Remember awhile back when I said I was afraid of space? I still kind of am. (Just looking at that picture above freaks me out.) But I've always been the kind of person who faces my fears. So for the last few weeks, I've been researching everything I could about our solar system, the universe, and outer space in general. I guess I went on sort of a kick. So I thought I'd share some of the cool facts I learned about outer space. And who knows? Maybe some of this will be inspiration for a novel one day.
- The universe was formed 14 billion years ago in an fraction of a second. Our solar system was formed about 5 billion years ago.
- The sun makes up 99.8 % of our solar system's mass.
- The sun is predicted to die in about 5 billion more years. Once it starts to die, the gases inside it will expand, making it so big that it destroys Mercury and Venus and comes so close to Earth that it'll be too hot to support life anymore. Everyone and everything alive on Earth will die. Eventually, the sun will burn out and become cold, known as a white dwarf star.
- Black holes are formed when really big stars (stars way bigger than our sun) die and their centers collapse under the weight of their own gravity. If a human got sucked into a black hole, they would be stretched like a rubber band and "snap" within minutes.
- When our solar system was first formed, it was made up of about 100 "baby planets." The planets kept crashing into each other in an outer space demolition derby until we ended up with the eight we have today.
- It's still weird for me to say we have eight planets, since I grew up with Pluto as a planet.
- Speaking of Pluto: In 2006, the definition of a planet was changed-now planets have to have their own orbit and be in it 100 % of the time. Because Pluto crosses Neptune's orbit for part of its journey around the sun, it was demoted.
- The four outer planets are known as the "ice giants." They are made of mostly gases, and you'd have to go hundreds of miles beneath the surface to hit solid ground. Some scientists think there might be liquid water -- and even marine animals -- on Neptune, but all the space probes sent there have burned up in its atmosphere
- Mars is also made up of a large amount of ice, and scientists believe that there was water (and ancient life) there at one point.
- Mars also has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system, as well as a canyon as big as the continental U.S.
- If you went into space without a suit or any other protective gear, you would have several minutes before you lost consciousness and your heart stopped beating. And if you were rescue before your heart stopped, you could most likely recover with minor injuries. Similarly , if an astronaut's tether breaks and he (or she) is lost free floating in space, their chances of being rescued are pretty much nonexistent. It would take too long for the ship to undock, and by that time they could be anywhere. They would have water to drink and a few hours of air before they suffocated. I won't spoil the movie Gravity, but I'll just say a lot of the situations are...unrealistic.
- Scientists think there might be solar systems out there parallel to ours, with their own sun and earth-like planet that supported life. A few years ago, bebo users sent a message to one of these supposed earth-like planets. It will take 20 years for the message to reach them, and another 20 for us to receive a response -- if we get one.
- The area earth is in is called the Goldilocks zone. It's just the right distance from the sun to support life-not too close/hot, and not too far away/cold.
I also read the other day about a possible colonization of Mars within the next few decades. Isn't it crazy how vast our universe is, and how easily we can explore it?