FUN FACTS CLUSTER 1 (NASA)
“16 eXtreme space facts!”
By: NASA (www.nasa.gov)
- Better stick with a rubber ducky: Saturn is the only planet in our solar system that is less dense than water. It could float in a bathtub if anybody could build a bathtub large enough.
- Fastest: True to its namesake (the speedy messenger of the Roman gods), Mercury is the fastest planet in our solar system. It zips around our Sun at an average of 172,000 kilometers per hour (107,000 miles per hour) — about 65,000 kph (40,000 mph) faster than Earth. A year on Mercury is equal to 88 Earth days.
- Biggest and smallest: Ceres if the largest, most massive body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, totaling about a third of the total mass of the entire belt. But Ceres is the smallest of the dwarf planets, which include Pluto and Eris, and the only dwarf planet that resides in the asteroid belt.
- Forget the socks, bring a hat: If you could stand at the Martian equator, the temperature at your feet would be like a warm spring, but at your head it would be freezing cold!
- It’s a small world after all: More than 1,300 Earths would fit into Jupiter’s vast sphere.
- Chill out!: Craters at the Moon’s south pole may be the frostiest locale in the entire solar system. In the permanently shadowed crater floors, “daytime” temperatures may never rise above minus 238 degrees Celsius (minus 397 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Windiest: Neptune’s winds are the fastest in the solar system, reaching 2,575 kilometers per hour (1,600 miles per hour)! Neptune’s giant, spinning storms could swallow the whole Earth.
- Tiny, very tiny: The radio signal that some spacecraft use to contact Earth has no more power than a refrigerator, light bulb. And by the time the signal has traveled across space, the signal may be only one-billionth of one-billionth of one watt!
- Big, way big: To detect those tiny signals from space, the Deep Space Network uses dish antennas with diameters of up to 70 meters (230 feet). That’s almost as big as a football field.
- Not much!: If you could lump together all the thousands of known asteroids in our solar system, their total mass wouldn’t even equal 10 percent of the mass of Earth’s moon.
- Easy does it: A Venus day is approximately 243 Earth days long. The bad news is we would have to wait up to three Earth years for a weekend. That’s because a day on Venus is longer than its year!
- Pizza?: Jupiter’s moon Io if the most volcanically active body in our solar system. The moon’s bizarre, blotted yellowish surface looks like a pepperoni pizza!
- Air Martian: The gravity on Mars is approximately one-third that on Earth. Yes, chances are you’d be able to dunk the basketball on a Martian court.
- Skating, anyone?: If you ice skate, how about Europa? Europa is one of the four largest moons of Jupiter. It’s a little smaller than Earth’s Moon. Europa is covered in ice, including some smooth ice! A 3-foot (about 1 meter) Axel jump on this moon would take you 22 feet (more than 6 meters) high, with the same landing speed as on Earth.
- Grandest Canyon: The largest canyon system in the solar system is Valles Marineris on Mars. It’s more than 4,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) long — enough to stretch from California to New York. It is nine times as long and four times as deep as Earth’s Grand Canyon!
- Sizzling Venus: The average temperature on Venus is more than 480 degrees Celsius (about 900 degrees Fahrenheit) — hotter than a self-cleaning oven.
FUN FACTS CLUSTER 2 (ASK ASTRO, ASTRONOMY MAGAZINE)
1. SPACE ROCK SUICIDE: Scientists can detect a comet or asteroid colliding into the Sun’s surface. The self-destructing comet or asteroid will explode due to pressure of traveling into the Sun’s photosphere. The brightness and impact of the collision depends on the mass of the object. A collision as such is high unlikely, however, because: 1) most comets and asteroids would to dust and vapor in the sizzling atmosphere of the Sun 2) objects will lose most of its mass as they approach the Sun 3) objects normally orbit the Sun, so the objects’ orbit must be altered or the object may be from another planetary system.
2. STELLAR DONATIONS: In a binary star system, if stars are close enough, tides can become so strong that the more gravitationally strong star call pull gas from the surface of its companion. Though the “tidal transfer” depends on the mass of the donor star, if two stars have equal mass, the accretor (the star gaining mass) will steal mass if the donor star’s radius exceeds 38 percent of the binary separation (distance between the stars) no matter the separation.
3. COLOR CODE: The dark and light horizontal bands depend on the organization of winds in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The light bands have a eastward jet on the side closest to the pole, and vice versa in the dark bands. The zones (light bands) appear bright because of colorless high-altitude clouds that contain ammonia ice. The belts (dark bands) have much thinner high altitude clouds and darker particles.
4. DANGEROUS FLYBY: NASA calculates the planetary flybys with nothing but Newton’s laws of motion. The desired closest approach depends on the mission and how much added velocity boost the mission requires. The mass and closeness of the planet determines the bending of trajectory the probe must undergo. The approach distance can range from a few hundred to several thousand kilometers.
5. SATURN’S COLORFUL DISPLAYS: As winter begins at Saturn’s south pole, a blue tint begins to taint the pole. When Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, a blue color only dominated in its North Pole, which was in winter. The blue color results from a reduced intensity of UV light and the haze on the winter atmosphere.
6. A NEW COMET: A year from now, Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will light up the sky. Discovered on September 21 by ISON (International Scientific Optical Network, the comet’s common name is now also “ISON.” Comet ISON is now bright enough to see under large telescopes and will appear to the naked eye in late summer of 2013. In late October to early September of 2013, Comet ISON will approach the, allowing observers all around the world to observe it. By then, Comet ISON will be brighter than a Full Moon.
BLAZIN’ NEWS HEADLINES
- MILKY WAY LOOK-ALIKES: Astronomers founds two galaxy systems analogous to the Milky Way and its Magellanic clouds (sub-galaxies that orbit the Milky Way).
- A BINARY’S MULTIPLE PLANETS: A binary pair named Kepler-47 (4,900 light-years away) has multiple planets orbiting it.
- PLASMA IN SPACE: Scientists have accurately measured the interactions between thin waves of plasma as they move through space.
- SUGARY STAR: A Sun-like star, IRAS 16293-2422, has sugar molecules in the gas around it.
- FALLING STAR: A star falling into super-massive black hole emitted a distinctive X-ray signal.
- PREDICTING SOLAR FLARES: On solar flare days, the nuclear decay rates on Earth fluctuate.
- SCALES: On a larger scale, the matter in the Universe is distributed evenly, while on a smaller scale, the matter has distinctive patterns.
- VESTA: On September 5, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft left the asteroid Vesta to dwarf planet and largest asteroid Ceres.
- LARGE MAGELLANIC CLOUD: Ultra-massive stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud formed from the merger of binary stars.