30 Mind Blowing Facts about Space Nobody Ever Tells You

September 27th, 2019

by Ariel Tokarz

If you are looking for some astronomy facts and mind blowing facts about space, you have come to the right place!  

You know how we love all things space around here. This is why today we want to offer you 30 mind-blowing facts about space and some astronomy facts nobody ever tells you. So let’s see them and enjoy!

Fun Astronomy Facts and Mind Blowing Facts about Space

When it comes to space facts, we already covered a few fun facts about things you cannot do on the ISS or on a ship. Today, we will discuss plenty of things that do not make popular news or social media outlets. We are in for a treat, so buckle up, because we are going to explore the great beyond!

Where We Live and Explore

1. Think your day is long?

Astronauts James Voss and Susan Helms participated in an 8 hour, 56-minute spacewalk

This spacewalk, EVA1 of STS-102, was performed on March 11, 2001. Tasks completed during this time included preparing a module adaptor for repositioning, removing an antenna to make room for the repositioning, and relocating a Lab Cradle Assembly from their orbiter’s cargo bay to an ISS lab module.

While this was hard and tiring work, Voss and Helms’ record-breaking spacewalk was likely an adventure neither has yet forgotten.

2. Fire is one of the scariest hazards in space

This hasn’t stopped NASA from starting fires inside the International Space Station

If you wanted scary facts about space, here is one! The Flame Extinguishment Experiment (FLEX) assessed the effectiveness of fire suppressants in microgravity and quantified the effect of possible crew responses to an uncontrolled blaze.

This is just one experiment performed on the ISS to help perfect the next generation of exploration vehicles that will take astronauts to the moon and Mars.

3. You Should Always Eat Your Greens

In space.

Another experiment that’s ongoing on the International Space Station is the Veggie plant grown system. And in 2015, the first harvest of crops was ready: members of the Expedition 44 crew harvested a bounty of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce.

Half of this was packaged and frozen before being returned to Earth for analysis. The other half was cleaned, used to prepare a tasty salad… and consumed.

4. Electric Avenue

The International Space Station could power your house for three months

Getting electricity in space might be a challenge, but luckily the ISS has a free source of energy: the sun. Each of the station’s eight solar array wings contains 262,400 solar cells, and together cover an area of 27,000 square feet.

They’re capable of generating between 84 and 120 kilowatts, depending on their angles and the position of the sun. It is more than enough to provide for the station’s normal functions, which require about 80 kW a day.

By comparison, the average U.S. household uses 1.25 kW per day. This means the station’s eight solar array wings could keep your house powered for anywhere from 67 to 96 days – two to three months!

5. Earth is speeding up

And no one knows why

The Moon tugs on the Earth in a gradual tug of war between the gravity of the moon and the water of our oceans. This is something that all moons do – tug on their respective planets.

The difference in speeds and masses of the two creates a gravitational sort of drag, should, in principle, gradually slow the planet down. However, since 1972, the time it takes for the Earth to complete one spin has gotten a few milliseconds shorter.

This is likely due to the turbulence in the planet’s outer core, which is a phenomenon that’s impossible for us to predict, but nobody knows for sure. This trend isn’t likely to continue much longer, though, and soon we’ll undoubtedly be back to steadily slowing down.

6. Special just like everybody else?

Earth is composed of universal rarities

The elemental composition of our home planet is mostly iron, oxygen, silicon, magnesium, sulfur, nickel, calcium, sodium, and aluminum, all of which are merely trace elements throughout the rest of the universe.

Most other celestial bodies – stars, nebulae, and galaxies – are mostly composed of hydrogen and helium. It doesn’t mean we’re special, though: in a universe that’s mainly empty space, every planet will stick out.

7. Watch your language, ISS!

Communication with Earth is often public

When we consider learning facts about space, we usually think about planets and black holes. But let’s get closer to home… err… the ISS…

When on a spacewalk, the astronauts’ microphones are live, carrying everything they say down to mission control. And spacewalks are almost always streamed live – go to NASA.gov if you want to watch the next one – so anyone who cares to listen can hear everything that’s said as well.

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock learned this the hard way: during a 2010 spacewalk he was having trouble getting a connector off and muttered under his breath, “damn.”

When he spoke with his parents later on the phone his father called him out on it: “I heard you curse.”

8. Some rituals occur before exploring the great beyond

Cosmonauts and the astronauts who accompany them in Soyuz launches are the masters of strange rituals

The next on our list of mind blowing facts about space concerns Russian rituals. We are not talking about kids’ folklore and bonfire stories, but about adults getting ready to go in space.

The rituals include planting memorial saplings – even in the harsh, Kazakh winter, watching the 1970 film The White Sun of the Desert the night before the launch, and listening to Russian love songs while waiting to be blasted into space.

One of the strangest, however, is a solution to the immediate sickness often experienced in a weightless environment. Before boarding the capsule, each crew member is spun on a swivel chair and tilted upside down on a unique bed to prepare them for the zero-G experience to come.

This tradition is the topic of debate, but at least is something we can try at home. Just be sure to have a bowl or paper bag at hand.

9. Huge but tiny

Our moon would fit between Earth and the Moon 221 times

The moon may be tiny – a mere 1,079.6 miles in diameter (that’s smaller than Alaska: the state is 2,700 miles wide), but it orbits so far away from the Earth, that 221 of our closest rocky neighbors could be lined up in between.

But that’s just one of the seven planets in our solar system with natural satellites: how do the numbers compare from Mars to Pluto?

  • 885 of Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, would fit between it and the Red Planet
  • 406 of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, would fit between it and the gas giant
  • 474 of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, would fit between it and the Ringed Planet
  • 553 of Uranus’ largest moon, Titania, would fit between it and the planet
  • 262 of Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, would fit between it and the Blue Planet
  • 29 of Pluto’s partner in crime, Charon, would fit between it and the dwarf planet

10. Moon litter

The Moon is a final resting place for mementos

While perhaps not every astronaut who visited shared the tradition, the Apollo missions have left their share of debris on the moon – and not just in the form of flags and landers.

Items left by visitors from Earth include two golf balls, an obscene doodle by Andy Warhol, a message from Queen Elizabeth II, and Eugene Cernan’s daughter’s initials (TDC).

Since there’s no wind on the moon, courtesy of the nonexistent atmosphere, the letters left by Apollo 17 are likely still there today.

11. Some people get Moon allergies

Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt was allergic to the Moon

Apollo 17 – while not as famous as Apollo 11, is noteworthy for many reasons. It was the last mission of Apollo; more rock samples were brought back than any time before; it brought the first – and only – professional scientist to the moon.

This man was Jack Schmitt, a geologist, whose rock samples helped unlock secrets of the Moon’s magnetic field and volcanic history.

He was also allergic to moon dust: a gritty, sticky powder that clung to his spacesuit and – later – his skin. For two hours after taking his helmet off, he experienced irritation in sinuses and nostrils, eyes and throat.

This condition was consistent with the predictions of a NASA medical doctor, who suggested moondust might cause allergic responses.

Our Neighborhood: The Solar System

12. How big is the Sun, exactly?

The Sun’s mass accounts for 99.89% of the mass in our solar system

You knew the sun is big – but did you know it was that big?

The rest splits amongst planets, comets, satellites, meteoroids, and the interplanetary medium, all with decreasing percentages – and decreasing certainty.

  • Sun – 99.58%
  • Planets – 0.135%
  • Comets – 0.01%
  • Satellites – 0.00005%

13. Learn to love the bomb

The sun is one lapse of gravity away from becoming the biggest bomb in the galaxy

Are you sure you want more mind blowing facts about space? Here they are, then!

The sun creates energy – like a star, that’s its raison d’être, but as the energy in the core builds up, it also heats the gasses that compose the core. When gasses heat they expand, and when they heat a lot they expand quickly.

So if it weren’t for the gravitational force of the sun – the same force that holds our planet in place, the sun would explode in a magnificent spray of heated hydrogen and helium. Don’t worry, though, physics dictates this isn’t going to happen.

14. George. The planet George

Everyone’s favorite planet – Uranus – was initially called “George.”

When it was first discovered in 1781 by Willian Herschel, he called the bright disk the “Georgian star,” after the British King George III.

The name didn’t stick, and this is in part because the French, who avoided reverence to the British king whenever possible, called the planet “Herschel,” after its discoverer.

In 1789, the name Uranus was finally adopted, after the ancient Greek deity of the sky.

15. Giant toy

Saturn would make an excellent bathtub toy…

…if you could find a bathtub large enough to fit it. That’s because Saturn, alone of our solar system, is less dense than water. You probably don’t notice this when you explore it with the help of a home telescope, but it’s more to Saturn than its rings.

Like other gas giants, it is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, with a good amount of ammonia, methane ice, and water ice. Sounds familiar?

These are also the components that make up our sun. If planets like Saturn and Jupiter were only a little hotter and denser at their creation, they might have undergone fusion and become stars like our sun.

16. The long way to a small, agile planet

The planet closest to the sun isn’t the hottest

Venus, the second planet in our solar system, has an average surface temperature of 864 F: 64 degrees hotter than Mercury’s average, even though Mercury is closer to the sun.

Mercury’s faster, through. With an orbital speed of 107,000 mph, the tiny planet is the fastest in our solar system. A single year on Mercury is only about 88 days on Earth.

17. Honey, I shrunk the planet!

Mercury’s speed isn’t its only notable feature: it’s also shrinking

Astronomers have identified fault scarps – cliff-like landforms that mark where one part of the ground has moved vertically concerning the piece beside it.

These landmarks are relatively small, indicating they’re relatively new, and so aren’t likely to be left over from the genesis of the solar system.

The conclusion? Slowly, gradually, the planet’s 3,031.9 mile diameter is getting smaller.

18. Mind blowing facts about space? Humans have visited every planet!

Sure, we’ve only stepped foot on one (and our moon)…

…but human-made probes and other spacecraft have explored all eight – nine? ten? eleven? – planets in our little corner of the Milky Way.

Interestingly enough, Venus – not Mars – was the first world beyond ours. Most recently, the New Horizons spacecraft passed Ultima Thule, a dwarf planet on the edge of our system.

  • Mercury – Mariner 10, 1974-1975
  • Venus – Mariner 2, 1962
  • Mars – Viking 1 and 2, 1976
  • Jupiter – Voyager 1, 1976
  • Saturn – Pioneer 11, 1979
  • Uranus – Voyager 2, 1986
  • Neptune – Voyager 2, 1989
  • Pluto – New Horizons, 2015
  • Ceres – Dawn, 2015
  • Ultima Thule – New Horizons, 2019

19. Astronomy facts about Pluto you need to know

Pluto has a smaller diameter than the United States width. More or less.

At 1,476.8 miles across, the planet would fit neatly between the sequoia trees of California and the Appalachian mountains in the East. Its circumference is almost four times that: 4,494 miles.

  • It would take the average person almost exactly two months to circumnavigate Pluto, walking nonstop at 3.1 miles per hour.
  • If you brought a bicycle to ride – and didn’t mind going up mountains and across icy plains, it would take only 19.5 days to circumnavigate.
  • Driving at 55 miles per hour, the trip would take just over three days: about the time it would take to road trip across the United States.

Comets and Asteroids: The Debris of Space

20. Asteroid, asteroids everywhere

The combined mass of all our solar system’s known asteroids is less than 10% of that of our moon

Earth’s moon has a mass of 73.5 x1021 kg – not the most prominent object in the solar system, but far from the smallest. Ten percent of this mass is 7.35 x 1021 kilograms: still greater than the combined mass of all the rocks and icy shards that make up the asteroid and Kuiper belts.

Most of the objects in our solar system are more substantial than this, but not all of them. Charon, for example, the moon of Pluto, has a mass of 1.52 x1021 kg: only 21% of the mass of all known asteroids.

  • Makemake, a dwarf planet, has a mass of 4.4 x1021 kg: 60% the mass of all known asteroids
  • Uranus’ moon Oberon has a mass of 3.014 x1021 kg: 41% the mass of all known asteroids
  • Saturn’s moon Iapetus has a mass of 1.97 x1021 kg: 27% the mass of all known asteroids
  • Dwarf planet Ceres has a mass of 0.939 x1021 kg: 13% the mass of all known asteroids

Due to sublimation, comets lose mass each time they get close to the sun.

21. Fantastic space facts are still fantastic decades later

A comet has slammed into Jupiter

In 1994, scientists and astronomers around the world watched as comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke into pieces and slammed into the gas giant: the first time humans witnessed such a fantastic event.

Over six days the fragments impacted Jupiter’s gaseous atmosphere, traveling at speeds around 37 miles per second. Each strike caused plumes of material from the planet’s lower atmosphere to rise as high as 1,900 miles above Jupiter’s brilliant cloud tops, before splashing back to scar the atmosphere with dark clouds of impact debris.

Scientific results from the impact were plentiful – and still being discovered.

22. Is there anyone out there? Can anyone hear us?

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko carries 6,000 pages of text in 1,000 different human languages

The text, etched onto a nickel-titanium disc, was carried to its final resting place by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander.

The disc is designed to last for millennia, so presumably wasn’t damaged when the spacecraft impacted.

The comet will remain in a stable orbit for millions of years, carrying the disk with it all that time: the human race’s longest-living library.

The Distant Stars

23. Who do we hear?

Outer space is filled with mysterious radio signals

These signals, called fast radio bursts (FRBs), echo across the universe from galaxy to galaxy. While their origin is not entirely clear, one thing is for sure: FRBs aren’t attempts at communication from distant aliens.

They’re likely made by neuron stars that orbit close to black holes or potent interstellar clouds of superheated hydrogen and helium.

24. Metallic skies

We’ve all heard about the planet made of diamond, but what about the one covered in lava?

Next on our mind-blowing facts about space list we have the lava planet. We’re sure there is some pop culture reference in there!

In 2013, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observed the super-Earth 55 Cancri e, finding energy flows explained by a highly heated atmosphere of volatile materials.

The cold side of the planet averages 2,400 – 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit, while the hot side can reach over 4,200 degrees.

These extreme temperatures were initially thought to be caused by lakes of lava, but new data suggests that any lava that exists on 55 Cancri e would need to cover the entire surface.

A great vacation spot for the family, don’t you think?

25. It’s still banging…

TVs tuned to a channel they don’t receive pick up the remnants of the Big Bang

When our universe was born, it released a bunch of energy called cosmic background radiation. This is a faint hum – sometimes picked up in telescopes as a glow of microwave energy that was scattered with the first hints of expansion of the universe.

The existence of cosmic background radiation is landmark evidence that the Big Bang was the origin of everything we know. It’s rather amazing to realize that this composes one percent of TV static, and if you tune your TV wrong, you can watch the birth of the universe.

26. Energy-efficient spacecrafts

New space crafts’ signals used to communicate use less power than the light bulb in your fridge

If you have a generic, 40-watt appliance bulb in your fridge, it uses 144 kJ of energy for one hour of use. By contrast, New Horizons – the spacecraft that’s currently trekking past Ultima Thule, uses two 12 watt radio transmitters to talk to Earth.

Even put together, that’s only 86.4 kJ of energy for an hour of use: 60% the energy used by the light in your fridge. For comparison, if you watch TV for an hour, you’d use 720 kJ of energy.

27. Size does matter. Ish.

Since they’re so small, the antennas used to collect the signals mentioned above have diameters up to 230 feet – almost the size of a large playing field

The Deep Space Network, an antenna system built and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has one of these 70-meter antennas at each of its three sites.

The reflector of these enormous antennas is precise to within a centimeter, allowing it to pick up signals from spacecraft tens of billions of miles from Earth.

28. What we don’t see is the most interesting

Only five percent of the universe is visible from Earth

Now that we approach the last entries of our mind-blowing facts about space, it is time to take a step back and look at the big picture. Or not, because the big picture is rather invisible. 

It isn’t because our atmosphere blocks it out – although the wavering quality of air is known to cause stars to glitter and our magnetic field does keep certain electromagnetic rays from searing our skin.

We can only see 5% because the rest is made up of dark energy (65%) and dark matter (27%).

As the names suggest, we can’t see dark matter, and we don’t even have a clear idea of what it is. The only thing we can say for sure is that there is a lot of it.

29. The Cosmological Event Horizon: Something we’ll never witness

The expansion of the universe means that no matter how fast you travel, you’ll never reach the farthest galaxies

Due to a complicated mix of physics and Newton’s law of Relativity, the closer you get to the speed of light, the slower the passage of time gets for you.

But time is still passing regularly for everything around you, which means the universe is always expanding, and the farthest galaxies are moving farther away.

Because this expansion is accelerating – a funny little quirk of dark energy –, there’s a limit, called the cosmological event horizon, that you could never catch no matter how far or fast you went.

30. The spa on Triton

Neptune’s moon Triton has volcanoes that spew hot water instead of magma

Our last entry on today’s mind-blowing facts about space intends to leave you with stunning imagery and – we hope – a thirst to learn more astronomy facts.

The phenomenon on Triton is not an uncommon occurrence, either: many moons and planets have volcanoes that don’t spit out plumes of molten rock.

That’s because an eruption is caused when a reservoir of hot fluid or gas moves violently from the inside of a body to the outside. The exact composition of this fluid can vary: on Earth, it’s primary elements like silicon, iron, and magnesium.

On Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, the volcanoes appear composed of mostly sulfur. And on Triton and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the fluid is boiling water.

What Are Your Favorite Mind Blowing Facts about Space?

We hope you enjoyed our list of space facts that nobody tells you about usually. If on this list you found some mind-blowing facts about space that you loved, tell us which ones amazed you the most!

On the other hand, in case you have some astronomy facts of your own that you would like to share, feel free to use the comments section below!

Further Reading

NASA.gov. Mission Archives STS-102. [https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/archives/sts-102.html]

NASA.gov. Flame Extinguishment Experiment. [https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=655]

NASA.gov. Meals Ready to Eat: Expedition 44 Crew Members Sample Leafy Greens Grown on Space Station. [https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/meals_ready_to_eat]

National Geographic. 7 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Spacewalks. [https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/11/151105-spacewalk-nasa-iss-astronaut-douglas-wheeler/]

BBC.com. The Strangest Space Launch Rituals. [http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140610-the-strange-rituals-of-cosmonauts]

NASA.gov. The Lasting Impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. [https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/news-articles/the-lasting-impacts-comet-shoemaker-levy-9]

Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Lava or Not, Exoplanet 55 Cancri e Likely to have Atmosphere. [https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7001]

Did You Enjoy our Fun Facts about Animals?

There we have it, 50 of the most exciting, strange, and fun animal facts. We hope that you have found them as entertaining and mind-boggling as we did. There are millions of more fun animal facts to be discovered, so if you have any of your own that you would love to share, then please comment below!

 

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