Most of us don’t look up to the stars as often as we did when we were children. We take the stars, the moon, the sun, the Milky Way galaxy and the entire universe for granted. Unfortunately, most of us have lost sight of just how spectacular outer space really is. It is remarkably beautiful, incredibly vast and quite mysterious. Let’s take a look at some of the most mind-boggling facts about outer space.
1. When humans venture into outer space, the skin on their feet peels
That might sound disgusting, but it is true. In an environment like space with no gravity, astronauts do not need to use their feet to walk. As a result, the skin on the feet becomes soft and peels right off. Unfortunately, astronauts can’t do laundry in space.
So they wear the same socks for several days in a row. When they remove these socks, they do so with great care since the skin cells from the peeled skin can float all around.
2. Outer space is estimated to contain 300 sextillion stars
We will likely never know how many stars are in outer space. At the current moment, we have attempted to estimate only the number of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Scientists and mathematicians have tried to multiply the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy by the number of galaxies that we estimate are in the galaxy. The result of that calculation is astronomical and incomprehensible.
It’s unlikely a truly accurate estimation will be made anytime soon or ever. Most scientists cite a study published in Nature that estimates the number of stars in the universe to be 300 sextillion. That’s 3 followed by 23 zeros. Yet this figure is merely an educated guess and triple what was previously thought.
3. Metals stick to one another in outer space
Metals can actually bond together in space, in what’s called ‘cold welding.’ It was discovered that flat polished metal would adhere to other simialr metals when placed in a vacumm environment- such as outer space. This environment, when the protective oxide layer of metal is polished away, can allow the atoms of each metal to bridge the gap between the two objects and bond together. Engineers are keenly aware of this phenomenon when designing space craft equipment.
4. The sun transmits more energy to the Earth in a single hour than Earthlings use in a full year
This is an extraordinary statistic. It shows that human beings have to ramp up their solar energy capabilities as the energy provided by the sun is a massive untapped resource.
Current solar technology only accounts for less than one-tenth of one percent of the energy used by everyone on the planet. The technology is still quite new relative to others and significant land is needed for solar panels that are large enough to absorb ample energy.
It is worth noting that humans are taking advantage of the sun’s amazing amount of energy at an increasing rate. Our solar energy use has increased by 20 percent each year over the past decade and a half.
5. Neutron stars are capable of spinning up to a rate of 600 rotations in one second
NASA scientists believe that neutron stars are one of the likely “end points” of stars that have abnormally high masses. These fast-spinning stars are believed to be born when supernova stars explode and their cores collapse.
The result of this explosion is a neutron star that rotates at an incredible rate of speed. They typically rotate upwards of 60 to 600 times per second in the immediate aftermath of their birth. If the right physics are in place, a recently born neutron star can actually eclipse 600 rotations per second.
6. Outer space is complete silence
Most assume that an area as enormous as outer space would have some noise. Surprisingly, outer space is totally silent. This is due to the fact that sound waves require a medium in order to travel from one point to another. Outer space has no atmosphere to permit such travel. Astronauts can talk to one another and Earth-based personnel thanks to the use of radio waves.
7. The sun accounts for 99 percent of the solar system’s mass
The Earth’s star is the sun. It is immensely dense. The sun is so massive that it takes up 99 percent of the solar system. This is why it has such strong gravity. Scientists have classified our sun as a “G-type main sequence star”. This classification means that the sun fuses around 600,000,000 tons of hydrogen to helium every second.
The sun also transforms around 4,000,000 tons of matter into energy as a result of its hydrogen and helium activity. Since the sun is so large, it will turn into a red giant when it dies. At that point it will completely engulf the Earth. Thankfully, it will take around 5 billion years for that to happen.
8. There are thousands of planets in outer space
While our solar system has 8 planets, the rest of space has thousands. It is highly likely that there are many more planets that we have yet to discover. We have discovered 1,800 new worlds and another 3,000 are still pending confirmation.
Unfortunately, most of the planets that we have discovered are not located in the “goldilocks zone” that permits the existence of life. Almost all of the planets that we’ve discovered are far too hot to sustain life. While many of these planets are smaller than Earth, they are still classified as planets. Some are referred to as extrasolar planets (exo-planets) as they orbit other stars.
9. The bootprints of the Apollo astronauts will likely remain on the moon for another 100 million years
Like the rest of outer space, the moon does not have an atmosphere. It also has no water that we know about. Nor is there any wind on the moon. This means that the bootprints of the Apollo astronauts who stepped foot on the moon will remain there for a very long time. This is also true of the Apollo spaceship’s prints, rover prints and all of the items that the astronauts discarded while on the moon. They will all remain perfectly preserved for around 100 million years.
Yet they won’t stay like that forever as the moon is not completely static. It is hit by micrometeorites on a regular basis. These collisions cause erosion, albeit at a snail’s pace. Eventually, these collisions will directly impact the astronauts’ footprints or cause enough dust to cover them.
10. The extreme weather that we experience on Earth is quite mild compared to the climate of some other planets
Most of us complain about the weather during the winter and sometimes during the summer. However, we have it easy here on Earth compared to other planets.
For example, Venus is about five times as hot as boiling water. Mars and Mercury have remarkable changes in temperature throughout the course of a single day. The winds on Neptune reach 1,600 mph. Jupiter has extremely fast and powerful winds including its famous Great Red Spot. This is an enormous hurricane that has ravished the planet for three centuries.
11. If you cry in space, your tears will not fall
When astronauts cry while stationed on the International Space Station, their tears float away as if they were bubbles. In space, water sticks to surfaces until something dislodges them. So astronauts who cry in space shed tears that form bubbles around the eyeballs. This occurs because there is no gravity that allows the tears to drop.
12. The largest asteroid that we’ve found in outer space is Ceres, a giant rock with a 600 mile diameter
Ceres is located within an asteroid belt and represents one-third of the entire belt’s mass. If one were to equate Ceres’ surface area to a space on Earth, it would be the land area of either Argentina or India.
Ceres is so large that many scientists have argued that it should not be referred to as an asteroid. While it has the characteristics of an asteroid, they would like to refer to it as a dwarf planet.
Ceres is notable for more than just its impressive size. The mammoth asteroid has water, in the form of ice, on its surface. This year, an unmanned spacecraft called “Dawn” will orbit Ceres.
13. Outer space is home to a planet that might be made completely out of diamonds
This might be the most amazing fact about outer space. In 2012, Yale University scientists put forth evidence to prove the existence of a planet two times the size of Earth that is completely made of diamonds and graphite.
The diamond planet, named 55 Cancri e, orbits a nearby star. The greater science community accepted these findings and they were published in a journal called the Astrophysical Journal letters.
55 Cancri e’s mass is eight times greater than Earth’s. The planet’s radius is two times the size of Earth’s. Don’t get your hopes up for getting your hands on the giant jewel, it is 40 light years away from us so we won’t be reaching the diamond planet at any point in the near future.
14. A star located 750 light years from Earth is shooting water out of its north and south poles
This star is quite young and has some similarities to the sun. It is shooting out enormous jets of water into outer space. The droplets that it emits might be one of the sources of the universe’s water and the foundation of life.
This stellar embryo hurls water out of both its north and south poles. Scientists believe that the poles of the star shoot out an estimated 100 million times the amount of water that flows through the Amazon River in a single second. The water shoots out at an estimated rate of 124,000 miles per hour. This is 80 times faster than the speed at which a bullet flies out of a machine gun.
15. A black hole is eating the largest star in outer space
The largest star in the universe got too close to a black hole. The black hole is now in the midst of tearing it apart while swallowing it. Up until this discovery, we had only been able to study the aftermath of these events. While we know that almost every large galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center, this is the first time that scientists have identified a black hole actually consuming a star.
16. The most “Earthlike” planet beyond our solar system contains a remarkable amount of lava
Scientists have discovered a mysterious planet, Kepler-78b, outside of our solar system that some refer to as a “lava world”. It is similar to Earth in terms of composition and size except for the fact that it is incredibly hot. Kepler-78b is an exo-planet with an extremely tight orbit that puzzles most astronomers. The fact that it has 80 percent more mass than Earth goes to show that the planets outside of our solar system are significantly different compared to our planet.
17. While the sun is blazing hot, the planet closest to it is not the hottest
One would think that the planets closest to the sun would be the hottest. Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, lacks an atmosphere, so it is only warm during the daylight hours while it points directly at the sun. At night, Mercury’s temperatures drop to unbearably cold temperatures. Venus is actually the hottest planet in our solar system as its dense clouds hold the sun’s heat.