Fun Facts Cluster 1: 16 Extreme Space Facts (NASA)

NASA: Extreme Facts

“16 eXtreme space facts!”

By: NASA (www.nasa.gov)

-The following is from NASA’s informational guide (shown above) on astronomy facts.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. It’s a small world after all: More than 1,300 Earths would fit into Jupiter’s vast sphere.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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!
  12. 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!
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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!
  16. Sizzling Venus: The average temperature on Venus is more than 480 degrees Celsius (about 900 degrees Fahrenheit) — hotter than a self-cleaning oven.
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The Sun

THE STAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM

The Sun’s Anatomy

The Sun: Very Close, Very Average, Very Spherical, Very Active, Very Energetic, Prime of Life

VERY CLOSE: At about 93 million miles (1 astronomical unit/AU) or 8 light minutes from Earth, the Sun is up close and personal. The closest stars from the Sun are Proxima Centauri (4.25 ly) and Sirius (8.55 ly).

VERY AVERAGE: Of the spectral type G2V, the Sun’s surface temperature is about 5800 Kelvin. It is average in size (1 million miles in diameter), average in life cycle (5 billion years with 5 billion years more to go), and average in composition (76% Hydrogen and 22% Helium). Unlike most stars that are in a binary star system, the Sun is lonely.

VERY SPHERICAL: Due to an inward pushing force due to gravitational contraction and outward pushing force due to high pressure from high temperature, the sun achieves hydrostatic equilibrium.

VERY ACTIVE: Constantly changing, the Sun’s surface contains sunspots, solar storms or solar flares (AKA Corona Mass Ejection). The Sun constantly produces energy with nuclear fusion and oscillates like a bell.

VERY ENERGETIC: The Sun emits 1026 watts into space with solar winds. Nuclear fusion occurs with 657 million tons of H2 (hydrogen) fused into 653 million tons of He (helium) every second.

LAYERS OF THE SUN: The four parts of the Sun are: core, photosphere, chromosphere, and corona. Inside the core at 15 million Kelvin, nuclear fusion produces energy by fusing 2 hydrogen atoms into 1 helium atom. The energy is then carried from the core by radiation and convection. The photosphere (5,800 Kelvin) is the outermost/lowest level of solar atmosphere. In 1814, German physicist Joseph von Fraunhofer discovered the set of spectral lines (AKA Fraunhofer Lines), or dark features, in the optical spectrum of the Sun. Active with plages, prominences, filaments, sunspots, and solar flares, the photosphere has granulation, or pockets (granules) of hot gases rising and pockets of cooler gases sinking. Hotter than the photosphere at 15,000 Kelvin, the chromosphere is a thin diffuse layer composed of spicules, or dynamic jets. The corona at 2 million Kelvin is only observed during a total solar eclipse. A thin layer, the corona emits mostly X-rays.

SUNSPOTS: Sunspots are areas of unusually strong magnetic fields, of relatively dark and cool areas with umbra and penumbra, usually in pairs, and of sizes greater than several Earth’s in diameter. The number of sunspots varies with an 11-year cycle (Sunspot Cycle). During the Maunder Minimum from 1645 to 1715, the number of sunspots was unusually low. Moreover, during the Solar Cycle (22-year cycle), the polarity of the sunspots reverses and returns to the original state.