Space is far vaster than we can comprehend, and filled with phenomena we barely understand. While we have been watching the heavens in awe for millennia, space exploration and discovery only began in the mid 20th century. Today, let’s take a look at 15 cool facts about space.
Edwin Hubble (1889 - 1953)
In 1923, scientists still thought that the entire universe was just our milky way. Until astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the astronomical feature known as Andromeda - a fuzzy spot in the night sky, was actually an entire another galaxy. Overnight the size of the universe was effectively doubled.
Inside of the Hooker telescope
Hubble made his discovery from the Hooker telescope - built atop a mountain in California. It was the first mountain-top telescope in the world at that time.
Henrietta Leavitt (1868 - 1921)
To measure the distance between galaxies in space, astronomers use Cepheids, or stars that periodically dim and brighten. Henrietta Leavitt discovered that by monitoring the time it took these stars to dim and brighten she could calculate how far away they were.
Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy by NASA
Leavitt’s discovery of how to calculate distance based on the cycling of Cepheid stars allowed Hubble to prove that Andromeda was located outside the Milky Way, and it was a whole different galaxy.
First photo of a black hole
The first theory positing the existence of black holes was from an English clergyman named John Michell in November 1784. He even correctly noted that these features would not be visible to the naked eyes, but they could be detected by their gravitational effects on other bodies.
Hubble Space Telescope
In 2011, the Hubble Space Telescope captured a picture a star called “Variable Number 1” (also known as V1). It has been called “the most important star in the history of cosmology”.
From left to right: Mercury - Venus
Of all the planets in our solar system, only Mercury and Venus don’t have moons.
Computer Simulated Global View of Venus by NASA
The hottest planet in our solar system is not Mercury as most would assume. It is Venus. Due to runaway global warming, Venus’ temperature is an incredible 863°F (about 462°C).
Not only is Venus’ atmosphere blazing hot, but it also has an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than Earth’s. That pressure would press you flat like a soda can if you walked on its surface.
Venera 3 Model
In 1966, a Soviet Union’s Venera 3 was the first man-made craft to land on Venus. Unfortunately, its communication systems had failed long before reaching Venus and it was unable to relay back any data.
Although it crashed landed and didn’t send any data back home, Venera 3 is the first human-made craft to impact another planet’s surface.
Venus’s atmosphere is so dense, that parachutes are only necessary to slow down. The Soviet Union’s Venera 9 released its parachute at an atmospheric height of 31 miles (roughly 50km) and landed at a speed of only 15 mph (about 7m/s). It was also the first spacecraft to transmit photos from another planet.
An illustration of our solar system
Our solar system is about 4.6 billion years old. Scientists believe it will last another 5 billion years before our Sun turns into a red giant.
Olympus Mons - the tallest mountain in space
The tallest known mountain in space is Olympus Mons - an extinct volcano on Mars with a peak 15 miles (around 25km) high. It is nearly 3 times larger than Mount Everest.
Because most stars are so far away when you look up into the night sky, you are not seeing them as they currently are, but as they were thousands of years ago. That’s how long their light takes to reach us!
Stay tuned to our blogs for more wonderful facts about our cosmos!