As the festive period is here once again, a lot of social gatherings and family time are part of the itinerary for most. So this year instead of telling the regular old Christmas cracker jokes why not entertain your friends and family with these pretty amazing space facts instead?
1. There are thousands of other planets out there.
We have eight planets in our Solar System. However, outside of our Solar System, there are thousands of other planets. The extra-solar planets or exo-planets are in orbit around another star. So far we have almost 1800 confirmed new worlds, with another 3000 awaiting confirmation. Astronomers are looking to a star’s Goldilocks zone for planets that may be habitable, just like the Earth. The majority of planets discovered so far are hot gas giant planets.
2. In space, the skin on your feet peels off!
This is a pretty gross fact but in the micro-gravity environment, astronauts are not using their feet to walk. Therefore the skin on their feet starts to soften and flakes off. As laundry facilities do not exist in space, astronauts will wear the same underwear and socks for a few days. Those socks then need to be taken off very gently. If not those dead skin cells will float around in the weightless environment.
3. On Venus, a day is longer than a year.
This is a tricky one to get your head around but a year on Venus (that is the length of time it takes to complete one whole orbit around the Sun) is 224.7 Earth days. However, it takes 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis just once.
4. The astronauts were placed in quarantine after returning from the moon.
There is a famous image of President Nixon talking to the Apollo 11 crew consisting of Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin. This continued until after the Apollo 14 crew returned safely. After this, it was decided that the Moon did not contain any deadly diseases. The Apollo 13 crew, who had a malfunction and had to return to Earth, did not have to be quarantined after their re-entry as they didn’t actually walk on the moon.
5. One million Earths can fit inside the Sun.
Ancient astronomers once believed the Earth was at the center of the Universe but now we know that the Sun is at the center of our Solar System and our planets orbit the Sun. The Sun makes up 99.8% of the entire mass of the whole Solar System. One million Earths would be needed to be the same size as the Sun.
6. You become taller in Space.
Another change to the human body in microgravity is that spine straightens out, as gravity is not pushing you down. In fact, you can be up to as much as 5cm taller in the Space Station.
7. Extreme weather warning!
Sometimes on the Earth, especially here in Northern Ireland the weather can be a bit rubbish! However, our weather is awesome compared to some of the other planets. Jupiter has fast winds and the Great Red Spot, a massive hurricane style storm, has raged there for the last 300 years. Mercury and Mars have extreme temperature changes in the same day. Venus is a scorching five times hotter than boiling water. Saturn and Uranus also have extremely fast winds. However, Neptune has the fastest ever wind speeds reaching a staggering 1600mph!
8. Space is not that far away.
Space officially begins at the universal marker of the Karman Line. This invisible boundary is 100km above the Earth. In theory, if you could drive your car upwards, you could be in space in less than an hour.
9. The hottest planet is not the closest planet to the Sun.
Even though Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, it is not actually the hottest. Mercury does not have any atmosphere meaning that this planet is only hot in the daytime when it is directly facing the Sun. At this stage, temperatures can rise to 425°C but at night the planet’s temperature can drop down to a freezing -180°C. Venus is the hottest planet. Its thick clouds trap the Sun’s heat causing Venus to be a sizzling 500°C all of the time!
10. The Apollo crews did not have any life insurance.
On the chance that the 3 man crew of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins did not return safely from the moon, they were not covered by any life insurance policy. So before their trip, all 3 men signed photographs that could be sold in the event of their death. These Insurance covers were also stamped and posted on the start date of the mission, July 16th, 1969 by a friend.