Solar System: It is large, heliocentric, and contains a lot of space debris. Below you will find twenty-four incredible facts about the corner of space that Earth considers home.
1. Our solar system is a group of celestial bodies in the Milky Way galaxy
At its center is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – of course, we are talking about the sun. Eight planets, more than 150 moons and millions of meteoroids, comets and asteroids, as well as several dwarf planets revolve around it. Sounds impressive, but this is just one of the tens of billions of solar systems that scientists estimate can be found within the Milky Way.
2. The sun is huge
If you add up the mass of everything in the solar system, the sun will account for more than 99 percent of the total.
3. Mercury decreases
Like on Earth, tectonic activity is observed on Mercury. Images of the planet have shown that the surface is changing. The planet has a solid inner core surrounded by a liquid metallic outer core that is in the process of cooling. All rocky planets have continued to cool down since they first appeared. And as the liquid parts of the core of Mercury solidify, compression occurs, which leads to a displacement of land and a shrinking of the planet as a whole.
4. Lead on Venus melts just like a piece of ice on Earth
The surface temperature of the second planet from the Sun is about 480 degrees Celsius. Even the spaceships that go to Venus are unable to withstand the environment for long. For example, the Soviet automatic interplanetary station Venera-13 landed on Venus in 1982 and lasted about two hours. However, before its death, “Venus-13” was able to send the first color images of the planet and analyze part of its soil.
5. Stones from space are found all over the planet Earth
In 1996, geologist Ali Barakat found one in the Sahara Desert. It has been named “the stone of Hypatia” and its unique chemical composition has been carefully studied. Geologists have never seen anything like it, even on other planets. In 2018, researchers hypothesized that the Hypatia stone is older than our solar system. It contains the elements that you learned in your chemistry lessons: nickel, phosphorus, carbon, iron, aluminum, and silicon. However, they are part of the unique compounds. As one of the study’s authors explained to Popular Mechanics: “We believe that many compounds (polyaromatic hydrocarbons, silicon carbide, nickel phosphide compound, inclusions of native metals) are presolar. They probably formed in the early solar nebula. “
6. Jupiter is huge
It is so large that it can accommodate the rest of the planets. Or, to put it another way, it would take 1300 Earths to fill the interior of Jupiter.
7. Jupiter’s Red Spot changes in size
Even Jupiter’s Red Spot is sometimes larger than Earth. The Red Spot is a 640 kilometers per hour storm that heats the atmosphere to 1315 degrees Celsius and is not constant in size.
8. The dwarf planet Eris indirectly influenced the assignment of the status of a dwarf planet to Pluto
Eris, which was discovered in 2005, is about the size of Pluto, which left astronomers confused about how many newly discovered bodies orbiting the sun might have to be attributed to planets. After the discovery of Eris, the International Astronomical Union created new standards for planets: “To now be considered a planet, a celestial body must be round, revolve around the Sun and clear its orbit of smaller objects.”
9. Around the same time that Eris was discovered, scientists discovered another dwarf planet called Haumea
Haumea looks like an unusual stone; it spins so fast that it looks like it has the shape of a “soccer ball” or “tightly packed cigar,” according to descriptions provided by NASA. Haumea completes one spin in less than four hours.
10. Space debris is a serious problem
NASA is aware of over 20,000 pieces of “space debris” larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. And then there are millions of pieces that are so small that they cannot be tracked. According to the agency, artificial space debris includes “non-functioning spacecraft, parts of launch vehicles, what remains after missions, and various fragments.”
11. Space debris can move at a speed of more than 28,000 kilometers per hour
This means that even little things like peeling paint fragments can cause damage to a functioning spacecraft. Sometimes the International Space Station has to maneuver to avoid colliding with space debris.
12. Space debris can trigger Kessler syndrome
Many scientists are concerned about the problem associated with Kessler’s syndrome. When there is too much debris in low Earth orbit, the pieces begin to collide with each other, creating even more debris. This is the cosmic version of the domino effect.
The European Space Agency has proposed cleaning up space debris using nets. A team from Texas A&M University proposed sending a mechanism into space that would push objects into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they would be burned up without a trace.
13. One object in our solar system revolves around the sun in the opposite direction
In 2008, astronomers discovered an object that orbits the Sun at an inclination of about 104 degrees. Formally, this means that an object 48 kilometers wide is orbiting in the opposite direction. The team that found him gave him the name Drak, based on the myth that Dracula could walk on walls.
14. Drak was discovered in the Kuiper Belt
The Kuiper Belt is the part of our solar system beyond Neptune that contains many icy objects; Pluto is also there.
15. Neptune has a moon that is very similar to Pluto
Triton is probably one of those Kuiper Belt icy objects that at some point fell into the trap of Neptune’s gravity and has been orbiting it ever since. Triton has a couple more distinctive features: it orbits Neptune in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation, and it has erupting geysers.
16. Mercury Retrograde – A Matter of Perspective
There is no evidence that planets influence human events, but people have blamed Mercury retrograde for their problems since around the end of the 19th century. When Mercury is retrograde, it appears to be moving backward. But this is just a matter of perspective. Mercury takes 88 Earth days to complete one revolution around the sun, and Earth – 365. Thus, when Mercury passes us, between the Earth and the sun, it seems as if it is moving backward.
17. Pluto was not named after Pluto, a Disney character
Some argue that Pluto was named after the Disney dog Pluto, which appeared in 1930, the same year the dwarf planet was discovered. But in the 1930 film Picnic, the character’s name was Rover. The dog began to be called Pluto in 1931, a year after the planet was named. However, there is one amusing coincidence that links the dog Pluto and the planet Pluto: in 2015, NASA released new photographs of the planet showing a bright region; many claimed that it looked like a picture of a dog’s head.
18. One dwarf planet in our solar system was first a planet, then an asteroid
The dwarf planet Ceres accounts for about 25 percent of the mass of the main asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. In the 19th century, Ceres was considered a planet. She was then downgraded to asteroid status. Finally, in 2006, it was recognized as a dwarf planet.
19. There are millions of asteroids in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
Their length can vary from 10 meters to 530 kilometers. NASA maintains a list of asteroids that may collide with Earth in the next century, as well as the likelihood of such events.
20. Saturn’s two moons have water
Saturn’s moon Enceladus has an entire ocean of salt water. In 2018, researchers discovered complex organic molecules on Enceladus – a sign that it could potentially harbor life. It was suggested that a mission be sent there to find out.
Saturn has a second water moon, Titan, which also contains carbon-containing chemicals, another promising sign of life. Any place that has both water and carbon-containing chemicals attracts researchers looking for life in space.
21. Mars has some pretty extreme temperatures
The average temperature on Mars is -62 degrees Celsius. At the poles, it reaches -142 degrees. In addition, it has not rained on the planet for millions of years.
22. The tallest volcano we know of is on Mars
Mount Olympus is 25 kilometers high. These are three Everests. The volcano most likely formed about 350 million years ago, but the last time it erupted relatively recently – two million years ago.
23. There are billions of comets in our solar system
They are mainly found in the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. The comet is made of ice and rock until it gets close enough to the sun and turns into a cloud of gas and dust. It is then that the characteristic tail is formed. In 2014, the probe landed on a comet for the first time. It was discovered that due to the chemical composition of the surface, the comet smells like cat urine, rotten eggs and bitter almonds.
24. Many of these facts would have remained unknown if not for space exploration
The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and did not stop collecting data until 2017. During these 20 years, he covered 7.8 billion kilometers and completed 2.5 million commands. Most of this time was spent on Saturn. The device took samples of the planet’s atmosphere, dust particles and the ocean (the one on Enceladus). Cassini was sent into the atmosphere of Saturn for destruction on September 15, 2017. At the press conference, program manager Earl Maze said, “Until the very end, the spacecraft did whatever we asked.”