Facts About Outer Space You Probably Didn't Know
Outer space has long been a topic of intrigue for aspiring astronauts, and there are a lot of surprising things about our solar system. Here are a few fun facts for aspiring astronauts:
- The hottest planet in the solar system isn’t Mercury. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, less than half of the Earth’s distance. However, Mercury has no atmosphere to form a warming blanket to trap the sun’s heat. Venus, does have an atmosphere. If fact, Venus' atmosphere is full of carbon dioxide, which creates a greenhouse effect and traps in even more of the sun's heat.
- Pluto is not on the edge of the solar system, which is 1,000 times farther away. You might still think of the much-loved dwarf planet as being at the end of the solar system, but today scientists don’t even consider Pluto a planet. The Kuiper Belt is thought to extend to 60 astronomical units (AU, or the average distance of the Earth from the sun). In addition, the huge Oort comet cloud, may extend to 50,000 AU.
- Earth is a planet of rare elements. Because most of the stars and bodies in the universe are made or helium or hydrogen, Earth is unique, made mostly of iron, oxygen, silicon and other heavy elements. Thus Earth is composed of rare elements.
- The biggest ocean in the solar system is on Jupiter. Jupiter kept much more helium and hydrogen when it formed than did our planet. In fact, Jupiter is mostly hydrogen and helium and it has a vast liquid hydrogen ocean. Computer models Jupiter's ocean is 40,000 km deep, as deep as Earth is around.
- Even really small bodies can have moons. The Galileo probe swung by the 20-mile wide asteroid Ida and its tiny moon, Dactyl. Moons have been discovered orbiting 200 other minor planets, which complicating the definition of a “true” planet.
- We live inside the sun. The sun’s outer atmosphere extends beyond its visible surface. Our entire solar system orbits inside the sun’s atmosphere, and we can see the results of this when gusts of solar wind produce the Northern Lights.
People imagine all kinds of things, not only about our solar system, but about the universe. Sometimes, we wonder what it would be like to travel in space. The world certainly seems to be getting smaller all the time.