, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and extirpated 60-80% of life on the planet 65 million years ago was a mere 6 miles across – that’s 1/100th of Ceres. For further reference, Mt Everest is only 5.5 miles high.
7) According to scientists, there is a volcano on mars that may well still be active. At 600km wide and 21km high, Olympus Mons is the tallest peak of any planet in our solar system. There does exist, however, a taller peak on the asteroid Vesta which is 22km.
8) Black holes are undoubtedly one of the most fascinating phenomena in space. Thus, it is no surprise that they are often the substance of science fiction novels and blockbuster McConaughey movies (ahem, Interstellar – watch it). One interesting fact is that black holes and wormholes (potential ‘bridges’ (shortcuts) that bend time and space allowing for almost instantaneous travel between two far flung regions of the universe) are thought to be almost identical in appearance to the point that they’re impossible to tell apart. Furthermore, if you were to fall into a black hole (bless your soul), it would take only one tenth of a second from the moment you first felt a vague discomfort to the point you were completely torn apart atom from atom. Talk about a quick death. it would take approximately one tenth of a second between the moment when you first felt mildly uncomfortable to the time when you are ripped atom from atom.it would take approximately one tenth of a second between the moment when you first felt mildly uncomfortable to the time when you are ripped atom from atom.
9) The Sun is over 300,000 times larger than Earth. To put that in perspective, 1,300,00 earths would fit into the sun. For reference on the image above, earth is that tiny little dot below jupiter.
10) Scientists at Yale University have discovered a planet that is double the size of earth orbiting a nearby star. Exoplanet 55 Cencri E differs from our home, however, in that the planet’s surface is thought to be made up of diamond.